Want to go for a getaway during the long weekend holidays but find the air ticket prices too expensive?
Look no further – Malaysia (truly Asia) is just a causeway away.
Pulau Besar may not be as high profile as neighbouring Tioman (popular for diving trips) or recently viral Rawa Islands, but it is pretty much a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. Or rather, I hope it remains as low profile as possible, retaining its charm and serenity.
Singapore to Mersing – As we were traveling on the first day of the long weekend (Good Friday), we pre-booked the bus from this website 2 months in advance. There were 3 options and we chose One Travel & Tours (previously known as Five Stars) which was a 30 seater VIP bus (spacious 3 seats a row) departing from Golden Mile Complex at 6:15am (or Boon Lay) for $36.50. The return journey was $31.50. Do note that 6:15am is the timing where the bus leaves Golden Mile and you need to reach ideally 30 mins in advance to register, get your seat number and they need a copy of your passport as well. A free bottle of water will be given too! Punctuality is especially important on peak days and the bus will not wait for you if you are late. There were 2 empty seats in the bus when we departed.
Since it was the first day of long weekend, the jam at the causeway was as unforgiving as ever. The supposedly 3 hour journey took 4.5 hours and we spent almost 2 hours just clearing the checkpoints. (At times like this, I think a plane ride to Krabi would be faster even with custom clearing..)
Mersing to Pulau Besar
The good thing about taking the One Travel bus is that it stops directly at the Jetty while the other buses stop at the bus terminal which is a 10 minutes walk away.
Once you alight, look for the yellow building and find the small shop which belongs to “Mirage Island Resort“. Each resort will have their own office.
Do note that this resort is currently not on any booking websites (unlike its neighbouring D’Coconut & Aseania) and in order to secure the booking, a deposit has to be made into a Malaysian Bank Account.
When you reach their office, they will inform you on their next available boat. According to the confirmation email we received after the booking, the scheduled boat was at 12 noon but they said that we could take the earlier boat at 11:30. The boat timings are negotiable if necessary so feel free to drop them an email. On our last day, we were entitled to a super late checkout at 3PM (subject to availability) when we informed them that our bus was only arriving at 5PM.
Don’t forget to buy some food and snacks from the nearby building prior to boarding the boat. Prices are marked up on the island and the variety is really limited. You can even pack some lunch over. No recommendations from me as we were not attracted to any of the food stalls available =/
Foreigners will have to pay a Marine park and conservation fee which totaled up to RM25 (paid the same thing in Kinabalu previously).
As you can see from the photo above, we traveled with a check-in luggage cause it was easier to pack and fuss free =p
The staff was really nice and even carried my friends luggage from the office to the boat.
It was a 30 minutes ride on a 12-seater Speedboat. Do dress comfortably in clothes that may get wet.
When we arrived the island, the staff were already waiting to receive us and our luggage/bags.
Your bags will be in your room by the time you step inside.
We were pretty lucky to get good weather during our stay and it only rained on the last day, just as we were about to leave.
We booked the most expensive accommodation – The Sea View Room (includes aircon and hot shower) which was RM540 per pax/triple sharing; Full board (2 breakfast, 2 dinner, 1 lunch).
The room was moderately clean – (forgivable in island context) except for a dead cockroach spotted beside the bed. To be honest, we were slightly disappointed as it looks pretty rustic or perhaps rundown (11-years old resort) with its furnishing and very basic toilet. It was bearable – but just lower the expectations of their amenities but their great service definitely makes up for it!
Food in Mirage Island Resort
As we did not buy food from the food stalls in Mersing, we were starving (awake since 5am) when we reached. 1st day lunch is not included in the package. There were limited choices available and we ordered Mee Goreng and Fried Rice which was priced at RM16 each. The taste was not too bad but it is highly likely that MSG was used if my taste-buds don’t fail me.
On the last day where we checked out late, we paid for lunch at the resort again. This time it was RM35 for Chicken Chop. We were so greedy that we ordered an extra plate of fries for RM12.
Breakfast was buffet styled and the second day we had beehoon while the third day was nasi lemak. Chilli was delicious. It includes Orange/Apple Just Juice, Milk, Bread & Toast, free flow of coffee powder, tea and milo powder. If I’m not wrong, breakfast was from 8 to 10am.
Lunch/Dinner comes with 3 dishes + a plate of fruits. There will be one plate of vegetables, meat and fish. It is kind of like home cooked style and the serving was pretty big.
The highlight of the trip was definitely the BBQ dinner which happens usually on Saturday night (needs a minimum of 15 pax). According to the website, there’s a surcharge of RM22 which I don’t recall paying for. The place was beautifully set-up by the beach with this random green lighting which helps to create a bit of ambience.
As usual, there’s a surplus of food. The lamb chop was really good and the meat marinate was awesome! There were prawns and sotong too and this special homemade barbecue marinate.
