I am optimistic that Berhala island will become a destination of both domestic and foreign tourists if it is managed properly by involving various related parties,"
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Following a struggle by Jambi province to regain the disputed Berhala island, the local government is now planning to form an expert team to develop that piece of land.

The small island has been at the center of a dispute for years between the provinces of Jambi and Riau Islands, but now it has officially become part of Jambi province.

Jambi province`s culture and tourism office chief, Didi Woerjanto, said on Tuesday that the expert team would be formed to develop Berhala island into a marine tourism attraction in the province.

"With the central government`s ruling that Berhala island belongs to Jambi province, we will put together a marine tourism development program which can benefit the local community and the government," Didi Woerjanto said.

To make Berhala island the mainstay of marine tourism in Jambi, he said, the team should involve experts from various fields related to environment, infrastructure, and social community.

He said in-depth studies involving a variety of experts need to be done in order that the fisheries and tourism potentials of Berhala island can attract tourists and even investors.

"We hope the concept of Berhala island development to make it the mainstay of marine attractions can be realized so that it can be

more widely known nationally and internationally," Didi Woerjanto said.

Meanwhile, the Jambi branch of the Indonesian Hotels and Restaurants Association (PHRI) believes that Berhala Island is a place where a hospitality industry would have bright prospects.

"According to our assessment, a hospitality industry on Berhala island will have very bright prospects and therefore the Tanjung Jabung district government`s plan to build hotels on the island is positively welcomed by hoteliers in Jambi," local PHRI Chairman Arkani said in Jambi on Tuesday.

Arkani noted the dispute over Berhala island between Riau Islands Province and Jambi Province had been resolved by Home Affairs Minister`s Decree No.44/2011 affirming that the island was part of Jambi province.

He said there were three things that would attract tourists to Berhala island, namely the fact that it was a the object of an armned struggle, its historical value, and its natural beauty.

Berhala island had historical value because it there visitors could see a number of ancient cannons from the colonial Dutch era and the tomb of Datuk Berhala, a Malay Jambi king after whom the island is named.

The island also has natural beauty of white sandy beaches which are ideal for various water related activities favored by tourists.

In light of this, Arkani was optimistic that hoteliers would be attracted to invest and do business on the island, so long as they has good cooperation with the local community and government.

"I am optimistic that Berhala island will become a destination of both domestic and foreign tourists if it is managed properly by involving various related parties," Arkani said.

Meanwhile, Tanjung Jabung Timur Regional Development Planning Board chairman Mustafa Kamal said Berhala island would be developed into a tourist resort.

"With the question of the island`s legal status now settled, the Tanjung Jabung Timur district government is drawing up a development plan for the island with its prospective tourism potential," Mustafa said.

According to Mustafa, his office had drawn up a strategic plan for the development of Berhala island after the inter-provincial dispute over it had been settled.

"After the legal status of Berhala island has been established in Jambi province`s favor, we will take initial steps to establish a definitive village on the island as an extension or expansion of the region," Mustafa Kamal said.

He said the ten-kilometer-wide island was previously inhabited by around 20 families from Sungai Itik and Nipah Panjang villages.

Mustafa said the latest information that Berhala island has legitimately belonged to Jambi provincial government was really a good news.

"Following the latest information about the good news, we are now planning to develop tourism facilities on the Berhala island," Mustafa Kamal said.

He admitted that the inclusion of Berhala island into Jambi province was a good news for Tanjung Jabung Timur district government to develop it into a tourist attraction in the province.

It is because the island offers water sport activities such as fishing, swimming, diving, snorkeling in the crystal clear water with fish are all really visible.

The tourists visiting Berhala island can also walk around or climb a high hill with its steep cliff suitable for those who love rock climbing.

Reaching the top of the hill, the visitors can see the ruins of Japanese fort and cannons.

Besides, visitors to Berhala island may also enjoy the freshness of Berbak National Park, home to at least 63 rare wild orchids in the area.

The national park also has various types of birds such as the spotted greenshank, the sanderling, the oriental plover and the broad-billed sandpiper.

Visitors can also observe the activities of the Melayu Jambi tribe in stilt houses or in boathouses just on shore that always move when hit by a wave.

Along the west coast lies huge rocks and corals that make the island a perfect place for leisure activities.

There`s a lighthouse to guide the ships sailing on Berhala Strait in order to avoid steep coral cliff in the east.

Berhala island also has breathtaking underwater view with a great variety of sea plants and colorful fishes, awaiting professional divers to enjoy. (*)

Reporter: Otniel Tamindael
Editor: Jafar M Sidik
Copyright © ANTARA 2011