Batam is the largest island in the Riau Province of Indonesia. Located about 20km’s from Singapore’s South Coast, Batam is notorious for it’s commercial sex industry, the place where Singaporean and Malaysian men lead their secret lives with a mistress, also known as a “golfing trip”. Contrary to popular stereotype, Golf is indeed one of the many major attractions of Batam island, alongside well known Indonesian spas and pristine beaches. We were in it for the fishing of course.
The Riau Islands have a strong and well connected fishing community that complements the potential of the South China Sea surrounding it. Naweshad and I were torn between Bintan and Batam however settled for the closer option to Singapore due to time constraints. Arriving Batam via the Nongsa Pura Ferry Terminal had us caught in the jaw dropping, unexpected beauty of this misunderstood island. I must admit, the research online about Batam and things to do there were not impressive. Everything seemed similar for everyone that went; visiting the local bakery for Indonesia’s famous Lapis cake, the Polo Ralph Lauren warehouse, Chocolate factory, variety of seafood restaurants and for some, lazing around the pool or beach away from the city alongside a spa getaway. We were certain, there was a lot more to Batam and we were correct.
7.30 a.m and we arrive at the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal which could easily double up as a golfers club. We were the only two without a golf bag and instead had with us our overloaded backpack courtesy of an amazing Chinese New Year sale in Singapore and our rods in a telescopic document tube. It was our first time experiencing the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal and the process was easy to grasp.
- head over to the counter of Ferry of choice, or of Ferry already pre-booked online
- obtain a boarding pass and an embarkation card to fill
- check-in the baggages not meeting the hand-carry criteria (they will let you know, for us it’s the document tube turned rod case)
- proceed to security check followed by immigrations
- wait at the departure gate of your ferry for boarding
- scan boarding pass and proceed to ferry
The journey to Nongsa Pura Ferry Terminal, Batam, takes 35 minutes from Singapore. The seats of the Batam Fast ferry are comfortable; free-seating allows you to choose between sitting in the open areas or air-conditioned cabins. Free-seating also meant people aware would rush for the “best seats”, depending on individual preference. To avoid the slightest possibility of sea sickness, we decided to sit at the back of the ferry in the open. The morning sun and breeze alongside the rush from the speed of the ferry across the water made our trip to Batam seem like an exciting adventure. In the blink of an eye, we knew we arrived in Nongsa, not only from the Ferry slowing down, but also when we saw a line of resorts and a marina by the sea. We were not sure what the negative hype was about Batam because heading into the Nongsa Pura Ferry Terminal itself felt like a serene beach getaway, looking back behind us, I could still make out the buildings in Singapore. So close, yet so far apart!
Clearing immigrations, we see a selection of hotel shuttle busses and vans at the arrival lobby. We spotted ours, with a sign that read Nongsa Point Marina and Resort, however we had to first wait for our checked-in baggage (fishing rods) to be brought out to the lobby. Heads-up, baggage handling costs IDR 50,000 per piece, compulsory. The baggage has been organised based on the resorts during check-in, in Singapore. Locating the Nongsa Point Marina and Resort tag on both our rods had us boarding the shuttle within a minute of baggage arriving at the lobby. The ride to the resort took only 5 minutes. Matter of fact, the ferry terminal was located beside the resort, we could have walked over if it was legal to do so. Our shuttle’s first stop was at Turi Resort, a sister hotel of Nongsa Point Marina & Resort.
The lobby of Turi made us wonder if we made a mistake choosing Nongsa Point; the crashing waves , island living concept, you could almost smell a Crabtree & Evelyn scent in the air… we held our breaths as the shuttle made a one minute journey into Nongsa Point marina. As the shuttle was approaching the lobby, what we saw had us floored. A marina with boats and yachts, the endless sea ahead of us with a glimpse of Singapore on the far left, it felt like paradise on earth. As my husband gets busy checking us in, I got busy staring out to the marina in awe, certain that my jaw were already touching the ground, every angle was flawless and the clicks on my camera didn’t seem fast enough to capture every beautiful moment that came by the next second.
