This past long weekend, I leveraged on me being based in Kuala Lumpur for the summer, and decided to spend an extended stay on Redang Island, off the coast of Eastern Malaysia.
What is Redang island?
I feel like Redang island is the lesser-known sister to Tioman, Sipadang, or even Perhentian. The similarities is that they’re all on the Eastern coast of Malaysia (away from the Straits of Malacca, where the sea is unfortunately too polluted for your instagram feed without some serious filtering), and all seem to have an abundance in unaffordable three-star beach-shacks. But what it lacks in reasonably priced in accommodations, it makes up for in beautiful diving/snorkeling conditions, white sandy beaches, and nightly live music. Only down-side was that the Chinese tourists seemed to have discovered the island, so be prepared for Chinese karaoke at at least 50% of the bars there. Better brush up on your Tong Hua.
Why Redang, and not Perhentian or Tioman?
So all things considered, I chose Redang because logistically, it coincided with where I needed to go for work (for reals). Also, by the time I booked, it was the week before, and that weekend fell on a long weekend. Being the middle class traveler that I was, I also based my choice on the availability of accommodations. When you get an island with limited hotels and shacks on a long weekend, it is actually quite possible to have nothing show up during a search on bookings.com except for some dude’s backyard tent (at an affordable USD10/night).
How to get there?
All three are a nightmare to get, and typically includes a flight (or two), a taxi, and a ferry. I think if you were trying to go to any of these islands from Singapore, Tioman Island makes the most sense because it’s only 2.5 hour drive.
For Redang island, your journey starts with a one-hour local flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Terengganu.
Then you will need to order a car/GRAB to take you to one of the two ferry terminals/jetty.
- If you are more of an efficient traveler and don’t mind bouncing around in waves for 45 min speedboat, take a 30 min car rid to Merang Jetty.
- If you are travelling with children or elders, or if you prefer comfort and have no better places to be rather than a comfortable 1hr30 ferry, then hail a ride to the shahbandar Jetty.*
*note that if you ordered a package from any of the resorts, they’ll likely take care of the ferry tickets for you and most of them depart from shahbandar jetty. However, they’re usually okay with you say you want to find your own way there, and refund you the difference. I personally bought my jetty tickets off of Klook, but it required some fumbling to figure out which jetty it departed from.
What’s there to do?
The most obvious things to do are water sports, such as snorkeling and diving. I think both are superb as conditions are good and visibility is high. There aren’t a lot of special creatures to see but I personally think it would be a great place to get scuba certified. Many of the resorts also offer night snorkeling and night-dives (for those looking to do something special for their advanced PADI certification).
One thing that all the resorts do, though, is sell fish food. This is obviously how people get all the fishes to come out and play, but some may find it disturbing to nature. I find it quite contradictory for resorts to post signs detailing why it’s not good to feed the fish, and then sell fish food at the convenience stores. In any case, I think that even without buying the stale bread, you’ll see enough fishes to feel like the little mermaid.
Where to stay?
I cannot stress enough to plan your trip as early as possible because good accommodations will run out.
From my scoping out of the island, you can ball out hardcore and stay at the Taaras for a whopping USD350/night. If you enjoy normal Western style amenities, I think the Laguna is really your best bet, hovering around USD160/night. Else, you can go for any of the beachfront resorts located along Long Beach. If you want a nice atmosphere, I strongly suggest you find something along Long Beach, as there are plenty of food options, bars and live music (including Summer Point and Luna) to check out at night. You can also do snorkeling right at one of the coves on Long Beach, and I saw baby sharks when I did my own impromptu snorkel trip.
(I would avoid the Redang Bay resort as they have a nightly singer who sounds like she’s trying karaoke for the same time.)
For two of my nights there, I stayed at Redang island resort, which is owned by the same group as Taaras. However, it is perched on a mountaintop, and while it had a great view of the beaches, it had no beach of its own. I think the resort could’ve revamped itself to be a silent retreat or something, since it is so quiet anyways.
Room and Board Packages?
Most hotels also sell a 3D2N package with full room and board. They usually do a snorkeling 3D2N package or diving 3D2N package. In my fervor, I booked 2 separate 3D2N packages (because why do one when you can do two), both for snorkeling. If you have the option to pick snorkeling, I strongly recommend the 4-stop snorkel trip. The one I did with Redang Beach resort was only two-stop, and over-crowded. The snorkel trip I did with Redang island resort was amazing and I cannot recommend it enough.