Seven Ghosts in Riau

Welcome to Teluk Meranti, Small place with Big secret

Teluk Meranti is a small village near Kampar River which ends at Malaka Split and it is not far from Batam Islands, Riau. Eventhough this is a small village, Teluk Meranti has complete social facilities such as market, restaurant, dock and office building for local government headquarter.

Some of local people provide additional service for the traveler they modified their house at riverside as traditional inn with affordable room rate around IDR 50.000 / night and IDR 100.000 / night for homestay. Commercialism started to grow in there although the noble live and family matters are the first priority for local people. If compared to other village, the price for certain goods in here is higher than normal price since most of goods are drooped from other places.

Teluk Meranti Village Sign

Before the land access to the village established, the river is the only way to get into the village and the main access route for economic activities (trading, distributing, etc). Thanks to village development program today the river route between Pangkalan Kerinci – Teluk Meranti or vice-versa can be accessed easily using a regular boat (about 3 hours trip) with ticket rate IDR 15.000 / person.

Although there are many changes that happened there, the Kampar River is still known as the Cultural Core of Teluk Meranti people. From the river they live, mobilize to other place, design transport technology, tells a myth, built their house, create history and share values of life. Thank god we are arrived here and this river shows to us how it can be a Cultural Core of Teluk Meranti people.

Local People of Teluk Meranti and few tourists

In the last few years, the international surfing society amazed with a rumor about the discovery of a unique and challenging surfing point. The rumor also plays curiosity inside our head and even Ripcurl as one of the biggest surfing stuff manufacturers in this world sent their expedition team to reveal the rumor. The conclusion is, it is enough to pump your adrenaline to the limit. The giant wave which associated with Tsunami can be found here at Kampar River. Local people gave special name to the nature phenomena that happened as Bono. It is a notorious name for local people since there was lot of victims that recorded by local people related to Bono.

Bono, the legendary phenomena

So, what is Bono exactly? Is it animal, ghost or human? Let’s take a sneak peak from few professional surfer’s glasses.

For the surfers, Bono is a giant water swirl that forms big wave at the downstream of Kampar River and at peak level the big wave can reach 6 meters. On top of the big wave, there is the adrenaline point for the surfers, they can scream very loud and enjoy the sensation as wave conqueror. This Bono wave is different from ocean wave since the method of form between the ocean waves is totally different from Bono wave.

For me, it is a very interesting insight that why those surfers (from various countries) came to this place. For many years, in Sumatera, surfing is already identical with Nias and Mentawai although in Indonesia there are 25 main spots for surfing but all of those points are related to ocean wave. The warm ocean of Indonesia has made this country as favorite surfing spot for most surfers from around the world. The next question is why those surfers still want to find Bono?

Chris, a surfer with business vision told us that a wave of dream has been found in one of Indonesian rivers. He described the wave of dream in Kampar River as the biggest discovery in world surfing and surely it can amaze every surfer who came to the place. “ Bono is an extraordinary discovery in surfing and it is above your expectation “ He said.

Arya Subyaktyo, Head of Indonesian Surfing Association said that Bono has special feature if compared to ocean wave. At the Kampar River, all surfers can ride a giant wave which formed for about 1 hour before the form is weakened while the ocean wave only can give similar sensation for 10 minutes.

Graham, the Australian surfer admits that Kampar River giant wave is an extraordinary adrenaline pumper. With enthusiasm he explained that his boat was ripped off by Bono and thank god they are survived from the wave.

International surfer dancing with Bono

Until today, there are only few surfing points around the world which formed on the river and they have different name in each country. In Sarawak, Malaysia at the downstream of Batang Lupar Sri Aman River, people gave name for Bono as “Benak”.  In England (Kent River) it is called “The Arnside Bore” and some people familiar with “Aegir”. Other place in England (Severn River) it is called “The Severn Bore” while at the Amazon and other small rivers around it, Bono called as “Pororoca”. Compared to those surfing points, Bono of Kampar River believed as the biggest and challenging giant wave ever founded around the world.

The Bono wave formed when the sea water arise at full-moon and end of moon which signed with buzzing sound then it is became louder when the wave arrived near us.  At that time, all of water arise on Malaka split and concentrated at one point. When the point can’t hold more sea water then it is the time for Bono wave to show off. The wave spread very fast into the rivers in Riau (such as Rokan Hilir and Kampar River). As for Kampar River, Bono started to show off and getting bigger when the sea wave splited by Pulau Muda (it is a small island which located at the center of Kuala Kampar. Bottleneck effect on the river line at the right and left side of the island triggered twin bono which formed into one bigger bono at Tanjung Perbilahan, and that is how local people said about the phase of twin bono.