The door of room 206 swung open to white luxury, marbled toilet, crisp white sheets and the view was masked by a translucent curtain, almost as though it was meant to tease, as the hotel staff slides it away, there was a need to run and embrace the view, spiritually, mentally and if we could, physically. Like a painting, only very real, the scent of fresh ocean air … and the sound of nothing. A chirp or two followed by minutes of peace. 24 hours to experience Nongsa and the rest of Batam was clearly not enough. We read a few negative reviews of this resort online, and we wonder, what did they truly experience? This was affordable luxury, this was the closest form of peace from the hustle and bustle of Singapore, how spoilt are some of us to render such a beauty below average? They must’ve had experience frolicking on a bed made out of Peacock feathers before experiencing Nongsa Point. We were needed back at the lobby to meet with Mita, the resort’s Assistant E-Commerce Manager who will be assisting us in making the most out of our trip in Batam.
A pleasant petite lady, Mita took us for a walk which surprised us further, a one minute journey into another world… another resort altogether… With a short concrete walkway amidst a little wildlife, we emerge out of it to the familiar sound of waves crashing as well as a familiar view… Turi Resort! We were here to meet with the hotel’s water sports Manager, Amin, whom we hope could give us insight on the waters surrounding Batam suitable to fish in. Amin was a man of the seas. You could tell, his tanned skin fits the bill of a beach boy, muscular with a surfer dude swagger and fluent in the English language of watersport, the seas and fishing. A long jetty in the distance caught our attention and Amin tells us that on a good day, Queenfishes and Groupers can be seen roaming around however, hooking them is quite the challenge. Not easily fooled by jigs or lures, the locals find satisfaction in spearing the larger fishes instead of patiently enticing them with the various methods we practice in Singapore and Malaysia. Amin tells us that conditions of the seas were not suitable for us to head out, safety was his concern as the monsoon was only beginning to end. With that, he recommended we try casting our lines at the end of the jetty and take a tour within Batam to view the many fishing ponds and tackle shops they have to offer.
We have walked many jetties in our lifetime, both long and short, but the clarity of the sea water and richness of the marine life visible from the jetty had our jaws, once more, on the ground. We were astounded by the size of Garfishes swimming around in schools of 4 to 5 , with an abundance of that species in Malaysia and Singapore as well, the sizes available in Batam was one to be reckoned with. The mother of all Garfishes. It was tough to fish at the end of the Turi Resort jetty, only because it was calming and relaxing. As much as we love fishing, we also live right smack in K.L City, finding a quiet moment in life doesn’t happen very often. The serenity, ocean breeze and waves crashing instilled a calm within us, all I wanted to do was lay back and indulge. However, every time I look down into the water, my instinct tells me to begin casting. An hour of casting and sabiki jigging provided the excitement of sight, being able to see the fishes chase after the lures and at the same time, the disappointment of visibility, when the fishes turn away from the hook. With nothing but Amin’s only juvenile grouper caught and released, we adjourn to Nongsa Point’s lobby where we met our personal driver for the day, arranged by Mita.
Our agenda was fishing, experiencing Batam and Indonesia’s famous 6-hour long spas. First thing’s first, a quick hello to our trusty driver for the day, named Reno. We gave him a task of getting us to the best Indonesian restaurant he could find for us to experience a local meal, to that he said, “Is Nasi Padang ok?”. Nasi Padang is steamed white rice with a selection of dishes originating from Padang City of West Sumatera, Indonesia. It was more than just O.K.
Reno brought us to a local town nearby called Botania Garden, near Batam Centre, the restaurant called Densiko is unmissable with its stacked pyramid plates of dishes, we entered almost drooling and confused. We took a seat and requested they bring a few of their best dishes for us to try, Rendang (famous Indonesian Spicy meat dish) included. What is it about Batam that made me want to dive not only into it’s waters but into its dishes as well? Hearty, delicious and extremely affordable, i’m almost considering moving over. We took the time and got to know Reno a little better, after all, we will be spending the rest of our day with him. With minimal English, knowing our Bahasa proved to be useful around Batam. Our first stop from lunch was a local tackle shop located a few blocks away. We find it intriguing to discover the little differences between tackle shops in different countries. As much as a rod, reel, line and hooks make up the general necessity of fishing, brand preferences, types, methods differ significantly amongst many other.
