The Administrative centre of the Natuna Islands is called Ranai, and found on Natuna Besar. It is the transport hub when arriving and leaving the Islands and boasts a choice accommodation, plenty of Rumah Makan (places to eat), as well as a selection of mosques.
Off shore islands
Pulau Tiga - A group of islands off the southwest coast. Access from the dock at Selat Lampa. The term Pulau Tiga means, 'Three Islands', and refers to the largest islands in this cluster. There are a whole host of them, local pom-pom (small diesel engined boats) drivers will happily negotiate a price, wherever you wish to go. Established services ferry people across at fairly set times, 7-8 am, Around mid-day, and approx. 4 pm. Prices 15,000-20,000 Rp. Outside of these times you might need to negotiate a private charter.
Pulau Sedanau - North of Pulau Tiga and most easily accessed from Kampung Siberat. Claimed to host some of the best snorkelling and diving around Natuna Besar. Best choice of accommodation, if not the only location with a choice, in the islands laying off the west coast of Natuna Besar.
Pulau Senua - Off the east coast, a few kilometres north of Raini. Beautiful uninhabited island, gorgeous beach, crystal clear water, and some worthwhile snorkelling. Hire a boat at a fisherman’s pier approx 3 km north of Raini, it is well signposted.
Natuna Besar is the main island in the Natuna archipelago, but is often referred to simply as Natuna. Whilst it does provide the main access point for arrivals and departures from the archipelago, it is only the largest in an extensive island group by the name of Natuna. It is virtually surrounded by sandy beaches and beautiful water, a fringe of swaying palms line the coast, which often obscures a band of sandy shore. Beware repeat beware, and be prepared: sand flies that bite worse than mosquitoes. Cover your legs, use bite prevention spray, oil. Stop almost anywhere and you’ll be met by a strip of sand sloping gently into the sea. So far there is no tourist infrastructure (March 2014 also April 2016 update) on any of the islands, and very limited public transport. The only way to get round is to hire a car (at 2016 rates around 400,000 rupiah a day).
The people are extremely friendly, seeing very few western visitors makes the few who make it this far a bit of an enigma. There will be plenty of offers of company and visits to the few sites the island has to offer beyond its natural beauty. Spoken English can not be relied on, but quite basic Bahasa Indonesia is enough to get by on. Any sign of limited use of the local lingo is more likely to induce one of the islanders to take you under their wing. Though in honesty few are actually local, most are economic migrants, though not fresh ones.
Similar to most Indonesian islands, there is a distinct regional dialect, which is widely used by the local populace. Bahasa Indonesia is the official national language though, not only will you be understood using Bahasa, you’ll charm everyone you speak to. English is not widely spoken, but that doesn’t put the people off from engaging you in conversation. Without any Bahasa you will undoubtedly experience some interesting exchanges.
Riau airlines offers daily flights to Ranai Airport on Natuna Besar. Four times weekly (Mo-We-Fr-Su) from Batam and Three times weekly (Tu-Th-Sa) from Tanjung Pinang. The fare is approx 80 American dollars one way. All flights are operated by Dutch Built Fokker-50 Turboprop.
The flight Schedule is as follows;
RIU-133 Mo--We--Fr--Su Batam (BTH) -Ranai (NTX) 10:50-11:55 Fokker-50 RIU-134 Mo--We--Fr--Su Ranai (NTX) -Batam (BTH) 12:30-13:35 Fokker-50 RIU-197 --Tu--Th--Sa-- Tanjung Pinang (TNJ) -Ranai (NTX) 11:50-12:50 Fokker-50 RIU-198 --Tu--Th--Sa-- Ranai (NTX) -Tanjung Pinang (TNJ) 13:20-14:20 Fokker-50
The old Pelni map from 2006 shows routes to Natuna islands.
There is very little public transportation available on Natuna. The easiest solution is to hire a scooter from your hotel, which most could arrange if requested. You will be lucky to hire for as little as 15,000rp per hour, a daily rate works out much cheaper. It may also be possible to informally hire a scooter from a local for a lower rate. Generally speaking any scooter hire will be informal, the rules of the road are lax to say the least, could leave you in a tight spot legally if anything went wrong.
Snorkelling – Looking out to sea from anywhere on Natuna Besar, or the outlaying islands, gives the impression of very promising areas to snorkel. Like many countries in Asia cyanide and dynamite fishing have taken their toll, but some areas are showing signs of recovery. In truth, virtually no-one knows what state the coral is around the main island. Snorkel gear is available, though obtaining it is not reliable, best to bring you own.
Pulau Sedanau and Kampung Seberit – Recognised locally as good areas for both snorkeling and diving.
Pulau Senua – Senua Island has some great snorkelling options. The water is pristine and no wetsuit is required (in August or March). Easy access from the beach, though coral damage is extensive while in shallower water. A bit further out from the beach and regeneration shows a lot of promise. In calm waters the area for snorkelling extends virtually round the whole island. Hire a boat to visit your own desert Island. One can be hired from the pier about 3km north of Ranai, not long before reaching Alif Stone Park. You may have to ask around before you find a boatman willing to take you. Try the roadside shopkeeper to make an introduction to a boatman. The boat hire should cost in the region of 400,000rps (March 2014) for the return journey, finding a willing participant is the hardest part of the trip. A single trip takes approximately 30 minutes, the boatman will collect you at a prearranged time. If you are lucky, you will have the whole island to yourself. Disposal of rubbish is a problem, so please take all your rubbish with you back to the main island.
