Only recently discovered by the international tidal river surfing community, the Bono Tidal Bore by the estuary of the Kampar river in the Riau Province is drawing surfing communities from around the world to this amazing Indonesian pororoca.
In February 2013, tidal bore surfer champion Steve King, who already holds two world records for long distance surf rides, broke his own Guinness World Record that he made on the Severn river in England, by riding an incredible 20.65 km (or 12.8 miles) in 1 hour, 4 minutes on the Bono bore of the Kampar river on 10-13 February 2013 (For details click our News: UK’s Steve King breaks world record for longest, continuous bore ride on Riau’s Kampar River).
Kampar is a long river that rushes down from the Bukit Barisan mountain range that forms the spine of the island of Sumatra along its west coast. The river then meanders through the Riau province, to finally pour out in the Malacca Straits, on the east coast of Sumatra. Along its long course the river divides itself into two large branches known as the Kampar Kanan (the right branch of Kampar) and Kampar Kiri (its left branch).
They then converge at Langgar in the district of Pelalawan at Kampar’s estuary. Here they are joined by many other rivers causing Kampar to funnel out into a wide river mouth. At each high tide, high waves from the sea flow in and meet the down stream current of the Kampar. Where the two opposing energies meet, – and furthermore, caused by the funnel shape of the river, – Kampar’s phenomenal tidal bores emerge, rushing deep inland reaching to over 60 km. upriver.
These tidal bores are known locally as “Bono”, which rush in with loud roaring sound at a speed of 40 kilometers an hour. The surf on the river can rise as high as 4 to 6 meters, at times creating barrels, the darling of surfers.
Best site to surf by the village of Teluk Meranti, although there are other spots like Tanjung Sebayang, Tanjung Pungai, and Pulau Muda, all in the district of Pelalawan.
Although quite used to the phenomenon, local inhabitants are mostly scared when the Bono appears, which they believe are spirits of the Seven Ghosts. Many boats have sunk in this river when caught in the bore.
As Teluk Meranti has only recently started to receive tourists, there are no large hotels here as yet. There are homestays, rooms available at houses of locals that are rented out to visitors. Most popular is the “Mega Lestari” a Bed and Breakfast type of inn that has 8 rooms. It is clean but has no air-conditioning. Rooms have fans.
Across the road are small eateries where you can find Indonesian dishes, like fried rice, noodles, fried or barbecued fish or chicken, some vegetables and mineral water.
At the moment, those who travel to Kampar are mostly avid surfers, eager to catch and conquer Kampar’s awesome tidal waves.
Surfers coming here for the first time to Kampar need to know that waves on the river behave differently than in the open sea. Because of the strength of the oncoming tide, currents that rush upriver will cause waves from both the right and the left sides after hitting both river embankments, next to streaming in directly from the center of the river mouth.
The river and the banks are said to be inhabited by crocodiles and snakes. While crocodiles are mostly found higher upstream, it is wise to beware of these predators when surfing on the river. Snakes, nonetheless, are around but most are non-poisonous and are of the constrictor kind, like boas and pythons.
Taking these challenges in mind, it is wise to use a speedboat that is best adaptable to the river’s conditions. There are speedboats availabe in the town of Teluk Meranti, but according to experts and those experienced, they are not quite right, nor sufficently agile to help in emergencies.
Therefore, when surfing on the Kampar it is best to use an experienced company or organization that knows local conditions.
As travel to Teluk Meranti usually passes Pekanbaru, you can find a number of attractions around the city and its surroundings.
Other activities that are fun to do when you are not surfing is rent a motorbike and scour the countryside to watch activities of the village.
To get to Teluk Meranti one must travel through Pekanbaru, capital of the province of Riau. As a busy business airport, Pekanbaru is served from most major cities in Indonesia, most often from Jakarta, Medan and Batam.
Internationally, Pekanbaru is served from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, by Air Asia. It takes some 4 to 7 hours by car from Pekanbaru north to Teluk Meranti. There are car rental companies in Pekanbaru.
The ride from Pekanbaru to Pangkalan Kerinci lasts 1.5 hours, then from here to Teluk Meranti takes another 4 hours. Alternatively you can take a speedboat from Pangkalan Kerinci to Pulau Muda or Teluk Meranti, which takes around 4.5 hours.
Whereas, when you travel from or through Singapore, the journey to Teluk Meranti is by sea through a rather arduous route. From Singapore’s Ferry Terminal take a boat to Sekupang in Batam, then connect with a ferry to Tanjung Batu, in the Karimun islands, where you can find ferries to take you to Teluk Meranti.