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Geotourism in Belitung’s Rocky Islands

Geotourism in Belitung’s Rocky Islands

Belitung Island has become famous since the movie adaptation of Andrea Hirata’s novels, “Laskar Pelangi” and its sequel was out. Before that, I only knew the islands, Bangka-Belitung as the tin mining islands. In the end, the mines ran out and create many pit lakes left from the mining process.

Granite stone lumps

At the end of August 2018, I had the opportunity to visit Belitung Island. Both Bangka and Belitung islands have big boulders on their beaches. Interestingly, the granite boulders seem to pop up from under the earth.
In our prepared itinerary, we are going to visit some of the rocky islands. But before that, let’s study where the rocks come from.
The emergence of these granite boulder lumps is unique indeed. Geologically, the huge granite boulders are actually a part of an intrusive igneous rock masses which became the bedrock in the Western part of Indonesia, called batholith. The spread of the boulder is not limited only to Bangka-Belitung, but also up to the South China Sea, including a large part of Western Kalimantan. Divers around the islands stated that the undersea bluffs are consisting of steep granite slopes, connecting one island to another.
Earlier, I presume that the rocks emerge because of volcanic activities around the island. But there are no volcanoes near Belitung Island, only Anak Krakatau volcano far in the east. Turns out, the boulders popped out not from volcanic activity, but from tectonic processes. So, those boulders were lifted and experienced breaking and cracking. As a result, the granite boulders that were originally located far below the earth’s surface were emerging.

Hop on Hop off Island Tour

Our departure point is the place we were staying, Tanjung Pandan town.
We already chartered a car to drive us to Tanjung Kelayang Beach in the morning. Then, we were planning to ride a motorboat and visit the small islands that are the trademark of Belitung’s Western waters.
On our way to the beach, we stopped by a diner to get some takeaway lunch. Our driver had advised us to bring our own lunch, because there is a small variety of food stalls in the islands we are visiting.
As soon as we got out of the car we immediately rushed to the beach and took pictures between the stones scattered there. The giant boulders seemed to call us to climb or jump on to them, but we should immediately gather because the boat was already docked.

Tanjung Kelayang Beach

tanjung kelayang beach
Tanjung Kelayang Beach

Before departing, the crew reminded us to rent a safety vest for Rp. 20.000 each. The rental kiosk was also a snorkeling equipment rental and selling some clothes for interested tourist.
Since I was uncertain of the ship’s condition, I didn’t rent the snorkeling equipment. I’m afraid that it would be difficult to rinse after swimming and snorkeling, very uncomfortable during the boat ride.

Pulau Burung

After several minutes of travel, we dropped anchor on an island where if we look at it at a certain angle, it will look like the shape of a bird’s head. Thus, it was called Pulau Burung, or Bird Island.
If you study the process of the boulder’s emergence, there are other natural processes that help the rocks forming into a shape of a living creature. The process could take thousands of years and with the help of the tides’ erosion, storm waves, and scorching heat, then the rocks were deformed. Who knows, maybe in the future, the bird’s head will turn into a turtle’s head.

Pulau Berlayar

Pulau Berlayar
Pulau Berlayar

After a quick break in the Bird’s Head Island, we continued our trip to the next spot. This time, the boat was beached and the passengers could get off to observe the island. There was a big boulder standing upright that looks like a sail in the distance, thus the island’s name, Pulau Berlayar or Sail Island. After all of the passengers got off, the boat moved away, and agreed to pick us up after a while. This was done so that other boats can disembark their passengers on the beach.
The island became very crowded. Every time we want to take pictures, there are other groups doing the same thing.

Pulau Berpasir

Off from the Sail Island, our trip continued to Pulau Berpasir or Sandy Island. It’s actually an uninhabited island, a coral white sandbank that rises when it’s low tide, and disappears from view when it’s high tide.
It was crowded, even though it’s only a half of a football field big. Again, group travelers must take turns to take pictures on the island.

Pulau Lengkuas

Lengkuas Islang
Lengkuas Island

Let’s continue further.
My friend called the boat crew that waited around 800m in the open ocean to pick us up to the next spot. From a distance we could see a tall lighthouse, and then we docked there.
It was amazing.
I haven’t seen a lighthouse up close. Can I go to the top?
Just a wishful thinking, it is probably very difficult to climb up there.
We moored to Pulau Lengkuas or Galangal Island at noon, time for prayer and lunch. This is why we brought our lunch boxes ashore.
Just as we guessed, there aren’t many choices offered at the local food stalls. There are only cup noodles, pempek, soft drinks, and coconut drinks.
We looked around for an empty table, and a shop owner kindly showed us to some tables inside. Since we brought our own food, we only bought some young coconut water for courtesy.
After lunch, we looked for a place to pray. The waiter told us that the mushalah is in the light house. We hurriedly went to the mushalah when the rain started.

