Singapore Islands, Malaysian Islands, Indonesian Islands
Once you are bored with Singapore beaches such as Sembawang Beach (North coast), Paris Ris Beach (East), Changi Beach (Northeast), East Coast Beach and Sentosa Island's Palawan, Tanjong Beach and Labrador Park other island escapes to the many islands are only a short ferry trip away.
Passionate golfers take the first ferry early in the morning and return with the last to enjoy fantastic golf courses.
Others book a bungalow with friends to share the cost and take food along to enjoy a barbecue on the beach. Or enjoy relaxing spa treatments which are - even if not always cheaper than in Singapore - still more relaxing due the serene surroundings of your treatment.
A short flight and you are in Phuket which is the dream destination for the many travelers in the world even after the tsunami hit this little gem so violently in many ways.
The Malaysian islands offer good diving and snorkeling and some take a boat to enjoy deep sea fishing. Check for the best time to travel as you have to watch the monsoon season.
We cannot list all the fabulous places you should visit. But we hope to grow this section with your help and have other expats share their secrets for the best islands with all of you.
Singapore itself has a couple of islands to visit on a day trip or weekend. Some have accommodation, others offer camping. Most of them feature basic comfort.
For those without accommodation, you must make sure that you do not miss the last boat going back to Singapore or you have to spend the night on the beach. It sounds like fun, but watch out for the mean sand flea.
Note: The new Singapore Cruise Centre and Ferry Terminal has taken over operations from Clifford Pier. Many small boat operators may depart from there now. Please call for the latest information or check the web site below.
15 min from mainland, toilet facilities, Shelter, Ferry from Changi Point jetty (Bus no 2 and 29 to Changi Village Bus Terminal)
SGD 2.00, whole boat SGD 24.00
Ferry Departure : Changi Point Jetty (you can bring your bicycle )
Nordin Beach: 30 min. by bicycle ride from Ubin jetty. Bike rental SGD 8-12 per day
Bird watching - Biking - Camping - Fishing - Rock climbing
40 minutes from Clifford Pier of West Coast Ferry Terminal
Cost: SGD 150 for 12 pax
toilets + shower attached available, no food and drinks
Kusu Island (Pulay Tembaku)
20 - 30 min from Sentosa Ferry Terminal
Charges for adult SGD 9.00, children SGD 6.00
No camping, no food and drinks, toilets available
St John's Island
45 minutes form Sentosa Ferry Terminal
Ferry Charges: Adults SGD 9.00 children SGD 6.00
Camping and Bungalow Booking SGD 50 - 100 Mon-Fri/Fri-Mon
3o minutes from mainland, no food and drinks, camping, no electricity, toilets + showers available
Ferry: West Coast Ferry Pier
Boat hire SGD 100 - 140 for up to 12 people
Pulau Nikoi (Expat Travel Secret Recommendation)
Do you have a recommendation for fellow expats. See here how to submit your information.
Beach Park Camping on Singapore Island
The closest island adventure to home is to go weekday camping at Singapore's Changi Beach Park, East Coast Park, Pasir Ris Park, West Coast Park of Sembawang Park. You are not permitted to stay overnight and therefore your identity will be checked by the Parks' rangers. Bring along your ID card!
Riau Islands / Indonesia
Other alternatives are weekend trips to the Riau Islands. You can enjoy a number of activities from cycling or golfing to fishing and scuba diving. Please note, that you may need a visa!
Pulau Pangkil Kecil can be reached in just over three hours from the Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal to Tanjung Pinang plus a short complimentary boat ride. The entire island is rented out for about SGD 2,200 for up to 10 people and can accommodate up to 30. Ask about additional rates for groups above 10 and low season rates in January and February.
When you plan for a holiday on a Malaysian island, it is important to watch out for the monsoon season which is influencing the weather in this region.
Monsoons are not an abrupt phenomenon but a gradual one, so during the first and last month of the dry season some rain will fall. The semi-annual change in wind direction which brings with it a strong increase in rain clouds above either East- or West Malaysia, has become less significant.
Of course there is less sunshine during the monsoon months; therefore your planning should include more books, board games for the kids, and even a light jacket. Ferry trips may be slightly windy or even be cancelled altogether, and many island resorts are closed.
But, like anywhere else in the world: the weather often depends on the freaks of nature, rather than on the logic of statistics.