The tackle shop called Lautan Mandiri (Mandiri Seas) had endless shelves of freshwater bait. Evidently, freshwater fishing ponds were seen at almost every other turn we make. They were small and the hub for tangled lines and frustrated local anglers, we have to gain sufficient knowledge before attempting one for ourselves. The store had more bait than gear however the selection were so interesting, I wonder why they haven’t considered exporting some to Malaysia, like the dishes selection of Nasi Padang, options for freshwater bait left us spoilt for choice too. Speaking to the owner of the store, we were told that some Malaysian anglers would drop by every few months just to purchase the flavours for their method mix. I am not surprised, I frankly am tempted to do the same too. Enquiring on our agenda for the day, he assured us that the freshwater fishing ponds were not an experience all too great to tackle in Batam, though that didn’t bother us, a mention of something within our (if I may) scope of expertise had us instantly lured. A recently opened saltwater fishing pond, with G.T’s and Groupers, along the fourth Barelang bridge. We bid the owner adieu and told Reno to get us to the fourth bridge, an approximate 45 minutes away from where we were. We were excited not just for the fishing but to experience the famous Barelang bridge as well.
Barelang bridge is a chain of 6 different bridges that connects smaller islands of Batam to the main island and is a famous tourist attraction. Approaching the first and main Barelang bridge, we quickly understood what attracted not only the locals but the tourists, connecting the islands meant that we were crossing the seas that once divided them, therefore the view was picturesque. As much as we were taking in the sights, we kept count of the bridges we crossed anxious to reach the fourth one. Once we did, there wasn’t a need to search. Unmissable, the body of water divided by borders of land struck us instantly as the fishing pond we were looking for. To assure us further, a sign at the end of the bridge read “Fishing Mania” in Bahasa. Reno turned in and we were out of the car even before he could park. A building right by the entrance, unmistakably the reception with rows of snack stands and canteen tables and chairs had us taking shelter from the afternoon sun in it, enquiring with a few kind ladies whom we understood to be the staff. As we were getting to know more about the pond, we looked out onto the 4.5 hectares worth of land that has been transformed into possibly one of the most beautiful paid fishing ponds we have ever seen. Huts for shelter that line parts of the pond were designed to exude a typical Indonesian style, elaborate patterned roofs and an abundance of wood as material of choice help retain a connection with the nature that surrounds the pond despite being developed.
Though the sign at the entrance reads “Fishing Mania Barelang fishing”, the pond is known as The PT. KAM Saltwater Pond. Officially opened in January 2015, the pond is the only largest Saltwater fishing pond in the Riau Province, as reported in their local newspaper, the Tribun Batam.
Very quickly we learnt that our gear may not be sufficient to fight the available Giants in the pond.
Crucial information about the pond you need to know
Species of fishes available
Catch & Release pond (C&R)
- Grouper: 3 kg – 30 kg
- Giant grouper: 5kg – 70kg
- Barramundi and Mangrove Jack : 2kg – 10kg
- Snapper: 3kg – 10kg
- Giant Trevally: 10kg – 35kg
Family Pond – No Release (500grams to 1kg)
There are a total of four catch and release ponds in PT Kam with depths of 8 to 10 metres, all of which has 300-600 of similar variety of fishes in them mixed together. Whilst you are there, it would be a good idea to maximise your chances of landing a giant by trying out all four ponds at least once. For clarity on the majority of a specific species you wish to target, approach the friendly staff or ghillie to point you to the right pond. There is only one family pond available, with a depth of 6 metres, it is suitable for a fun time with the family, especially the little ones!
Charges for fishing at PT Kam (IDR – Indonesian Rupiah)
C&R: IDR 200,000 for 3 hours
Family Pond: IDR 250,000 for 2 hours
Rod Rental: IDR 50,000 for 2 hours
Bait: IDR 15,000 for 1kg
Fishing Terms and Conditions
- Only single de-barbed hooks are allowed
- For C&R, only live or dead bait purchased from the pond as well as popping is allowed.
- For the Family Pond, you are free to use your bait of choice.
