For the month of May, Rojak Daily is recommending that you check out Terengganu. Specifically, the islands off the coast of Terengganu. Before we go here are a few things you need to know about Terengganu:
1. Work days are Sunday to Thursday and weekends are Friday and Saturday
2. Banks operate from 9.15am to 4.30pm (Sun - Wed), 9.15am to 4pm (Thu)
3. Waters are the most calm from April to July
4. Most resorts are closed for the monsoon season from November to January.
There are seven islands that you can visit and stay on: Redang, Perhentian Besar and Perhentian Kecil, Lang Tengah, Tenggol, Gemia, and Kapas island. Let's break them down:
Backpacker's Paradise, Pulau Kapas
Image: Instagram @syazwanaaa, @zulfadlyhisham, @topeth
Where is it?
It’s 6km off the coast of Marang town, making it easily accessible – also making it a confusing mess of a million boatmen waiting to take you there. There are boatmen who are willing to take you on day trips as well if you’re willing. Prices will vary because of the economies of scale and gullibility.
Because of its size, the island is popular among backpackers and is less commercial compared to Redang and Perhentian. Unlike the other islands off the coast of Terengganu, you can do day trips to Pulau Kapas. If you’re in Terengganu and don’t have the time for a full tour of the island life, a short getaway to Pulau Kapas could be your answer. It is also well known for its squid jigging activities (squid fishing), turtle spotting, snorkeling and scuba diving, and jungle trekking. Apparently they cost RM40 for a return trip. Let this be a reference only.
Where do I stay?
Being a relatively small island (about 2.5km from end to end) there is a surprising amount of options for you to stay at. Tripadvisor provides mixed reviews about all the establishments but we’ve picked the ones you should stay at based on how pretty they look… because the internet.
Kapas Beach Chalet
One of the cheaper options we’ve found online, KBC is a no-frills chalet on the beach that doesn’t come with air-conditioning. Some chalets don’t even have sinks. Some reviews online say the attached restaurant serves good food. We can’t find a website.
Kapas Turtle Valley
They have three kinds of beach bungalows that allow for extra beds. There is a restaurant for food and breakfast can be provided. http://www.kapasturtlevalley.com/
Image: Facebook Qimi Chalet
They offer a variety of stays from private chalets on hills to your regular rooms on ground. Prices vary according to exclusivity and amenities in the room. https://www.facebook.com/QimiChalet/
Island-hopping tourist magnet, Pulau Redang
Image: Instagram @aainilnill, @hary_mothy | Redang.info
Where is it?
Located 45km from Merang Jetty is the largest island on our list, Redang. It takes 40 minutes by large speedboat or ferry and is usually priced at RM40/RM80 for one way/return. There is a possibility for day trips, but you’ll have to figure that out at the jetty. You can get there by plane as well, operated solely by Berjaya Air. Be advised it is a private jet with a seating capacity of nine people only and the estimated price for one adult on the Bombardier Challenger 300 is USD 12,905 or RM 52,931.15 (at time of writing).
Being the biggest island on the list – and most commercial – options for staying and diving are the most varied here. They want to position themselves as more upmarket than the other islands but you can find affordable stays in Redang as well as the opulence of The Taaras. Being a resort island also means that basic comforts like air-conditioning and hot water are a given, with Wi-Fi access being the only unknown variable. Serial Instagrammers from overseas should purchase a phone plan if they intend to post anything online.
Where do I stay?