ISLANDS OFF THE WEST COAST
Only 200 years ago, Pulau Ka Satu served as a hideout for the pirates of the Indian Ocean. On several old maps, the island figures under the name of Pulau Pinang (island of the areca palms, or betel nuts). When in 1786 the British Francis Light landed here in order to built a much needed base for the East Indian Company. He signed a contract with the Sultan of Kedah, and called the island "Prince of Wales Island" and its settlement "Georgetown", honouring King George III. Penang became more and more important, both economically and politically, until 1819, when Singapore took over this role in the region. Today, the state of Penang consists of the island and the mainland facing it; it is ruled by a Governor appointed by the King.
From a tourist point of view, Penang is doubtless the most developed island in Malaysia. It offers even the spoilt traveler all attractions expected from a tropical island: a lovely warm sea, sandy beaches with first class hotel accommodation, temples and historical buildings for the culture-minded, parks with plants and animals as if from another world, and a shopping centre full of exotic articles.
The main island of Langkawi is part of a group of 104 islands (only 99 at high tide!) in the North of Malaysia. There are several good hotels and resorts, the roads are well-made, but there is no centre of town in which tourists may stroll around or have a good dinner. Activities are linked to the hotels.
Pulau Langkawi can be reached by plane. By car, you may either drive up to Kuala Kedah and from there take a one-hour ferry crossing, or drive to Kuala Perlis and from there enjoy a 45-minutes ferry crossing. There is a ferry connection from Penang as well. You cannot take your car onto the island.
There are a number of natural and man-made tourist attractions on Pulau Langkawi which should not be missed.
You may also discover some other islands by boat. It takes some three hours to reach the nature sanctuary of the four islands Pulau Payar, Pulau Kaca, Pulau Lembu and Pulau Semantang. Here, camping is possible after a special permit from the Fisheries Department in Alor Setar. At Pulau Singa Besar you will find a wildlife park. Malaysia's first floral island will be located on Pulau Tiloi. On this small island will be planted over 2000 species of tropical flowering plants.
More information about Langkawi is given in Chapter IV: Diving/Sailing.
If you wish to drive, you may do so until Lumut (about 3 - 4 hours from Kuala Lumpur), then leave your car there at the Shell petrol station, and take the ferry for a 30 minutes-crossing. Alternatively take a flight.
At the island, you will find several very reasonably priced hostels, as well as expensive hotels. The Pan Pacific Resort is situated along a splendid, large private beach not far from the airport in the North of the island. The fishery village of Pangkor lies at the other side of the island and is quite picturesque, and you can eat some lovely fish there.
This group of islands along the coast of Perak consists of nine (sembilan) small Islands: Pulau Nipis, Pulau Agas, Pulau Payong, Pulau Rumbia, Pulau Boloh, Pulau Saga Batu Timbul, Batu Timbul Rosa and Pulau Lalang, the only one with a beautiful beach. From Pulau Pangkor or Lumut, Pulau Lalang can be reached by boat in 2 hours. There is no accommodation on the island but it is a popular diving site and you may check below for more information.
During the monsoon, when the weather is rough, there is no boat connection to the island.
Best time : Nov / Mar
ISLANDS OFF THE EAST COAST
Johore Marine Park
Pulau Rawa, Pulau Babi Hujung, Pulau Babi Tengah, Pulau Babi Besar, Pulau Tinggi, Pulau Mentinggi and Pulau Sibu belong to the in shore islands of Johore's Marine Park. While snorkeling and diving is not so fantastic due to river discharge , they are perfect for a quick escape over the weekend or holidays and very popular with Singaporean.
The offshore islands Pulau Aur, and the three smaller islands of Pulau Dayang, Pulau Lang and Pulau Pinang, together with Pulau Pemanggil make up the rest of the Johor Marine Park. The islands are rocky and forested and are popular with experienced divers and can only by reached by boat from Mersing.
The best time to visit the park is from November until March.
For further information see this website.
This island, famous as Bali Hai in the film version of James Michener's "South Pacific", has lost some of its charm, since its loneliness has been interrupted by herds of tourists, mainly from Singapore and Malaysia. Tioman is easily attainable by regular flight- and boat connections, so therefore has a lot of visitors. In addition to the well-known Tioman Island Resort and others, there are small private bungalows for hire and quite a number of smaller beach resorts. See further down for diving
The island group of Sibu consists of Pulau Sibu, Pulau Sibu Besar, Pulau Sibu Tengah, Pulau Sibu Hujong and Pulau Sibu Kukus. Its is located quite close to Singapore and Malaysia, and attracts many visitors. As a consequence of this, the once modest resorts are rapidly becoming more sophisticated, but there is still some accommodation available for those who do not associate Robinson Crusoe with air condition, colour television and refrigerator. The islands can be reached via Mersing, Tanjung Leman or Tanjung Sedili. If you book in advance, you may leave your car at a guarded parking place.
