Pulau Sibu (Besar & Tengah) - Johor Malaysia


Pulau Sibu is part of the Seribuat Archipelago down south and is made up of several islands namely Pulau Sibu Besar, Pulau Sibu Tengah, Pulau Sibu Kukus and Pulau Sibu Hujung. Pulau Sibu Tengah is a tiny island home to Sibu Island Resort, a large resort catering to local and foreign tourists. About 5 minutes by speedboat from the larger of the two islands , Sibu Tengah has all that a tourist would appreciate - a full fledged resort with chalets and rooms packed with every bit of creature comforts city slickers are accustomed to. Snorkelling to Kukus island just 3minutes boat ride from this island provides an adventure to novices. Otherwise, for those completely resigned to a lazy holiday, then this resort is the best place to vegetate.

Pulau Sibu Besar, on the other hand is some 7kms long and about 1km wide. One of the largest islands on the Seribuat Archipelago, it's surprising that Sibu has retained much of its natural beauty and tranquility. In the past decade when all the islands up in Terengganu has sped off in the direction of mass tourism and commercialisation, Sibu ambles on at its own pace. The local village continues to eke out a living off the seas and a few of the younger generation opt to work at the nearby resorts for a steadier income and a change of lifestyle. The villagers have kelongs out in the bay where they now rear fish and prawns and a few kelongs are used as a fishing retreat where keen recreational fishermen spend their weekends fishing and bonding with fellow 'inmates' on the platform. There are simple accommodation on these kelongs for rent.

The main stretch of beach has 4 beach resorts of varying budgets and preferences. Sea Gypsy Village Resort run by Linda, a British, is a favourite with Singaporean expatriate families. So popular they were with young families at one point, that they started up a kid's centre where activities are set up for children for a good part of the day so that their parents are pretty much left alone to their own time. Very precious commodity - time can be for young families! Sea Gypsy also runs the only established Dive Centre on Sibu Besar.

To the back of the island through a 25 minute jungle trek, sits Rimba Resort. Journeymalaysia.com writers went off on a exploratory trip to Sibu Besar in June 2004 and were well impressed with two set ups on Sibu namely Rimba Resort and Sea Gypsy Village resort. For more story on these two resorts, go to to Rimba Resort or Sea Gypsy Village Resort.

Diving

Dan's Nasty Dive Base at Sea Gypsy Village Resort

There are approximately 30 dive sites dotted around areas that include Sibu Besar, Sibu Tengah and Pulau Tinggi. The dive sites have a general depth of 15m - 18m but on average visibility is about 10m as according to Linda, the owner of Sea Gypsy Village Resort.

One of the best sites here is Dolly Parton named so for obvious reasons. It was a 20- 25minute speed boat ride to the dive site and a 50minute dive. Upon descending, we found the current pretty strong preventing my dive master, Dave and I from circumnavigating Rock A. That suited me fine as being confined to a smaller area allowed me more time spent on looking into nooks and crannies for interesting lifeforms. Currents normally occur a couple of days before and a couple of days after the full moon - so if you're not too sure about diving in currents, plan your trips accordingly.

Coral formation was good - bommies, sea fans, soft corals were healthy and still thriving. However, perhaps due to the pull of the full moon, visibility was recorded at about 3m. Fish life was surprisingly scarce. A few tiny morays, batfishes, angelfishes, damselfishes, wrasses, triggefishes - perhaps bad vis... Divelog dated : 4th June 2004 . For budding underwater photographers, with so many dive sites around Sibu worth exploring, it may just be the perfect place for you to go micro.

Below is a list of what you may expect on a dive at Dolly Parton's ,courtesy of Dan's Nasty Dive Base:

Tokong Raket Rock A & B (Dolly Parton)

Ø 25 minutes boat ride from Dan's Nasty Dive Base.

Ø Gentle to moderate, drift dive.

Ø Max depth 20 metres, average depth 14 metres.

Ø Mounded double rock formation, hence the name!

Ø Current is very strong, two days prior and two days after full moon.

Ø Rock A has better visibility and a more abundant fish life than Rock B.

Ø Dolly is one of our favourite dive sites, an absolute must for every diver who visits Dan's Nasty Dive Base.

