With monsoon season arriving next month upon Redang and other islands off the East coast of Peninsular Malaysia, we come to the end of another great year of snorkelling & diving at Redang. No doubt many of you brought back sweet memories of days in the sun, sand and sea. Thanks to all who contributed many nuggets of useful information in the Forum page, and to those who have been emailing me about their experiences. Most resorts will begin to close from mid-October onwards, but there are some like Berjaya Beach Resort that remain open throughout the rainy season. Hopefully there will be more rain this year (last year's monsoon was relatively dry) else there might be a water shortage problem next year unless other solutions are in place to address the huge increase in water demand expected with the opening of new resorts next year.
Our hearts and sympathies go out to the families of the 2 Singaporeans who drowned recently while diving, one at Pulau Aur about 2 weeks ago, and in the latest incident which happened last Sunday, at Redang, a place that is close to our hearts. It is a sobering reminder that accidents can happen anytime, anywhere, even when conditions may appear fairly safe.
From what was reported in the latest incident (STI 26 Sep, STI 25 Sep), it was a leisure dive in about 15m of water, well within the 18m that NAUI & PADI basic divers are qualified to dive at, and her dive buddy was the divemaster himself, whom usually is one of the more experienced buddies a diver could ask for. Though no mention was made of sea conditions, visibility is usually fairly good and generally calm in Redang. A new diver, she qualified from Mako Sub-Aquatics only about a month ago - the same place I got my NAUI Basic & Advanced training and I know these guys do things very professionally; I even had to get a proper medical checkup before they let me take up the course.
I do not wish to speculate on what might have gone wrong, nor who is to blame in the Redang incident. A life has been lost - that is tragic and sad. We should sit up and take note of what we can do to minimize the risks involved in diving. To me, this further reinforces the view that in whatever sport or leisure activity we engage in, we are ultimately responsible for our own safety and should take steps to minimize risks that are within our control. We are responsible for taking care of our own health & fitness, our level of training and preparation, the development of our skills and techniques, our choices and actions. Whilst diving is one of the safest recreational sports today, the inherent nature of diving does carry with it certain risks. The body is subjected to pressure which can affect the ear, sinus, respiratory and circulatory systems. Weather and sea conditions can change during a dive. There can be painful encounters with marine life (like getting stung by fire coral or bumping into urchins) that can trigger panic attacks. According to data from the US Marine Corps, 40% of fatal diving accidents resulted from medical complications that occurred while diving, while panic and exhaustion are the next most common causes, followed by equipment failure and environmental accidents.
If you are planning to become a certified diver, or if you have not dived for a long time, check out the safe diving tips in this website.
I'm back from Tenggol after a 3D/2N escapade. So did it live up to expectations? As a diver's island, definitely yes! As a family vacation spot and for snorkelling, not as attractive as Redang. You can read more details and see the photos in my Tenggol trip diary (also accessible from the 'Diary' link at the top of the page).
I prefer Redang as a family vacation spot - there are more things to do, the beaches are better and is a safer and friendlier place for snorkellers and children. But if you want plenty of peace and quiet away from crowds, Tenggol is a better place. And if you're a diver, what are you waiting for?... Go!
Some of you may have read recently in local newspapers about the PAS state government passing the bill for Islamic or Hudud Laws in Terengganu State and wonder how this will affect visitors to Redang. My information sources tell me that since the Federal Government has not approved this under federal constitution, the police will not enforce the hudud laws which currently apply only to Muslims. As for the bikini issue, there has been no formal word from the State tourism department, which will probably avoid making statements that might affect tourism, one of the main income sources for Terengganu. So bottom line for those of you seeking a better tan is that there is no bikini ban on Redang.
As part of the development of Terengganu State tourism, funds have been allocated for Merang to have a better jetty complete with toilet facilities. In addition, the East Coast Expressway from KL to Terengganu has also been approved at the federal level which should make driving to KT much easier for west coast dwellers. I'm not sure what the exact route is, but hopefully this will also cut short the journey from Singapore or Johor Bahru to KT.
Starting this year, the Marine Park Centre charges RM5 per admission, so if you visit twice, you'll have to pay twice (children pay half price). Last year, the RM5 was for multiple-entry within the duration of stay in Redang. With all this additional income collected, I hope the park authorities really put the money to good use in the preservation and conservation of the island.
