In search of adventure in Desaru, Malaysia
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In search of adventure in Desaru, Malaysia

By Shivya Nath

ONE of the foremost reasons why I love Malaysia is that there is no dearth of sandy beaches along its coasts. You don’t need a fancy budget, a lot of advance planning, or too much time at hand to hit the shores and rejuvenate by the banks of pretty blue waters. Desaru, on Malaysia’s east coast, is one such beach escape, located only a few hours’ drive from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, in the Johor district of Peninsular Malaysia.

One fine day, four of us packed our bags and headed to Malaysia from Singapore, with no plans and no maps, and 72 hours of no work, no stress and no deadlines. The idea was to go on a trekking trail, which starts at Gunung Lambak near Johor Bahru, but by the time we made it to Johor Bahru, the evening sun was already sinking, and a jungle trek didn’t seem very practical.

The trip was as impulsive as we could have expected it to be. We got onto a bus and a couple of cabs, and made our way to the coastal area of Desaru, a beach resort with clear blue seas, whitish sands, jungle trails, white colored scurrying crabs, komodo dragons, and fireflies. Luckily, our trip was a weekday trip, which meant Desaru showed scant signs of civilization, and we pretty much had the entire place to our happy selves. The night was full of stars (a rare sight in the brightly lit Southeast Asian cities) and a shiny moon.

Beach blues. Pic: Shivya Nath.

Things turned out just right. Water-sports were not in operation, which meant no jet skiing, no kayaking and no banana boats; it also meant less money spent, which let us extend our trip by another night. We stayed at the Desaru Holiday Chalet, and our Chalet 17 was located far from civilization, in some remote corner, past a jungle inhabited by monkeys and a swamp with exotic species, yet right opposite the blue waters. It was a rustic place but fun, and whenever we needed to we could head out of our chalet to hear the sounds of the sea’s waves.


Desaru beach. Pic: SoulSoup, Flickr.

Ours was one of the few resorts on the 22-kilometer stretch of sandy beach. Unlike most coastal areas along Malaysia’s east coasts, there were no upmarket resorts, fancy cafes or any signs of nightlife at Desaru, which meant that the beach was spotlessly clean and exclusively ours, without the price tag of owning a whole stretch of the coastline for a few days. We later learnt that the Desaru Holiday Chalets dated back to 1974, and is the oldest resort on the island; it had a rustic charm that we came to love.


A quiet corner in Desaru. Pic: SoulSoup, Flickr.

The best way to reach Desaru is to catch a bus from the Johor Bahru bus terminal to Kota Tinggi, from where taxis are readily available. Alternatively, you can hire a taxi directly from Johor Bahru to Desaru without too much damage to the wallet. Passenger ferries from Singapore and Johor Bahru also ply the route to Desaru. Most resorts shut down during the monsoon season, which corresponds with winter in India (November to early March), as the wind and the rain lash at the beach and the sea is perpetually in high tide.

Water lovers can try their hand at snorkeling amid the varied marine life of the South China Sea, head into the sea on a banana boat or a kayak, catch the surf during high tide, and race the waters on a jet ski. Nature lovers can take a detour to the Sungei Lebam River to catch a spectacular show of fireflies over a pitch black jungle river, drive to the waterfall at Kota Tinggi, or visit an Ostrich Farm in the vicinity.

Desaru may not feature on any tourist itineraries to Malaysia, and that’s where its adventure stems from. If you’re stressed, tired or bored, pack your bags, plan an unplanned holiday, and put on your seat belts; you are sure to find adventure and beauty on an untouched stretch of white sands and blue seas.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to find out more about travelling to Malaysia, please visit the Tourism Malaysia website


About the author…

Shivya Nath (India)

Shivya is a 20-something Indian girl with a penchant for unique travel experiences. Her articles have been published in various Indian & international publications, including The Huffington Post, CNNGo, The Times of India and The Hindu. She blogs at The Shooting Star, tweets @shivya, and can be reached at

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