Pulau Lang Tengah ~ Terengganu Malaysia

The intrepid explorer may have heard of Pulau Kapas or Pulau Redang, two islands along the Malaysian East Coast that are favourites among dive enthusiasts. But only the lucky few know about Lang Tengah. And those lucky few probably don't want you to know about it either. So if you absolutely must read any further, make sure that you only share the following information with other nature lovers who will respect this island paradise and try to keep it pristine.

Lang Tengah is a tiny island surrounded by a protected coral reef that is situated off the coast of Kuala Terengganu. It houses four resorts - D'Coconut Lagoon and Redang Lang Resort , Sari Pacifica Resort and Summer Bay Resort

From the Kuala Terengganu airport, our group of six easily found our waiting shuttle that whisked us to Merang jetty where a tiny speedboat (courtesy of Blue Coral Island resort now known as Sari Pacifica Resort) took us to Lang Tengah.

The ride was extremely bumpy and fast. However, it wasn't enough to blow away the powerful fuel fumes. Suffice to say if you suffer motion sickness, don't forget you seasick pills! Sadly, even though the island is supposed to be a protected marine preserve, we observed employees of the resort tossing their soft drink cans off the speedboat into the South China Sea.

When we got to the island we were checked in with relative efficiency and even more charm. Although Blue Coral Island has closed for some years now due to mismanagement of sorts, which is a reall shame really as it was, pretty much the cosiest of all the resorts on this island.

The island's beach is still the best along the front of Sari Pacifica and during the off peak season, there may be chances of spotting a turtle or two in this tiny bay. Those interested in the turtle programme, can look into volunteering at http://www.langtengahturtlewatch.org/

Anyway, once you submit yourself to the sea, all those clichés about humanity's insolence and insignificance ring true. It's indescribable that otherworldly feeling you get once you swim among the denizens of this surreal and magnificent environment.

Visibility was clear up to at least 10 meters (30ft) and the fish were not too shy or bothered by our presence. In fact if you happen to "accidentally" have a stale piece of bread on you, the parrot fish will mistake you for a stale piece of bread and you will feel like an unfortunate cow in a documentary about piranha. Actually, it was awe we felt, not fear when we discovered the amazing diversity and quantity of fish and coral around us. From huge "brain coral" and giant clams to schools of tiny dacyllus, hours flew by as we marveled at the variety and splendour of the underwater fauna.

*Note* Please remember to apply and re-apply your extra-strength waterproof sunblock, especially around your back and the backs of your ankles. I spent so much time floating on my front with my heels paddling in and out of the water, that it now looks like I had botched skin grafts performed back there. Even when the sun sits behind the clouds, the UV rays are powerful enough to peel the skin of an elephant. *Note* The previous statement is not a scientifically proven fact and has not been evaluated nor validated by anybody. Nor should it be.

Sadly, there was a lot of dead coral close to shore. Although some attribute it to El Nino's mischief, we were suspicious of resort guests who didn't seem to heed the signs warning snorkellers not to step on the coral. If you do visit Lang Tengah, make sure you don't step on any coral or a thousand sand fleas will visit your unmentionable bits!

Likewise, we hope those same fleas visit those people who littered the beaches of Lang Tengah. How much trash was swept ashore and how much originated from the visitors and staff of the resort, we don't know, but there was plenty of it. We managed to collect nine trash bags full and were greeted by surprise and consternation by the staff of the resort when we handed it to them. If you see trash there, don't hesitate to complain to the management and ask that they clean up their beaches. Someone needs to explain the concept of "protected marine preserve" to these folks.

That being said, Lang Tengah offers plenty of communing with nature and less interference from man than many other island resorts around the area. It isn't one of those totally deserted islands that hardcore divers prefer, nor is it an overdeveloped project favoured by those who like the concept but not the reality of getting close to nature. What it does offer is enough comfort and privacy to commune with an underwater Eden.

Lang Tengah offers the deep satisfaction of being able to dig your toes into the warm soft white sand, while you down an ice-cold beer on the beach, as dusk approaches and the huge flying foxes swoop down from the coconut trees to feast on insects buzzing overhead. Watching the sun set into the ocean, you know that at dawn you can rise from a comfortable bed, walk but a few yards and submerge yourself into that same ocean, losing yourself in a world of myriad shapes, sizes, colours and mysteries; a place where grace, power and beauty extend way beyond the province of human imagination.