Tourism at Pulau Berhala

Beach on the south side of Pulau Berhala.

Pulau Berhala is an island off the coast of Sumatra. We recently visited that island and spent several nights there. The island is a much talked about tourist location, though relatively few people go there. Below we listed information about the island, which we believe will aid people in deciding if they want to invest in such a trip. We would also advise people to read our previous post so you can be aware of the risks that will be taken if you decide to go (Berhala Island (Part 1).

Things to Do and See at Pulau Berhala (besides enjoying the beautiful natural scenery)

Talking with Locals

C., with Mr. Ismail.*
Also known as Datuk Tancap.
We obtained a tremendous amount of information from this kind gentleman and really enjoyed talking with him.

  • Talking with the local people and hearing stories. When talking with the people they told us about things they’ve experienced, as well as stories that have been passed down from their ancestors. That could possibly be the most interesting aspect of the visit.
  • While there you can ask them about:
    • The shipwrecks off the coast.
    • The fears many fishermen and sailors have (or have had) of pirates.
    • The superstitions that has caused many fishermen and merchants to steer clear of the island (the island is “angker”—haunted!).

Fishing

  • The ocean is abundant with fish.
  • Bring your own poles and bait because there isn’t any equipment on the island that can be rented. We were told there’s a deserted island about 15 minutes from Pulau Berhala that has better fishing. If interested, you could ask a local resident with a boat to take you there.

Snorkeling

  • You need to bring your own equipment, since there isn’t any to rent.
  • You could also rent a boat from a local person and ask them to take you to places they know would be ideal for snorkeling.

The Grave of Datuk Paduka Berhala

  • More detailed information about this man will be posted in a few weeks.
  • The legends / myths surrounding this this man indicates he was the progenitor of all Jambi kings/sultans.
  • His grave is said to have “keramat,” or magical powers. People pray at his grave, believing God will more readily respond to their prayers than if they would merely pray in their home or in the mosque.
  • Mr. Ismail, the eldest man on the island, said this grave has been there as long as he can remember, but he didn’t know where the man came from. The origin of Datuk Paduka Berhala is a mystery, though many have written their own historical version, using oral transmission of information of myths as their source. The game “telephone” gives an indication of what can happen to history if it isn’t written down!
  • The head of the village (Kepala Dusun) on the Jambi side of the island (Mr. Edi Septriwiguna) said the grave was renovated three times: 2001; 2004, and 2010.

The Grave of Nik Rebiah

Grave of Nik Rebiah. Exiled from the City of Jambi to Pulau Berhala by the Japanese during WWII.

  • The little known history of this man was that he was originally from the City of Jambi. Some suggested the possibility that he was part of a resistance force trying to drive the Japanese out of Jambi during WWII when they occupied the area. It was said that the Japanese exiled him to Pulau Berhala, where he eventually died.
  • His grave is also said to have “keramat,” like that of the grave of Datuk Paduka Berhala (mentioned above).
  • Other unknown ancient graves are also located in the general area.

Fruit Bats

  • These bats have impressive wingspans and are interesting to watch. They do make a lot of noise at nights, which greatly adds to the novelty of the island.

Japanese Anti-Ship Gun (remnant of WWII)

  • The Japanese occupied many of the Indonesian islands during WWII. To help maintain control of the  Berhala Straits, they positioned a gun at the top of this island’s only hill. That gun was left behind when they vacated. It’s currently laying on the ground without its mount. That gun can be seen on our YouTube video, at 2:24 into the video.
  • To see this gun you have to walk up the hill. It’s not too challenging, since there are steps. But for those who are a little out of shape, it may require you take several breaks on the way up (take some water with you). The amount of time it takes to get to the top is only 10 minutes.
  •  The eldest man on Pulau Berhala (Mr. Ismail—85 years old) told us he was forced, along with many others, to carry that gun to the top of the hill. He said he and others were beat into forced labor by the Japanese. He was in his early teens at the time the Japanese were on the island.

Tekek, or Tokek

Tokek / Teke at Pulau Berhala.
It’s eating a cicak (gecko).

  • This is an over sized gecko that actually eats geckos. The manager that rents out the 13 bungalows on this island has 12 of these as pets. They are not caged, and he says they don’t wander off because he frequently feeds them.

Sea Turtles

  • Sea turtles do come on shore and lay eggs. Some have been captured and maintained as pets. You may even be able to see them as they emerge from the ocean and make their way to lay eggs on the banks of the beach. The turtles we saw can be seen our above video, at the 2:36 time mark.

Other Things to Do and See On the Island

If you find articles about Pulau Berhala on the internet, they may indicate there are several other things that can be seen on the island, other than what we listed above. Before our arrival we made a copy of those “thing to see,” but when we arrived and searched for them, we discovered that the information was a bit inaccurate. Below are several of the “Items of Interest” that some websites indicate can be seen.

Batu Buaya Besar—“a large stone crocodile”

  • Instead of there being a large stone crocodile, we were told the story of how a huge 12’ yellow crocodile tried to climb to the top of the islands only hill, but died in the process. There’s no other information than that. How did a crocodile get all the way out to that island? There are no rivers or lakes on the island where they can live.

Pecahan-Pechahan Tembikar—broken ceramics; Gerabah—clay pottery; Bentuk Guci (takar)—measuring rod;  Tempayan—clay pot for storing water

  • The people we talked to said they didn’t know anything about these items..

    What the bronze Hindu statue could have looked like.

Bronze Hindu Statue

  • We were told that around 9 or 12 years ago a Hindu statue with 4 arms was unearth. Government officials took it away and it was never heard of since. Local people suspect it to have been sold illegally. The workers at the Jambi Museum (Museum Negeri Jambi) nor the office that maintains ancient artifacts (Balai Pelestarian Peninggalan Purbakala Jambi) has ever heard of the statue. Maybe the local people’s suspicions are correct.
  • We did find another article on line that indicated that the statue was found in 1998. That article also said government officials took the statue. Let’s hope it somehow made it to a museum someplace.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*Mr. Ismail (85 years old) is the eldest man on the island. He carries the title of: Datuk Tancap. This gentleman (pictured above) is the one who gave us most of the above information about the island.

  • Translation of Mr. Ismail’s title:

    • Datuk–grandfather
    • Tancap–a pylon driver

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We’ve written several other articles about Pulau Berhala and Datuk Pulau Berhala. They can be accessed by clicking the below links.

Advertisements