Lengkuas Island Origin

Someone showed us the direction to the ablution place and toilet. Only one ablution water spout, so it looks like the island wasn’t prepared to draw many Moslem tourists. I think they should’ve provided more ablution place and separated the male and female mushalah.
After I finished praying, I intend to go to the toilet, so I ask my friend of its cleanliness.
“It’s salty, Ma’am,” he said.
“What’s salty?” I’m puzzled.
“Well, I want to do ablution as well. Turns out the water is salty” he continued.
The rain still poured heavily, so I struck a conversation with the lighthouse keeper.
On the bottom part of the lighthouse wall, there is a plaque showing it was built in 1882 by Z.M. Willem III.
According to Mr. Budi, a Directorate of Transportation employee, the lighthouse is still functioning.
There are only 2 (two) employees who supervise the lighthouse lamp daily.
The island is quite small and as I observe, there are no lengkuas or galangal plants to show its characteristic like other islands. For example, in Bird Island, there’s a rock that looks like a bird. On Sail Island, there a large boulder shaped like a sail on a mast.
Apparently, according to Mr. Budi, the name Galangal was neither from a galangal garden, nor as a galangal producing island. But it’s from the local residents’ pronunciation of a building’s name.
“It’s from lang haus Ma’am, a Dutch for long house, it’s a name for an extended building, shelter, or high tower. So, long house, lang haus, longkhos, longkos, became lengkoas.” he said.
No wonder there are nothing that looks like a galangal plant.
When I alluded about the ablution place, he explained that there are no water sources in Lengkuas Island. The only fresh water source comes from the rain. There are rainwater collector barrels in front of the lighthouse that is filtering the water into some jerry cans, which is then channeled to the ablution place.
That’s why there is only one water tap, because fresh water must be used sparingly, while sea water is sufficient for bathroom use.
Squatting Prison and Otherworldly Inhabitants
Given that the Dutch government built the lighthouse in 1882, my thoughts immediately went to the “otherworldly'” residents.
“Does this place have any ghost sightings?” I asked.
“Well, Ma’am, when someone can see it, it can be anything. Because that building is a squatting prison,” he said, while pointing to a building behind us.
“It was used for torturing prisoners. Such as pirates or criminal arrested by the Dutch. There’s also a Dutch cemetery here,” he continued.
I glanced to the building. It used to be a stilt house, but now its lower part is closed off. Imagine that, the prisoners were being tortured by squatting under the house.

Snorkeling Spot

It was 2 o’clock in the afternoon when we left Lengkuas Island. There is another spot to visit, the snorkeling spot. However, we didn’t have much time snorkeling because of the currents and one more island to visit.
The clear water surface reveals the beauty of the flowery shaped corals and fishes below. Despite this, the spot is actually in another area. There are concerns of coral reef trampling because they are very sensitive to environmental disturbance. Even though they look strong, they are quite fragile when there’s trampling or pollution.

Kelayang Island

Kelayang Island Belitung
Kelayang Island

From the quick series of hop on hop off island tour that we visited, Kelayang Island was the last one. It seemed that it wasn’t too far from Tanjung Pandan city and Tanjung Kelayang beach, our departure point.
We moored to a rocky island, a bit bigger than Lengkuas Island. There are some stalls and benches for visitors to rest and enjoy fresh coconut drinks.
On a certain spot, we could also see Bird island from another angle. The beach also has numerous rocks, where every time we change angles, it looks different, a good chance to take more pictures.
There is a forest and some directions to Kelayang Cave behind the rows of stalls. We then then decided to go to the cave.
Around 100m down, we arrived to a cave that is connected to a beach. A big boulder as tall as a house has formed into a gap, which amazes everyone that sees it.
The clear sea water that emerges between the inlets made everyone curious to go down there and enjoy its freshness.
It was getting dark, and it was time to go back to Tanjung Kelayang beach. Some of us are also satisfied after a swim or even a dip in the clear sea water.
We boarded the boat while some of our friends went looking for the bathroom to rinse themselves or just to change clothes.

Tanjung Tinggi Beach

Papaya Stone at Tanjung Tinggi Beach
Papaya Stone

Once we were in the car, our friend asked us to enjoy the sunset. Our driver then offered to drive us to Tanjung Tinggi beach. Apparently, the beach is one of the shooting sites for “Laskar Pelangi” movie.
Surely, a filming location can be tourist magnet, just like the area around Mount Bromo, for “Pasir Berbisik” film. Or even Bali, for various film.
As we arrived at the beach, we saw a plaque reminding that this was a filming location. But what interested us was a two stories boulder, called Papaya Stone. It does indeed looks like a papaya standing upright.
We went towards the coast, climbed and skipped a few stones, to finally arrive at a spot above the water. Some of my friend and I were only sitting there, waiting for sunset, but it was very cloudy so we couldn’t see it.

Then it was twilight, so we still had enough time looking for our car.
That would be enough for the day, looking at rocks.

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