Jour­ney through Bin­tan

BBC Earth (Asia) - - Contents -

Some of the high­lights from the ad­ven­tur­ous jour­ney to Bin­tan un­der­taken by the win­ners of the BBC Earth Asia Mag­a­zine School Chal­lenge 2017

Last month, we took the cham­pi­ons of the BBC Earth School Chal­lenge 2017 on an ad­ven­tur­ous trail through the is­land of Bin­tan. The trip was part of their prize for win­ning last year’s chal­lenge, com­pet­ing against other schools in Sin­ga­pore. Take a look at some of the high­lights from their jour­ney…

Rel­ish­ing the fruits of their labour, the win­ners of our an­nual BBC Earth School Chal­lenge cel­e­brated their break from school by head­ing for an ed­u­ca­tional ad­ven­ture through the is­land of Bin­tan. Just a short ferry trip from Sin­ga­pore, this In­done­sian is­land boasts a rich blend of his­tory, cul­ture and abun­dant na­ture, mak­ing for an ex­cit­ing jour­ney for the cham­pion stu­dents from Nanyang Girls’ High School. Lodged at Bin­tan La­goon Re­sort, the girls started their ad­ven­ture from the get-go, as they launched off for a joy­ful ride on the beach atop mas­sive ATVs. Af­ter fa­mil­iar­iz­ing them­selves with the ve­hi­cle un­der the guid­ance of the re­sort staff, they surged for­ward with con­fi­dence into a serene track in the jun­gle. On the very next day, the girls were de­lighted to par­take in the sport of golf at Ria Bin­tan, the award-win­ning 27-hole cham­pi­onship course de­signed by Gary Player, set fac­ing the South China Sea.

Tak­ing in an ex­tra dose of his­tory, the girls mar­velled at the won­ders of Penyen­gat Is­land, just 10 min­utes away from Tan­jung

Pi­nang, Bin­tan, via a pom­pong (wa­ter taxi). Amidst get­ting the op­por­tu­nity to dress up like Malay roy­alty and wit­ness­ing this abode of the kings (from the Malay king­dom), the girls also learnt about the unique Masjid Raya Sul­tan Riau (Sul­tan of Riau’s Grand Mosque), ru­moured to have been built by us­ing egg whites as a bind­ing agent.

From lav­ish ac­com­mo­da­tion set­tings to mouth-wa­ter­ing spreads of lo­cal cui­sine, cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ences with na­tive vil­lagers to in­ter­ac­tions with na­ture and wildlife dur­ing the Man­grove Dis­cov­ery Tour and Sa­fari Lagoi and Eco Farm visit, the ad­ven­ture was choc-a-bloc with mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ences. But don’t take our word for it! Here’s what the girls and one of their teach­ers had to say about their ed­u­ca­tional ex­pe­di­tion:


This was my first trip to Bin­tan and will cer­tainly not be the last. I have al­ways imag­ined Bin­tan to be lim­ited to only beau­ti­ful beaches, with­out know­ing that there are ac­tu­ally a great deal of other as­pects there worth ex­plor­ing. This in­cludes the res­cued an­i­mals zoo and the Orang Laut vil­lage we vis­ited. The trip to this small vil­lage was hon­estly very mem­o­rable as it re­ally showed us how peo­ple utilised the sea for sur­vival. I wish I had been bet­ter versed in the lo­cal lan­guage so as to talk more to the chil­dren and other vil­lagers, and learn more about their per­sonal in­sights, cul­ture and way of life.

Ad­di­tion­ally, it was ex­tremely fun try­ing to learn how to play golf. I may not have ex­celled at it just yet, but it was a great chance for me to take a look at the beau­ti­ful land­scape of the place and have fun!

I also re­ally en­joyed the lo­cal food. There is a unique mix of Chinese and Malay cuisines, with many hav­ing a slightly dif­fer­ent style from their Sin­ga­pore coun­ter­parts. All in all, this was a very mean­ing­ful and ed­u­ca­tional trip. It was the per­fect chance to de-stress and spend qual­ity time with my team­mates.


The short get­away to Bin­tan was truly one that al­lowed me to take a breather, and one that opened up my eyes to the world be­yond the bor­ders of Sin­ga­pore. It was a trip that was ful­fill­ing both in terms of leisure and learn­ing.

Firstly, to have the chance to be in such close prox­im­ity to na­ture in­creased my ap­pre­ci­a­tion for planet Earth and all that she has to of­fer ex­po­nen­tially. Sim­ply stand­ing by the empty beach and watch­ing the waves of the South China Sea crash­ing into the rocks gave me a feel­ing of tran­quil­lity, un­par­al­leled to any­thing I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced be­fore. As we cruised on the lit­tle boat through the man­groves watch­ing rep­tiles and lit­tle squir­rels scur­ry­ing by, not only did I gain fac­tual knowl­edge, I also gained in­sight on a nat­u­ral set­ting that is ex­tremely hard to find in the con­crete jun­gle we live in.

