Paradise Within – Building Ecotourism Inside Indonesia’s Resort Island

February 16, 2022

Home to five-star resorts and luxury golf courses, the Indonesian resort island of Bintan isn’t exactly known for its community-based and eco-friendly tourist projects.

But a small village just outside the island’s main ferry terminal has been on a mission to change the face of Bintan into a key destination for sustainable tourism. Bintan has a lot of promise for sustainable tourism because of its strategic location, which is only an hour away by ferry from its more prosperous neighbour, the island state of Singapore.

Desa Wisata Ekang is one of many youth entrepreneurship supported by Youth Co: Lab – co-created programme by UNDP and Citi Foundation. The village has several eco-friendly sites such mangrove parks, a man-made lake, and activities ranging from bike rides, horse riding, fishing mangrove tour, floating accommodation, and many more.

The man behind the initiative is a young entrepreneur who hails from another Indonesia’s and more renowned tourist island of Bali, Mr. I Wayan Santika. In 2017, he founded Desa Wisata Ekang because he saw the potential of the area to become a tourism spot, despite having been devastated by multiple forest fires over the years. According to the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, approximately 6,000 hectares of forest and land in the islands of Riau where Bintan is located caught on fire in 2019 alone. The area was in need of a lot of attention due to the fires, as it had been neglected for a long time. But Mr. Wayan persevered and decided to turn the area into a sustainable tourism hamlet.

“There is a lot of potentials that are underdeveloped in the area, especially in its swamps and the mangrove forest. Due to underdevelopment, multiple forest fires occurred in the area. As such, the damaged land is reconstructed and revitalized into a tourism village and is now used as the inn.” Mr. Wayan and team also ensure to include all the villagers in the program and by a combine effort they developed the village for tourists’ attraction,” said Danniary Ismail Faronny, Desa Wisata Ekang’s Strategic Partnership Officer

Desa Wisata Ekang, which includes Ekang Tourism Village and Ekang Mangrove Park, has a long-term goal of raising environmental and entrepreneurship awareness. Thanks to the awareness campaign, some members of their community have started their own enterprises, got involved with new infrastructure projects, and partnered with the government to make improvements.

Over the course of the Youth Co: Lab program, young entrepreneurs were equipped with skills such as resource and financial management, impact measurement, marketing, and much more. Desa Wisata Ekang also attended the Youth Co:Lab bootcamp last year which gave them a great opportunity to network with fellow young entrepreneurs and business mentors.  

“Youth Co: Lab 2021 Bootcamp was a great and impactful boost to the development of our enterprise. Although we have implemented some tools to develop our brand prior to joining Youth Co: Lab, we were not aware of the theories behind them – which we have gained through participating in multiple workshops and training in this Bootcamp. We now realize that what we’ve been doing is right on track, and we’ll continue to gain more upskilling from Youth Co:Lab. We also got a great opportunity to network with fellow young entrepreneurs and experts in the ecosystem,” said Danny.

Looking ahead, Desa Wisata Ekang aims to increase its market share in ecotourism, both locally and abroad. Some of their objectives include capturing a larger tourism market from Singapore by promoting Ekang's nature and newly prototyped Floating Accommodation. In doing so, they will continue raising and fostering awareness of environmentally friendly entrepreneurship and working with the government on more infrastructure development projects.

Youth Co:Lab is also supported by the Multi-Partner Trust Fund (MPTF), a joint initiative implemented by UNDP, ILO, UNAIDS and UNHCR in providing post-pandemic support for vulnerable populations in Indonesia, including young people and women.


Written by Kamal Salehin and Nanda Illahi

Edite by Tomi Soetjipto


Wisata Ekang Social Media

Desa Wisata Ekang:

Ekang Mangrove Park: