Named Asia’s Best Tropical Island by CNN.com in 2013 the Anambas islands are indeed a tropical paradise. Located in the South China Sea, the Anambas are among Indonesia’s northern-most border archipelagos.
Facing the wide open ocean, the Anambas provide a panoramic view of blue seas and green islands dotted with azure lagoons. Here are excellent dive spots where divers will be amazed at the colorful underwater life, while on land rows of coconut trees protect the soft white sand beaches, where turtles have made the shores of the islands of Keramut and Mangkal their habitat.
The Anambas are administratively an autonomous district, part of the province of the Riau Archipelago, and covers an area of 46,667 sq.kms where its outer seas are nearly 90 percent crossed by foreign vessels. It has only recently become a separate district apart from the neighboring Natuna islands.
In all, there are 255 islands in the Anambas cluster where only 26 are inhabited. The district has only some 45,500 population. 97 percent of its territory is sea where the largest islands are Siantan, Palmatak and Jemaja. Capital of the district of Anambas is called Tarempa and lies on the island of Siantan.
Admire the many lagoons here, especially on the islands of Pantai Selat Rangsang, Pulau Bawah, Pulau Rongkat and Pantai Pulau Penjalin, where islands emerge from the sea as out of nowhere. At low tide the islets grow together by the connecting sands, creating an inland sea and an outer sea beyond, with lagoons that are paved with white sand and here and there colorful corals.
All of the islands in the Anambas have fine white beaches which glisten and become even more beautiful as the lagoons fill with aquamarine water through which one can see strange corals and schools of fish darting in the clear water.
Fish and seafood are obviously the main diet on the islands, which are available served with a wide choice of sauces or chilli and herbal mixes.
Try the food along the harbor on Jalan Hang Tuah which crosses the town of Tarempa, or try the stalls by the fish market or Pasar Ikan Siantan. A specialty of Anambas is noodles mixed with eggs, and slices of fried fish and covered with hot soya bean sauce.
There is also the nasi dagang, in Singapore and Malaysia known as nasi lemak wrapped in banana leaf, which is usually eaten for breakfast. The seafood fried rice of Anambas is also very tasty and a popular dish.
For snacks, take home the kerupuk atom, crackers or chips made of tuna fish or other sea fish fried in sago. These cost between Rp. 20,000 to Rp 45,000 a packet. They can be bought at food stalls or in the market.
For handicraft, there is the special woven textile of Anambas called Kain cual.
There are five different motifs, including bamboo flowers, food covers, sailboats, the full moon and a field in flames. To find these you should go to the Handicraft office called Dekranasda of the District of Anambas, located just opposite the local administrative council, DPRD building of the town of Tarempa.
As a young district, Anambas does not have modern accommodation facilities like other large towns, but there are adequate facilities for a comfortable stay.
Rent a boat and explore the islands, or try trekking across each of the islands. Discuss with the Tourist Office at Tarempa where to find the best spots for snorkeling, take in the most panoramic views and find the best locations for spectacular photo shots.
Below are some options that you can choose from when on a visit to Anambas :
Penjalin Island in the sub-district of Palmatakhas a beautiful lagoon and is easily reachable from Tarempa. The waters here are calm and the coast is scenic scattered with huge boulders. The island is ideal for snorkeling, swimming or canoeing along beaches that glisten with soft white sand.
The Selat Rangsang island offers some spectacular scenery with its blue lagoon and white beach protected by green shrubs and coconut trees. The island is also ideal for snorkeling and boating.
Durai Island is one of the smaller islands but features some beautiful surroundings and a turtle conservation area. In the evenings, female turtles swim up onto the beach and dig a hole to lay their eggs.
Pulau Bawah was chosen by CNN.com as Asia’s Best Tropical Island. Here are clusters of islets, namely: Pulau Bawah (63,54 hectares), Pulau Sanggah (27,45 hectares), Pulau Elang (59,4 hectares), Pulau Merba (1,3 hectares), and Pulau Lidi (1,13 hectares). Amidst the islands is a beautiful lagoon. Climb up the hill to shoot one of your best photographs ever.
Tanjung Momong Beach and Pasir Manang on Siantan Island is located near the town of Tarempa offering a splendid panorama of transparent shallow seas through which you can admire a variety of corals. See large boulders as if strewn by some giant onto the beach. Besides swimming and snorkeling you can take a leisurely walk on the beach and watch the sun specatucarly setting on the horizon.
The town of Tarempa is located on the island of Siantan. Explore the island, watch a Buddhist temple called the Vihara Gunung Dewa, and see the 80 years old Masjid Jamik mosque. Walking inland you will see a cool waterfall called Temburun fall, which splashes down over 7 levels then drop directly into the sea. Try taking a unique photograph of it directly from the sea.
If you wish to visit these islands, you must be sure to have plenty of time at your disposal since they lie quite far out in the South China Sea and away from most of the other Indonesian islands.
To reach Anambas by air you must fly to Tanjung Pinang, capital of the province on the island of Bintan. Garuda Indonesia, Lion Air and Sriwijaya Air operate daily flights to Tanjung Pinang from Jakartaand other main cities.
From Tanjung Pinang, Nusantara Air Charter flies to Matak Airport in the sub-district of Palmatak. The 48 seater aircraft flies daily costing Rp 1.2 million for a one way ticket. From Matak airport you must take a speedboat to Tarempa, capital of the Anambas district.
Alternatively, the Conoco Philip oil company has a Fokker 50 aircraft which is also made available for public use when there are seats open. This is a plane used to transport the company’s staff and flies Jakarta-Batam-Matak, operating daily except Sundays.
From Singapore, take a ferry to Tanjung Pinang port. Then travel by taxi to the airport to catch your plane.
If you wish to travel by boat, the MV. VOC Batavia and MV. Seven Star Island serve the Tanjungpinang-Letung-Tarempa route vice versa, with tickets costing Rp310,000 one way. The ferry leaves Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from Tanjung Pinang, with return journey from Tarempa on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
There are other larger ships but these leave intermittently only several times a month.
The Anambas islands are very remote and have little facilities, including little health care, while restaurants sell only Indonesian food. Therefore, when you wish to dive here, best travel on fully equipped liveaboards or take your own yacht with complete telecommunications connectivity.