As Redang is positioned as an upmarket location for island-goers, prices for stays are generally higher and most of its accommodations are resort/chalet style. The list of hotels is long so we’ll only touch briefly on each dividing them by area:
The Taaras Beach & Spa Resort – it’s a private resort with its own private beach, the only on the island of Redang. Yes, it’s really expensive, prices range from RM690 to RM14,000. http://thetaaras.com/
View from the Taaras | Image: Instagram @phalinn
Laguna Redang Island Resort | Image: Instagram @andytgq, @bongek83, @foodiefamilytravel
Redang Holiday Beach Villa – has a dive centre, karaoke and disco. http://www.redangholiday.com/
Sari Pacifica Resort & Spa – One of the bigger ones on the island, it has a business centre and Wi-fi. http://redang.saripacifica.com/
Coral Redang Resort – there’s a pool, restaurant, and dive centre. http://www.coralredang.com.my/
Redang Pelangi Resort – one of the cheaper options, dive centre, disco, and Wi-Fi. http://www.redangpelangi.com/
Redang Bay Resort – has a pool, dive centre, conference hall, café, and karaoke. http://www.redangbay.com.my/
Redang Lagoon Chalet – affordable place with a dive centre, that’s it. http://www.redanglagoon.com/
Redang Beach Resort – modern concrete buildings with café, restaurant, dive centre, disco, meeting rooms, Wi-Fi, and massage centre. http://www.redang.com.my/
Laguna Redang Island Resort – higher up on the luxury scale is Laguna. It was also made popular by the movie Summer Holiday at which the movie was filmed. http://www.lagunaredang.com.my/
Redang Reef Resort –affordable, no frills stay with a dive centre. The website is not working but you can give it a go. http://www.redangreefresort.com.my/
Wisana Village Redang | Image: Instagram @alicegelfi, @noisemonkie, @rafiqsyaharom
Wisana Village Redang Resort – privacy is their game with only 10 rooms or 36 guests at a time and a private beach on Teluk Kalong Kecil. Prices with full board aren’t too high. The dive centre is closed though… http://www.wisanaredang.com/
Redang Kalong Resorts – there’s a dive centre, kayaking, Wi-Fi, and mini-karaoke. http://www.redangkalong.com/
Redang Mutiara Beach Resort – affordable, has a hall, dive centre, café, and a mini shop. http://www.redangmutiara.com.my/
Redang Island Resort – the other resort owned by the Berjaya group is priced reasonably at RM250 to RM400. They only have two types of rooms available, though both are impressive chalets. http://www.redangislandresort.com/
A secluded wonder, Pulau Lang Tengah
Image: Instagram @ahmaher, @fredi360, @melongray, @zaher388
Where is it?
It’s located somewhere between Pulau Perhentian and Pulau Redang and there are only four resorts on the island. It is 30 minutes out from Tanjung Merang (note: not to be confused with Marang) and departures are fixed daily at an estimated RM95 return.
The four resorts on the island come attached with their own private beaches, some more pristine than the other. On top of this, Lang Tengah has three snorkeling locations and 8 scuba diving locations. If you’d rather not have to deal with the crowd that will (most definitely) be at Redang, head to Lang Tengah. As a bonus, you also have the option of visiting diving spots at Redang on top of the ones in Lang Tengah so there’s that.
Where do I stay?
Redang Lang Island Resort
From what we gather, you get what you pay for and it’s more of a laidback, backpacker style resort than an exclusive stay. There are a number of diving packages on their website which includes transport to and from the island. http://www.malaysiaislandresort.com/
Sari Pacifica Resort & Spa Lang Tengah
Sari Pacifica is part of a group of hotels and is one of the more posh places to stay in Lang Tengah. Based on its rack rate, we’d say this isn’t a place you go to if you’re on a budget. All the modern amenities are available in your rooms and there are basic rooms, garden villas and pool view villas. http://www.saripacificalangtengah.com/
Summer Bay Resort
Tastefully decorated and modern in its execution, Summer Bay will appeal to the yuppie traveler who requires the standard creature comforts provided by the city. There are five types of rooms here and a private Olympic sized pool and if you aren’t too enterprising to go fishing for deals on your own, there are tours which you can purchase through its website. https://www.summerbaybooking.com/
D’Coconut Lagoon Resort
Based on the pictures, we like D’coconut Lagoon the most. The resort has procured two isolated white sand beaches for your tanning pleasure. There are five kinds of rooms available from the Standard room to the Cabana, but they aren’t individual chalets – save for the Cabanas. http://www.dcoconutlagoon.com/
The cheaper Redang islands, Pulau Perhentian Besar and Perhentian Kecil
Image: Instagram @masyien, @aimanhqal, @kiwitropical, @vinny8146
Where is it?
