Asia is probably one of the most popular family travel destinations in the world. It’s budget friendly, safe, you can enjoy in amazing food, people are so friendly, and you can find almost everything you want – amazing wildlife, beautiful landscape, historical sites and spectacular tropical beaches.
But because of its popularity, it’s getting more and more difficult to find an unique, special tropical beach paradise.
But luckily we found one. During our one month long trip across Sumatra we also visited Banyak archipelago on the western coast of Sumatra. It’s quite easy to reach, not yet on every tourists itinerary and also because of that just heaven on earth.
From the first photo that we published on our social media, we got so many questions about it. So here it is – a quick guide to Banyak archipelago – how to get there, when to go, where to sleep…
INDONESIA TOURIST VISA
Sumatra is part of Indonesia. In March 2016 we didn’t need a visa to enter Indonesia for our stay (up to 30 days). But because rules are changing so quickly, it’s better to check it out prior to your departure.
BANYAK ARCHIPELAGO – WHEN TO GO
The best time to visit the archipelago is during the dry season from February to September, although it can rain from time to time during dry season too. Temperatures range between 22-29 °C throughout the year. Rainy season is from October to January. Most rain typically falls for a couple of hours during late afternoon.
BANYAK ARCHIPELAGO – GETTING THERE AND AROUND
The nearest international airport is in Medan on the East coast of Sumatra. There are regular flights to Medan from Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Singapore, Bangkok and Jakarta. The cheapest plane tickets are usually from Kuala Lumpur (AirAsia and Firefly) and Penang.
The fastest way to get to the west coast to the port of Singkil is to fly with Susi Air from Medan straight to Singkil or to rent a private car with a driver. The price from the airport straight to the port is around IDR 1.000 000/car and it takes around 10 hours (the best option is to travel by night). You can also travel by bus, but you have to change it couple of times and it takes years to get to Singkil.
There are couple of options to travel from Singkil to Banyak archipelago. The cheapest option is by public boat (everyday; IDR 50.000/person) or ferry (2 days a week; IDR 37.500/person). Every public boat and ferry will stop at Balai island (the main administrative of Pulau Banyak). The fastest and the most expensive is to charter a speed boat (IDR.1.500.000 directly from Singkil to Balai island).
There are no regular or public boats within Pulau Banyak. If you travel on a shoestring, just ask around and wait until you find a boat going where you want to go, or change your plans according to what boats are available.
ACCOMMODATION ON BANYAK ARCHIPELAGO
There are places to sleep in the villages on Pulau Balai and Pulau Haloban. But when you travel to a place like Banyak Archipelago you are usually looking for more tranquil places, straight on amazing beaches.
Taliana bungalows are located on Taliana island. The advantage of this island is the location, its proximity to other islands so it’s good base for island hopping. The other advantage is they have the most beautiful snorkeling spot among others that can be reached just by swimming from the beach. The bungalows are basic, food also. Price is IDR 180.000/adult, all three really basic meals included.
Ninas Bungalow is in Sikandang. Sikandang is an island surrounded by long white sandy beach. Very nice for swimming, relaxing and sunbathing. They have couple of snorkeling spots nearby.
OTHER PRACTICALITIES ABOUT BANYAK ARCHIPELAGO
There are basic medical facilities on Balai and Haloban islands. For better health services you need to travel to Singkil or Medan.
According to locals Malaria is present on some islands in Banyak Archipelago. Prophylactics and insect repellent are reccomended.
There is no bank on archipelago. It is advised to exchange money in Medan. There are also some ATM-s on the way to and in Singkil.
Mobile coverage is available on some islands.
ACTIVITIES ON BANYAK ARCHIPELAGO
Snorkeling: best spots are located near Taliana island and around Pandan and Asok island. You can reach Taliana coral reef easily from the beach.
Kayaking: Banyak Archipelago has a great potential to be the finest sea kayaking destination in Asia. You can rent simple sit on top kayaks at MB Camp Palambak and Taliana bungalows.
Island hopping: this is the best way to explore this amazing archipelago. Pulau Banyak consists of approximately 50 small islands, some good for swimming, sun bathing or snorkeling and camping. It can be organized by local fishermen. Island hopping usually last for 3 nights and 4 days, but you can arrange also longer expeditions. The fisherman can arrange everything you need including food, water, camping equipment…
Turtle watching: on Pulau Bangkaru you can participate in turtle conservation project. Every night, all year round, Green Turtles lay eggs. Between November and March there are also a few Leatherback turtles laying eggs. The only way to see the turtles on Pulau Bangkaru is through YPB (Yayasan Pulau Banyak, or the Pulau Banyak Foundation).
We organized our stay at Banyak Archipelago with help of mr. Rega (firstname.lastname@example.org) and mr. Anhar (FB Anhar Alenta). We were very satisfied with their service.