Located east of Bintan island in the Riau archipelago, is a long stretch of white beach, scattered with picturesque huge boulders, called Trikora Beach. This is the popular seaside playground for locals but also for those coming from Singapore and Malaysia.
From here, not far out to sea you will see rows of ” kelongs” or fish traps, houses on boats, under which fishermen hang out their nets to catch small fry, or ikan bilis, for which Bintan is so well known. But from the beach are now also built boardwalks with kelongs attached on either side, which are rented out to tourists. These are usually filled with avid anglers from Singapore and Malaysia to set out to sea at night or before the crack of dawn in order to catch the larger fish.
It was also along this stretch of beach that last 25 October 2014 , festivities were held to welcome the Sail Bintan participants in the annual 3-months long Sail Indonesia Yacht Rally across the Indonesian seas, visiting the archipelago’s many diverse islands. Sail Indonesia was flagged off in Darwin, Australia, at the end of July, and Bintan the last port of call before participants leave Indonesian waters. Yachtsmen were warmly welcomed by the people led by the Regent of Bintan \ himself, with song and dance and cultural performances.
Bintan is best known for its “otak-otak” which, literally translated means “brains” , but as a matter of fact is a fish dish. If anywhere else “otak-otak” has little fish and more of other ingredients, in Bintan “otak-otak” is thick with fish.
The small fry are mixed in herbs, and wrapped in a leaf, then baked over an open charcoal fire. The result are delicious bite-sized fish that can be eaten as snacks or with steaming hot rice.
Along Trikora Beach are a number of small homestays and kelongs for rent. There are also star-rated hotels. But since Trikora is within reach of Tanjung Pinang, capital of the Riau Islands province or from the luxurious Bintan Resorts, there are many hotels on Trikora Beach, in Tanjung Pinang and in the Bintan Resorts.
Trikora is normally crowded on weekends or long holidays. Little raised shelters are built on the waterfront where groups and families can sit down and picnic, protected from the blazing sun while enjoying the view and the fresh sea breeze. There are also clusters of coconut trees, heavy with fruit ready to be cut for thirsty tourists impatiently waiting to slake their thirst with fresh coconut water.
Surprisingly, along this stretch across the road you will find the Grotto of the Virgin Mary –known as Grotto Santa Maria, which is said to have been built originally by Vietnamese refugees. The path along the Stations of the Cross leads to the grotto, where the statue of Mary is placed. The cave is beautifully protected from behind by a large tree with overhanging branches where colorful bougainvillea climb and bloom.
Along this hot beach-front, this grotto offers a cool and respiteful environment for those who wish to pray or peacefully meditate. Nearby is a picturesque little white church, its walls decorated with red bricks, where the faithful attend mass on Sundays.
A little more to the south is an island called Nikoi, where a more upmarket, secluded boutique resort has been developed for those who love to dwell among pristine nature, – Robinson Crusoe-like, – but with a dash of comfort and luxury. The resort is built to conserve the beauty of nature and is kept unspoilt “as is”, and yet located close to busy and modern Singapore.
This 15 hectares island in the South China Sea, is surrounded by beautiful underwater life, great for diving and snorkeling.
Nikoi only has 15 beach-front houses with 21 rooms. A maximum 42 to 60 guests can be accommodated at one time. So book early if you are interested.
The Culture and Tourism Office of the Regency of Bintan has also been moved here to Trikora Beach, and is housed in the colorful former headquarters built for the Qur’an Scripture Reading competition known as MTQ.
It takes about 45 minutes to reach Trikora Beach by car from the city of Tanjung Pinang , and around half an hour from your hotel at Bintan Resorts. But distance-wise, these are quite wide apart so that you should travel by car or tour coach. In fact, Trikora is usually included in a day tour of the island of Bintan that covers Trikora, Tanjung Pinang city and the historic island of Penyengat that faces the city. So that for sightseeing , Bintan highlights can be explored within a one full day package tour.