05 Apr Pilot Dreams Fulfilled in Singapore
I’ve always wanted to be a pilot, but I feel I’m too short to be one (sadly). Air Adventures Flying Club Bintan, however, helped me achieve that dream. Sort of.
How to Get There
Bintan Resort Ferries (BRF) is your best bet. There are at least five trips from Singapore (Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal) to Bandar Bentan Telani (Bintan) every day, with additional trips to and from on weekends.
They have promotions, too – I was able to get a S$10 outbound trip and a S$1 inbound trip. After taxes, I paid about S$44. Note that this is only available online through their website, so make sure you get yours in advance to avail of the cheapest rates possible.
A little note when getting a ticket: make sure you buy one for BINTAN not BATAM; I almost made this mistake (cos I was half asleep haha) so make sure you get the right ticket for the right island.
DON’T FORGET TO BRING YOUR PASSPORT, TOO! Please. I saw two tourists who weren’t able to leave cos (1) they didn’t have their passport, and (2) it was too late for them to grab them and make it in time for the departure. So there’s that.
Aboard the Catamaran
It’s only an hour’s trip (or thereabouts) so getting an Emerald Class ticket is 101% unnecessary, even if you’re a flashpacker like me. I was able to get a full uninterrupted nap even in economy.
Food is available at an extra cost; snacks for S$2.50-5.
Upon arrival, Emerald Class passengers are asked to disembark first; economy class passengers get to do so immediately after. Try your best to not be the last person to leave the vessel; you don’t want to be the last person to get stamped an entry – it’s not the best feeling.
Welcome to Bintan!
Quick Bits on Bintan
Bintan is one of the Indonesian islands near Singapore; kind of like a “holiday” destination, a quick escape to the beach kind of island.
Because of the island’s close proximity to Singapore, one can easily think that the Singapore Dollar can be used pretty much anywhere. I thought wrong. The Indonesians have pride in their rupiah, so make sure you get some before you leave the ferry terminal. It’s the only currency they will accept, even in resorts.
Also – Bintan is crazy expensive considering Indonesian standards. If you want to save a little bit, try the local market for food. It’s your best bet, unless you want to pay $$$ for resort food.
This is what I had, for I think about IDR40,000 (US$3). I’m not gonna lie, it wasn’t the best of meals. Rice was good, but the chicken was too small; I had to order another one. #gainz
For perspective, the cheapest resort food I saw was about US$28 – and that’s just a basic burger with some chips.
Air Adventures Bintan
Your journey begins soon as you clear immigration at Bintan Island. There is a complimentary pick-up service provided by Air Adventures Bintan from either the ferry terminal or your resort (Bintan Resorts only). I’m coming in on a day trip, so I requested to be picked up from the ferry terminal.
The Air Adventures Flying Club Bintan hangar is quite a drive from the ferry terminal, so make sure you (1) reserve a flight slot, and (2) you coordinate with them on your arrival at least a day before. Unless you want to spend for whatever else that’s unnecessary, that’s on you. You don’t want to go all the way to Bintan only to find out there are no available ultralight flights for the day, do you?
Each flight on the ultralight aircraft takes approximately 20 minutes; that’s from the hangar when you prepare for take off, and back. “Twenty minutes” sounds short, but I reckon it’s just enough. Trust me.
You will be given a flotation device in case of an emergency, your own aviation headset, and a quick brief on the rules during flight.
The flight is about two full circles over Lagoi Bay and the Bintan resorts; it’s an instant tour of the island in itself, except that you’re a thousand feet above with jealous resort tourists watching you.
You fly at a maximum altitude of 1,000 feet – if I’m not mistaken, this is the highest allowable altitude without air traffic restrictions.
There’s really nothing special in the overall flying experience, except that you’re in an open cockpit seaplane … with the wind blowing on you … and your extremities exposed a thousand feet in the air … without a parachute (but there’s a flotation device worn over you that will inflate when submersed in water) … just imagine … nothing special, eh?
All these for S$120, with an optional full-flight video coverage for S$35 (comes in a thumb drive they’ll provide – but no branding, just a plain thumb drive). Sounds good? Sounds THE BEST – this is one of the few “expensive” experiences I’m more than willing to pay for. 101% I’ll do it again!
TIP: If you have your own GoPro, you can hook it in the aircraft and save yourself the extra S$35. Otherwise, you can take your GoPro with you and pay extra for the full-flight video coverage (was only at 720p; not sure if it was a mistake in the GoPro settings, or Stu really set it up that way). This way you have videos in two different angles. That’s what I did, and I’ve no regrets. Make sure your GoPro comes in a pole with a strap, by the way. It’s a safety requirement. Obvs.
Get on the Maxair Drifter 912
You can reach Stu Perkins, Chief Pilot and Managing Director, through email at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. However, it took me a lot of attempts to reach him there in both my January and March visits. It appears he is best available on WhatsApp at +62 812 70124683, or otherwise you can try reaching him on the Air Adventures Flying Club Bintan Facebook Page via a private message. Just keep messaging if you don’t get a reply, but be realistic lol.
If you are sending him a WhatsApp message, express your interest with taking a flight on whatever date at whatever time. Just like any normal person, I don’t think he will respond to just a “hi” lol introduce yourself.
At the moment, Stu only flies over Bintan. He is soon opening another hangar in Bali – sometime in the middle of 2017 around June/July. That’s something to look forward to, especially if you have plans of going to Bali.
If I’m not mistaken, Stu’s hangar also offers introductory flight lessons – that’s something.
Find the good in getting lost,
P.S. There is not much to see in Bintan, but if you have the time (and money) to spare, you can rent a chauffer-driven car onwards to the monastery and statues. They charge way too much though, especially for a three-hour trip; about 1.5x the price of a 12-hour car service in Bali. No way; I’d rather skip and save it for next time.
What you can do to let time pass before your ferry back to Singapore is to see the Bintan Resorts, maybe have a (an expensive) meal in one of the restaurants. They provide complimentary shuttle services to the ferry terminal, but make sure you know what time and where the pick up is at.
Also – a big shout out and thank you to the lady I went on a flight with – Daryl, also a Filipino but is based in Cebu. She saved me in so many ways as I was being a very responsible tourist … Lol, see you again next time; I hope I didn’t spoil your sweet holiday!