The Riau archipelago, with 1769 islands, has some of the most remote and best-preserved reefs in the South China Sea. Learn to dive in the calm waters surrounding Bintan Island, spot whale sharks at the Anambas Islands or head into the less discovered areas to experience dive sites unexplored by most of the scuba diving community.
Venture to the beautiful Bintan Island to partake in dive courses in shallow, calm dive sites or search the sandy seafloor for a range of macro critters. Stonefish, seahorse, and nudibranch all await your discovery while at less sheltered sites, there’s the opportunity to witness dolphins at deep drop-offs.
Diving in the Riau Islands
The Riau Islands is an Indonesian province comprising 1769 islands lying from the Malacca Strait to the South China Sea. The Malacca Straits is one of the oldest and busiest marine trading routes, so it is not surprising that while scuba diving the Riau Islands, divers encounter a number of wrecks, from merchant ships to World War II bombers.
Popular with divers visiting from Singapore, the Bintan and Batam Islands are the most well-known of the Riau archipelago. Bintan’s calm shallow waters and fringing reefs are ideal for novice dive courses and those searching for macro critters while the southern reefs of Batam are nutrient-rich and home to sea turtle, stingray, and reef sharks. Divers who are more experienced can head to the Anambas Islands, where away from the protection of coastal sites are the chance to drift along walls and pinnacles among barracuda. There’s even the potential to spot whale sharks on their migratory route!
Aside from the Bintan and Batam Islands, as you travel into the archipelago the islands are mostly undeveloped and Riau Islands diving is undiscovered by most. If you want to dive the Riau Islands through reputable dive centres, there are a number in Singapore yet, the Bintan and Batam Islands are likely to be the extent of the excursion.
Best places to dive
For wreck diving enthusiasts, Riau Islands diving has everything you could want. From Batam Island dive the Codd Wreck in Kerang Gelang, a 100-year-old wreck completely encrusted in coral and home to frogfish, scorpionfish, cuttlefish, and pipefish among feather stars and sea fans. Nearby at Bintan Island, dive the Igara Wreck which sits between 14 to 41-metres and attracts a myriad of fish including the occasional nurse shark. In 1973, this Italian bulk ore carrier struck an unmarked rock and sunk only a year after entering service. Mapur Island, in the Bintan island group, is well known for its untouched beaches. The reefs among submerged pinnacles and sloping seabeds are pristine.
Further east from Mapur, lies the 229 islands of the Anambas Islands archipelago. At Damar Island, dive an underwater pinnacle with the chance of spotting a whale shark during the migratory season. Batu Kataoka, also a submerged pinnacle, is rich with marine life and clear water and with great visibility comes the ideal opportunity to see blacktip reef sharks patrolling the area.
If scuba diving in the Riau Islands divers will come across the countless uninhabited islands in the archipelago. As there is no human activity, these islands often have pristine coral reefs that are among the best-preserved in the oceans near to Singapore.