Marine Life - * Puffer fish, 3 to 4 varieties * Moray eel * Blue Spotted Sting Ray * Fusilier fish * Jackfish * Lion fish * Boxer shrimp * Stone fish * Crayfish * Sweet lips * Sea Bream, 2 to 3 varieties * Goat fish * Angel fish * Squid * Damselfish * Parrot fish * Surgeon fish * Barracuda * Wrasse * Trigger fish * Coral Sea snake * Turtle * Bat fish * Nudibranch * Yellow Strip * Giant clam * Butterfly fish

Mix of hard and soft corals - *Table coral * Stag coral * Fan coral * Bottlebrush coral * Brain coral * Dendronephthya coral * Sea whip * Red sea whip * Sea pen * Knobby cora * Sea Anemone

One of 2 dive centres on Pulau Sibu Besar, Dan's Nasty Dive Base provides an efficiently run outfit for divers who prefer a lot more service than the run-of-the-mill, in-out, how deep did you dive? dive centres. The centre offers courses from try scuba to open water to specialties. For first time divers, Pulau Sibu's dive spots offer a great training ground with gentle currents, or moderate drift dives and a healthy variety of coral life and inhabitants. One of the many exciting courses on their list is scuba rangers. This is a course designed by Scuba School International (SSI) specifically for children from the age of 8 to learn about scuba diving and how much fun it can be if it's done right. The programme also empasises on safety routines and this in turn will foster more disciplined diving. 'It offers all of the training and education that a regular Open Water Diver receives on a child's level of understanding. The child will build self confidence, discipline and self esteem. The programme is designed to keep children active and reaching their goals with hard work, commitment and fun. ' (taken from Dan's Nasty Dive Base write-up).

There are four levels of Ranger:

Red Ranger - Objectives:

Introduce the children to the Scuba Rangers Programme

Familiarise the children with snorkeling equipment

Assess the children's swimming skills

Introduce the children to basic surface helper skills

Teach the children how to use snorkeling equipment correctly

White Ranger - Objectives

Introduce the children to scuba diving equipment

Explain to the children what scuba diving equipment does and why they need it

Explain to the children how to use scuba diving equipment comfortably and correctly in confined water

Blue Ranger - Objectives

Review and practice White rangers skills

Learn proper buoyancy skills

Practice buddy aid skills

Make a dive to the bottom to 2 metres in confined water

Silver Ranger - Objectives

Review and practice skills

Learn underwater self-aid skills

Practice Deep Water Descents

Practice for demonstration recital

Two levels of Scuba Ranger can be completed over one weekend: 1st weekend - Red and White - a log book and sticker will be presented upon completion 2nd weekend - Silver and Blue - a Diploma and Certificate will be presented upon completion

Each level of Scuba Ranger. (The cost of Red Ranger includes the Scuba Ranger Kit ie Scuba Ranger manual & workbook - Let the Scuba Ranger Friends help you learn the safety rules of diving, and the rules of being a Scuba Ranger. Length: 60 pages. Scuba Ranger video - Follow a group of real Scuba Rangers as they learn the scuba skills and equipment handling techniques needed to have fun under water. The Scuba Ranger Friends are also there to help you learn. Length: 25 minutes. Scuba Ranger Log - Your Ranger Log is a plastic binder filled with all the special pages needed to record all your diving adventures, club events and Scuba Ranger Specialties, and scuba equipment purchases. Track your progress to Intermediate Ranger, Advanced Ranger and best of all - Master Ranger! Scuba Ranger Training Record - This is kept by your Club as an additional record of your progress. Scuba Ranger Development Program Completion Card - This colorful paper card is awarded as soon as you complete the Development Program. It will prove to people you're a real Ranger until you get your official Scuba Ranger Club membership card. Scuba Ranger Diploma - This colorful and fun diploma marks your official completion of the Scuba Rangers Development Program. There are also cool diplomas for the Intermediate, Advanced and Master Ranger levels. They look great in a frame on your bedroom wall or in your school locker. Mesh bag - Everything in your kit can be stored in the quality mesh bag. It has the Scuba Rangers logo on the front and a place for your name, and a drawstring to keep everything from falling out.

Alternatively all four levels can be completed from Monday to Friday. The Scuba Ranger course will not be conducted in December and January due to the North Easterly Winds bringing in some unpredictable weather conditions.

* Information on diving around Sibu courtesy of Sea Gypsy Village Resort.

Snorkelling

The best snorkelling area on Pulau Sibu Besar is on the stretch at Rimba Resort, as mentioned in the previous page. The other area for snorkellers is at Pulau Sibu Kukus.