Sea water which holds the hydro dynamic energy collides with the Kampar River wave which flow from the opposite direction. This

Phenomena can be described as mini tsunami where the momentum of the collision of the two waves simply tears up everything at the end of the river. The old trees which failed to face the wave will be smashed and all materials that came from the river were thrown back.

The collision also formed super wave (tidal bore) which can reach 6 meters and the energy can create wave for 30 km to the opposite direction just before the wave is neutralized by the part of the river which larger and curves that can reduce its power. Although the wave disappear when reached 30 km, but the effect of the wave which can reach 40 km/h still release its energy by turning back the river wave and caused flood at residential points near the river. For the end of the show, this super wave will be stopped naturally at Tanjung Pungai.

Few Surfers enjoying Bono’s speed challenge

The river depth at Tanjung Perbilahan is only 2 meters but there is also other river line that has 10-15 meters as boat line. Bono effect can chance the river depth in this area and as a result the boat line often can’t be predicted so all boats with destination to Tanjung Batu, Panjang Split, Tanjung Pinang, Batam and Singapore must be aware and be careful especially at Bono’s awakening time.

The peak of Bono wave can be happened when the heavy rain pushed water from Kampar River to flood up and the sea which that arise collide. This dramatic nature show predicted will be happened on October, November and December. Although small bono always happened along year as there is sea water arise but the super wave (Giant Bono) only can be seen for 9 days in a year, 3 days on October, 3 days on November and 3 days on December. In the year 2011 (last year), the peak of Bono was happened on November 26-27th and thank god we were there.

From Teluk Meranti, we took 8 seats speedboat to reach the Bono observation point which located at Tanjung Sebayang. For a complete trip the boat owner offer rate around IDR 300.000. If you choose to take the offer and go to the observation point then you will have a change to see Bono wave at static point. For more adrenaline you can ask the boat owner to follow Bono closely and sure you will be charged more for this excitement. Just prepare IDR 700.000 then you will have change to follow Bono. This is a big risk deal for you and the boat owner since both of you can be smashed down by Bono, but that’s the challenge, try to pick the expert boat man and good boat to reduce the risk. You can’t imagine when the boat follows the Bono’s line then the boat engine is dropped, the game is over.

Escort boat accompany surfer for the first trial

The trip to Tanjung Sebayang was very calm and relax and we though the boat wasn’t move on the river. I can’t imagine that this nature calm will be turned into devastation in few hours ahead. I saw the fishermen started to pack up their equipment and rush for home. The boat is tied on the dock. The river was very calm and rain started to give another atmosphere at that time. Looks like everyone there already knew exactly when Bono will come.

When we arrived at the observation point at Tanjung Sebayang, we were waiting for about 45 minutes before one of the local guides point at the Pulau Muda. As the guide points the Pulau Muda, we can hear a buzz sound filled the air. At the horizon we saw a nature sketch of million bubbles which splited into two big waves and slowly formed into one big wave. Few minutes more the bubbles became very clear and bigger, the buzz sound turns into loud nature harmony. At the edge of the wave, all surfers dancing like dolphin, enjoying the dangerous situation that always hunt them down. The surfer must push their skill into the limit and try to escape from the moment between life and death since the characteristic of Bono wave is different from the ocean wave. Few of boats that hired by the surfers also push their engine to reach the safe distance from the Giant Bono.  For an hour they were satisfied and for that reason they were came from all continents around the world.

The adorable Bono waves from observation point

I saw the Giant Bono smashed all sides of the river, broke down the trees and took along the dead trees to prove how massive the power was. The wave formation was changing very fast and the edge of the wave was formed without exact pattern which surely tricked the surfers. The wave was not formed in a single line. There were multiple waves, the front wave is followed by at least 6 waves that formed canals and this is why they named the Kampar River as “The Seven Ghosts

The Seven Ghosts Stories

But the name of “The Seven Ghosts” or “Tujuh Hantu” (in Indonesian) is not a monopoly of foreirgn surfers. The Teluk Meranti people also got a story of Tujuh Hantu which is a myth version. They said that Bono of Kampar River was a new form of Tujuh Hantu.

