The Anambas Archipelago is a collection of over 230 Indonesian islands in the South China Sea, about 150 km east of Tioman. It was home to about 37,000 people in 2010.
It is known primarily for its fossil fuel industry, but has been gaining recognition worldwide for its potential as a paradise island holiday and marine eco-tourism destination. The main attractions of the Anambas Archipelago are its ruggedly beautiful environment, the exceptional clarity of its sea water and significant coral reef coverage, along with the many as yet untouched Survivor-type islands and their lush often still-unexplored jungles.
The main Anambas islands are Siantan, Jemaja, Matak, Mubur and Kiabu. Note that Kiabu is also known as Airabu. Spelling of names may also vary. The two most populous kampungs are Letung on Jemaja and Anambas' capital Tarempa, located on Siantan.
You can go to Anambas by sea and by air. The two main islands, Siantan and Jemaja, are relatively easily accessible by scheduled flights and ferries. For the other islands you need to take a boat from these main islands, see Getting Around.
Two companies run ferry crossings to and from Anambas. One ferry sails to Anambas from Bintan, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, returning to Bintan every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The other ferry departs from Batam every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, returning to Batam every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
The ferry journey takes about 7-9 hours, depending on weather and sea state. Both ferries stop over at Letung, Jemaja, before their final hop to Tarempa, Siantan.
There's also the Pelni-owned cruise ship, Bukit Ray, which carries about 1000 passengers. The ferry goes from Surabaya to Pontianak and then to some of the Riau islands, including Tarempa and Letung. After that it continues on to Tanjung where it turns around to go back the same way. One whole round takes two weeks, so it visits the islands about four times a month. The tickets vary by the class and point of origin. There is first, second and economy class. A second class (private room) ticket from Pontianak to Tarempa costs for example Rp250,000 for a trip that takes about 30 hours and has some not questionable meals included.
- 1 Matak Airport (MWK IATA). The plane to this airport, which is located at Matak Island, departs from Bintan at 13:00 every Monday and Saturday and returns to Bintan the same afternoon. Flight time is about one hour. The plane seats a maximum of a few dozen passengers, and luggage allowance is 10 kg.
There is also a weekly plane from Bintan to Letong.
Since Anambas is an archipelago, the only way to move between the islands is by boat. There are two boat types available: slower wooden-hulled sampans, locally called pompongs and faster more contemporary speedboat taxis. Pompongs run on diesel, so they're slower but cheaper. The speedboat taxis are mostly of the outboard engine variety and run on petrol, which is more costly. However, there's a considerable time gain obviously.
Speedboats run frequently and with fixed schedules. For example three times a week from Tarempa to Letong (2 hr, Rp125,000.)
On the islands, the most oft-used mode of transport are scooters and motorbikes. As infrastructure improves, cars are making an appearance, albeit government-owned vehicles only. Scooters can be rented in the main towns for Rp100,000 per day. Hitchhiking is very easy on the islands, especially solo when you can ride on the back of a bike. Some villages which are close to the main islands can be reached by scheduled boats from the nearest port. Many beaches even some on the main islands are only reachable by boat. To get there you might want to charter a boat which usually costs some Rp500,000 for such a trip.
The main appeal of Anambas for travellers is its rugged, mostly unexplored nature. As the Anambas population is confined to a few modestly-sized clusters and most of the archipelago's islands are not inhabited at all, whole swathes of the area are as yet untouched.
The main island has a few beaches that are reachable by road just east of Tarempa. However, there is quite a lot of trash on the beach and in the water.
Locals are very fond of Air Terjun Temburun, a 7-stage waterfall on the east end of the island.
Other sights here are the Siantan Temple and the Jamik Mosque, both in Tarempa. But the Tarempa fishmarket, too, is a fun visit, especially during the early morning buzz.
Jemaja has a several very nice beaches that are easily reachable from Letung.