Rimba Resort

Rimba Resort is close to perfect if what you are looking for is a secluded tropical island get-away, nestled amongst a dense forest of trees overlooking the warm blue waters of the South China Sea. Comprising 20 huts, an ocean-view restaurant, reading room and a bar / lounge / clubhouse, what distinguishes Rimba from most other Malaysian island retreats, are the impeccable standards of its diligent operators Jo-Ann and Malcolm.

Clean, efficient and professional do not do justice to Rimba Resort. More importantly Jo-Ann and Malcolm care not just about how their establishment is run (ie. the rooms, beach, facilities and grounds are spotless) but also that their guests are comfortable and happy. They are genuinely interested in the guests and their comfort, always ready with warmth, charm, helpful information and a sense of humour. Jo-Ann's smile and quick wit alone could probably generate enough electricity to power the place.

Rimba seems to attract a clientele of mainly expatratiates and travellers. With a crowd like this, it should be apparent what Rimba is not: a megaresort overrun with tourists in search of 'today's planned activities.' Instead Rimba, with it's buildings and décor, gently reminiscent of Malcolm and Jo-Ann's native South Africa, fits comfortably amidst Pulau Sibu's lush raintrees as if it had absorbed the relaxed timeless mood of the islands. Thus, guests take their cue, shedding big city attitudes and schedules as would their shoes.

Except for snorkeling over the house reef which is about 100 meters off the slightly pebbly beach, with a surprising diversity of coral and fish (I even saw a small octopus.) and a mild hike through the jungle, there's little to do except swim, relax, get a tan, read a book, eat, drink and perhaps make merry with a fellow traveller or two. Although, when we were there it seemed clear that most travellers wanted to have their personal time, everyone was clearly extremely relaxed.

Each chalet has a low-key charm. Windows and doors are replaced by canvas blinds, bathrooms are remarkably clean and sand-free, and each chalet has its own porch from which one can sit and lazily ponder each shade of ocean blue, without ever getting wet. Rooms are cleaned and beds made each day by Rimba's quiet and seemingly invisible staff. Each chalet has a fan and good strong water pressure for the shower, however, air conditioning and hot running water are non-existent. Because Rimba is surrouded by trees, mosquitos can occasionally be a nuisance so bring your own repellent or ask for a mosquito coil.

Rimba's bar/clubhouse is a lovely structure with a veranda opening up onto the beach, it is extremely comfortable and inviting, strewn with pillows and Thai lounging chairs from which one can gulp one of Rimba's speciality drinks whilst watching the sunset. Games and books are also available. Meals are served in the restaurant at fixed times, and while some of the Malaysian food is quite good (we had a killer claypot fish curry once) the "western food," a concept and cuisine endemic to Malaysia, didn't quite float our boats. Likewise, those travellers accustomed to all-you-can-eat buffets at other resorts might find the three to five small pieces of fruit customarily served for dessert here, a little spare. But these are the most minor quibbles which should all melt away in the face of Malcolm and Jo-Ann's eagerness to please, and Rimba Resorts's comfort, beauty and charm. Jo-ann and Malcolm has some useful tips on what to bring with you to the island

Article contributor: Jonathan Wong.

Sea Gypsy Village Resort

5 acres of island land lined with 350metres of clean, soft, golden sandy beach and gentle waves lapping the shores, wouldn't it be just the idealistic dream to horde that all to oneself? The Wills family thought otherwise. Sharing Eden with others is simply not an option..it's a mission.

With that dream came 22 Malay style wooden chalets on stilts with a view of the sea and each with its private verandah for a night of star gazing or an afternoon laze without disturbances. Not to make paradise a chore, creature comforts such as bathrooms en suite, large overhead fans (no air-conditioning) and 24 hour electricity was added on . The cool evening breeze makes up for the lack of airconditioning. After all, a break from the daily drying effects of air-conditioning in the office, in the car, at home...can do wonders for the skin and being on a beautiful island should really mean being at one with its surroundings. As Linda, the owner of Sea Gypsy puts it, ' There is absolutely nothing nicer than going to sleep with the windows open listening to the sound of the ocean and the rustle of the palm trees. That's what an island holiday is all about! '

A mother of two very impressionable children, Linda fully understands the holiday needs for parents as well as children. With that in mind, Sea Gypsy offers 3 days or 5 days summer camps for kids of 8years and older. Also a kid's club is open daily from 9.30am to 12.30pm purely to entertain children with games and activities for 3 hours in the day. At RM75 per child per session in exchange for some peace and quiet, it's well worth it.

