Journey through Bintan
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:
HENG RUI QING
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.
MATILDA MAG JIA LIN
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!
CHLOE KOK YING-XUAN
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.