Anambas, South East Asia's Maldives
The Anambas Archipelago is somewhat of an anomaly; its islands are located barely 200 kilometers east of the Malaysia Peninsula, yet, paradoxically, they're part of Indonesia, rather than Malaysia.
In fact, it's been said that the way it sits in this kind of no man's land is actually partly the reason that Anambas has remained practically hidden from the rest of the world until this day. How many people do you know that have heard of Anambas? It's a bit unexpected, given that the archipelago lies at about an hour's flight away from Changi!
But I now know that this collection of 255 treasure islands is nothing short of a land blessed with raw, powerful and unspoiled beauty; countless emerald isles, jutting from a gin-clear sea that gradually hues from a glassy aquamarine to a deep cobalt blue, with snow-white beaches and coconut trees for good measure. I know this for a fact, because I regularly hop there from Singapore.
If my description sounds like the Maldives, it's because Anambas does have a striking resemblance to the famous atolls in the Indian Ocean. For all the considerable geographical distance between these two island groups, Maldives and Anambas may as well have been siblings, not only in terms of their incredible natural wealth and simply stunning environmental beauty, but for a number of other reasons too.
Like Maldives, the Anambas Archipelago is remote and hence not that easily accessible. Whilst this means that the territories are unlikely to become mass tourism destinations, the way Hawaii has become for instance, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. After all, Maldives has been a niche destination since its wholesale discovery and this serves the islands and their population very well.
Where the two regions' similarities end is cost. Whereas travelers to Maldives had better come with generous budgets, Anambas is very budget-friendly. Its luscious, tropical backdrop can be enjoyed without breaking the bank.
And this also applies to hotel stays and activities like snorkeling, jungle-trekking and scubadiving.
It's for this reason that Anambas has been dubbed "Poor Man's Maldives". Travellers get all the sensational bliss, the timeless beauty and the awesome tropical island idyll the likes of a world class destination like Maldives, but in Anambas it can be had for a fraction of the Maldives price.
The other advantage Anambas has over Maldives is that typically, once you're in Anambas, you can quite easily journey from island to island, as the adjacent islands are within close enough proximity of each other. This is not the case in Maldives, where guests are more or less restricted to the island of the hotel they have booked. After all, each of the islands in Maldives has its own resort and, as such, the islands there tend to be off-limits to outsiders. Not so in Anambas. In Anambas, you can visit every single island you like.
In fact, once you're in Anambas, go right ahead and island-hop to your heart's content. Witness turtles nesting and spot the dolphins that have made Anambas their home, whilst you hop from jewel island to jewel island.
If you, too, would like to discover the breathtaking beauty of South East Asia's Maldives, then head for Anambas.
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