Published in The Peak, November 2012 (Click on images to read the article).
One of the most wild, green and leafy islands of Malaysia is Tioman. An hour flight southeast from KL, in a twin propeller plane, you are straight away overwhelmed by the beauty of the nine islands that form the Tioman Marine Park.
We stayed in a great boutique resort and the one and only Relais & Chateaux (a collection of luxury hotels and gourmet restaurants) in Malaysia: Japamala Resort. After a 15 minute boat ride on the turquoise blue sea, we discovered our Tree Top Chalet, perched high above the luxuriant jungle canopy, yet situated only a short walk up from the white sandy beach. An authentic and charming little haven, with outstandingly delicious food, typical of a Relais & Chateaux.
Enjoy some fantastic moments at Japamala Resort, Tioman:
It’s la rentrée in France, the big return to the office after the long summer break. Depressed, as the grey Autumn weather falls, the last thing we want to do is think about work. So what could be better than plan for your next vacation – Christmas! So here to help out my friends (many of you keep asking) are some tantalizing, exotic beach destinations in Malaysia for you to dream. Just check Monsoon season as West Coast Malaysia is best November – February whilst East Coast Malaysia is best April – September.
North East Terengganu of East Coast Malaysia is sublime. Pristine white sandy beaches and crystal clear blue waters that would make Leo (di Caprio) rethink twice of filming The Beach in Thailand. Seriously unrivalled diving in the region, the two islands are dotted with rustic beach huts and has become the number one destination for beach lovers and backpackers around the world. The location is so amazing you’ll forgive for the lack of luxury hotels. Just suck it up and dive into paradise.
Another diving hot spot in Terengganu, that’s not far from Perhentian. One of the largest and most beautiful of the east coast islands, Redang is also the most developed. Redang Archipelago is made of 9 islands that together constitute a protected marine park. With crystal clear waters and some of Malaysia’s best coral reefs, the island offers excellent diving and snorkelling.
Made up of 99 islands, Langkawi (duty free island) has now been given geopark status by UNESCO. Langkawi is the easiest to access of all the islands (40 mins direct flights from KL) with gorgeous sandy beaches. Boasting some of the most luxurious hotels, such as Four Seasons, The Datai, Westin, The Andaman, Casa del Mar etc you’ll be spoilt for choice!
Pangkor Laut Island
It’s not the main Pangkor island I’d recommend but Pangkor Laut Resort – a top notch 5star luxury hotel alone on an island. Voted as best romantic hotel, best spa, best hotel in Malaysia – Pangkor Island Resort is the ideal romantic getaway. Book for the Spa Village Villa, on stilts in the middle of the ocean and you’ll forget easily the real world. Heaven.
The largest of Malaysia’s east coast islands, Tioman is famed for its soft, sandy beaches, warm waters and coral reef. Most of the resorts are strung out on isolated bays along the western coast. Diving and snorkelling is excellent but also jungle hiking and sunbathing. Best luxury hotel is Japamala resort – to simply die for!
Not far from Tioman, the privately owned island of Rawa is surrounded by sugary sands and transparent waters. There’s only one place to stay on the island but worth if you’re looking for the charming rustic feel.
Leaving the best til last, rated among the wold’s top 5 dive sites, Sipadan is fringed with white, sandy beaches. Surrounding the island is stunning coral reef teeming with over 3000 species of marine life and sightings of sharks, barracudas, turtles and manta rays are also common. Located in Sabah, Borneo in Malaysia – this is a true paradise delight.
Malaysia – truly Asia! See you soon folks.
Now residing in Malaysia, one of my favourite activities, besides eating kaya on toast, is scuba diving (kaya is a local coconut jam just to die for!) The idyllic islands scattered around the coast of Malaysia offer some of the most spectacular dive sites you can find: Tioman, Redang, Perhentian and Sipadan are among the best dive sites in the world. These places are teeming with life. You will see turtles, cave systems, sharks, dolphins, schools of fish, and bright coral in such sheer volume your eyes won’t believe it!
But global warming, rising ocean temperatures, compounded by other man-made factors, like pollution and overfishing have been catastrophic for the earth’s coral. Between 1968 and 2003, more than 600 square miles of reef disappeared in the region. That’s 1% a year, twice the pace of rainforest decline!
Last week, leaders of six Asia-Pacific countries (Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste), which represent 76% of the world’s coral species and 50% of the world’s reef fish species, have gathered to save the corals.
The CIT (Coral Triangle Initiative) is looking at ways to stop coral degradation and safeguard species. Countries will give each from 1-5 million US dollars budget to launch the initiative, supported by satellite surveillance.
Why the need to monitor coral so closely? Coral reefs constitute a complex and vast global ecosystem, home to millions of plants and fish that people depend on for food and tourist revenue; in some areas, healthy reefs help protect the shore from potentially destructive waves. Perhaps the single best advocate for the preservation of coral reefs is the reef itself: In one area of the Philippines, for instance, local leaders asked fishermen who had been making a living by blast-fishing, which destroys reefs, to trade in their trawlers for dive boats. They did, the fish came back to the reefs, the local economy flourished.
When healthy coral reefs are your bread and butter, you’re going to make sure they’re in good shape. So enjoy the amazing dives of Malaysia as I do and let’s help protect the reef!