The other day, I happened to visit Turf City, formerly the old Singapore Turf Club at Bukit Timah that is now a shopping centre. There was this place called Unique Seafood, a live seafood market, at the top level. Among the tanks of fish, lobsters, crabs, shellfish, eels, rays and other normal seafood, I was shocked to see one tank full of stonefish and another with a large moray eel! I didn't realize people eat stonefish and moray eels. It was sad to see a large moray in a tank that could hardly contain it, and it was almost as big as the one under the Redang Marine Park Centre jetty. It reminded me of the feeling I had when I saw large live Napolean wrasses in Hong Kong seafood restaurants, waiting to be served to rich customers. I do eat seafood, but I draw the line at what I consider exotic seafood, especially if the fishing of such seafood is cruel/inhumane or non-sustainable i.e. it reduces the numbers so much that the species become endangered. For that reason, I don't eat shark fins, sea turtles, whales, dolphins etc. and the list certainly includes moray eels and Napoleans, both of which can't be considered regular seafood. It will be a truly sad situation if one day Napolean wrasses and moray eels become rare encounters on coral reefs due to overfishing.
A quick update to my last writeup about Perhentian Ferry. My web visitor involved has confirmed that he had been cheated and does not have high hopes of recovering his money. His sources also tell him that Perhentian Ferry has closed down. So please avoid any dealings with anyone claiming to represent this company.
Sounds like a recent visitor to Redang described Pasir Panjang to be crowded with lots of construction going on, and I quote: "millions of dead flies and awful smell (suspect due to crab season)". Hmmm, I've encountered flies at Pasir Panjang, but not in the millions. Still, exaggeration or not, better a million dead flies than live ones! I guess I'll have to really lower my expectations of Pasir Panjang when I go there next month. Sigh, seems I've had to lower my expectations every year I return to Redang...
There's talk about this 'no-bikini' thing in Terengganu. Well, that's all it is at this moment - talk. The local PAS ruling party wants to impose this, but the federal government has not given their consent. If this came to pass, it might actually hurt the tourism industry in Terengganu since the islands are one of the key attractions. Anyway, with the weather being what it is now which is *real* hot, I don't think there'll be too many wanting to expose their skin - one can get burnt real fast! Of even greater concern is the effect that this warm weather spell will have on the coral reefs. We have seen corals getting bleached and dying from the El Nino of previous years - this year seems even hotter than before.
Some visitors have written to disagree with my comments about the beach at Berjaya Beach Resort in my Resorts section. Let me clarify this again - Berjaya Beach Resort has one of the nicest beaches in Redang - fine powdery white sand. It's just that there isn't much of a housereef off the beach - you'll have to swim quite far out and off to the sides to see them. Unlike Pasir Panjang, where the housereefs at Shark Bay, Redang Holiday and Redang Reef (including those at Teluk Mak Cantik at the rear of Redang Reef Resort) are easily accessible, being literally at your doorstep.
Last week I received a disturbing email from one of our web visitors concerning a booking he made with Perhentian Ferry Travel & Tours for one of the resorts at Redang. It sounds like whoever took his booking may have absconded with his money after giving him false confirmation because the booking was never made. I have not received any clarification since and cannot conclude whether this was a genuine case or simply a misunderstanding. So I decided to look up more information, and after careful consideration, I decided to highlight it here as a warning to potential customers. My intention is not to bad mouth anyone, and I wish to make it clear that the information below is based on what I've heard and does not represent the views from both sides. For those of you who might be more keenly aware of the facts surrounding this case, I'd appreciate if you can clarify them with me.
It seems that Perhentian Ferry is in some financial trouble. There is a notice on Perhentian Ferry's website advising their customers to book directly with the resorts at Perhentian, Redang or Lang Tengah: "(DO NOT book your reservation from travel agent at Kuala Besut as most of them are operating illegally and you could end up being cheated)". Apparently this was due to some friction between them and the local agents at Kuala Besut, and one can easily guess the effect this posting has had on these agents' businesses. To add to this, there may have been some trouble between them and some resorts, bad enough that one had to resort to legal action. Last I heard, the owner had gone missing, having sold his house and vanished along with the booking deposits from many customers. The Perhentian Ferry office in Kuala Besut is now closed.
