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Off the eastern coast of Sumatra, flanked by the Gaspar and Karimata Straits, lies an enchanting island with beautiful beaches and fascinating scenery called: Belitung Island. Its unique landscape, decorated with pearly white sand beaches, crystal clear water, and magnificent granite stone formations on its shallow shores, are some of the best features of the island.
Along with the much larger nearby Bangka Island and other smaller islands, the island-cluster was once a district in the Province of South Sumatra. But in 2000, the island group was officially declared the 31st province of Indonesia called the Bangka Belitung Islands Province. Belitung Island itself is divided into two districts, the Belitung district with capital Tanjung Pandan city, and the East Belitung District with Manggar city as its capital.
In September 2005, a native Belitung writer, Andrea Hirata, published a novel entitled “Laskar Pelangi” or the Rainbow troops. Set in the enchanting Belitung Island, the novel was widely acclaimed and even crossed geographical and language barriers as it has been translated into English, Malay, Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean. Later, in 2008, the novel was made into a movie, and the enchanting sceneries of Belitung Island were introduced to the rest of the world. The name”Laskar Pelangi” even became the name of the island’s seaport following the movie’s fantastic success.
Once only known as a mining island producing tin, quartz sand, and Kaolin, the Laskar Pelangi movie revealed the enchanting beauty of Belitung Island that had long been overlooked.
Although not as popular as Bali or Lombok, Belitung is blessed with some of the best beaches of the country. The sand is soft and as white as palm sugar, and some even argue that the sand here is even whiter than that in Bali.
The most distinct features of the Belitung Beaches are the fascinating granite rock formations that spread through its shallow shores. Ranging from several cubic meters, these giant granite rocks can measure up to the size of a typical house. Some formations of these giant rocks even have short tunnels underneath, making this an exciting playground for visitors to bathe in its calm waters. One of the most iconic granite rock beach sceneries is found at the Tanjung Tinggi Beach, which was featured in the Laskar Pelangi movie.
There are also other beaches that offer similar sights of magnificent granite rock formations and relaxing ambience, among them are: Tanjung Kelayang Beach, Burung Mandi (Bathing Birds) Beach, Tanjung Binga Beach, Punai Beach, and Membalong Beach.
Belitung is also surrounded by more than 100 small islands. Almost all of them are decorated with white sand and granite rocks, and only a few are inhabited. One island in particular, the Lengkuas Island is the site of a 19th century antique light house. The Light House was built in Dutch colonial times and offers a beautiful overview of the area. Burung (Birds) Island, Babi (Pig) Island, Pengadaran Island, Lutung Island, Kera (Apes) Island and Jenang Island, are among some of the smaller islands that offer great experiences.
Aside from stunning beaches, Belitung also boasts legacies of the past. In the heart of Tanjung Pandan, the Museum of Belitung holds vast collections on the complete history of the island. Built in 1963, the museum was initiated by a Belgian geologist, Dr.Oesberger, who at the time worked in the Belitung Mining industry, and was called the Museum of Geology. In the beginning, the museum only housed collections of mining explorations and samples of the island’s mining resources. Later it was made as a district museum and to the collection were added various other items, including: traditional house-ware, pottery, traditional weapons, and many more.
There is also a beautiful 18th century Buddhist temple located at the Burung Mandi village, in the sub-district of Manggar. The Vihara dedicated to the goddess Kwan Im was built in 1747 and still serves to this day as a sacred place for Buddhists. Bearing distinct Chinese architecture, the temple sits beautifully on the top of a hill and offers a fascinating view of the island.
Whether it’s tracing the trail of the Rainbow Troops or simply enjoying the magical view of the granite rock beaches, Belitung Island offers a one of kind experience.
More Information can be found at: http://www.belitungisland.com
Belitung is small enough that some interesting points on the island can be reached in less than two hours from Tanjung Pandan. However, taxis are non-existant and public transportation on the island is hard to find, so the only practical way to move around is to rent a car or a motorcycle.
From Jakarta, the easiest way to get to Belitung is obviously by airplane. There are several daily Boeing 737aircraft served by Sriwijaya Air and Batavia Air leaving from Jakarta’s Sukarno Hatta airport direct to H.A.S. Hanandjoeddin Airport in Tanjungpandan, Belitung. All flights from Jakarta to Belitung depart from terminal 1B of Sukarno Hatta airport. The flight takes 45 minutes and will cost you around USD 40 to USD 70 one way, depending on ticket class.
Alternatively, you can take the Sea route by PELNI passanger ship, or KM Tristar from the Tanjung Priok harbor, in Jakarta. Keep in mind that the ship only serves travel to Belitung once every 2 weeks. The journey will take about 24 hours. The trip will cost you less than USD 15,- one way.
From the Provincial capital, Pangkal Pinang, you can get to Belitung Island by taking the daily Bahari speed boats that will take 4 hours. This is by far the most convenient means of Sea transportation and comes complete with air conditioner. It will cost you around USD 17,- per one way trip. Bahari express leaves daily at 14.00 from Pangkal Pinang, Bangka, to Belitung, and leaves at 07.00 from Tanjungpandan Belitung to Pangkal Pinang.