For adults, most prefer to hang out at Dan's Dive, an oasis where the bar never closes. An extensive selection of labels with a reasonable price list too.., wine from RM49 per bottle, beer at RM8.50 and of course a cocktail or two to start the night off. Stay as long as you like, no last orders, no grouchy bartenders, just lots of fun.

When it comes to meals, there's a variety for everyone. The cuisine varies daily between Malay, Indonesian, Chinese and Western style. There is a set breakfast of juice, eggs, toast, butter, jam, marmalade, Marmite, peanut butter (crunchy or smooth) and as much tea or coffee as you wish.

There is also a breakfast menu which offers such delicacies as pancakes with honey or beans on toast. They serve light lunches, not too spicy for children's palates, followed by fresh fruit. Children's evening meals are served at 6 p.m. and lean towards hamburgers, hot dogs, spaghetti, fried rice and chips with everything! However they make sure the meals are balanced and accompanied by veggies or salad. Dinner is usually a Malay dish served with rice and stir fried vegetables, followed by fresh fruit. Saturday night is Bar-B-Q night, not to be missed. (menu provided by sea gypsy)

Sea Gypsy is no ordinary resort. It's a place where guests can totally relax, melt into the environment. There are a million and one choices - just pick one and the regret will be that you didn't pick the other million. There's always the next time and the next and the next. Those who have tasted Sibu will always have the yearning to return.. for a million and one reasons.

Best time to go

As Pulau Sibu is located close to mainland, resorts here are open all year round. Apart from the monsoon season which recently has been pretty unpredictable from November til end-january, anytime is good. Book early though for trips during Public Holidays.

Here are some helpful tips from Rimba Resort on what to watch out for:

Have Malaysian Ringgit handy on arrival for jetty and parking fees, as well as the use of the washroom at Tanjung Leman jetty.

Jetty Fee / RM 4.00 per person / ticket to be purchased at the jetty counter and given to the security guard when boarding at the jetty entrance.

Parking Fee / RM 10.00 per car per day

Dress accordingly for boat rides, as you can get a little wet / please use life jackets provided.

Pack lightly / sport bags and small backpacks are recommended rather than suitcases.

It is wise to bring along insect spray as the mozzies are out at sunrise and sunset.

If you are sensitive to sand flies or intend lying on the beach, use sun tan oil or anything oily i.e. baby oil to protect your skin.

Trainers are recommended for jungle trekking.

Getting there


By Plane

The closest Airports to get to Sibu are either Senai Airport in Johor Bahru (Capital city of Johor State) or Changi Airport in Singapore. Upon arrival your resort may be able to arrange for a transfer to the island.

By Car

- Singapore to Tanjong Leman using woodlands causeway

Pass through customs checkpoint (Woodlands causeway) and follow temporary Exit route due to the roadworks. After you have exited the detour move over to the right lane and take the first u turn heading back towards the causeway. You are now in Jalan Wong Ah Fook. This will lead you through Johor Bahru City passing City Square shopping mall on your right. Look out for the overhead Bridge with the sign 'Kota Tinggi - Desaru'.

Follow this sign and this will put you onto route 3.Keep on this road following the signs to Kota Tinggi and Mersing.

Route 3 will lead you through a small town called Ulu Tiram, keep going straight.

You will hardly notice when you pass by Kota Tinggi as the road bypasses out of the town. However there will be a traffic light whereby a left turn takes you to Kota Tinggi town and a right turn to Desaru.Keep going straight towards Mersing.

After about 40 minutes drive from the traffic light / Kota Tinggi junction you will notice signs for Tanjong leman Sibu Island.

Take a right hand turn into the check point for tenggorah plantation( Palm oil plantation).On the corner of the turn off you should see a taxi stand for long distance cabs ( Blue cabs).Pass through a police check point onto the plantation Road.

Tanjong leman jetty is about 28km away from this point, when you are about 13km away from the jetty you will see a sign for Sibu Island Tanjong leman jetty ,take a left turn .Continue on till the end of the road. At the end of the road turn right into the entrance of Tanjong leman jetty car park.

- Singapore to Tanjong Leman using the 2nd Link/ Tuas

After crossing the bridge and having cleared Malaysian Immigration and customs continue on towards Johor Bahru and Pasir Gudang( exit 307 C).This is a toll road and you will have to pass through two toll Gates

Follow this road all the way to Perling Toll Plaza (about 20 min drive from Immigrations).The road will become Persisiran Perling and you will pass Perling Mall on the right side.