Other high­lights were of course the times when we as­sim­i­lated into the lo­cal cul­ture. Nav­i­gat­ing our way through the nar­row path­ways of the fish­ing vil­lage, sit­ting on the be­caks (mo­torised tr­ishaw) and ad­mir­ing the in­tri­cate de­signs of the tem­ples and monas­ter­ies truly al­lowed me to be in touch with the ex­ten­sive and deeply rooted cul­ture of Bin­tan. From Chris­tian­ity to Bud­dhism, I’ve gained more un­der­stand­ing and sen­si­tiv­ity to re­li­gions and races. It was as if I fi­nally stepped be­yond my text­book and I’m ex­tremely grate­ful to have had this op­por­tu­nity to be in touch with the world.

In sum­mary, this trip af­firmed my love for na­ture and my com­mit­ment to pre­serve its beauty for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions to ap­pre­ci­ate as well. Thank you teach­ers, tour guides and friends for be­ing such won­der­ful com­pan­ions through­out this jour­ney!


The BBC trip was very mean­ing­ful and in­ter­est­ing. Through this trip, we were

able to im­merse our­selves in na­ture and the cul­ture of the lo­cals. This was done through vis­it­ing man­grove re­serves, as well as tem­ples on the sur­round­ing is­lands, where we got to have first hand ex­pe­ri­ence learn­ing about the rich his­tory of Bin­tan. It was an eye open­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to see the lo­cal cul­ture, such as the Sea Gypsies. See­ing how they live and how they use fish­ing as their liveli­hood was truly a mean­ing­ful ex­pe­ri­ence. In ad­di­tion, we were also able to try new things such as golf and lo­cal gado gado. The trip is in­deed one that I will not for­get and will al­ways be very grate­ful for!


The Bin­tan trip was an eye-opener with a bal­ance of cul­ture and na­ture vis­its, which we found to be ex­tremely en­joy­able. In par­tic­u­lar, the visit to the Sea Gypsy vil­lage was some­thing I en­joyed tremen­dously – in­ter­act­ing with the lo­cals and im­mers­ing in the at­mos­phere of a fish­ing vil­lage. This is es­pe­cially sig­nif­i­cant as we are for­tu­nate enough to be liv­ing in a mod­ernised city such as Sin­ga­pore, so much so that we rarely get a chance to see how other peo­ple live. In ad­di­tion, this trip re­ally gave us a much-needed break from the hus­tle and bus­tle of ev­ery­day life, tak­ing us golf­ing and rid­ing ATVs, some­thing that we don’t of­ten get to do in Sin­ga­pore. For me, it was get­ting in touch with na­ture and tak­ing things slow which I re­ally en­joyed dur­ing the trip, im­mers­ing in the lo­cal cul­ture and try­ing the dif­fer­ent cui­sine was also re­ally mem­o­rable.

IRENE (Teacher and men­tor to the stu­dents):

I re­alised through this trip that Bin­tan of­fers a var­ied range of ex­pe­ri­ences.

I had fun be­ing taught to drive the All Ter­rain Ve­hi­cle, and plucked up the courage to ride it on sandy paths and for­est trails, un­der the watch­ful eyes of the Bin­tan La­goon Re­sort staff. The golf clinic at Ria Bin­tan was a great bond­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for the group, as the train­ers set rea­son­able tar­gets that en­abled us to cheer one an­other on. We were thrilled when a cu­ri­ous deer stayed to watch us swing our golf clubs. As we zipped around in a golf buggy, it felt like we were on a scenic trip with beau­ti­ful ocean views.

Vis­it­ing the sea no­mads gave me a new re­spect for their tra­di­tional way of life. Chapels, mosques and tem­ples pro­vide a snap­shot of reli­gious di­ver­sity.

The his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance of Penyen­gat Is­land was pal­pa­ble – as our tour guide told sto­ries of the an­ces­tors of its mod­ern res­i­dents, we un­der­stood why the is­land is deemed wor­thy of be­ing listed as a UNESCO World Her­itage Site.

A boat ride among the man­groves was great for spot­ting wildlife in a nat­u­ral habi­tat. By con­trast, the beau­ti­fully land­scaped Sa­fari Lagoi and Eco Farm Tour pro­vided a chance to en­joy the an­tics of its res­cued an­i­mals.

There is a va­ri­ety of food at dif­fer­ent price points, in­clud­ing in­ex­pen­sive fare at the Rimba Jaya Night Mar­ket and a food cen­tre (Pu­jasera) fre­quented by res­i­dent work­ers. All in all, it was a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence not just for the stu­dents, but for me as well.

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