Bintan is the largest island in the Riau Archipelago, which comprises almost 3,000 large and small islands, immediately across Singapore and Johor Bahru, Malaysia. The islands stretch from the Straits of Malacca all the way to the South China Sea. The town of Tanjung Pinang is the capital of this province, located on the south western shore of Bintan.
Bintan’s chief tourist attraction today is Bintan Resorts, a spectacular beach holiday destination in the north of the island, covering 23,000 hectares along the entire sandy white coast that faces the South China Sea. The island itself also has interesting historic remains in Tanjung Pinang and Penyengat, and offers plenty opportunities for surfing, adventure and ecotours for schools and family, but is also ideal for relaxation and wellness.
While, for dive enthusiasts the Anambas archipelago in the South China Sea offer pristine dive sites, reachable from Tanjung Pinang airport. Whereas,the Natuna islands are reachable from Batam.
Strategically located south of the Malay peninsula at the mouth of the Straits of Malacca, the Riau islands were, ever since the first century AD, the favourite holding area for Indian and Chinese trading ships to find shelter and wait out typhoons that raged in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. Already in 1202 Marco Polo, the famous Venetian world traveller, told of his voyage to the island of Bintan.
It is small wonder, therefore, that in the 18th century, European merchants, – the Portuguese, Dutch and the British – fought each other and the local sultanates as well as the Malay and Bugis mariners in these waters for hegemony over this strategic shipping channel.
At the time, this part of the Malay Peninsula was ruled by the Johor-Riau Sultanate, whose seat alternated between Johor – in present day Malaysia – and Bintan Island, in present day Indonesia.
In 1884 the British and the Dutch closed their differences over these islands with the signing of the Treaty of London, by which all territories north of Singapore were given suzerainity to the British, while territories south of Singapore were ceded to Dutch powers.
Since then the fate and history of the territories north and south of Singapore parted ways. Singapore became the center of thriving British commerce, whereas, the Dutch who concentrated on present day Jakarta on Java, left the Bintan islands isolated and neglected from the central power.
In the past decades, with cordial relations between Indonesia and Singapore, an agreement was signed between the two governments to develop the Riau islands cooperatively to benefit both countries in the designated Free Trade Zone of Batam, Bintan and Karimun islands.
A first feature of this agreement was the development of the Bintan Resort, a beach holiday destination, covering 23,000 hectares along the entire sandy white coast of Bintan that faces the South China Sea.