Malaysia_Redang

Pulau Redang Marine Park, Malaysia

IN BRIEF :

Redang is a Marine Park protectorate off the North East coast of peninsular Malaysia. In addition to the main island, there also are a few other small islands nearby.

Redang is famous for diving and snorkelling. There are some nice snorkelling sites, with great coral, but you have to know where to find the good stuff, as the average isn’t all that great. Taken overall, about half of the coral is dead, mostly caused by choking from algae growth.

When I visited (October 2012), the highlights were lots of reef sharks, a few turtles and a few spots of lovely coral.  (Scared about sharks? – read this).

There was a reasonable population of coloured reef fish, but it seemed like there were fewer (population and species) than on other East-coast Malaysian islands.

Redang has a handful of places with off-the-beach snorkelling, but most places can only be reached by boat.

Tourism in Redang has been scientifically commercialised and targeted at mid/high-end package-tourists. It is near-impossible to go anywhere  independent of resort facilities & pre-scheduled resort tours. You go where the resort boat is going.

Overall, Redang is a beautiful island and is probably great for people buying their annual package-tour beach vacation – everything is programmed, sanitised and comfortable.  Personally, I hated the high-prices and the package-tour lifestyle.   But that’s just me. There is, without doubt, some good snorkelling and diving to be had.

If you are a budget, independent-traveller type, looking for off-the-beach snorkelling (which is kinda the ethos of this site), Redang is nice, but you could safely skip it and go straight to the Perhentians or Kapas for about the same thing at half the price.

Best-ish seascape:

Typical seascape:

All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions.

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IN NOT-SO-BRIEF:


All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions.

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Trials and tribulations:

My expectations of Redang were high.  Perhaps it was the marketing hype; or the fact that it had been on my ‘to do list’ since 1997; or the fact that I had already had four abortive attempts to come this year. I don’t know.

It was the last week of September (i.e. towards the end of the season) before I made-it here. Despite weather reports showing glorious weather, when I reached Kuala Terangganu, the skies were overcast and it was drizzling with rain.

3 Day/  2 Night packages are the main way of seeing Redang.  My investigations had shown it was the same price for a 3D/2N package as for a single night! So 3D/2N it was.  This “three day” package arrives on the island about lunchtime on the first day and leaves at 7am on the third day.  So your three days is really just a day and a half.  Which doesn’t leave much time for the bad-weather to blow-over.

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As soon as I arrived on Redang, I jumped into the sea at one of the popular off-the-beach snorkelling spots.  This is what I saw.

Underwater visibility was about 3 metres. Wow, what a trip this was going to be  :(

Every article I see about Pulau Redang talks about the crystal clear water. Crystal clear like this ?

Looks pretty clear, doesn’t it?  But it’s easy to be crystal clear if you’re only looking through one metre of water.  Underwater visibility here was less than three metres, which makes for some pretty disappointing snorkelling.  Beware glossy-looking surface pictures!

On the first of the scheduled boat trips, I discovered that away from the beaches, the underwater visibility was better.  It was still only about 6 metres, but at least it wasn’t a total washout.

The next day, the underwater visibility was a little better (4m near the sand, upto 8m out at sea).   This was still less than spectacular, but at least it was par for the course (8 metres is pretty standard on the East side, IME).

Out of my one-and-a-half day trip, the first day was overcast and mostly raining and the second day was overcast.  Naturally, on the morning that I was due to leave, the skies had cleared and there was glorious sunshine. The grey, mucky beaches had Disneyized themselves into beautiful, clean white sand and everyone was smiling and skipping around joyfully.  Mudda, fader kindly disregard this letter.


What a difference a day makes

What else was there to do?  I booked an extra day to experience Redang the way it is supposed to be.

Underwater visibility hadn’t improved, but lowish-viz + bright sunlight is waaay better than lowish-viz + dark skies.

I wouldn’t normally burden you with these trials and tribulations, but you should know that if I sound like I’m on a downer with Redang, then some of it is because of the weather and the viz. Perhaps in August you get 100 mile visibility, I don’t know; but in September/October, you can probably expect problems with the viz and the jellyfish.

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The jellyfish?   Didn’t I mentioned the jellyfish ?

There were thousands of them, mostly coming in from the East in the mornings.

To be fair, these ones are pretty innocuous:

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But this list – less so.

These ones will make you sting and glow red for about a week:

(they are about 4 cm long)


(about 3 cm across the bell)


(~1 cm across)


(~10 cm across)

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And these monsters are about 50 cm across the bell, with tentacles 4m long. The local boatmen said it would be a very bad idea to get stung by one of these.

The jellyfish mostly seemed to disappear by lunchtime– presumably eaten by  damselfish.  I did find a few cowering in the corner one evening.

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I guess that the jellyfish are a seasonal thing.  I have read that they show up around September, with a change of ocean currents.  Most reports about Redang don’t mention them. I guess that most people go in peak season, around August.  I can’t shed much light on that, I’m afraid, but it might be wise to pack a long-sleeved t-shirt, just in case.

