Pulau Besar - Johor

There are a cluster of 3 islands just off the coast of Mersing in Johor which used to be overrun by wildboars. Nobody knows how the wildboars got across to inhabit the islands but these hardy creatures have been known to swim long distances. Perhaps, floating islands ie little clumps of land that had been torn from riverbanks during heavy monsoon rains could have carried them to these islands and thence multiplied as there were no known predators until man came along. Fisher folk named the islands , Babi Besar (Big Pig), Babi Tengah (Pig in the Middle) and Babi Hujong (Pig at the end) but 'Babi' was consequently dropped from the name and thus, today they are more popularly known as Pulau Besar, Pulau Tengah and Pulau Hujong. As with the name, the wildboars on these islands have also disappeared.

Pulau Besar is the largest of all the 3 islands and stretches about 1 - 2km wide and 5 km long. The resorts are located on the western side of the island as the eastern coast faces the open sea and tends to be rough. The fishing villages are long gone, though you can still see the quaint old police station and vacant village huts along the path that runs parallel to the western beach. Pulau Besar and Pulau Tengah were the host islands for the popular and controversial reality TV show in Europe called the 'Expedition Robinson' that ran for 9 seasons. The crew spent at least 7 months on location at this island as well as the surrounding islands for a number of years until the show ended its run in 2005.

Pulau Besar is the ideal island for a lot of sun bathing, catching up on sleep, finishing that novel that's been kept by the bedside table for months gathering dust, a bit of island exploration, and just to immerse in the tranquility of the island life. For city folks, it may be a little difficult to get used to... no traffic honks, suits and power dressing, no laptops and continuous ringing of the phone. It's tough to just let go of the everyday chores and routine but once the island breeze lulls you into that dream-like state, it's difficult to leave.

For those a little more energetic, the island hopping trips to pulau mensirip and pulau harimau for some snorkelling is definitely the icing on the cake.

One thing to note, don't forget your insect repellant for those pesky sandflies.

Pulau Harimau

Pulau Harimau has a cavern which can be easily reached if you snorkel a short distance from the drop-off point at the beach. The ceiling of the cavern has fallen through and is a nice little private pool where you can sit and enjoy the sun warming your back and the cool water lapping your heated skin.

Pulau Mensirip

This is a private island not too far from Pulau Harimau. It is deserted and a sign on the beach warns would be trespassers against alighting on the island. This tiny island belongs to the Johor royal family. But the snorkelling just off the beach is wonderful!! Try it - its worth every penny! Well, actually for a day trip out - we negotiated a total of RM220 for the boat to take us to these two islands.

Suggestion: bring along some sun block, drinking water and packed lunch. These islands are not inhabited, so be prepared with some food and water.