With its nearby waters teeming with marine life and a picturesque setting, Rawa Island Resort captivates Loong Wai Ting
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‘HERE we are!’ the captain of our boat shouts over the loud, drowning noise of the engine. We crane our necks to see the view in front of us. A collective “wow” can be heard as our boat slowly drifts towards the moorings on a wooden boardwalk that serves as the entry and exit point of Pulau Rawa. Our final destination? Rawa Island Resort.
With our overnight bags slug over our shoulders, we disembark from the boat and join the other guests who have just arrived.
At the end of our shortwalk, a friendly worker serves us welcome drinks.
Colourful chairs dot the side of the boardwalk, offering a place to enjoy the sunset.
A tall structure looms before us. Walking nearer, we see people queuing to get up the structure. As it turns out, it houses two water slides that drop straight into the sea.
On the edge of the boardwalk, I look downward into the sea. Thousands of whitebait fish swim in the warm waters and underneath the slides. The late afternoon sun is shining down and the fish seem to look for shelter under the boardwalk. Green and blue-coloured needlefish swim among the corals, occasionally coming up to the surface for air. Ahh, I can’t wait to get into the water.
DAZZLING MARINE LIFE
After getting my snorkelling gear from the water sports counter (you can rent the gear at RM9 per hour; a life jacket is not inclusive but you can rent it for a fee), I am ready to take a dip in the water.
I am surprised by the friendly fish that nibble at my feet. It’s almost like a fish spa. Some oft he bigger fish even come close to my face mask, as if to say hello.
When the sun shines bright, the rays reach the seafloor where corals bask in their glory.
The shallow water during lowtide also makes a good snorkelling experience. As the waters are calmer during this time, I get to swim near the corals and be among the fishes.
The reef-sheltered water and dazzling marine life prove too alluring to pass up, even for a novice swimmer. The island is teeming with marine life and families with small children will appreciate the underwater scenery.
Refraining from making sudden, big movements, I swim towards the fish. Some are harder to approach like the Sergeant Major. The palm sized colourful damselfish earns its name due to the bright stripe on its sides, reminiscent of the insignia of a Sergeant Major.
A shoal of Yellowstripe Scad swims by. It’s a surreal experience as the fish swim up close to me in large numbers. Their silvery backs glisten in the water and the yellow stripe runs from the back of the head, stopping short before reaching the tail. It looks almost like the fish is wearing a scarf.
Occasionally, Blacktip shark, stingray and turtle are also spotted.
As the island is located within the Sultan Iskandar Marine Park, fishing, jet-skiing and littering are strictly prohibited on the island.
Guests should also refrain from picking up any marine life, whether alive or dead, in the sea and on the beach.
A tourist, oblivious to the rules despite them being displayed everywhere on the island, throws bread crumbs into the sea. It attracts hungry fish nearby. A worker walks briskly over and tells the tourist not to feed the fish as it will disrupt the ecosystem and marine life.
Some of the fish feed on algae and plankton. By feeding the fishes foreign food, it will disrupt the marine ecosystem, thus destroying the sea.
A dive centre is located in the furthest corner of the resort. Orca Scuba offers a variety of Padi-certified courses which can be tailor-made to a range of qualifications and difficulties. For the more adventurous, try night diving.
UP ON A HILL
After a restful sleep, I wake up to a high pitch noise outside my unit on the hillside. The noise comes from a colony of bats hanging upside down on tall trees in front of my unit.
I guess for the next couple of days, this noise will be my alarm clock.
After a quick wash, I walk to the only dining area in the resort for breakfast at CafeRawa.
A hearty breakfast later, I’m all set for my hike up to the highest point of the island, named after the white doves found in abundance here. Rawa is local term for doves.
Multiple signages point to the hiking trail.
Just follow the signs and they will bring you up to the top of the island. The hike is quite easy, although some parts may require good stamina.
Large stone steps have been carefully put in for the convenience of visitors. I make the mistake of wearing a pair of slippers as I thought the path up the small hill will require nothing more than just stamina. So, remember to wear hiking shoes, if you’re planning to hike up this hill.
It takes 15 to 20 minutes of hiking to reach the summit. Tiring, yes, but all that is quickly forgotten as we’re greeted with the most spectacular view of the entire island.
Blue waters slam on to rocky walls below, creating white froth that looks like cotton candy from above. Flowering bushes are everywhere, brilliantly framed by the bluesky.
The South China Sea lays before us and the view stretches as far as the eyes can see. Calm waters glitter in the late morning sun. Towards the horizon, the silhouette of Pulau Tioman can be seen.
If I knew the view would be this amazing, I would’ve packed coffee, sandwiches and a good book, and spent my morning here.
SLICE OF PARADISE
From my two-bedroom unit, the beach is mere steps away. That’s how close it is to the divine water. My room is basic: an attached bathand toilet; table and chairs on the verandah; and rack for bags.
Drinking water is provided in a clear jug but if you want more, you can always bring your own bottle and fill it up at the cafe.
As all the rooms in the resort come with air-conditioning, I don’t have to worry about sleeping in the stifling heat.
There is no convenience store on the island but the cafe makes up for it with its snacks and soft drinks.
Our meals are provided throughout our stay. Themenu differs every day and at every meal. All of the dishes are prepared fresh, using the best locally-sourced ingredients sent daily to the island via a boat from the mainland. On weekends, you can enjoy fresh seafood barbecue.
The best time to visit the island is on weekdays as there are fewer crowds. On weekends, expatriates in Singapore arrive in droves to rejuvenate.
I lay on a hammock by the beach everyday with a good book.
In the morning, I explore the other side of the resort, with a rocky path. Daisy, the friendly Beagle, tags along on my walk. And I know, I will long to feel the warm sands between my toes and bathe in pristine waters when I’m home.
HOW TO GET THERE
SULTAN Iskandar Marine Park is located off the coast of Mersing in Johor. It comprises 13 islands, all of them in six clusters namely Pulau Tinggi, Pulau Aur, Pulau Pemanggil, Pulau Besar, Pulau Sibu and Pulau Rawa. The marine park is surrounded by hillforest structure, mangrove and beachside forest.
Pulau Rawa is accessible by bus (RM36.80 per journey) from Kuala Lumpur’s Terminal Bersepadu Selatan. Get down at Tanjung Gemok jetty near Mersing, and take a taxi to Rawa Island Resort reception office on Jalan Abu Bakar. The taxi ride takes 10 minutes and costs RM10.
Alternatively, you can drive and park at the office, where parking charges apply. Those coming in from Senai Airport can arrange for a car or taxi to get to the office. The journey from the airport to the office takes 2½ hours. From the jetty, it’s a 20-minute boat ride to the island.
RAWA ISLAND RESORT
WHERE Tourist Centre, Jalan Abu Bakar, Mersing, Johor
TEL 07-799 1204/1205
EMAIL [email protected]
STAY There are 77 rooms, four types: Hillside, Waterfront, Beachfront and Frangipani
EAT Its sole F&B outlet, Cafe Rawa serves breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet-style. Guests are welcome to relax in the cafe at any time.
DO Water activities from diving and snorkelling to kayaking. Or relax on the beach
GO Hike up the hill on the island dnd enjoy a picturesque view of South China Sea. Wear proper shoes and bring a camera
HIGHS Clean and beautiful beach. Plenty of lounge chairs to relax on
LOWS Limited bathroom amenities