• Eno Sudargo – Of Alif Stone Park, can arrange and supply equipment for diving or snorkeling on the west coast of Natuna Besar. Tel: +62 858 101 37 388, or +62 812 9474 0102. For more information check out their website.
• Mr Wan Taimizi – Local boatman with equipment to snorkel/dive and knowledge of offshore areas. As well as simple trips across to Pulau Senua he can be chartered to go to Pulau Luat, specifically to prime dive sites or day trips for snorkeling. He also mentioned being able to arrange an English-speaking guide. Tel: +62 813 7135 0955.
Visit Alif Stone Park - A stunning collection of huge naturally formed rocks in one area of beach. Forming a haphazard array of mishappen boulders, from the shore fanning out into the surrounding bay, they offer a lovely area for swimming, strolling or kayaking. The family owning the property have gone to great lengths to build an interesting feature of mysterious and beautiful giant stones into a delightfully relaxing location. The whale skeleton in the living room is a quirky surprise. The family provide a peaceful haven away from Ranai and provide the closest there is to a tourist information service. All members are fluent in English and are more than happy to help you find your way around the islands. Their lovely laid out haven is only about 3km north of the main town of Ranai.
There are a variety of places to eat within Ranai, once leaving the surprisingly busy little town, there is little to be found. With transport there are more choices, and supposedly more up market venues, around the peripheries of the town. Look our for a couple of Cantonese restaurants, these can be found on the way out of town heading north, they can get popular after dark.
Between the traffic lights of the main town Ranai and the Agung Natuna Mosque (the largest mosque on the island), look for the best mee goreng in town at "Aceh Mee Goring".
Do not expect western style, or standards of catering. If you have not the stomach for Indonesian cuisine there are are few alternatives. The food available was always found to be plentiful and of good qualityThere is however plenty of decent, cheap, Rumah Makan to fully savour the flavour of travelling Indonesian style.
There are little shops selling bottled water and soft drinks throughout the island.
Some Karaoke bars sell alcohol, some are brothel/karaoke/bar rolled into one. It is quite easy to distinguish which are which, and karaoke is big time entertainment on the island. The beach resort on the edge of town consists of darkened outdoor bars that are all on the seedy side. It would appear to be have the freest flowing beer on the island, but prostitution is also rife.
Hotels with any semblance to western standards are restricted to the area around Raini town. Whilst accommodation is scarce it is possible to negotiate homestays throughout the islands. Camping on deserted beaches is also an option.
• Central Hotel – (Jl. Soekarno Hatta N0. 109, Tel: +62 0773-31248 or Yulee +62 823 90819088) 200,000-450,000 Rp with A/C, TV, western toilets and refrigeration in higher grade rooms. Located in the centre of town, modern, clean and well maintained. WiFi available in communal areas, and in some rooms. the owner Julieta is fluent in English and very helpful.
• Caesar – (Jl. Pramuka No. 3, Tel: +62 0773-31421) Close to the central hub of town. In a big imposing building, which looks slightly run down on the outside. Phone for availability and prices.
• Natuna Hotel - (Jl. Subrantas, Tel:+62 0773-31501) Similar price range to the Central, 450,000 Rp for luxury suite. Approximately 5km out of town with attached restaurant. Quiet, peaceful location, few immediate outside amenities.
• Mira – (Jl. Soekarno Hatta,) 60,000 Rp economy room, with fan, private squat toilet and mandi. Tucked almost under the bridge this is basic accommodation but clean nonetheless. Rear balconies overlook a small intertidal river and a small natural habitat where kingfishers and monitor lizards can be seen.
• Putri Indah – (Jl. Soekarno Hatta No. 31, Tel: +62 0773-31114) Opposite side of the road from the Mira, with balcony overlooking the confluence of river and sea.
• Ajo Basamo – (Jl. Soekarno Hatta No. 29, Tel: +62 0773-31414) Next door to the Putri Indah and looking more up market then most others in this group.
• Peni – (Jl. Soekarno Hatta, Tel: +62 0773 – 31480).
Homestay – Though not in Raini itself the listing below is only about 3km out of the town centre.
• Alif Stone Park – (Tel: +62 858 101 37 388, or +62 812 9474 0102) Newly constructed rooms have only just reached completion (March 2014). Situated within the grounds of a beautiful natural setting, an amazing assemblage of massive stones arrayed haphazardly in calm, clear water, on a gorgeous stretch of coast. Eno, the manager, can also arrange diving and snorkeling trips.
• Sunrise Guesthouse – (Pulau Kumbik, Tel: +62 812 61906694) 50,000 Rp for double room with shared squat toilet and mandi. Seems to be the only formal accommodation within this group of islands. Owners speak reasonable English and are a wealth of information.
Pulau Sedanau - A limited number of accommodation options, but second only to Raini for choice. More information is available through Alif Stone Park
There are no pedestrian footpaths, so take care while walking. Always ask a local before swimming at a new spot. In general, Natuna is very safe, common sense should apply.