A day or two on the beautiful Banyak Islands in the province of Aceh will seem like a very short time, sinice the islands enchanting natural beauty combined with the serene ambience will make anyone wanting to stay here for a lot longer. Those fortunate enough to set foot on this tropical paradise will most likely wish to return and bring along their loved ones.
Banyak are a cluster of around 99 islands, most of which have not been named, located in the Aceh Singkil Regency, in the Aceh Province, directly facing the Indian Ocean.
Surrounded by vast crystal clear blue waters, decorated with long stretches of white sandy beaches on the islands, and added with beautiful rows of swaying coconut trees, the Banyak Islands are definitely a tropical paradise with countless marvels.
Center of public activities and administration is Balai Island which is also the economic hub of the island group. Balai Island also has more facilities compared to the others. While, other major islands are Tuangku Island, Bangkaru Island, Ujung Batu Island, and Palambak Besar Island. Uniquely, four major ethnic groups live here who each speak their own native language which are: Aneuk, Jamee, Haloban, and Nias.
The origin of Banyak Islands is closely associated with the legend of Tuan Tapa which is also familiar in the region of Tapaktuan. The legend goes that Banyak Islands was once one big island which was shattered apart in the fight between Tuan Tapa with two dragons.
Accommodation facilities are mostly available on Balai Island. There is the Motel at Jalan Iskandar Muda Street with standard rates. For that special sensation as though you are staying on a deserted island, try the Bungalow at Palambak Besar Island.
Those with a more adventurous spirit should try to camp on some of the uninhabited islands. The sheer sensation of being truly one with nature one a camping adventure is truly unique, but do make sure to have all the necessary equipment and logistics with you before you camp.
Just like the numerous islands, there are as many things that you can do on the Banyak Islands. For a start, as the day begins and the sun rises over the horizon, watch nature present some of its best spectacles. Equally enchanting is the evening sunset at Banyak Islands, which is more than captivating.
For diving enthusiasts, there are dive spots with spectacular underwater life around the islands of Tallani, Rago-rago, Matahari, Pabisi, and Sikandang. The waters here are so clear that the colorful coral reefs are clearly visible even from the surface.
Several islands also have great waves which can reach heights of 5 to 6 meters and great for surfing. The waves will appear at 1 minute intervals especially during the West Monsoon between April to August. The best spot for surfing is at Bangkaru Island, which is also happens to be a conservation area for green turtles.
Want to try Kayaking? Head to Palambak Besar Island where the waters are relatively calmer and you can spend the day exploring the island on kayak.
If you wish to observe or even take part in the authentic daily life of the fishermen of Banyak Islands, then stroll through several fishing villages at Balai Island. Meanwhile, Tuangku Island is a great place for hiking since it features a lush forest. On Tuangku Island, visit the Haloban Village which is the home of the Haloban ethnic group. For an extensive experience you should also visit the bat cave and a cave filled with swallows’ nests.
Situated on the southern part of Aceh, Banyak Islands are, in fact, easier to reach from Medan, capital city of the North Sumatra Province. There are flights operated by Susi Air and Nusa Buana Air that fly from Kualanamu Airport in Medan to Syekh Hamzah Fansyuri Airport at Aceh Singkil.
Alternatively, you can also take the overland route from Medan to Aceh Singkil which will take about 8 hours. There are a number of travel services serving the route who charge between IDR80,000 to IDR 100,00.
From Aceh Singkil, continue by ferry to Balai Island. The ferry trip will take about 4 hours and the charge is around IDR50,000 per person. Do note that the ferry only operates once a week on Tuesday. Alternatively you can also use small boats from Tanjung Tinggi Port which also charges around IDR50,000 per person. If you want comfort and flexibility, you can also charter a speedboat for around IDR1.2 million. The speed boat can also be chartered for an island-hopping expedition at varying costs.
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