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Banyak Islands

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Banyak Islands

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Banyak Islands [1] also called "Pulau Banyak" are a group of tiny islands in Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia, with many uninhabited islands where you can do island hopping with kayak and camping, snorkeling, diving, surfing or just relaxing at lonely beaches.

Understand[edit]

The tourism on Pulau Banyak is not very developed because of different reasons. It was growing in the 90s, but then the Aceh Independence war happened as well as the tsunami. Most infrastructure got destroyed and the tourism only slowly grows. But that's also a good thing! There are not many places where you can be the only person on beautiful beach islands. However, this will change soon, so better be fast.

History[edit]

The earliest people in Pulau Banyak lived on the biggest island Pulau Tuangku. They probably arrived from Simeulue in the northwest. In the 18th century Tuangku was a minor kingdom controlled by the Sultan in Banda Aceh. It functioned as a transit point for slave traffic from Nias to Aceh. As a result, the population is a mix of several ethnic groups. The population of Desa Ujung Sialit came however directly from Nias in the first half of the last century.

Tourism started to develop in 1994 and reached its height in 1997 with almost 1.000 visitors per year. After that tourism all over Indonesia, especially in Sumatra, started to decline due to the Gulf War, smoke from burning forests, new visa rules, and increasing political unrest in Aceh. The martial law in Aceh between 2002 and 2005 killed all tourism. What was left of bungalows fell apart and were finally washed away by the tsunami in the end of 2004.

Landscape[edit]

There are ~50 paradise like islands, with jungle and palms on it and lot of corals in between.

Flora and fauna[edit]

There are a lot of corals in the sea and also the typical coral fish and other species.

Near Sikandang and Balai you can see Dolphins and Whales.

Near Rago Rago you can see Dugongs (sea cow) if you are silent and lucky.

On Tuangku you can find a unique flower, only growing on this island.

On Tuangku also crocodiles, monkeys, small deers, many birds and butterflies live.

On Matahari you can find crocodiles too.

Climate[edit]

The average temperature is between 26°C (January) and 28°C (May).

In February it rains the least (94mm) and in October the most (289mm).

Get in[edit]

You can use the ferry that starts in Singkil every Tuesday and Friday. It departs at 11AM (Tuesday) and 2PM (Friday). You must buy tickets in the harbour for 27.000 Rupiah. You can also bring your Motorbike to the island for additional 50.000 Rupiah. After about 4 hours you will get to the Island called Balai (the island group is called Banyak). There are also many cargo ships to and from Balai. It is no problem to get on those cargo ships, usually starting between 8 and 9 AM. The price is 50.000 Rupiah (30k for locals). Another way to get to any island is using Speedboats. They cost 1.000.000+ Rupiah and they drive on demand.

Please Note: There is no ATM on Banyak. In Singkil there is are ATMs close to the docks. It is strongly advisable to take enough Rupiah to Banyak. If you ask around you find people that exchange Euros and Dollars but under very bad conditions.

Fees/Permits[edit]

Get around[edit]

You can visit most of the Islands around Banyak. For islands that are near villages you can ask fishermen to drive you there. It is cheaper if they go there for fishing, but you can also charter a boat and go wherever you like. It is also possible to go by Speedboat, they are much faster, but also more expensive. Most freedom but also most dangerous is to rent a kayak (150.000 IDR per day) and explore the islands by yourself

  • Sikandang around 100.000 IDR per person if you are a small group. More if you are alone. You may also join fishermen who go there anyway at this day.
  • Palambak to go by Speedboat ask for Erwin on Balai. The price to get to Palambak is 100.000Rupiah. Fisher take about 60.000Rupiah for the trip. On Palambak you can live in small huts for 100.000 per day plus 100.000 for food a day. You can also camp on Palambak, but you should bring your own tent. Locals offer you to rent a tent, but they are usually not rain or windproof. It's dangerous to sleep in the nature without shelter. Some of the reasons is the changing weather and snakes/mosquito insects. Make sure to bring enough Mosquito repellent as Palambak is inhabitated by masses of them.

See[edit][add listing]

  • Rock Formations
  • Dolphins and Whales
  • Fantastic sunrise and sunset. On Pulau Balai or Sikandang you can see both
  • Some view from the 260m mountain on the biggest island
  • Beautiful beaches like in paradise
  • Waterfalls
  • Crocodiles
  • Traditional villages
  • Traditional dance
  • Traditional weddings (if lucky)

Do[edit][add listing]

Snorkeling[edit]

There is shallow water and corals everywhere! Bring your own gear or rent it in the villages. You can see a lot of different sea life. At Sikandang you can even see whales and dolphins. Near Rago Rago you can see Dugongs (Sea cow) if you are lucky because they don't like disturbance. Also turtles, manta rays and much more species are available.

Kayaking[edit]

The best way to explore the islands is kayaking. You can rent a kayak in Haloban (Anhar: +6285277711108) or Sikandang (Wandi: +6285359393040) for 150.000 IDR a day. If you are an experienced kayaker you can go alone, but if you are new to kayaking, you should be accompanied by a guide. Costs more, but is worth the risk. Some tourist already disappeared because of missing experience.