- Padang Melang (3 km on good roads east of Letung) is an 8-km-long beach with a bit of infrastructure (WiFi, showers, restaurants.) There are usually no tourists, mostly locals come here to have a coconut or some gong-gong snails for dinner.
- Pantai Kusik (10 km north of Letung on very narrow roads) has a nice white beach with coral reefs that you snorkel into from the coast, an island in swimming distance, and monkeys in the trees east of the village. There is not much infrastructure here, just a small restaurant and a shop.
- From Padang Melang you can also walk some 3km on a dirt road north (not usable by any vehicles) to a bay with a very nice beach with a lot of corals where a few fishermen live. There are no facilities.
Former Vietnamese refugee island, Pulau Kuku. Islands that shouldn't be missed are Pulau Penjalin, Pulau Ayam, Pulau Air Asuk, Pulau Mengkait, Pulau Temawan and Anambas's showpiece, Pulau Bawah. All of these offer stunning natural surroundings, breathtaking panoramas, as well as, given their extensive coral gardens, excellent snorkeling and scubadiving.
Meanwhile, Pulau Durai is great for turtle-watching, because hawksbill and leatherback turtles, in particular, come to Durai's beaches to lay their eggs.
The Anambas Archipelago's crystal clear water and ubiquitous coral reefs practically beg to be explored; snorkeling and scuba-diving are absolute must-dos. Both snorkeling and diving excursions can be arranged locally or by means of a live-aboard out of Singapore or Malaysia.
Other fun things to do in Anambas are kayaking, island-hopping, turtle-watching, jungle-trekking, hiking, sunbathing, swimming, picnicking or barbecuing on one of the countless stunning islands.
Angling is another recreational activity that's sure to be a source of fun. This includes jigging, trolling, fly-fishing and bait-fishing. Anambas' numerous coves, rock formations and shallow bays that make up the more than 230 islands have been fish hatchery hot spots for countless years. Add to this, the thriving reef systems and the fact that formerly used cyanide, dynamite and net fishing methods are no longer permitted here and it becomes clear that fish stocks are bouncing back. Please fish responsibly, practice catch & release.
Anambas souvenirs, such as Kerupuk Atom and Anambas-themed T-shirts, are available from the many family-run provisions shops along Hang Tuah in Tarempa. Please don't buy sea shells, fish, spiders, scorpions, snakes, or anything else that was once Anambas wildlife, for decorative purposes.
Given the important role food plays in Indonesian culture, partaking of the delicious local dishes, such as Mie Tarempa and snacks, such as Kerupuk Atom, is recommended.
- Camp on the soccer pitch (across from the police station), toll-free: -. You can pitch a tent for free on the sides of the soccer pitch which has a very pleasant grass cover. Just ask for permission at the police. There are no bathrooms but you can just use the bathrooms of nearby restaurants to shower. free.
- 1 Sakura Inn (Penginapan Sakura), Hangtuah Street number 11 (about a minute walk from the Tarempa ferry terminal), ☏ , toll-free: -, ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 13:00, check-out: noon. In feb 2017 there are plenty of mice on all rooms, very dirty. Rp150,000 - 250,000.
- Pagi Sore (Penginapan Pagi Sore), Hangtuah Street Anambas (next door to Sakura. About a minute walk from the Tarempa ferry terminal). like a box room without window, basic penginapan, no mouse From Rp100,000 (feb 2017).
- Camp on Padang Melang beach (a 45-minute walk from Letong town to Padang Melang beach, anywhere on the beach), toll-free: -. You can pitch a tent for free anywhere on the beach. There are palapas you can use as well, even without a tent. There is free electricity and WiFi at the café at the end of the road. The public showers on the beach don't work but you can use the bathroom of the Surau day and night. free.
Mobile networks do not cover all of the islands. Especially mobile data leaves much to be desired. Virtually no café or restaurant provides WiFi. There are only a few free WiFis backed by government sponsored satellite uplinks that are quite stable.