Regardless of whether the above incidents are accurate, it is clear their website notice had been maliciously designed to tarnish the image of the local travel agents. In reality, there are probably good and bad agents, and I would strongly advise you to be careful when making your bookings whether it is through agents or through the resorts directly. If you are making any payments, please make sure they are addressed to the tour agency or resort, and not to some individual, and make sure you get an official receipt as acknowledgement - do not just rely on email.
So far, we have always booked our annual Redang trips through Ping Anchorage, and have found them to be reliable. They have been recognized by the Malaysian Tourism Industry, winning the Best Domestic Tour Operator and Best Tour Package awards in Malaysia 2001, and more recently, the Terengganu 2002 entrepeneur award (Tourism sector). One reason why we prefer to use a reliable tour agent instead of booking directly with the resorts is the value-added services they offer. In the case of Ping Anchorage, these include:
News has it that with the increasing popularity of Redang, many resorts have embarked on expansion plans. Berjaya is opening 100 more seaview rooms by next year and are apparently building an airstrip which will also be ready next year. This will make it similar to Berjaya Tioman Island which also has an airstrip. Redang Laguna will provide another 200 rooms when completed while Redang Beach Resort will add another 150 rooms, some of which will be ready in June 2002. The smaller resort operators are also adding 5-15 more rooms, while a brand new 150-room resort will begin construction next year over at Teluk Kalong.
The good news to all this is that hopefully it makes it easier to find rooms during peak season like the June school holidays, but the downside is that Redang might start to feel a little crowded. We already had a taste of that last year at the Marine park and other popular snorkelling sites. The bigger challenge will be finding ways to effectively protect the coral reefs and marine environment from the onslaught of such a great numbers of visitors.
I know, I know... it's long overdue, 9 months to be exact. Many of you have been writing to ask what's happened and I owe you an explanation. I've been real busy both at work and at home, and one thing just kept coming up after another. So, as priorities would have it, the hobbies tend to take a back seat (yes, I consider running this website a hobby - why else would I spend so much time researching the information here just to share it with everyone else on the web!).
The children started a new school year, one in Secondary 1, the other in Primary 4, and their co-curricular activities have kept us busy as parents. Over the last few months, I also took the opportunity to upgrade both my PCs (DIY of course), terminate my Singnet dialup (which explains why my Singnet email is no longer valid) and dived into SCV broadband (I really can get up to 1.5Mbps - that's just over 2 minutes for a 20MB download!), set up a broadband router & network... and then got hit by the dot.com fallout! Well, sort of. You see, with free webhosts not making enough money from pop-up banners and banner ads, they're now trying other ways to get people like us to upgrade to their paid plans. As a result, I've been slapped with a 500MB monthly traffic cap to redang.i8.com. This explains why the website goes down towards the end of each month, after this capacity has been reached. So in order to overcome this, I've done some serious restructuring of this site, to remove unnecessary pages and reduce the size. I've also set up a mirror site on Tripod.com that hopefully will share the load with 50megs.com. You'll still have to put up with banner & pop-up ads though, since as a non-profit site I don't intend to move up to paid hosting anytime soon. Anyone of you willing to host me for free without ads, I'll be most interested! :) To avoid all this trouble in future, please bookmark the redirector URL instead: http://redang.cjb.net. As this is a redirector, anytime one site becomes full, I just point the redirector to another of my mirror sites.
When this website was first started, there was an obvious lack of information on Redang available on the web. Now, 4 years later, there are a lot more sites about Redang sprouting up; and it's good to see that resorts at Redang have been keeping up with the times by launching their own sites. So I've decided to remove the individual resort pages and provided links instead to the resorts' own website if available.
More More Tea Inn is gone! Torn down. Well, hopefully temporarily. You see, the original one was in such a bad state that it's probably unsafe for visitors, so the new owners of that plot of land had it torn down and may rebuild a replica of it in future. What replaces More More Tea Inn will be a big new resort called Laguna Redang, which will be opening next year instead. There's probably a lot of construction going on right now at that part of Pasir Panjang.
New contact numbers for Redang Holiday: Redang Holiday has also expanded their resort. Apparently they've bought over part of the hillside behind and have built semi-detached and detached bungalows to accommodate a sizeable number of visitors. Please note that Redang Holiday has changed their contact numbers recently to: Tel: +609 6245500, Fax: +609 6245511.