The main mode of transportation is by speed boat from Kuala Besut jetty, don’t go to Tok Bali which is illegal. It is about 19km off the coast and the trip will take you 30 – 45 minutes. It costs an estimated RM70 per pax for a return ride on the boat. There are water taxis that will take you between the two islands should you find yourself on the wrong side.
With the proliferation of options for stays and the amount of coral reefs and deep diving options, Pulau Perhentian will most likely overtake Redang as the most popular destination in Terengganu’s coast. There’s a huge party scene for the wild young ones, a good spattering of resorts for families, and enough private getaways for couples on honeymoon or affluent folk who just want a quiet getaway to sip their Luwak Coffee. There’s a chance for you to see sea turtles, several species of sharks, and various underwater paradises. There are also many dive centres on the island and most are available through the resorts.
Where do I stay?
The Perhentian islands are divided into Perhentian Besar and Perhentian Kecil and while the former caters more to families and offers better accommodation options, the latter is more of party island with lots of options for backpackers. Stays at Perhentian Besar are mainly at Teluk Dalam and Teluk Puah while Perhentian Kecil at the Teluk Aur area and Pasir Panjang. There are a lot of places to stay so we’ll divide the two Perhentians, starting with Perhentian Kecil:
Image: Instagram @arifsamshuri, @julieanais_marin, @shils_azi, @the_cloudie
Moonlight Chalets – various accommodation, 24 hour electricity, dorm beds, small chalets with fan to air-conditioned rooms.
Bubu Long Beach Resort – the first upmarket hotel on the island offering air-conditioning, hot water, and other creature comforts. Pricey compared to the others. http://www.buburesort.com/
Oh La La’s – opened in 2010, is a budget accommodation with a shared bathroom but private rooms are available. They have their own restaurant and bar so come with earplugs because the party don’t stop.
Panorama Chalet & Restaurant – offers a variety of rooms from couples to families with air-conditioning and free dinners depending on the package.
Symphony Chalet – wooden huts on the beach go for RM40 with a shared bathroom. Electricity is available from 7pm – 7am and mosquito nets are provided.
Matahari – family oriented resort with fan to air-conditioned rooms available. Priced from RM30 onwards.
Mohsin Chalet – multiple blue-roofed chalets that offers various rooms from dorms to private rooms with fan to air-conditioning. There’s Wi-Fi at the restaurant if you’re dining and there are band performances.
Rock Garden – among the best places to watch the sunrise, all the rooms face the sea and are near the beach. Rates are inclusive of snorkelling and offers all inclusive meals.
The more peaceful side of the island has fewer bars but the same amount of cheap accommodation.
Shari-la Island Resort – tastefully decorated chalets with all the creature comforts – including satellite TV. http://sharilaresort.com/
Ewan’s Place – simple chalets built away from the beach with basic amenities. Clean rooms with fan and attached bathroom. Ewan’s Café apparently serves really good food.
Ombak Dive Resort – housing a dive centre, restaurant, and lodging, Ombak also offers dorm stays.
Senja Bay Resort – offers some luxury with rooms on the 1st level and 2nd level having air-conditioning while the 3rd level has only fans. All come with hot water but no TV. Prices include snorkelling trips and full board. http://www.senjabay.com/
Alunan Boutique Resort, RainForest Camping Perhentian Island | Image: Instagram @i.is.meme, hostelworld.com
D’Lagoon Chalet and Restaurant – starting in 1990, the chalet offers stays that range from a campsite with shared bathroom to deluxe rooms with attached bathrooms. It has its own dive centre as well and a flying fox facility! http://www.dlagoon.my/
Mira Beach Chalet – it is located at Keranji Beach, a private beach on the island. They offer seven wooden huts with sea-view and offers either attached bathroom or shared. There’s a restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and the resort provides free Wi-Fi. Reservations and pricing are by phone. http://www.mirabeach.com/v2/
RainForest Camping – it’s literally staying in a camp on stilts. Bathrooms are shared and there are no amenities. Come if you truly love living outdoors away from everything. They have a restaurant and a tiny private beach though. They’re on Airbnb! https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/6300328
Alunan Boutique Resort - the newest addition to the landscape is all concrete, all western luxury. All the comforts of a modern city hotel – flat screen TV, hot water, balcony, etc. – can be found here. It’s pricey going from RM599 onwards but you get a suite all on your own. http://www.alunanresort.com/
Image: onewaybackpacking.com, WikiMedia, Instagram @sucyyyyy, @david_sloth_traveler
The larger of the two islands caters to families and avid scuba divers. Teluk Dalam is the quieter beach while Teluk Pauh is where most of the resorts are. Most packages are booked online and offer full board. Otherwise, it’s walk-ins only.
