The Gems of Jemaja
Take a trip to Anambas Islands in the province of Riau Islands in Sumatra, a new travel destination in the north of Indonesia...
Crystal clear water, white sandy beaches, isolated islands – Anambas Islands in the province of Riau Islands in Sumatra is truly a hidden gem waiting to be explored. The region has 255 islands with only 26 of which are inhabited, making most of the islands an untouched paradise for conscious travelers, be it for diving, snorkeling or simply island hopping.
Getting there is already a journey on its own. From Bali, I took a flight to Batam (the biggest city in Riau Islands) and continued my journey by boat to Tanjungpinang, the capital city of Riau Islands located in Bintan Island. There, I rendezvoused with a group of journalists from various regions of Indonesia. We stayed overnight in Tanjungpinang and left Bintan Island the next morning using a ferry to get to Jemaja Island, one of the two biggest islands in Anambas Islands region. After eight hours crossing the sea, we finally set our foot at Letung Port in Jemaja Island.
The Fishermen’s Village
The port was alive with many sellers offering traditional knick-knacks like boiled snails and various chips. However, the view of crystal clear water surrounding the port stole my eyes instantly before I hopped on to one of the motor bikes that took me to Meranti Inn in Letung Village, a fishermen’s village.
Standing right above the ocean, Meranti Inn is pretty comfortable for conscious travelers. Next to the inn lies a decent restaurant serving comfort food which tastes so much better with the view of the tranquil ocean and sunset in the afternoon. The restaurant’s deck soon became my favorite spot to gaze at the horizon and contemplate. And I will never forget when a sea turtle was spotted swimming freely near the deck one night – the water was that clear that we could see it swimming with the help of a flashlight.
On our first day, we didn’t wait long to hop on to a fisherman’s boat and went to Mangkai Island where a navy post stood guarded by only five men. The sun was setting on the horizon on our way to Mangkai Island. Aside from the navy post, Mangkai Island is also home to a sea turtle conservation and is a perfect dive and snorkeling spot. However, our group only paid a short visit since night had fallen when we arrived and we had to head back for dinner. But our way back was a lot more fun as half of the group was fishing from the side of the boat, while the other half lying down on the deck with twinkling stars above us â€“ I joined the latter, and I just couldn’t stop gazing at the stars.
The next morning, we hopped on once again to the firsherman’s boat after having a simple breakfast of lontong sayur and a glass of coffee. We were ready for an island hopping. Our first stop was Keramut Island, only an hour away by boat from Jemaja Island. Keramut Island is also a fishermen’s village and is home to a sea turtle conservation where we could see some baby sea turtles swimming near the shoreline surrounded by a net to keep them safe before they were released to the sea.
Then, we continued to Durate Island, one of the gems of the region that every traveler dreams of. The crystal blue water surrounding the white sandy beach invited us all to jump into the ocean and swim to the shore. It was a perfect spot for snorkeling – we spotted a starfish! As if that’s not enough, the fishermen on our boat also served some fried freshly caught fish with rice for lunch. I mean, nothing can compare to having a simple yet delicious lunch on an uninhabited island?
The last island we visited that day was Ayam Island that, just like Durate Island, also has clear water and white sandy beach. But unlike Durate Island, Ayam Island is inhabited by a family of five who work as the island’s guardian. Mr. Chairil, who lives with his wife and three children on the island, greeted us when we arrived. He immediately offered some coconuts that he hand-picked from the tree for us to rehydrate. Sipping fresh coconut water after indulging in some freshly caught fish on isolated islands – seriously, island hopping couldn’t be better than this.
The next day, it was time to explore the beauty of Jemaja Island. Using rented motorcycles, we passed lush greenery and rice fields as well as a long winding rocky road to Neraja Waterfalls, a hidden paradise in Ulu Maras Village.
We parked the bikes on the parking lot and walked for a couple of minutes to reach the waterfalls. Neraja Waterfalls consist of several tiers but it wasn’t hard to get to the top pond as the path was decent. In an instant, we took out our cameras and snapped some photos. Some of the group took a nap on the ground right next to the waterfalls, while I joined the others sitting by the top pond overlooking the stream below and the surrounding lush greenery – it was truly a remarkable place to contemplate.
But we couldn’t stay too long as we wanted to visit a number of pristine beaches, one of them being the Padang Melang Beach, the longest beach on the island. The beach was so quiet, it felt like it was our own. Afterwards, we headed north to reveal other hidden gems. The Kusik Beach was another secluded beach. The water was also so clear we could see some corals as we stood on the deck. And once again, I spent some time contemplating by sitting on the edge of the deck, facing the tranquil ocean – it was a pristine scenery that I would treasure for life.
The sun was about to set and the sky slightly turned to pink on our way back from Kusik Beach. As we passed an untouched beach named Rewak Beach, I made an impromptu decision – I asked my driver to stop the bike. I just couldn’t miss this beautiful moment when the sun was setting on the horizon and its ray sparkling on the ocean, a wonderful closure to my trip on Jemaja Island as our group had to head back to Tanjungpinang the next day.
Four days in Anambas Islands is surely not enough, but from that short visit, I believe the region will soon become one of the country’s favorite destinations, especially for conscious travelers. Not only it is rich with natural beauty, but the local people are also friendly – our group was invited to have lunch and dinner several time by Mr. Sulis, a village chief, who indulged us with delicious traditional seafood dishes. Without a doubt, I can’t wait to come back.
HOW TO GET THERE:
From Bali, you can go to Batam in Riau Islands by plane. Then, get a taxi to Telaga Punggur Port and continue the journey by taking a one-hour boat ride with Oceana Boat to Tanjungpinang. Or you can also go to Jakarta by plane and fly straight to Tanjungpinang. Then, stay overnight at Tanjungpinang, and leave to Anambas Islands with Seven Star Boat the next morning.
WHERE TO STAY:
Jalan Merdeka No. 6, Tanjung Pinang, Riau Islands
CK Hotel & Convention Centre
Jalan RH. Fisabilillah Km. 8 No. 10, Tanjung Pinang, Riau Islands
Letung Village, Jemaja Island
By Risty Nurraisa
Magazine issue > Beyond Bali