Located west of Singapore and Batam, the Karimun Islands stand guard south of the busy shipping lane that is the Straits of Malacca. Together with Batam andBintan, Karimun forms part of the Batam-Bintan-Karimun Free Trade Zone, which is being developed into an industrial and tourism region.
Capital of the Karimun Islands district in the Riau Islands (Kepri), is Tanjung Balai, a busy medium town largely built on stilts, with a significant Chinese Peranakan population. Here are found a number of Chinese temples, oldest of which is the Vihara Cetiya Vidya Sagara at Jalan Jenderal A. Yani at Meral, built in 1926. Others along the same street are the Vihara Bodhi Maitreya an the Vihara Sasana Diepa. Further away at Jalan Athena is the Klenteng Tua Pek Kong.
Tanjung Balai Karimun should not be confused with its namesake Tanjung Balai in Asahan on the main island of Sumatra. Similarly, Karimun in the Riau Islands province should also not be confused with the Karimunjawa Islands, located north of Semarang, capital of Central Java.
With trade and investments mounting fast in this region, it comes as no surprise, therefore, that this once sleepy town has become a hive of activities, although still retaining its coastal rural character.
But, to enjoy rural life on this tropical Indonesian island, you need to get away from Tanjung Balai and go to some local village or “kampung” at Meral or Pasir Panjang.
For holiday makers, the islands of Karimun offer long stretches of white beaches, snorkeling opportunities, and of course succulent seafood dishes of fish, crabs, prawns and oysters all freshly caught from the sea. The nearby Terkulai and Soreh are popular holiday islands, while Pelawan Beach and Pongkar Beach offer white sandy beaches ideal for watersports and relaxation under the palm trees. The island of Telunas in Karimun has also been developed into a holiday resort, a favorite with Singapore expatriates and students.
Frequent ferries connect Singapore, Johor in Malaysia, Batam and Bintan with Tanjung Balai Karimun. And with more people visiting the islands for trade, investment and tourism, Karimun now has also a number of good hotels.
Tanjung Balai Karimun offers a number of accommodations to choose from.
When in Karimun visit the long stretch of beaches on Karimun, among which are the following:
Pelawan Beach can be reached within 30 minutes by car or motorbike from the center of Tanjung Balai. Pelawan has a long white sandy beach, where are available small restaurants. Pelawan is a favorite haunt for local and foreign visitors especially during weekends.
Pongkar Beach is another long stretch of beach in the subdistrict of Tebing. The coast is ideal for fishing, sailing and other kinds of watersports. Pongkar is also only half an hour away by car or taxi from the town center of Tanjung Balai. Here is also a stage for cultural performances.
Sawang Beach is only 30 minutes by car from the town of Tanjung Batu. Besides enjoying the beach, visit the village of Sawang to see the local way of life of the fishermen, which is an attraction by itself. Sawang is also famous for its salted duck eggs.
Lubuk Beach is located in the subdistrict of Kundur. The beach is further away, and it will take about one hour to reach from Tanjung Batu by car or taxi. Different from the other beaches on Karimun, on Lubuk Beach are large picturesque rocks on the beach – not unlike the beach at Bintan island – among which grow mangrove trees. Here is also a sacred cemetery built by a Singaporean.
Besides beaches, Karimun also has a waterfall to visit. The Pongkar waterfall is hidden amongst a protected forest area near Pelawan Beach and has a recreation park located close to Gunung Jantan. Come to Pongkar waterfall, climb to the top and take a dip into its refreshing cool pool after an active hike of sightseeing, then enjoy a yummy barbecue while watching the waters rush down below.
From Singapore, ferry operators Penguin and Indofalcon operate 4 trips daily from Singapore’s Harbour Front Centre to Tanjung Balai. Tickets cost S$63 excluding Singapore and Indonesian port taxes. From Tanjung Balai the ferry ticket costs Rp. 90,000 excluding port tax. The journey takes one and a half hours.
Since both companies code-share, Singapore ticket holders can board any ferry between the two on your return leg from Tanjung Balai to Singapore. But if you have bought your ticket in Tanjung Balai, this will be valid only on the ferry of the company from which you bought the ticket.