Arwana Eco Resort and Beach Chalet – straddling somewhere between luxury and accessibility, Arwana is a family/student oriented resort with a swimming pool and air-conditioned rooms http://www.arwanaperhentian.com.my/
Samudra Beach Chalet – a budget accommodation next to Arwana. No power sockets in the room. http://www.samudrabeachchalet.com/
Bayu Dive Lodge – relatively new with multiple options for chalets with attached baths and non-attached. Caters especially to divers. http://www.bayudivelodge.com/
Flora Bay Resort – there’s 24 hour electricity every day and private showers. They’ve been around since 1990 and is priced from RM70 per night. http://www.florabayresort.com/
Fauna Beach Chalet – located next to Flora Bay, the chalet offers rooms with fan and rooms with air-conditioning. There’s a restaurant that serves local, Thai, and Western food.
ABC Guest House - ABC is a barebones longhouse-only operation in a creaky two-story building.
Abdul’s Chalet – all of its rooms are equipped with air-conditioning, 24-hour electricity, hot water, and electrical outlet. There’s a robust restaurant. Full board prices are steep for what you get. http://www.abdulchalet.com/
Tuna Bay Island Resort – another new and classy addition to the bay. Slightly above average facilities at a similarly above average price range. http://www.tunabay.com.my/
D’Ayumni House – perfect for a small budget. There are dorms, quad rooms and regular rooms.
New Cocohut Chalet/Cozy Chalet – another budget option with air-conditioned rooms and fan rooms. The Cozy Chalet is owned by Cocohut and is similarly priced. http://www.perhentianislandcocohut.com/
Watercolours Resort and Dive Centre – the rooms have been redecorated and Wi-Fi is now provided to all its guests. They offer a comprehensive diving and snorkeling package for groups. http://www.watercoloursresort.com/wclrsresort/
The Reef Chalet – six types of rooms with fan or air-conditioning that pretty much look like the others in this strip. Call them for pricing and booking. http://thereefperhentian.com/
Mama’s Chalets – similarly designed Malay wooden home with fan rooms and air-conditioned rooms. There’s a restaurant, Wi-Fi, and 22-hour a day electricity. http://www.mamaschalet.com.my/
Coral View Resort – fairly large resort at the edge of the bay decorated and built with Malay-style architecture. There’s fan or air-conditioned rooms, no kettle or TV, and there’s a restaurant. Strictly no alcohol though.
Suhaila Palace – an impressive colonial style long house facing the ocean. Rooms do not come with air-conditioning. http://suhailapalace.com/
Perhentian Island Resort – one of the luxury stays on the island offers creature comforts plus two restaurants. There’s a pool, conference room, and tennis court among others. They offer full board packages. http://www.perhentianislandresort.net/
Bubbles Dive Resort - secluded and private, it is only accessible by boat. Suitable for families and couples who require some peace and quiet. Rooms are made of concrete and the resort is very ecologically conscious. Read more about them here http://bubblesdc.com/
A private island on a budget, Pulau Tenggol
Image: Andrew Jennings via Tenggol Coral Beach Facebook, Tripadvisor, Instagram: @zharifosaman
Where is it?
The island is the southernmost island along the coast of Terengganu. Head to Kuala Dungun in the south of Terengganu and it’s another 45 minutes off the jetty.