How I wished I could stuff more food into my mouth that night =p
The feeling of eating by the beach is really amazing. You watch the sky darken (since sunset was over), hear the waves crashing in and enjoy the bristling sea/night breeze. It would have been perfect with a bit of wine (they don’t serve alcohol) and without mosquitoes (don’t forget to bring everything and anything that can repel against mozzies).
Things to do
1.Relax and Unwind (perfect for meditation) at the beach
2. Lie on the hammock/beach chairs and wait for time to past by. Time will somehow go by pretty slowly if you are not doing anything.
3. Walk over to the other 2 resorts and make use of their beach chairs for a different view.
4. Explore the rest of the island by foot
Bicycle Rental is available at the other resort, price was reasonable but walking ain’t too difficult either.
We walked past this abandoned area and the staff said that it was like a Taiwanese project which could not operate because they damaged some trees during their construction process and perhaps they did not have the permit? Apparently, there was another abandoned resort at the north side of the island. Will definitely explore it if I’m coming back again.
5. Name the colour of the water as it changes throughout the day
Crystal Clear Water
6. Photoshoot at the beach
7. Buy or rent a donut float from me
I always remind my customer that you need approximately 30 minutes to pump air into it. Apparently it is not a deterrence. The reality with a fancy floats is what you spend more time pumping, washing, waiting for it to dry and deflating that actually using it.
Camwhoring at its best will take a maximum of 30 minutes. Well, #thingsyoudoforthatperfectphoto
8. Discover the island – there’s another jetty, probably the old one, spotted at the left side of the island.
At the end of the jetty, you can do a free fall into the water and there’s even a ladder to climb back up again. We saw some people jumping in repeatedly.
10. Bring a (1.5kg) tripod and take time lapse video of sunset and star trails.
The island was generally safe. I left my camera and tripod unattended for close to an hour and it was left untouched when I returned.
It was a little too cloudy that evening and my video was far from my expectations.
Taking photos of the stars in the sky, newly found function in my Canon S120.
The photos I took that night was slightly disappointing as it was a cloudy full moon night. This was the best shot that my camera could capture. There were too much light disturbance and I wasn’t really willing to walk out to a darker area and risk getting bitten by countless mosquitoes. Oh wells.
11. Take artistic shots of anything/everything
12. Go on a snorkeling trip
If you’re getting bored on the island, you can consider heading out for a snorkeling trip. Aseania resort has a snorkeling boat tour in the morning (if I’m not wrong is 10am), while D’coconuts has two tours – one in the morning and the other in the afternoon (3PM). There might be a minimum pax for the trip but it shouldn’t be a problem especially on weekends.
It cost RM80/pax regardless of whether you are entering the water to snorkel or just sitting on the boat. I feel that the price is pretty steep as it is only a 2 hours tour and with this price, I could have gotten a private boat tour in Krabi.
There was about 3 to 4 areas where the boat will docked for you to jump off. Snorkeling masks are provided and lifejackets, though optional, is highly encouraged. I did not enter the water that day but my friends who went in was pretty excited with the first spot and the enthusiasm dies down as the subsequent spots look more or less the same. There were the usual sergeant-majors and sea urchins. There were a lot of corals, but most of them was pretty much the same colour (or maybe dead) and this sounds somewhat familiar to my Krabi experience.
Somewhere at the second or third spot, the boatman threw some bread into the water in order to attract the fishes. It was a convenient and kind gesture but my aquarist friend told me that feeding bread to wild fishes is not encouraged as bread is not part of their usual diet. The fish may not be able to digest the bread properly and the air in the bread might bloat their stomach too much (or something along that line). Oh wells.
What to do at Mersing while waiting for your bus to pick you up?
Apart from the usual building at the jetty which has 5 to 6 food stalls, a few souvenir shops and one provision/snacks shop, you can also explore the vicinity area by foot.
1.Marrybrown – Malaysian’s fast food famous for its swings as seats
2. Random Wall murals
3. Dine at a Seafood restaurant
Although we didn’t have time for this, but my prior research show that Restoran Ee Lo is a good choice.
4. Random 2RM shop
There was a random 2RM shop in the vicinity and I ended up buying ridiculous things like rubber ducky and hair clips since it was so cheap.
Overall Damage of the trip – $302.30
Two-way bus tickets: $68
3D2N accommodation: RM 540 – $186 (exchange rate 2.9)
Snorkeling: RM 80 – $27.60
Additional 2 Lunch + snacks and drinks: RM 60 – $20.70
My Verdict on this place:
It is a nice island to chill and relax at but to be honest, it was pretty boring and we spent most of the time in our rooms (with the aircon on) just talking. We spent quite some time playing pool and poker cards too. The weather was quite hot (duh) and since none of us like to sun-tan, we couldn’t spend too long out in the sun either. It will be a perfect place for couples who won’t get bored of one another, groups of friends who enjoy spending time together (in this context I would highly recommend my monopoly deal clique – we would probably have endless rematches).
However, if I have a choice between this and Thailand (Krabi was about $475 for 4D3N), I would definitely choose Krabi over anywhere else in Malaysia.
Feel free to comment below if you have any questions!