Keep on this road as it becomes Route 17 and follow the signs for Pasir Gudang, Kota Tinggi and Desaru

There are major Road works being done at the Ulu Tiram, Kota Tinggi, Desaru, Mersing turn off on route 17, so the turn off Road has been closed. It is however scheduled to be reopened in 2005. The quickest way to overcome this is to bypass the construction and pass the 'Turn Off' road. Keep in the right hand lane and after approximately 1 km it will be possible to make a u turn.

After u - turning keep in the left hand lane. The first off ramp will take you back to the construction site but from this side of the highway the off ramp is usable. At the top of the ramp there are traffic lights as well as a large white Telecom building opposite the road. Take a right turn and follow signs for Kota Tinggi and Mersing.You are now on route 3.

Route 3 will lead you through a small town called Ulu Tiram, keep going straight.

You will hardly notice when you pass by Kota Tinggi as the road bypasses out of the town. However there will be a traffic light whereby a left turn takes you to Kota Tinggi town and a right turn to Desaru.Keep going straight towards Mersing.

After about 40 minutes drive from the traffic light / Kota Tinggi junction you will notice signs for Tanjong leman Sibu Island.

Take a right hand turn into the check point for tenggorah plantation( Palm oil plantation). On the corner of the turn off you should see a taxi stand for long distance cabs ( Blue cabs).Pass through a police check point onto the plantation Road. Tanjong leman jetty is about 28km away from this point, when you are about 13km away from the jetty you will see a sign for Sibu Island Tanjong leman jetty ,take a left turn. Continue on till the end of the road. At the end of the road turn right into the entrance of Tanjong leman jetty car park.

- Kuala Lumpur to Tanjong Leman jetty

There are two choices when driving from Kuala Lumpur to Tanjong Leman Jetty

Take the North - South Highway from KL until you get to the Kulai turn off (almost as far down as Johor Bahru). This will put you on route 94 heading towards Kota Tinggi and Mersing.

At the end of this road you will reach a T junction, turn left (North) onto Route 3 still heading to Kota Tinggi and Mersing.Continue to follow signs for Mersing.

.. You will hardly notice when you pass by Kota Tinggi as the road bypasses out of the town. However there will be a traffic light whereby a left turn takes you to Kota Tinggi town and a right turn to Desaru.Keep going straight towards Mersing.

After about 40 minutes drive from the traffic light / Kota Tinggi junction you will notice signs for Tanjong leman Sibu Island.

Take a right hand turn into the check point for tenggorah plantation( Palm oil plantation).On the corner of the turn off you should see a taxi stand for long distance cabs ( Blue cabs).Pass through a police check point onto the plantation Road.

Tanjong leman jetty is about 28km away from this point, when you are about 13km away from the jetty you will see a sign for Sibu Island Tanjong leman jetty ,take a left turn .Continue on till the end of the road. At the end of the road turn right into the entrance of Tanjong leman jetty car park.

OR

Take the North - South Highway from KL and exit at Keluang heading east towards Mersing.This road is however a single lane winding road and might take a longer time than anticipated. Once you have reached the East coast (South of Mersing) you should turn right (South) heading towards Kota Tinggi and Johor Bahru

After about 30 minutes drive you will reach the Tanjong leman turnoff (Look out for Signs), turn left into the tenggorah plantation( Palm oil plantation).On the corner of the turn off you should see a taxi stand for long distance cabs( Blue cabs).Pass through a police check point onto the plantation road.

Tanjong leman jetty is about 28km away from this point, when you are about 13km away from the jetty you will see a sign for Sibu Island Tanjong leman jetty ,take a left turn .Continue on till the end of the road. At the end of the road turn right into the entrance of Tanjong leman jetty car park.

*road directions courtesy of rimba resort.

By Taxi

From Mersing, taxis charge RM45 - RM50 per taxi per way.

By Bus

You can catch a Mersing Omnibus from the local bus station within Mersing town (The local bus station is not at the R&R Mersing Bus Terminal). From here, take a bus heading for Bukit Tinggi. For more information on bus schedule, go to Mersing bus schedules.Ask to be dropped off at the Felda Tenggorah junction. There should be taxis waiting at this junction to take passengers onwards. Taxi fare should be about RM10 - RM15 per taxi per way.