Attracting both local and foreign tourists, Ketawai Island, for the past several years, has been a favorite stopover point for foreign yachts participating in Sail Indonesia.
Situated some 18 kilometers from the Babel provincial city of Pangkalpinang, this uninhabited island is known for its beaches and underwater landscape filled with sea grass and coral reefs.
Foreign yachts have begun to arrive at Ketawai Island to take part in the upcoming Sail Sabang, which will be held from Nov 28 to Dec 5, 2017, in the city of Sabang, Aceh Province.
Up till Thursday, some six yachts from Australia and the United States have visited the island of Ketawai on their way to Weh Island in Sabang.
"As of today, as many as six yachts have stopped over and anchored at Ketawai Island, and about 22 more yachts from various countries will arrive in the next few days," Central Bangka Culture and Tourism Office Chief, Zainal, remarked in the district town of Koba on Thursday.
According to him, Ketawai Island is one of the mainstay tourist destinations in Central Bangka and has become a favorite stopover point for yachts from various countries.
Foreign yachters who visit Ketawai always admire and love the beauty of this pristine and well-preserved island in Central Bangka district.
Both the local and foreign tourists who had visited Ketawai Island acknowledged that it is an ideal location for swimming, diving, and snorkeling, but it still needs adequate facilities and infrastructure.
"The beauty of Ketawai Island is not inferior to other islands in Indonesia, as it has tremendous tourism potential. Therefore, the facilities and infrastructure here must be improved," Suherman and Dedi, two local visitors to the island, stated recently.
The visitors added that the waters around the island were suitable for swimming, snorkeling, and diving and to enjoy the beautiful coral reefs, consisting of a variety of ornamental fish.
Due to its natural beauty, Ketawai Island was included on the list of recommended places to visit as part of the Sail Karimata 2016 activities, ranking among Jambi, the Riau Islands, and the Bangka Belitung Islands.
During the Sail Karimata event in October 2016, as many as 22 yachts from Germany, France, the US, Sweden, Australia, Switzerland, Italy, and Singapore had anchored at Ketawai Island.
The Ketawai administration had organized traditional art and cultural performances to entertain the visitors.
Along with the local villagers, the foreign yachters had also participated in a beach cleanup drive and the release of 100 baby turtles.
They praised the beauty of the island and the hospitality of the local people who had greeted them enthusiastically.
"This is one of the most beautiful islands that we have ever visited. It is very pretty, and we are very charmed by it," Nilian, an Australia yachter, remarked at the time.
Nilian believed that the island was the ideal location for a yacht stopover, as it was clean and was hardly ever used for any developmental activities.
"This island is uninhabited, and it is managed nicely. It is clean, calm, and has a large number of coconut trees. It is good for snorkeling too," Nilian remarked.
The Australian yachter suggested that Ketawai Island be included in the Indonesian sailing guide, as the island is worth visiting by any yachter.
Another yachter, Clara from New Zealand, noted that she was charmed by the beauty of the island and the local people, who were very friendly.
"I am very impressed. I never thought that we would be greeted warmly and cheerfully by the local inhabitants and government officials," she explained.
She promised to promote the island back home and to bring her family and friends for a visit.
Indeed, the arrival of foreign yachts to Ketawai Islands shores had attracted several inhabitants of Koba Village to the sailing event, who arrive on traditional fishing boats.
Optimizing potential tourist attractions in Central Bangka District, Bangka-Belitung (Babel) Province, is the top priority of the local Culture and Tourism Office, in 2017, the offices chief, Zaidi, elaborated in the town of Koba.
According to Zaidi, the local office intends to rejuvenate regional tourism in the new year by mapping out potential tourist attractions and constructing supporting infrastructure.
Geographically, Central Bangka District comprises of coastal areas with high marine tourism potential, in addition to historic and cultural tourist attractions.
The tourism potential in Central Bangka is quite promising, especially with marine tourism attractions such as Kebang Kemilaw Beach, Terentang Beach, Ketawai Island, and Kolong Biru.
Kolong Biru is a former tin mining pool with blue waters that is currently attracting many tourists who wish to admire its surrounding beauty.
Accordingly, the Central Bangka district government and the Culture and Tourism Office will develop it further in 2017 to attract even more tourists.
"We will complete the supporting facilities around Kolong Biru in an effort to enhance the appeal of this tourist attraction," Zaidi affirmed.
For its part, Bangka Island has an abundance of marine and historical attractions, encouraging the Pangkalpinang city government to spare no effort to develop them to appeal to domestic and foreign tourists.
The island is known for its lush tropical forests and is surrounded by a crystal-clear sea lapping at its white sandy beaches.
After visiting the beaches of Parai, Pasir Padi, Sampur, and Matras, visitors would never feel like returning.(*)