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Riau is a province of Indonesia, located in the center of Sumatra along the Strait of Malacca. Riau is currently one of the richest provinces in Indonesia. This province is rich with natural resources, particularly petroleum, natural gas, rubber, palm oil and fiber plantations. The Riau Islands were part of Riau province until 2004, when they were made a separate province.

Introduction to Riau

The name 'Riau' was once only used for the chain of islands which seales off the entrance to Selat Malaka (Malacca Street) south and west of Singapore. In 1958, the uncontrolable province 'Central Sumatra' (concluding of the current Jambi, West-Sumatra and Riau) which was formed during the Indonesian revolution, was split up and a new province in the name of Riau was formed.

Except the bordering Lingga Archipelago, it concludes a big part of mainland Sumatra and several hundred remote islands in Selat Cina Selatan (South China Sea) north of Borneo (the Natuna, Anambas, Serasan and Tambelang groups).

The land surface of this hetrogenic province is vast (94.561 and Riau does not only conclude 3214 islands and four of the biggest rivers of Sumatra, is also has the biggest surface of tropical rainforest of the island, hundreds of important river-lanes, thousands of kilometres of low populated shore. At the end Riau has the most productive oil fields of Indonesia, where about 65.000 drums are produced daily, half of the total of the country.

Mainland Riau is densely forested lowlands, formed during centuries of deposits from the rivers Rokan, Siak, Kampar and Inderagiri, all of them spring high in Bukit Barisan, and stream 300 to 500 km towards the east and the coast.

These lowlands are not good for agriculture because irrigation is not that good. Only two milion people live here, Malay and migrants from Java and Kalimantan, in small settlements along the river. This area is not exciting for travellers; the little that can be seen is kind of remote and the environment is primitive.

The Riau islands however, are one of Indonesia's best kept travel secrets, Batam and Bintan have good environments and have beaches, and can be reached easily from Singapore with fast boats.

They both are the starting point for romantic excursions with a slow boat, chartered fishers or a private yaught towards one of the thousands of idyllic islands. This is the kingdom of the orang laut, or the 'people from the sea', former pirated and traders which setteled along the shore in small villages.

Some area are changing rapidly. Batam and Bintan are the location for investment of bilions of dollars which is likely to spread to nearby islands. Still there will be some islands kept which are still not belonging to the modern world.

Last revised on January 05, 2012
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