Island hopping in MalaysiaBy Asian Correspondent Aug 28, 2012 3:00PM UTC
By Mridula Dwivedi
Malaysia has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world that are renowned for their scenic beauty, surrounding tropical greenery, local villages and of course scuba diving and snorkeling. So if white sands, blue waters and good food is your scene, here are five islands that will take your breath away.
Langkawi is a cluster of 99 islands in the Andaman Sea that are breathtakingly beautiful and lure visitors from all over the world to their white sand beaches and clear waters. Some of the popular beaches are Cenang, Tengah and Kok. Langkawi was also declared a World Geopark by UNESCO in 2007 thanks to its sustainable development. The main island is well developed and populated with good air connections to Kuala Lumpur.
Langkawi might be a beach destination but there’s also plenty to do. The famed cable car ride is almost an essential part of an itinerary and has the most incredible views of rainforest, the Seven Wells Waterfall (Telaga Tujuh) and the island spreading out below. Another popular day trip is to hire a boat and explore the nearby islands. Boat rides also offer eagle viewing, cave explorations and snorkeling at Pulau Payar Marine Park. Both luxury and budget accommodation is available on Langkawi making it suitable for everyone. The other drawcard for visitors is the duty free shopping.
Sipadan Island on the east coast of Sabah, Borneo is a diver’s paradise, but as you are only allowed on the island during the day many people find themselves praying the boat will break down so they can spend more time on the beautiful island. If you have not gone diving before this is the place to see for yourself what a fascinating world is there below the sea! Chances are everything else will pale in comparison afterwards though.
The number of dives allowed per day is limited to protect the coral reefs. Sightings of turtles, sharks and other colorful small fish are common including the clown fish made popular by the movie Finding Nemo. The corals are said to be the best in the world and different diving sites including “Drop Off” that gives you a look at an abyss in the ocean floor. Sipadan is connected by boat from Semporna (fly to Tawau then bus to Semporna).
Tioman Island is located in Pahang on the east cost of Peninsular Malaysia and once listed in Time Magazine as one of the world’s most beautiful islands – many would say it is still true. Today people go to Pahang mainly to do nothing, although there is indeed plenty to do if you feel motivated.
There many hotels and chalets situated right off the beach inviting the visitor to commune with nature by sitting with a book, going for a walk or just soaking in the atmosphere. There’s also wildlife to enjoy such as monitor lizards that are commonly sighted on the island. You can also scuba dive, enjoy the jungles and rainforests or visit some of the most amazing beaches – Juara is considered the best beach and if you want to see for yourself you can get there by renting a boat or taking a 4WD. Tioman Island, like Langkawi, is also duty free. The island can be reached by air or you can get a ferry from Mersing on the mainland.
The Perhentian Islands are located in Terengganu and include Perhentian Besar and Perhentian Kecil that boast white sand beaches filled with palm trees and blue waters. Scuba diving and snorkeling options are on hand and very popular amongst visitors. Snorkeling is extremely beautiful and can be done right off the beach thanks to the abundance of crystal clear waters. There are jungle walks through the forest linking the beaches, or you can take a water taxi to move around. One can get to Perhentian Islands by boat only (fly to Khota Bharu).
Pulau Pangkor is an island close to Perek in north-west Peninsular Malaysia. Pangkor is known for its white sand beaches and two of the most popular are Teluk Nipah and Coral Bay. Other than the beaches here there is a Dutch Fort worth a visit and two temples on the island. Pangkor is popular with the locals so it is good place to take a break from the regular tourist circuit. Pangkor Laut is an upscale resort on this island at a scenic location, so if you are looking for luxury this could be one option. You can reach Pangkor by air (to Ipoh) and ferry.
And if you thought this was all, there are many more islands like Penang, Layang-Layang, Redang, Rawa and many more waiting to be explored with their cool waters inviting you to take a dip.
If you enjoyed this article and would like to find out more about travelling to Malaysia, please visit the Tourism Malaysia website.
Mridula Dwivedi (India)
Mridula Dwivedi is an academician from India who is passionate about trekking and travelling, and these days dreaming about going to Antarctica. In December 2010 she featured in a National Geographic Skoda Yeti Video and her blog was voted the best Travel India blog in 2006. She blogs at Travel Tales from India.