Pulau Bintan is the most popular destination for getaways from Singapore either for recreational daily diving or trips on a liveaboard. The area surrounding the Island is still little discovered while the known dive spots around Pulau Nikoi and Pulau Mapur offer great wrecks, regular encounters with Turtles, and fascinating critters.
Being part of Riau Archipelago, Pulau Bintan is the largest island among the other 3000 islands. They cover the territory from Straits of Malacca up to the South China Sea. Bintan is located close to Singapore and Johor Bahru in Malaysia. Tanjung Pinang, an autonomous area and the capital of the Archipelago, is located in the south-western part of Bintan.
The most common way to get to the Island is by sea. If you are traveling from Singapore you can use a ferry connection between Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal and Sri Bintan Pura Ferry Terminal in the capital of Bintan or Lagoi’s Bandar Bentan Telani Ferry Terminal which is located in the northern part of the Island. The trip usually takes about 50 minutes on a catamaran. These terminals also have a connection with the nearby Pulau Batam.
Even though there is Raja Haji Fisabilillah International Airport, it does not accept international flights, only the local ones. Sriwijaya Air serves flights from Jakarta and Sky Aviation serves flights from Pinang.
Public transport is poorly presented on Bintan that is why it might be the best idea to rent a car or use a taxi if you want to travel around the Island.
Bintan offers great opportunities for shallow relaxed diving as the area around the Island features reefs not deeper than 20m (65ft.). Dive sites around the Island are still under exploration and some of them are known only to the local clubs.
The area around Bintan is famous for wrecks of airplanes and vessels which have witnessed the World War II. Most of these wrecks lie in shallow waters which make them easily accessible for most of the divers.
If you are an amateur of underwater photography and macro life, then you can find plenty of dive sites to choose from.
Diving is usually performed either at the local reefs or in the areas around Pulau Mapur and Pulau Nikoi which are located to the east from Bintan.
If you visit the local sites, diving will be usually performed in small groups from the speedboats. You will return to the shore after the dive to have some rest. If you go to the dive sites around one of the nearby islands, then usually it is a daily trip with 2-3 dives and surface intervals.
Luckily, there was not much of dynamite fishing used in the area around Bintan, so reefs are in good condition. However, you can find many lost fishing nets under the water. In this connection, it might be useful to have a dive knife with you in case anyone gets entangled.
Best Dive Sites Overview
Valley Forge Wreck
She used to be a 135m (442ft.) long liberty ship named SS Horace H. Harvey. The vessel was in military service during the World War II. When she retired the ship was renamed to Valley Forge. On 1st of January 1959, she was transporting wheat from the USA to India. But because of the problems with an engine and bad weather Valley Forge hit the reef to the north of Nikoi Island. Now the vessel lies at the depths of 4-16m (13-52ft.) and she has become a great artificial reef. The wreck is covered with hard and soft corals including beautiful Sea Apples. You can enjoy schools of Fusiliers and Anthias, Pufferfish and Scorpionfish here.
Kerang Gelang Reef and Codd Wreck
There are several dive spots around Kerang Gelang Reef which are chosen depending on the tide and weather conditions. The average depth here starts from 2m (6ft.) and it goes down to 22m (72ft.) in some areas. The visibility ranges between 5-15m (16-49ft.).
There is an old wreck known as Codd Wreck because of Codd-neck bottles which were found there. Local dive clubs assume that the vessel was in service between 1883 and 1930s. It is not known why she sank. Now a 30m (98ft.) long wreck can be found between the depths of 4m (13ft.) and 15m (49ft.). You can still identify the structure of the boat, though it is fully covered with corals including Sea Fans and Feather Stars. The wreck is inhabited by Nudibranchs, Morays, Stingrays, Fusiliers, Butterflyfish, Damselfish, Batfish, and Scorpionfish. Around this area, it is also common to see Turtles, Anemones with Clownfish, Angelfish, Cuttlefish, Frogfish, Crabs, Parrotfish, and Pipefish.