Rod: Ugly Stik Lite Spinning 6’0″, Medium Action (6 – 15lbs line rating)
Reel: PENN Slammer 360
Line: Spiderwire Ultracast Invisi-Braid, 20lbs
Hook Brand/ Size: Eagle Claw Lazer Sharp Circle Hook, non-offset 4/0
Rod: Shakespeare Bara 6’0″, Medium Action (8 – 17lbs line rating)
Reel: PENN Battle 2000
Line: Spiderwire Ultracast Invisi-Braid, 20lbs
Hook Brand/ Size: Berkley Kantuki Chinu 10
Realising what we got ourselves into, Naweshad decided to try out casting his lures whilst I went ahead with dead bait. The only saving grace that I was hoping on was my Berkley 30lbs Vanish leader. I casted my line out as Naweshad was still preparing his terminal tackle. As my bait splashes onto the surface, an immediate explosion followed. Holding on to my rod, I could feel and see my line being peeled out of my reel at speeds I was not anticipating, another jaw-dropping Batam moment. With panic and excitement in the air, I scramble to gain control and began reeling in an evident heavyweight at the end of my line. Just as I built a comfortable momentum -my line snapped. Inspecting the gnarly remnants of my leader, I noticed my leader was in fact bitten in half, making it seem like chewing gum. Noticing my confused expression, the ghillie exclaimed, “KERAPU!” (grouper). I was still stunned by its ability to put up such a fight.
Groupers in the Malaysian ponds have that powerful take however the remaining action is usually reeling in a dead, heavy weight. If the fish was lucky (yes fish), they would have a nice structure underneath to hide behind thus winning the battle, otherwise, reeling in a decent sized grouper wasn’t all that exciting for such a delicious fish. The Groupers in Batam however felt like they were fed a diet of Jamu (Indonesian traditional medicine), alongside their heavy weight, they were aggressive and strong with teeth that they put to good use.
Naweshad tried on a shad of black and silver as well as red and white, however there was no fooling the fishes in the sea, or pond, in Batam! Seeing that I was not only continuously getting hits with dead bait, but had my lines constantly bitten off as well, he decided to switch to a 20lbs Berkley Steelon nylon coated wire as leader, attached to his main line with a uni-knot. Naturally, realizing my husband is wise, I follow suit. With that, we found ourselves on a non stop, back breaking, action packed battle of catching and losing groupers, one after the other. Maximum waiting time for a hook up was twenty seconds. By the fourth fish, we lost count, assuming that was the fourth fish of course. Within the first hour, we lost track of photos and videos taken. Naweshad even managed to land a Mangrove Jack. One other significant difference we notice about the pond was the freshness of the fishes. Having saltwater (seawater) right at its back yard, naturally in the pond, the colors on the fishes were vibrant and stunning. We only had a short window to admire them before having to release.
The PT Kam pond was a very different experience for us, it was highly addictive, tipping the scale of fun and at the same time, a certain calm and serenity was surrounding us. The sea winds were strong and provided comfort and relief to our tired bodies, refreshing us in time to fight the next fish. It felt like a much needed action-packed angling holiday, if I may say so myself. We found ourselves occasionally smiling and laughing (as though we have lost our minds) at the level of satisfaction this trip was giving us, discovering the PT Kam pond was truly the icing on the cake.
Reaching the end of our session, a ghillie pointed out a location of where the Giant Groupers were said to be located and recommended we give it a try. We were not in denial, our gear was not about to land us a Giant Grouper within 15 mins, we may take 15 hours, but no harm in giving a try. I figured they must have been having fun watching us struggle to fight the regular-sized Groupers, trying to land a giant could give them a week worth of funny to indulge in, why not. They have been nothing but kind and supportive, making us feel right at home in Batam. As Naweshad was contented with his fishing spot, he encouraged me to try it out (another wise move!).
Tossing the bait in, I glanced at my wrist to look at the time when I felt a swift tension on my rod as I hang on with line mercilessly being peeled off my reel. I attempted to set my hook, however no amount of force on my end could tame the beast at the end of my line. A Giant Grouper. It had to be. My imaginations started running wild with the image of my reel burning into flames, very abruptly it stopped running. I locked my drag, understood that it was now my turn to take control. I lifted, my line stripped off my reel…I lifted once more, my rod bending like it never did before; muscles from my arms, legs and what felt like even my neck was put to good use attempting to lift the giant… It was not happening. 10 minutes of lift attempts followed by the occasional runs it makes sending panic all over me, finally, with my husband taking over hoping to gain an inch of line back, the Grouper found shelter amidst the pumps, a danger zone for our lines therefore we snapped it off. Naweshad and I began cracking up. We were having an amazingly fun time.