From Tanjung Leman to Sibu Tengah transport by boat takes about 45 minutes. See here for ferry schedule
Accommodation is dominated by the Sibu Island Resort.
The best time of the year for this trip is mid February until mid October.
Terrenganu's Marine Parks
This island lies about 17 km away from Kuala Dungun a village to be reached from Singapore after about 6 - 8 hrs drive. Alternatively take a flight from Johor Bahru to Kuala Terrenganu and drive an hour to the jetty of Kuala Dungun. from where the island can be reached by boat in about 2 hours.
Pulau Tenggol is a popular dive site and best visited between March and October.
With one of the hotels as your base, day-trips can be made. There are beautiful beaches along the West Coast, and there is ample opportunity for diving and snorkeling. The island is well-known for its variety of reptiles.
The Redang Islands, about 50 km from Kuala Terengganu, used to be the diving paradise of the East Coast. Redang can be reached by speedboat from Merang. The best time for visiting is June - August.
For further info see this website
Perhentian consists of two islands: Perhentian Kecil and Perhentian Besar. They can be reached by boat in a mere two minutes from Kuala Besut (45 minutes from Kota Bahru); shorter and also cheaper than the trip to Redang.
At only 6 kilometers from Marang, this East Coast island can easily be reached from the mainland. The boat trip from Marang takes 30 minutes. From Chendering, a regular boat service is being run.
Basic but comfortable accommodation is available. Not recommended during the monsoon season between November to March. In July and August the island is popular with locals.
Malaysian Dive Spots
Time and again we go snorkeling to discover the unknown underwater word of Malaysia. The search for an island to live like the Robinson family for some days is always successfully in this region and Neptune is always willing to show us his kingdom. After three hours in a fishing boat on the Celebes Sea, we discover a tiny spot on the horizon: a larger spot, a coral island, paradise! The circumference of the Malayan island of Sipadan is a 20 minutes' walk on white sand. Diving, snorkeling, being lazy and enjoying the beauty of nature. An iguana is watching us when we brush our teeth on the beach, all kinds of moths are whirling around the toilet bowl. Hermit crabs run into hiding before our bare feet, and on our way to the shower we meet coconut crabs. Chirping, cheeping and twittering is our music, night and day. There is nothing obscuring our view to the sea. At night, through the gaze of the mosquito net the plankton shines in the moonlight like a sapphire in the sand, competing with the beauty of the endless sky full of stars.
The evenings give us magnificent sunsets -- and we think of the paintings of all those artists over all those centuries. But what nature herself paints here cannot be copied, nor caught with a camera, or a video camera. Nothing is like the picture in our heart....
The cool wind invites us to sleep at the pier, where thousands of fish can be seen by the light of a torch. Eventually our eyes close, and a day out of a dream becomes a dream into the night.
We are snorkeling, the water is clear around us, and then: endless gazing into endless depth. The coral reef plunges abruptly into black abyss, 600 meter deep. Fear? No, because down there we know there's life as well. Multicolored fish and large turtles dive from there up to us and accept the divers as equals, in the midst of paradise. All of a sudden we are among tiny stinging jellyfish, and a shoal barracudas surrounds us. Now we are part of these living creatures in the sea, we may eat, we may be eaten. We must adapt to their behavior, we must know the rules of their God Neptune, if we don't his creatures are stronger than we are! We are strangers in this world, tolerated as guests, and the sea is their paradise. But the longer we stay in their element, the more we are going to look like its inhabitants. After hours of snorkeling, despite the tepid water temperature, our lips become bluish, the skin of our fingers becomes soft and white.
INSURE YOUR VALUABLES WHEN TRAVELING
We look at the mussels again, at the coral, fascinated with what nature offers us here. No, this is not like the souvenir-shop on the beach in Greece, here nature itself displays her treasures, the way she has done it for thousands of years already. If we abuse these treasures, we'll have to pay the price later. Look at this beauty, touch it maybe, revere it, but leave it in its place, keep it in your heart and not in a display case.
When you book a diving trip you should check if the operator is a licensed travel agent.