Relaxation is what the Indonesian island of Bintan is able to offer at its best.
Considering it is less than one hour by ferry from Singapore, Bintan stands in full contrast with the busy life of the city.
After few minutes on this beautiful island I was already chilled out, ready to take my time, have a swim, some sun bathing and of course lots of beautiful food, mostly based on fresh fish.
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I love to chill out….but not for too long…just few hours LOL
And that is why I had ready some activities that would keep me busy, but not stressed. All activities that would enhance my trip and my hunger for new life experiences.
I stayed at Bintan Lagoon Resort, one of the most established hotel in the island. More on this later, with photos as well. I just wanted to mention here that this is the only hotel to have the own private resort ferry terminal at Pasir Panjang, an easy 50 minutes from Singapore. Very useful if you run short on holiday time.
Indonesia Islands near Singapore
Bintan island is part of the Riau Archipelago. It is actually the largest of the 3,200 islands in the area. An easy step away from Singapore.
It is also very organised to cater both long and short stay which makes it ideal for an escape from any Asian capital city.
Singapore is well connected to Bintan island through a regular ferry service running mostly from the Tanah Merah ferry terminal. The choice of the operator is quite wide, which is probably the reason of the competitive price of the ticket. You can check all the Singapore-Bintan ferry operators here.
As mentioned before, there is only one private Bintan resort ferry that runs almost straight in your bedroom. It’s run by the Lagoon resort.
Alternatively you can fly to Bintan, at the Raja Haji Fisabilillah Airport. There are direct flights from Jakarta and other small Indonesias cities, but no international connections. The quickest alternative, is to fly to Singapore and take a ferry 😀
6 things to do in the Bintan Island
To be honest with you the most natural thing to do, especially if spending your time in a resort, is to relax.
There are however few short tours that I would suggest, just to add more action to our life. You can almost combine most of them on a day trip of Bintan
Mangroves trip along the Sebung River
This is, in my opinion, a must do in the island. It’s just a pity I missed the night version, where I could have experienced the famous 1000s fireflies
I was really amazed by the intensive mangrove vegetation of the Sebung River.
I started the trip on a small 15 seats boat. The river at the pier was quite wide and I was a bit sceptical on how deep we could go into the many branches of this typical equatorial river.
By coincidence, I was the week before in North Queensland, on a similar trip but with a few crocodiles around that added some excitement to the navigation, if you wan to call it that way LOL
The Sebung river does not have crocodiles but in exchange you will spot a few interesting yellow snakes on the trees around you. Exciting life!!
And yes, we went deep into the forest, where the mangroves looked like a super spaghetti dish impossible to unravel. Down to the point we had to pay attention to the low branches. Very close to the mangroves nature.
It was overall an interesting trip. Definitely a part of our natural I would love to explore even more, maybe spending few days in a stilt house along the river.
You can find more information on the Mangrove trip here
Cooking classes at the Sebung River
I was with a group of people attending cooking classes at one of the stilt houses on the Sebung River.
I loved the open air environment and the easy teaching of our local master chef.
I was surprised I could actually cook something edible!!
Get ready with chilly and garlic 😀
Sunset on the estuary
I visited the Sebung river on a Bintan day trip and the sunset was my photography highlight.
Just 30 minutes before sunset we navigated to the estuary of the river.
The colours were just amazing. It was also low tide which was great as tens of small islands emerged to create an unreal scenery.
I found the person running the boat very flexible and we could move basically on demand.
You can either visit the long pier, almost on the ocean side. Or the amazing boat dock. Really many options
Senggarang Fishing Village
Another great place to visit for a cultural immersion in the daily life of a fishermen population.
It is mostly based on stilt houses with new homes coming up everywhere, therefore not a tourist destination but instead a real vibrant community.
I was impressed by the absence of the main doors in the houses. People could go and leave whenever they wanted. No security. Slightly different from the city life LOL
I also met some interesting people. I was lucky I walked with an Indonesian friend which could translate everything for me. Definitely a great place for some portraits photography and honestly do not be shy to ask as the locals love to be photographed. Just show the photos on the display at the end.
Maitri Graha Temple
An interesting Buddhist temple to visit in the southern part of the island.
I liked the majestic entrance with the stairs leading to the temple.
There is a small patio on the left side that works great for a sunset photo.
This is a destination I visited after the Senggarang village, on the way to the Rimba Jaya Night Market. I would probably not suggest it as a single destination by itself.
Rimba Jaya Night Market
I experienced the Rimba Jaya Night Market in Bintan Island on my second night.
I was so looking forward to it.
I really believe that any market in the world is the window to the society around. It tells a lot about the community.
I was born in Italy and I still remember when my mum used to take me to the local market on Saturday morning. I left Italy around 20 years ago however once back for a trip I really make my best to visit the market and…..wow, it has been changing so much! As the community and society around.
The Rimba Jaya night market highlighted once again 2 important things, the easy life of Bintan and the great food that this island is able to offer.
Travel Photography in Bintan
I really enjoyed my time in Bintan. I had so many oportunities for my travel photography
My favourite locations in the island are:
- Senggarang Fishing Village : huge freedom to move around, take photos and even enter into the local houses which do not have a main door !! (I always asked anyway, knocking somewhere). I spent 2 hours in the Senggarang fishing village. Most of the time was probably dedicated to portraits of elderly fishermen and kids. The featured image on top of this post is from this village, an old house converted to temple.
- Rimba Jaya Night Market : if travel photography is about documenting the local life than this market is probably the best location to visit in your trip to Bintan Island. I suggest also to walk around the food market and take photos of hands busy on the bbq. Hands sometime speak more than faces
- The Sebung river estuary for sunset photgraphy. It’s all based on the weather of course but I can assure you will experience some amazing colours, being so close to the equator. There is a small drawback of these latitudes, the sunset is quick.
In this trip I had with me a Nikon D600.
In both the village and the night market I used only one lens, a 50mm f/1.8. I must say that a wide angle would have helped, especially in the night market.
In any case I suggest a quick one, at least f/2.8, because both locations can be quite dark.
For the sunset photography I took with me a Nikkor 24-120mm f/4 lens and a tripod. Really all I needed
Where did I stay
I guess the Bintan Lagoon Resort is one of the easiest choice. It’s a super nice resort with swimming pools, beaches, extensive choice for dinners and lunches not to mention the wide and amazing breakfast.
If coming from Singapore do not forget the easy access through the private Bintan resort ferry service which will save quite a bit of time.
If you are looking for beach resorts near Singapore I would consider Bintain Island as the perfect destination, for both proximity and easy life.
You can have just a relaxing time and once a bit bored, you can book a Bintan tour or even a Bintan day trip to keep you busy for few hours.
About more activities. I stayed at the Bintan Lagoon Resort and there were so many things to do, from archery to ATV (4-wheel motorbikes), from canoeing to yoga and much more. So plenty of opportunities to add a few spices to some relaxing time. I am quite sure these are activities offered by most resorts on the island.
Because of the importance to have first-hand experience, I accepted in this trip the assistance of Tourism Indonesia, however I never promised a positive coverage, just my honest experience.