Packing up felt like a drag, we wanted to fish more despite the exhaustion creeping in however we still had one more activity to experience in batam. Before leaving, we took the time to chat with the PT Kam’s marketing managers, Mr. Sulaiman and Mr. April who were kind to share with us the future plans for PT Kam saltwater pond. A large land area beside the reception building holds plans for a small hotel, accommodating anglers that would like to experience the pond traveling from other Riau islands as well as neighboring countries. A restaurant and barbecue area will be coming up right by the sea, suitable for families that come by to fish in the family pond, wanting to enjoy their catch fresh from the pond.
Since our trip to PT Kam, we have kept close contact with Mr. Sulaiman who has kindly sent us a brochure for their first ever competition being held on 11th April, if you are looking for a reason to go, why not this be it? Wrapping up with Mr. Sulaiman and Mr April, we thanked them for their warm hospitality and for being open to share with us about the pond.
We were eager to embark on our next activity in Batam- experiencing a true Indonesian spa. A little pampering was what we needed having been battered by feisty groupers on light tackle. The journey to the spa, located in the heart of town was a blur, falling in an out of sleep with our tummies grumbling, we stop by another Nasi Padang restaurant for a quick bite and within minutes from there we arrived at the spa. Nagoya (no, not Japan) is the main town of Batam, like any other city, bustling with traffic, shops, shoppers and a mall that is said to be another must-visit in Batam. The Nagoya City Centre appears on top every trip review of Batam, shopping however was not on our agenda for the day. The spa was located right opposite the mall on a stretch of shoplots. We got out of the car and in to the spa, dragging our aching feet and tired bodies, a wharf of freshness in the air from a diffuser greeted us warmly, followed by a folder which read “spa menu”. As we arrived late, we could only settle for a 3 hour spa before it closes. We decided to indulge in a massage as well as as a milk body scrub. This does not happen very often, trust me. As much as I’d like to describe the spa experience, I was asleep throughout most of it. It was brilliant however we were feeling even more relaxed at the end of it than when we started, all we wanted was the hotel bed and maybe some room service…
Chef’s Recommendation, you can never go wrong when the room service menu tells you it’s recommended by the Chef himself. It was almost midnight as Naweshad and I enjoyed Batam’s version of Fried Rice, an elaborate meal with Fried Chicken, Beef Rendang, Fried Crackers and flavourful rice overlooking the well-lit marina, with lights from Singapore twinkling ahead in the distance, knowing the morning meant our adventure in Nongsa, Batam would come to an end.
7a.m breakfast by the marina and the calm was accompanied by a little sadness. We were not ready to leave however the last 24 hours in Batam rejuvenated and lifted our spirits, much to our surprise. A part of our souls felt healed somehow. The friendly people we have met and grown fond of, the beautiful places to visit around the island, the abundance of marine life and the fun filled fishing, we truly couldn’t ask for more from Batam island. We boarded the ferry back to Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, Singapore, with a heavy heart.
Today, I write this entry and find myself smiling, and at times cracking up just reminiscing about our trip to Batam. We cannot wait to go back and visit our friends at the PT Kam Saltwater Pond once more, this time better prepared with the correct gear to tackle the giants. We thank Mr. Sulaiman and Mr. April, as well as all the kind and friendly staff at PT Kam for the hospitality and exciting experience we had. We wish them continued success and cheer them on for their very first competition that is coming up. Themilkfishlady.com is also the first official blog writing on the PT Kam Saltwater Pond on the fourth Barelang Bridge, that is right, you read about it here first! We cannot wait to experience the finished product of the PT Kam pond on the fourth Barelang Bridge in the near future.
We leave you with some photos of the pond, information on the upcoming competition and the full video of our trip. If you would like to take a trip to Batam, we highly recommend staying by the beach in Nongsa, and without a doubt, a taste of the PT Kam saltwater pond action.
BARELANG BRIDGE FISHING COMPETITION
Date/Time : Saturday, 11th April 2015, 4p.m (Indonesia)
Registration Fees : IDR 650,000 /rod /person (inclusive of 1kg bait, a hook and snacks)
(First prize, based on no. of participants)
A. 50 Participants – IDR 5,000,000
B. 75 Participants – IDR 5,500,000
C. 100 Participants – IDR 6,500,000
D. 150 Participants – IDR 8,000,000
If there are less than 50 participants for the event, total cash prize is 40% of the total registration fees.
Dateline for registration: 10 April 2015, 7p.m (Indonesia)