After spending almost a week in Anambas, to be precise, Pulau Jemaja, in the village of Letong, I can conclude that CNN was absolutely right in calling this part of the world the most beautiful of the whole of Asia. It really is utterly breathtaking.
The area has unbelievable sea water clarity, It's almost gin-like. One of our group called the sea here "nature's swimming pool" and that is very apt. Case in point: our boat's sonar showed 42 m, yet we could still clearly make out the structures on the sea bottom below.
The archipelago is peppered generously with idyllic beaches and bounty paradise locations coconut trees, powdery white sand, blue lagoon and all.
Anambas is still relatively unknown, its inaccessibility lending it an almost end-of-the-world quality. In fact, it almost feels like stepping back 200 years or so, when these parts of the world were still more or less unexplored.
Happy people all around
Villagers are still rather surprised to see foreigners, most breaking into instant smiles, usually, there's lots of waving, friendly chatter and shaking of hands. I don't think we've ever been invited for a meal as often as during our week here. The local people are some the friendliest and most generous I've come across.
The food served up by the few establishments that cater to outsiders is nothing short of delicious: surprising mixes of exotic spices and local flavors, usually served with rice, a few vegetables and fresh fish or "sotong", a kind of calamari.
There's wildlife simply everywhere you look. Right underneath our kelong, basically a chalet on stilts, two starkly-patterned moray eels had found permanent residence, venturing out every so often for a quick forage. You will see and even hear turtles come up for a breath quite frequently. And we spotted more different species of fish in one hour of snorkeling here than our total spotted in all our previous snorkeling spots.
Getting there is half the fun
The ferry ride from Tanjung Pinang, Bintan, to Anambas, whilst no longer the 10 hours it used to be, is still a 5-7 hour non-stop sail, depending on the sea state. That said, there's flying fish and lots of dolphins to keep you occupied whilst on the deck. Also, the ferry interior is air-conditioned and the seats are very comfortable. You can also take the "Bukit Raya", a cruise-type vessel that takes up to 1000 passengers, comes with sleeper cabins and offers all the facilities that usually come with a ship this size, i.e. restaurants, karaoke, in-ferry movies etc. The Bukit Raya takes up to 15 hours to reach the islands.
Incidentally, Sky Aviation used to fly to Anambas from Tanjung Pinang, but currently all flights are suspended till further notice. That said, the ferry frequency has been stepped up to cover for this.
All in all, Anambas looks set to make it onto tourists' radars soon; it's simply too gorgeous to be missed any longer. In fact, there are several projects in the pipeline, such as a new airport terminal, that aim to put Anambas out there.
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