Island Hopping[edit]

Many of the lonely islands are close to each other and many nice beaches are available. In one day you can visit several islands, either by kayak, or you charter a local boat and let you drop off on the islands you like.

Camping[edit]

You can camp on most islands. Best is Asok, because there are no mosquitos and also a small hut with shower is available. But also the very small islands are mosquito free and great locations for camping. You can rent camping gear for around 60.000 IDR per day at the villages. Just ask around. They can also supply you with water and food.

Surfing[edit]

Banyak Surf Bungalows +6281361263491 [2] offers boat tours that visit selected (depending on swell direction and size) "closely guarded secret spots", in and around the 70 Banyak Islands (their main area of operation).

Jungle trekking[edit]

The big island on the middle is great for jungle trekking. You should start in Haloban, where you can find guides and equipment (as of equipment - not even machette needed if you can handle couple of scratches from the abundant vegetation). You can climb up the 260m high mountain, which takes around 3 hours. You can also visit the crocodile river with a guide. Furthermore, you can combine trekking with kayaking, start with the kayak, go up a river and do a 1-2 hours trek to a very long white beach. Also many caves and waterfalls available.

Fishing[edit]

It is possible to go fishing with locals. Simply ask around and you are likely to find a fisher who takes you on his fishing trip.

Relaxing[edit]

With its lonely white beaches and fantastic scenery, the Banyak islands are a great place for just relaxing and sunbathing.

Buy[edit][add listing]

In Balai you can find some shops who sell basic things. If you need something specific, you probably have to search a little bit and be lucky. Some important things are missing, like sun block. There is also a market once a week, where you have a greater selection.

In the other villages you can also find some basic shops, but less variety than in Balai.

In the Christian Nias villages like Ujung Sialit and at the bungalow resorts you can also find beer.

Eat[edit][add listing]

  • Balai - You can eat at your guesthouse, but there are also some small restaurants available. You can get Bakso, Sate, Fish, Gorengs and so on.
  • Haloban - Tourists usually stay at Aleng Moon and the family will also cook for you. Many think its the best food on Pulau Banyak.
  • Camping - When going camping you usually start in Balai and there is a bigger shop called "market" where you can get your food for the camping days. Cooking equipment can be provided by the guesthouses like Putri.

Drink[edit][add listing]

You can get water everywhere. The small shops also sell soft drinks. In the villages are many cafes where you can get coffee, tea and hot milk. Alcohol is only available in the Christian villages like Ujung Sialit in form of beer (Bintang) and Arak (traditional rice wine).

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Pulau Balai[edit]

  • Homestay Putri (Jl Iskandar Muda 43) - 14 rooms, starting from 60.000 IDR (fan, shared bathroom) up to 250.000 IDR (AC, TV, private bathroom). Very friendly family who can help you organize your island trip.
  • Homestay Lae Kumbih - on the same street as Putri, just by the sea bank, 50.000 IDR (fan, shared bathroom; May 2019)

Haloban[edit]

  • Aleng Moon (end of road from docks, on the right side) - rooms for 60.000 IDR, very nice family and best food on Banyak islands

Sikandang[edit]

  • The Coral Sikandang
    • 4 bungalows run by Elvys
    • kayak and snorkeling gear for rent
    • 200.000 IDR for a bungalow with double bed / night (May 2019)
    • 100.000 IDR / person for 3 meals a day (May 2019)
      • you can ask for breakfast and dinner only for 50k, but please note there's no shop on the island
  • Nina's Bungalows
    • 4 bungalows
    • food in price included
    • snorkeling gear for rent

Lonely island[edit]

  • Pulau Maila - This is a small island with a cast away like camp on it. Including solar power, gas cooker, survival equipment, etc. You can rent it on Airbnb and also volunteers are needed from time to time.

Camping[edit]

Pulau Asok - Best island for camping, because no mosquitos. Camping gear can be rented by many people and guesthouses for around 60.000 IDR per day. Just ask around.

Stay safe[edit]

Watch out for scammers who just want to get your money. Also watch out for your valuables if kids are around. They like to steal because they think all western people are very rich. Last but not least, watch out for crocodiles if you are near the island Matahari, especially by night!

Get out[edit]

From Balai, the official ferry to Singkil is scheduled on Wednesday and Sunday. But there are Cargo-ships returning to Singkil everyday. Simply ask in the harbour how you can get onto the cargo ships. Prices for the Cargo or the ferry (without a motorbike) are at 30,000 Rupiah for local, 50k for foreigner due to taxes (May 2019).

Please note cargo boat might return to a different place than it has departed from. If you find yourself in a big bay, not in the river in Singkil, you are around 8km from Singkill town centre (there seems to be some fish storing facility there).

From Haloban, there's a cargo boat going to Singkil usually twice a week, dates available 2-3 days in advance. This takes around 6 hours and can be even longer because departure can be postponed couple of hours for no given reason.

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