This wreck is located in the eastern part of Bintan. There is not much information about this cargo vessel. However, it is known that she hit the rock when the captain was sleeping. In this connection, this dive site is referred to as Sleeping Wreck. Maximum depth here is 22m (72ft.). The wreck is covered with soft corals and she is surrounded by schools of Glassfish. Macro life is represented by Porcelain Crab, Tiger Shrimp, and Nudibranchs. It is possible to spot Mimic Octopus, Lionfish, Damselfish, Snappers, Angelfish, Butterflyfish, and Grouper. You can also find huge Clams at the depth of 10m (32ft.).
Besides wrecks, the area around Pulau Nikoi features many dive spots and snorkeling sites. The visibility is usually the best here between March-June and September-November. This area has a maximum depth of 20m (65ft.) being a part of Sunda Shelf. In some spots, there can be a strong current. It is typical to see beautiful soft corals here. As for the reef residents, you can expect to meet Pufferfish, Cuttlefish, Batfish, Turtle, Stingray, Octopus, Sweetlips, Nudibranch, and Seahorse.
Mapur Island & Igara Wreck
Mapur Island offers many dive sites with beautiful hard and soft corals, pinnacles, and a wreck.
Igara wreck (also known as Turtle wreck) is located to the east from Bintan. She used to be a 297m (974ft.) long steamship which sank in 1973 after hitting a rock. Igara was transporting iron ore from Brazil, and it was quite a loss for the insurance company at that time. There is only half of the wreck left and it lies between 11m (36ft.) and 40m (131ft.). You can still see the cargo around. There used to be several resident Turtles on the wreck which disappeared lately. However, you can expect to see Nurse Sharks at the bow and in storage rooms. The wreck is covered with Sponges and soft corals. It is common to see Grouper, Angelfish, Barracuda, Snappers, Batfish, and Fusiliers.
Buddha Rock dive site is located not far from the wreck. The rock has the shape of a sleeping Buddha and the area features incredible corals including 3-4m (9-13ft.) wide Table Coral and huge Sea Fans.
At most of the dive sites around Mapur Island, you can see Sweetlips, Nudibranchs, Cuttlefish, Bumphead Parrotfish, and Trevally. There were even several encounters with Whale Shark registered in this area.
Best Dive Season
The best time to dive around Bintan is between March and October. It is the dry season and the visibility tends to be the best. The only thing which should be taken into consideration during this period is public and school holidays in Singapore which result in crowds visiting Bintan.
Bintan is less influenced by northeast monsoon then other nearby destinations. In this connection, it is possible to dive here all the year round. Nevertheless, the months between December and February are recommended only to experienced divers as sea conditions might not be the best.
The visibility ranges between 3-20m (9-65ft.) with the average of 5m (16ft.). Malacca Straits is a busy shipping channel which is located nearby, and this is the main reason for low visibility.
Water temperature stays around 26ºC (78ºF) in December-January and it reaches the highest value of 30ºC (86ºF) in May-June.
Currents can be strong around small islands near Bintan. Tide should also be taken into consideration when choosing the dive site.
The area around Mapur Island features the best hard and soft coral growth near Bintan. About 100 species of corals can be found here including beautiful Sea Fans, Table Corals, Sponges, Anemones, and Sea Apples.
There is not much of big pelagic inhabiting the area of Pulau Bintan. Nonetheless, you can spot Nurse Shark, Barracuda, Stingrays, and huge Groupers. Bintan is used by Green Sea Turtle and Hawksbill Turtle as a nesting area, so it is quite common to see Turtles under the water. Hatching periods are usually witnessed between the middle of May and June or between August and September. It is possible to attend Lagoi Beach to watch these marvelous events.
Reefs swarm with small creatures like Shrimps, Crabs, Nudibranchs, Seahorse as well as Damselfish, Fusiliers, Angelfish, Pufferfish, Butterflyfish, and Batfish. It is also common to come across Octopus and Cuttlefish in this area.
Pulau Bintan is famous for a variety of luxurious resorts. Most of them are located either along the north-western coast or along the south-eastern coast of the Island.
Bintan Agro Beach Resort and Spa
This resort can be found on the south-eastern side of the Island near Teluk Bakau. The guests can be accommodated in Deluxe, Superior or Family Room as well as in Blue Ocean, Junior or Jacuzzi Suite. Different recreational facilities are available on site including water sports, fishing, kayaks, 2 pools, and a gym. Oceanic Spa offers various treatments. Diving services are provided by Bintan Divers.
Club Med Bintan Island
Located on the northern coast of the Island, Club Med Bintan provides accommodation in Rooms and Suites. Packages usually include all meals, beverages, Children’s Club and entertainment, and most of the sports activities offered by the Resort. There are several bars and 2 restaurants on the territory. The Resort also features Spa. Ria Bintan Golf Club with one of the best golf courses in Asia is located nearby. Euro-Divers Indonesia offers diving services to the guests.
Trikora Beach Club
The Resort features beachfront location not far from Tanjung Pinang. You can stay in Bungalow, Double or Twin Room each with a private bathroom. Bungalows are also equipped with a sitting area and an electric kettle. There are 2 pools, Spa, restaurant, and water sports facilities on site.
This luxurious Resort with a private beach area is located in Lagoi Bay. Guests of the Sanchaya benefit from the only VIP lounge provided by the Resort in Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal for the best arrival and departure experience. You can stay in one of the 21 Villas or 9 Suites. Each unit has its own design and some of them feature size up to 1045 m² (11248ft²). Accommodations have bathrooms in open-style with separate tubs and showers, walk-in closets, and balconies or terraces. Facilities include all-day dining restaurant, salon and a library, a bar, a gym, Spa, and a pool.
Indra Maya Pool Villas
Indra Maya can be found in Nirvana Gardens. There are 20 modern and luxurious Vilas with private pools and entrances. There is a fully-equipped kitchen, bedroom, en-suite bathroom, and a living room in each unit. Guests can visit 2 restaurants, a bar with live music, and BBQ facilities on site. Spa, fitness center and all kinds of water sports are offered on the territory of the Resort.
If you wish to get acquainted with the most pristine dive spots around Bintan, joining one of the liveaboards might be the best idea. Each of them offers different itineraries usually covering wrecks and Mapur Island. Liveaboards operate between April and October when sea conditions are the best.
She is a 24m (78ft.) steel boat ready to take aboard up to 18 divers. There are Premium, Superior, Standard, and Deluxe Cabins. Premium and Superior Cabins have en-suite bathrooms. Guests can relax on one of the 3 decks which feature a sun deck, open air dining area, and a spacious dive deck. There is a dinghy attached to the vessel. The liveaboard usually operates from Singapore with one of the itineraries covering Mapur Island and Igara Wreck.
M/V White Manta
She is one of the liveaboards from Manta Fleet. White Manta has the length of 36m (118ft.) and she can accommodate 24 guests. There are Standard Twin, and Quad Cabins. Each Cabin has an individual A/C control. 3 daily buffet style meals, daily snacks, and beverages are included in the package. You can relax in a spacious salon or on a sun deck. The itinerary around Bintan usually covers Mapur Island and Igara Wreck.
MV DiveRACE Class E
Built with the help of marine architects and Dutch vessel consultant, DiveRace is a 35m (114ft.) long steel vessel. Up to 28 guests can be accommodated aboard. There are 10 Twin Cabins and Quad Cabins all equipped with private bathrooms. Such facilities as a massage room, spacious salon, sundeck, and BBQ pit will ensure a comfortable stay for the guests. From time to time the boat operator offers itineraries around Bintan starting from Batam and finishing the trip in Singapore.
Other Activities For Non-Divers
Snorkeling is possible at most of the resorts on Pulau Bintan. Visibility might not be the best around the local sites of the Island. Nevertheless, you still have a chance to take a look at hard and soft corals and their reef inhabitants. The best snorkeling sites are located around Nirvana Gardens, Pulau Nikoi, and Pulau Mapur.
Tours and activities
Besides all types of water activities you can take one of the adventures treks around Gunung Bintan Mountain. The trek gives an opportunity to enjoy the wildlife of the rainforest, to see waterfalls, and the breathtaking panoramic view from a 340m (1115ft.) height. Turtles and their hatching can be seen in Lagoi Turtle Hatchery during May-June and August-September.