The Seven Ghosts story was early born as seven monkseals and one of the monkseals was dead by the projectile of Holland army. The rest of the monkseals were angry and turned into Bono. The story began when a Netherland army didn’t believe the myth of seven monkseals at Kampar River. Then the local people ask the Netherland army to prove the story and the Netherland army killed one of the monkseals. As one of the monkseals dead, the rest of monkseals disappeared and the Netherland army believed that the monkseals were sacred animals from another realm. Not so long from the tragedy, the Netherland army was dead mysteriously and until today there are no science explanations that can reveal the mystery.

Illustration of a Monk Seal at Kampar River

The riverside people are very good in creating stories. In other version it is told that Bono is an effect of two sea creatures that “making love”. The male Bono residents at Kampar River while the female Bono lives at Rokan Hilir River. At the end of a moon, Male Bono and Female Bono meet each other to have fun at Malaka Split then at the full moon they will separated and back to their home.

This rather romantic story ironically caused a terrible situation. While the Male Bono going back to Kampar River and Female Bono going home to Rokan Hilir River, they make a noise on both River which triggered sea water that bonded with their body and created big wave. The bigger moon on the sky will bring more passion to both of Bono as they are coming home. Wow, i have nothing to say about their love story.

Other story about Bono is closely related to historical event. In ancient time, Teluk Meranti is known as a sea and it was named Laut Embun. During the time, the sea is turned into alluvial-land which caused by land degradation which happened in Sumatera. The center of Pelalawan Kingdom was established at the inner side of the land (today is it known as Pangkalan Kerinci). People of the Pelalawan Kingdom built relation with Melaka and doing economic activities. Once, their ship was crushed on the sea side around Teluk Meranti and suddenly the boat that contains goods for kingdom was wiped out by Giant Wave which came from Selat Malaka.

Kampar River was known as Laut Embun

The survivor of that tragedy returned to the Pelalawan Kingdom and gave situation report to the king. Looks like the explanation can’t be accepted by the king since Pelalawan people didn’t knew about the Big Wave at the Laut Embun. The king then asked few people to check the testimonial of the survivor. The team was joined by Son of Pelalawan King, Son of Ranah Ranjung Bunga (Langgam) King, Son of Pagaruyung King, Son of Gunung Sahilan King and Son of Macam Pandak King with his Father, the king himself.

The king of Pelalawan Kingdom was very upset with the tragedy of the sunken ship and he declared to punish the survivor with dead if the testimonial can’t be proven.

The investigator team was heading out to Laut Embun and as they are arrived there, they were shocked facing nature phenomena as I seen on November 27th last year (2011).  With gasp on the neck the son of Pelalawan King said to the survivor “Iyo bono apo cerita kau (benarlah rupanya apa yang kau ceritakan)” This phrase means, “Yes it is all true that what you’ve been said to us”

Terminologically, based on that story, phrase Bono (Benar in Indonesian and True in English) is the root of the name of the Giant Wave at Kampar River. Until today, there are many people still doesn’t believe to this nature phenomena. The good point is, you must come to the place by yourself to prove it and you will believe that Bono it truly exist in this world.

As for me, meet with Bono is an extraordinary experience in a lifetime. Bono is very tempted to see just like you are waiting for a Tsunami to come and it will be happened in front of you. Ironically, this nature Phenomena is being threatened by the structural change which happened at Kuala Kampar River that caused by over activity of wood company.

Besides that, the river energy usage by PLTA Koto Panjang (The Koto Panjang power plant) at Kampar Regency has decreased the water speed and water volume around Kuala Kampar region. Surely it is needed a new perspective to gather up all interests and priorities along the river.

Koto Panjang Powerplant

According to the local people, before the power plant is built the people of Teluk Meranti at Kuala Kampar never built their home at the river side because the power of Bono wave which can tear down everything. But after the power plant was built, now people start to build their home on the river side.

How to reach the location

We can start this amazing journey from Pekanbaru to Pangkalan Kerinci with distance about 70 km. If you don’t drive your own car, then you can take mass transportation system that they called as “Travel” or “Superben”. This transport will cost you about IDR 20.000 per person.

Trip to Teluk Meranti

The second phase of our journey is from Pangkalan Kerinci to Teluk Meranti (land route). This journey is longer than the first one with distance about 140 km and 3,5 hours of trip. We can use a rent car with rate about IDR 50.000 per person. The terminal for this rent car can be found at Hotel Meranti in Pangkalan Kerinci. If you like to feel other experience, you can choose the river route. For this route you can use speed boat that can be found at the bride of Pangkalan Kerinci. With the rate about IDR 150.000 per person the journey will take 3 hours and you will be arrived at Teluk Meranti.

By Hara C.

(Copywriter at


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