Find serenity in the Anambas Islands
IF IT had not been for his job assignment, Bandung's native banker, Mr Fikri Irawan, 28, who now works in Batam, would not have gone to the Anambas Islands.
The small archipelago is about 278km to the north-east of Batam Island. It takes less than a day to reach it through a combination of air, land and water transport.
Mr Fikri departed from Batam's Telaga Punggur port to Sri Bintan Pura port at Tanjung Pura, Bintan Island. The trip took about one hour and the cost of the return ferry ticket was 110,000 rupiah (S$11).
He then continued his journey by air, travelling from Bintan's airport, Raja Haji Fisabilillah, to ConocoPhillips airport in Palmatak Island for a flight of about 11/2 hours. The flight is operated exclusively by Sky Aviation, and costs around 1.35 million rupiah per person.
From ConocoPhillips airport, his next step was to rent an old car for 100,000 rupiah per person to reach Matak port. This trip took around 20 minutes.
Then, the journey continued with a 30-minute speedboat ride to Tarempa on Siantan Island, which costs 50,000 rupiah for a return trip.
"As I was assigned to the Anambas Islands' capital city, Tarempa, I have not bothered to hop to other islands," said Mr Fikri.
Nevertheless, he managed to gather some information about the archipelago for future reference, as he wanted to visit Anambas again for a future vacation.
"I considered myself quite lucky because, even though I was stuck in Tarempa, I had a glimpse of the beautiful Anambas archipelago," said Mr Fikri.
He described his experience as an escapade to an amazing place that offered serenity and tranquillity - though some who are addicted to social media may find it rather boring due to the poor quality of 3G network signals.
Even without doing any water activities, such as snorkelling or diving, Mr Fikri had a lot of fun during his stay in Tarempa. One of his favourite things to do was trying out the island's culinary treats, such as mie tarempa and luti gedang - local dishes consisting of noodles and fried bread as well as fresh seafood.
A coffee stall called Kedai Kopi Mak Alang, located right in front of Tarempa's fish market, was one of his favourite spots to relax and enjoy signature dishes like lakse or laksa (a spicy noodle soup made of fish broth and spices) and beverages like cekong (made from red bean).
For those who have plenty of time to explore the Anambas Islands, Bawah Island and Letung Island offer great spots to snorkel, dive and island hop. Penyu Island, which served as a turtle conservation area, is also worth a visit.
Diving spots in the Anambas Islands are quite popular among foreigners, especially those from neighbouring countries such as Singapore, who travel mostly using their private yachts or boats.
"Some of them like to do some fishing, too," said Mr Fikri.
Another interesting attraction in the islands is the Temburun Waterfall, which goes straight into the sea and can be reached via a 20-minute speedboat ride.
HOW TO GET THERE
Visitors can opt to go from Tanjung Pinang in Bintan Island to Matak by ferry, which costs around 500,000 rupiah. The ferry ride will take around nine hours.
Alternatively, one can go from Tanjung Pinang's Kijang port and hop on KM Bukit Raya, a huge ferry owned by the national sail company (Pelni) which can accommodate up to 900 people.
This ferry goes to Anambas only once every two weeks and the trip itself will take around 17 hours, with ticket prices as low as 150,000 rupiah.
WHERE TO STAY
Five-star accommodation is not yet available on the islands. The biggest hotel in Tarempa is Samudra Laut, with a starting price of 200,000 rupiah per night.
Although several ATMs from Indonesian banks are available in Tarempa, take extra cash, just in case. Payment using credit or debit cards is not an option on the islands, while transport costs can be quite hefty.
It is not advisable to visit the archipelago during the monsoon or rainy season.
THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK