Bintan is a mere 50 kilometers southeast of Singapore and almost double the size of the busy urban city. It’s home to over 370,000 people (compared to Singapore’s diverse population of over 5.6 million), the majority of which are Malay, Buginese, Chinese and Orang Laut, which literally translates into sea peoples. Bintan is the largest island known for its seemingly endless soft-sandy beaches, clear turquoise waters, natural beauty, and fascinating bygone past. The island lies at the heart of the Indo-China trading route. Within an hour of leaving bustling Singapore, you can be on the beach in Bintan – just jump on a ferry and enjoy the scenic journey across the Singapore Strait.
Bintan's colorful history can be traced back to the early 3rd century when the island flourished as an essential trading post on the route between India and China. It has been in the midst of various power struggles throughout history and in the 12th century, Bintan Island was known as the 'pirate island' since Malay pirates used the Strait of Malacca to loot trading ships sailing in these waters. Over the centuries, Bintan was controlled by the Chinese, British, and later the Dutch when it was declared part of the Dutch East Indies under the treaty of 1824.
Bintan is part of Indonesia’s rich archipelago that boasts more than 130,000 islands and 50,000 kilometers of coastline, ancient mangroves, and tropical jungle. It’s all home to some of the rarest creatures on earth, including endangered sea turtles, silver leaf monkeys, pretty sunbirds, eagles, and kites. Safari Lagoi has become a safe haven for the many birds and animals rescued from illegal trading, including sun bears, Komodo dragons, orangutans, and a beautiful albino python.
The highest hill on the island is Bintan Besar, formed by old volcanic eruptions and stands proudly at 360 meters above sea level. Explore the canopied mangroves and the Sebung River with a guide who will explain the importance of the mangroves and their wildlife. The river comes alive at night with magical fireflies as they dance under the starry skies. If you are fans of the underwater world, you can indulge your inner mermaid and swim through the coral reefs that brim with colorful marine life.
Bintan weather is similar to Singapore - sunny and warm all year round, with the chance of thunderstorms and rain between November and January each year. The South China Sea can be pretty choppy during the monsoon season, so SCUBA diving or snorkeling can be restricted due to the swell and decreased visibility. Occasionally box jellyfish like to make an appearance; heed the advice offered from your water sports team at the hotel if you should avoid the sea for any reason.
Bintan is low-key, has a relaxed vibe, and is perfect for a hop, skip, and jump trip from Singapore. Take advantage of your beautiful resort and make the most of an internationally inspired culinary journey. Many of the island's hotels and resorts have kid's clubs to keep your children occupied while you have much-needed R&R. Increasingly, the island is erring towards eco-tourism, and there are regular tours that take you on adventure treks, cultural heritage visits, and animal protection centers.
Bintan is perfect for a quick weekend getaway or a slightly longer R&R trip. Many visitors flock to Singapore’s outlying islands for weekends which encourages higher accommodation rates. If you are looking for something more cost-effective, mid-week breaks are better on the bank balance.
You can reach Bintan by ferry in about an hour. There are usually regular daily ferries to Bintan, but operators have reduced their services significantly during the pandemic. It's wise to check the schedule and make bookings well ahead of your planned trip. Ferries run from Merah Bandar Bentan Telani or the Tanah Merah Tanjung Pinang and take you directly to the beautiful island. Ferry costs are in the region of SG$70 for an economy experience. If you prefer to enjoy the comfort of an executive lounge while you wait, fast-track through immigration, have priority baggage handling, comfier seating, and complimentary refreshments, you can upgrade to Emerald Class with Bintan Resort Ferries. It's worth the extra few dollars.
Bintan Resort Ferry
There is currently just one ferry route running between Singapore and Bintan Island operated by one ferry company – Bintan Resort Ferries. The Tanah Merah to Bandar Bentan Telani ferry crossing operates weekly with a scheduled sailing duration of about 1 hour.
Please be sure to check the Bintan Resort Ferry schedule, book in advance, and take the necessary precautions during the pandemic. Private charters are available on request. For more information, visit the BRF website or contact their help desk on +65 6542 4369.
Tanah Merah Tanjung Pinang Ferry
The Majestic Fast Ferry runs one high-speed ferry daily at 12.55 pm until further notice. Please ensure that you check the Majestic Fast Ferry schedule, make advance reservations, and take the necessary COVID-19 precautions. For detailed information, visit their website or contact their help desk on +65 6289 5535 or email them directly. Please note that the Harbourfront Centre Counter is closed until further notice.
Many nationalities will not need to apply for a visa in advance. Visitors can arrive by air or at a local ferry terminal and receive a visa-free visit for up to 30-days without the need for costly and complex applications.
Bintan is a popular babymoon destination. You’ll need a doctor's note to allow you to travel. Be aware that most doctors will recommend against traveling if you are over eight months pregnant due to the limited facilities on the island.
Singaporeans head to Bintan for minimum fuss and easy access to adventures and experience island living. Most visitors come to Bintan to appreciate the peace and luxury resorts offer to relax, unwind, and escape urban living, school runs, busy work, and social schedules. Bintan island has finely honed its tourism offerings with sumptuous transfers that whisk travelers to their hotels and resorts directly from the ferry terminals in as little as 10 minutes. The island has plenty of beautiful and seemingly undiscovered places to explore, from virgin sandy beaches, hikes in the hills, kayaking through impressive mangroves, and wandering through Tanjung Pinang, the capital of the Indonesian province of Riau Islands. Your hotel will happily arrange a private guide and driver to give you a whistlestop or comprehensive tour of the island. Rates start at around SG$10 per hour.
Bintan has a gorgeous range of family-friendly (and adult-only) hotels and resorts ranging from tipi-style accommodation that encourages you to lose yourself in your dreams and the stars that shine through the skylights. You might prefer the great outdoors and a spot of glamping on the shores of saltwater lagoons and mangroves, with your own private garden set amidst your host’s farm. Maldives-inspired water villas with eco-friendly accommodation and activities will keep the kids busy from morning to night. Or choose a glamorous colonial-inspired retreat with suites and villas with private gardens and a yacht that lends itself to fun, family picnics, and bay explorations. There is something for everyone from bare-bones essentials to architecturally jaw-dropping and eco-sensitive private-island resorts made entirely of bamboo. The variety will keep you coming back for more. The Little Steps Asia team has painstakingly explored the various accommodation offerings for you.
Top 10 Hotels For Families In Bintan, Click here!
Like most families traveling from Singapore, you might like lazy days at the resort. Each hotel, farm-stay, glamping experience, or resort should have ample cuisine offerings for you and your family. If you are seeking a more local experience, have a chat with your hotel’s concierge or front desk for recommendations of a local warung, a small family-run café, or other commended eateries. While you are on the island, try otak-otak, a freshly grilled fish cake wrapped in banana leaves. It’s made from ground freshly caught fish mixed with tapioca and local spices; if you feel brave, why not try the spicier squid version with lots of chilis. You can head along the Sebung River and pop into restaurants known as kelongs that rise above the water and dish up freshly caught seafood. After the sun sets, explore the various night markets that line the streets of Tanjung Pinang. The Pujasera Township has a variety of delicious traditional dishes like ayam penyet, nasi goreng, soto ayam, indomie goreng, and goreng pisang all at affordable local prices.
More Places To Eat:
Lamak Basamo, www.bintan-resorts.com/experiences/lamak-basamo-nasi-padang/
Pujasera Food Centre, www.bintan-resorts.com/experiences/pujasera/
Warung Yeah!, TripAdvisor
The Sanchaya, www.thesanchaya.com/drinkingdining
Nirwana Resort Hotel, www.nirwanagardens.com/hotel-villas/nirwana-resort-hotel/
Nirwana Beach Club, www.nirwanagardens.com/hotel-villas/nirwana-beach-club
Teluk Bakau Bay View Seafood Restaurant, www.bintan-resorts.com/experiences/teluk-bakau-bay-view-seafood-restaurant
Spice Restaurant, Mayang Sari Beach Resort, www.nirwanagardens.com/restaurants-and-bars/spice-restaurant
Pizza Casa Italia, https://www.bintan-resorts.com/experiences/pizza-casa-italia
Rin Japanese Restaurant, Bintan Resorts, TripAdvisor
Rice, Bintan Lagoon Resorts, www.bintan-resorts.com/id/resorts/bintan-lagoon-resort
Singaporean residents flock to the various wellness centers across Bintan island. Visitors come to decompress and be pampered. Many of the island's resorts have exceptionally internationally acclaimed, award-winning spas, including those at the Banyan Tree, Angsana, and Sanchaya resorts.
There are two recently upgraded golf courses on the island. The Greg Norman-designed Laguna Golf Bintan has a par-72, 18-hole course with views of the South China Sea. Ria Bintan Golf Club, designed by Gary Player, features 27 holes and ranks highly as one of the finest courses in Indonesia.
Culture buffs should stop by the Vihara Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, with 500 life-size statues known as lohan, which opened in 2017. Safari Lagoi and Eco Farm is home to many rescued and critically endangered animals, including orangutans, Komodo dragons, sun bears, and Asian elephants. There are also comprehensive tours of their fruit and vegetable gardens. The tours are an excellent way for your kids to better understand various fragile ecosystems and try their hand at planting or harvesting in the gardens.
From mid-May to the end of June and the start of August to the end of September, you can watch green and hawksbill turtles hatch from their eggs and race to the sea. Nirwana Gardens has an extraordinary conservation project to protect green and hawksbill turtles from predators and poachers. Their conservation team collects and buries the turtle's eggs in a safe and protected hatchery before the babies are released.
If you want to experience the more rustic side of Bintan, then book a guided tour so that you can explore the island’s second-largest town Tanjung Uban. Start the day with a visit to the local markets and feast on fresh local fruits and vegetables. The tour will wind you through the town's narrow streets, allowing you to see homes built on stilts, watch workers in motorcycle and brick-making factories, and wander through pretty coastal fishing villages.
The young-at-heart and families can enjoy energetic activities like banana boat rides, beach volleyball, kneeboarding, sailing, and jet skiing. There are all sorts of water sports available; just check with your hotel to see which water sports centers are operating.
Want more? Click here for our guide on the top 10 things to do with kids in Bintan!
Main Image Credit: Natra Resort Bintan Instagram