NATUNA ISLANDS: ‘Eden’of The Sunken Sundaland

Located in the middle of South China Sea, between east (Borneo)& west (Peninsula) Malaysia, lies the stunningly beautiful archipelago of Natuna Islands. Officially a part of the Riau Archipelago province, Natuna Islands is actually the northernmost group of islands of Indonesia . This 272-islands archipelago is indeed a true and true ‘eden’ of the sunken Sunda Shelf of the Malay Archipelago ! Mountain tops or tiny islands? Or both? The ‘eden’ of Natuna Islands are the ‘scattered’ mountainous parts of the sunken Sundaland/Sunda Shelf which had managed to stay ‘afloat’ above the sea level. Well…you see…at the height of theLast Ice Age (about 20,000 – 18,000 years ago), almost all of the South East Asia lands and seas (ie the Gulf of Thailand and the Java Sea) were all dry and thus formed a continent twice the size of India – called Sunda Shelf or Sundaland. Dramatic and catastrophic rise in water level occurred between 8,000-7500 years ago (at the end of the Last Ice Age – the 3rdGreat Flood). Experts claimed that record shows that the sea indeed rose at least 120 metres during those 3 Great Floods! The flooding of South East Asia resulted in major loss of parts of the flat land of the Sunda Shelf. Now…back to the present time… the archipelago of Natuna Islands offers unspoiled beaches – with landscape & culture that is absolutely worth a visit! They arealso famous for their lovely woven textiles. And not forgetting… those graceful and mesmerising traditional dances too. Natuna Besar Island (or locally known as ‘Ranai’) is the largest insize and also northernmost of theislands. Mount Ranai in the island is the highest mountain in the Natuna Archipelago (1,035m). It also has extensive accommodationfacilities, ie hotels, resorts and inns. Despite of its size, Ranai town is indeed quite a lively place.There are traditional markets, large supermarkets and also modern medical facilities available on the island. According to local historians, the 1st ever habitant of Natuna Besar Island was a young boy from Siam (present day Thailand).He was ‘swept away’ on a log andmarooned on the island. The boy was later known as ‘Demang Megat’. He was later married to aprincess from the Kingdom of Johor (southernmost state in Peninsula Malaysia) by the name of Engku Fatimah. The archipelago of Natuna Islands are vitally important due to the fact that they actually sit in waters that carry MORE than HALF of the world’s supertanker traffic! And of course, fisheries resources are enormous! But more importantly… very, verysignificant reserves of oil and gas are believed waiting to be exploited right under the sea! Indeed, some claimed that the largest gas fields in the WORLD has been found… right here! So how one gets to enjoy the magical beauty of this ‘floating Eden’ of the sunken Sundaland? Well, the easiest way is to fly. Go to Batam and head straight to Hang Nadim Airport. The small Fokker aircraft seats 45 passengers and takes about 1.5 hours to reach Ranai Airport on the Natuna Besar Island. The price? US8O per pax/one way. Alternative mode of transport? Well… you can ride a boat from Kijang Harbor of Tanjung Pinang, Bintan Island. The boat takes 12 hours to reach Natuna Besar Island and the service is available only once a week! Not a bad idea if you want to be ‘marooned’ for 7 days…continuously… on a lost- lovely- island of ‘eden’ of the long forgotten sunken Sundaland…:) Awesome!

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