From the looks of it – and the reviews on TripAdvisor – Tenggol is one of the best places to scuba dive in East Malaysia: unspoiled waters, diverse marine life, and best of all, no large crowds. There are multiple reports of a whale shark in the area, around March and April and August to October (whale shark not guaranteed). With only two resorts on the small patch of land (2 – 3km) a plethora of diving sites to choose from, Pulau Tenggol may just be the best place in the list to really enjoy a spot of diving or snorkeling.
Where do I stay?
Tenggol Island Beach Resort
One of only two resorts, the affordable Tenggol Island Beach Resort offers the basic comforts you’d need (air conditioning, towel, one bar of soap, etc.), three meals a day, and electricity (powered by a generator). The resort offers all-inclusive packages for 3D2N and 4D3N scuba diving based on chalets: quad, triple, standard twin, and basic twin. http://www.pulautenggol.com/new
Tenggol Coral Beach Resort
Another option – with very competitive rates – offers about the same services, i.e., three meals, transportation, and boat rides to snorkel and dive. Judging a book by its Facebook cover photo, we like the chalets and overall rustic look of Tenggol Coral Beach Resort better – plus it reportedly has Wi-Fi; a huge plus over the former. www.tenggol.com.my
A private island for the rich, Pulau Gemia
Image: Gem Island Resort and Spa
Where is it?
Located in a Marine Conservation Park, Gem Island Resort and Spa is the only resort on Gem Island and is located 15 minutes from Marang Jetty. It is the only private island getaway along the coast of Kuala Terengganu.
Based on the packages they offer, this isn’t the kind of resort you go to experience diving and snorkelling to the fullest, rather, it offers luxury and exclusivity to those who can afford it. You can enquire about scuba diving and fishing activities, but they’re not offered in the package deals on the site – unlike some other resorts in this list. The island also boasts its own spa and turtle conservatory. They release the baby turtles into the wild on occasion, no idea when though. It is also a pretty popular spot for private weddings if you’re in the market to get married. www.gemisland.com.my
Where do I stay?
Gem Island Resort and Spa
The private island owned by Gem Island Resort and Spa houses 45 sea front villas and offers all the fixings of a luxury getaway. There are three villas: Water Villa, Premier Villa, and Hideaway Villa. Priced from low to high respectively. There are three private beaches around the island and you can even get a kayak to take you to neighbouring Pulau Kapas.
Not forgetting... A solemn reminder of the horrors of war, Pulau Bidong
People waiting for supplies by the beach at Bidong. | Image: Bharian.com.my
The refugee crisis lasted for 15 years. | Image: Bharian.com.my
Refugees were not allowed access to 90% of the island and offenders were jailed if caught. | Image: WikiMedia
Where is it?
It is 45 minutes away from Merang jetty and there aren’t many boat tours to the area. The land is 260 ha in size and was once the most heavily populated place on earth in a flat area slightly larger than a football field.
For 15 years, Pulau Bidong was the home to nearly 255,000 refugees from Vietnam fleeing their country. The Vietnamese boat people as we know them today first landed on the shores of Bidong on May 1975. They were a group of 47 refugees that swelled to 40,000 people by June 1979. Long houses were built, schools, workshops, a post office, a hospital, even a stage for music. The refugee camp was closed on October 1991 and visiting the island was prohibited till the year 1999 and very little remains that remind us of that harrowing time for the Vietnamese. Some structures have endured the elements (and looters) so it’s not completely barren. There’s no accommodation on the island but there are tour trips here. Head here http://www.terengganutourism.com/pulau_bidong.htm and enquire about their tour package. It is also a good place for scuba diving as there is an Underwater Gallery of sorts here and a lot of unspoiled waters due to the lack of tourist.
The Underwater Gallery at Bidong. | Image: tourism.terengganu.gov.my, Instagram: @qilacheman, @syed_ahmad_rizal
We've come to the end of this list. The holidays are upon us and the waters are clear from April to July, so get in contact with one of these hotels and enjoy your island getaway.