Its waters are the backyard of native seafaring nomads who fish and trade for a living. Their traditional wooden sailing craft, called 'pinisi' still do the forested channels of these islands, along with other indigenous craft, fishing vessels and cargo ships which call at the archipelago's main town and Tanjung Pinang port. Tanjung Pinang lies on the largest island of Bintan archipelago. Once known as Riau, it was the heart of an ancient Malay kingdom. Today, Bintan is the latest hot spot of development in Indonesia's surging economy.
A master plan is underway to turn it into a major tourist destination. Barely an hour away from Singapore by ferry, tourist accommodation has begun to appear to take advantage of its gateway from it all appeal. It consists of Riau Archipelago, Natuna Islands and Anambas Archipelago. Originally part of Riau Province, Riau Archipelago was split off as a separate Province in July 2004 with Tanjung Pinang as its capital. Anambas Archipelago, located between mainland Malaysia and Borneo were attached to the new province. By population, the most important Riau islands are Bintan, Batam and Karimun. Size wise, however, the sparsely populated Natuna Islands are larger.
Riau Archipelago with its thousands of island has plenty of scenic beaches and diving spots, among them Trikora on Bintan and Pasir Panjang on Rupat Island. The first is about 50 kilometers south of Tanjung Pinang on the eastern side of the island. Pasir Panjang, on the northern side of Rupat facing to Malacca Strait, is stretched out natural beaches are also found on Terkulai and Soreh islands, about an hour's distance by boat from Tanjung Pinang. One of the most popular beaches is Nongsa on Batam Island. From here one can see the Singapore skyline.