The more developed of the group is Pulau Sibu. A pleasant hideaway,
it abounds with lush tropical vegetation and endless stretches of golden
beaches. On the seaward side of the island are numerous sea caves carved
out of its rocks. The result of constant pounding by the sea during
the monsoon season, it gives the island a beautiful yet rugged appearance.
Off shore, its waters contain fascinating coral reefs teeming with colourful
marine life. Shipwrecks off its coast may also be found. Chinese junks
and pirate vessels often exchanged cannon fire around this island, and
the remains of these battles lie scattered around the seabed.
There are facilities for scuba diving, snorkelling, wind surfing, sailing
and angling. Visitors can hike through jungle trails leading to unspoilt
mangrove swamps, visit the 'kelongs' where anchovies are caught or head
for the kampungs where coconut is smoked for copra.
Accommodation on the island range from fully furnished chalets to basic
A-frame huts. Bathing facilities are available at the community showers.
Restaurants may be found on the island as well, serving a variety of
Western and Asian dishes.
North of Pulau Sibu, rising 667 metres. above sea level, lies Pulau
Tinggi. It was once an important stopover for spice traders more
than 600 years ago. The early Chinese traders called it the 'General's
Hat Island', due to its conical shape. Endowed with fresh water, a sheltered
harbour, fruit, rattan and timber, it is little wonder the island was
so popular with traders.
Nine kilometres off the coast of Mersing, sandwiched between Pulau Besar
and Pulau Hujong, is the uninhabited island of Pulau Tengah.
Gazetted by the Malaysian government as a Marine Park in 1985, its waters
support abundant marine life and rare species of fish and coral. Giant
Leatherback turtles come ashore to lay their eggs annually, especially
during the month of July.
Further north lies Pulau Besar (The Big Island). Located
15 km off the coast of Mersing, this blissfully secluded isle has
several beautiful beaches and is a haven for underwater adventure.
Visitors to the island may stay at one of the many rustic chalets
and enjoy the delights of organised fishing, island hopping excursions,
snorkelling and scuba diving.The restaurants at these resorts serve
a variety of local and Western cuisine.
Another secluded and uninhabited island 13 1/2 km off the coast of Mersing
is Pulau Hujong. An enticing island, far from the cares of the
world, Pulau Hujong beckons the traveller to endless stretches of swaying
palms, glowing white beaches and glassy blue waters teeming with fish
16 km off the coast of Mersing lies Pulau Rawa. Famed for its
white coral sand, tall palm trees and offshore coral reefs with neon-coloured
fish and other exotic marine life, Pulau Rawa is truly a paradise island.
The wooden chalets nestled amongst coconut groves strengthens the island's
quaint island hideaway imagery.
Another enchanting island in Johor's archipelago is the large island
of Pulau Pemanggil. Fifty-five kilometres from Mersing, this
remote and peaceful island is much sought after for its natural beauty
and the abundance of marine life found within its clear waters. About
15 kilometres from Mersing the sea turns deep blue and flying fish skip
over the water's surface or arch their backs and take to the air, sometimes
flying a distance of 33 metres.
Seventy-five kilometres from Mersing lies Pulau Aur. A picturesque
island with secluded lagoons and offshore pools, it is known for its
natural scenic beauty, good bathing spots and water sports. A popular
destination for privately owned yachts, many anchor in the calm water
between Pulau Aur and Pulau Dayang.
Visibility for diving is superb, and a variety of fish and shells not
found in any other part of Peninsular Malaysia can be seen here. The
Pinnacles, off the eastern side of the island, is a fine spot to watch
open-sea fish; there have even been sightings of the rare whale shark,
the largest fish on the planet. The waters around Pulau Aur and Pulau
Dayang also offer divers a glimpse of shipwrecks and artifacts strewn
along the seabed.
Mersing, a fishing village 138 km north of Johor Bahru, is the
departure point to Johor's islands in the South China Sea. The Mersing
Boat Hire Association provides boats for inter-island travel or fishing.
Mersing can be reached from Johor Bahru in a two or three hour drive.
The Johor Bahru-Mersing Express also operates scheduled bus services
from Johor Bahru to Mersing on Sundays. On other days, departure
time depends on the number of passengers. Many taxis ply the route
A majority of the islands offer chalet accommodation for those wishing
to stay overnight.
How To Get There
The islands off the coast of Johor can be reached from Mersing by boat.
The journey to Pulau Tengah, Pulau Besar, and Pulau Rawa takes about
an hour. Pulau Sibu can also be reached from Tanjung Sedili by fast
boats which take about 90 minutes. Most of Sibu's resorts operate boat
services from Tanjung Leman less than two hours drive from Johor Bahru.
From Tanjung Leman, Sibu is just 12 kilometres away.
Pulau Tinggi is about three hours away. While Pulau Aur can be reached
in four to five hours. Pulau Pemanggil takes nearly two hours by
fast boat. Ordinary boats are smaller and take about four hours.