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Common fish species :

Feeding the fish is a common tourist pass-time in Redang, which means that there are dozens of feisty sergeant-major damselfish at the most popular tourist spots, waiting for an easy meal. Moon wrasse like to get in on the act, too:

For your mid-sized colourful reef fish, you have plenty of parrotfish:

There are also gold saddle rabbitfish; some foxfaced rabbitfish; and the usual selection of nemos and needlefish:

Common reef fish in Redang. Mouseover for names; see the specieslist for more info.

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In about 20 hours of snorkelling, some of the more interesting species spotted include: heaps of blacktip reef sharks; about 15 bumphead parrotfish, lots of silver-batfish/diamondfish/spadefish;  ~10 blue ringed angelfish; ~5 hawksbill turtles; ~5 titan triggerfish; 3 birdwrasse; a few juvenile batfish; two stingrays; a couple of juvenile yellow boxfish; one blue spotted boxfish; two small squid; two marbled groupers; one yellow margin triggerfish; one giant barracuda; one giant moray eel.
(pictures in-line, below)

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I was surprised to only see (literally) one-or-two of these:

black-eyed rabbitfish ; orangespine unicornfish; nudibranch; redbreasted-wrasse;  beaked butterflyfish; trevally; vermiculated-angelfish; filefish; yellow-striped surgeonfish; cardinalfish; bannerfish

..it was nice to see them, but based on my previous experience in Eastern peninsular Malaysia, I would have expected to see five times these numbers.

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Notable by their complete absence were: cephalopods; adult-batfish; midsize wrasse (blackedge thicklip, slingjaw, etc.); small butterflyfish (blackcap; racoon; eastern-triangular; chevroned; redfin, etc),

Of course, you can’t instruct the wildlife to show up when you want it to, but as Redang is marketed as one of the best dive/snorkelling sites in Malaysia, I would have thought there would be at least the same incidence of species as there are on nearby islands.  Oh, well.

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One fun experience was being adopted by a group of these cute little fellas. I think they are baby Jacks:

They usually hide in the tentacles of jellyfish (presumably for protection). A couple of times, a shoal of about 30 of them decided I was going to be their host for a while, so a big cloud of them milled underneath me for about ten minutes.

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I was also interested to see these two types of parrotfish that I hadn’t seen before.

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Corals:

There is a good diversity of coral species around Redang. Some are in great condition, some are not.  Maps at some resorts and diveshops show the loction of  all the reef around the island.  I swam out to a few spots to see what a random, “average” bit of reef looked like, and found that over half of it  was dead – choked by algae.
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There is much more info on the condition of corals in the detailed “area” sections, below.

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Big map again

Areas explored:

Redang is a fairly big island with very few roads/tracks and no public transport. It’s difficult to get around. Generally, people are dropped-off at their resort and, apart from on the resorts’ proscribed trips, they stay in the same place the whole time.

In this report, I cover those parts of Redang that I was taken to in my four resort trips, plus places within walking/swimming distance of my resort.  At the bottom of this page, there are some links, including one describing snorkelling sites that I didn’t get to. There are also links to maps which identify more snorkelling sites.

I stayed in Redang Bay Resort, which is the middle of the main beach, Pasir Panjang (“Long Beach”).  Most of the accommodation is around here.

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This aerial photograph is of Pasir Panjang (Long Beach), taken from the South. If you click to expand it, you can see markings which show the places mentioned in the text, below.


Other maps down the page

Key:
Pulau is island; Teluk is bay; Pasir is beach; Tanjung (Tg) is cape

Alright, here we go with the details…

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Area 2/map 2 – Off North Pasir Panjang (Long Beach).  

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If you’re in a hurry reading this, you can afford to skip this section and move straight on to Area 3, below.
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Most maps that I found show the Northern end of the main beach (just North-East of Redang Holiday Resort) as having coral. Some maps even show it as being worthy of a little ‘snorkelling’ icon.  I came here on day 3. I had already covered most of the ‘main’ snorkelling spots, so I decided to go and check-out this ‘tier-2′  site.  Once out there, I got all adventurous and swam out to the two neighbouring islands to have a look at those, too.

Access to the water is easy at point 2A (see the map)  – there is a soft sandy beach outside Redang Holiday Resort – just wade-in and swim round to the left.  The ‘reef’ starts after about 50 metres.  Unfortunately, the reef here is not too impressive.  There is quite a diversity of coral, but it is not in good condition. Large amounts have been choked by dark green algae.

Typical scenes at area 2B

There were also some Crown of Thorns starfish chowing-down on the coral :

There were a few nice patches…

…but they were definitely in the minority.

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If the coral here wasn’t up to scratch, the location made-up for it a bit. It was a good patch for some lesser-spotted wildlife.  A hawksbill turtle cruised round for a while; so did a decent-sized shark (scared about sharks? Read this). I also saw a blue ringed angelfish and a couple of orange spine unicorn fish, (the only ones I saw on Redang).

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I snorkelled maybe 300m North along the coast, but soon ran out of interest with the leaden coral there, so decided to hop across to the island Pulau Paku Besar (?”Big Spike Island” ?), ~300m to the East.

Swimming out into open water isn’t the done thing in Redang, (or in Malaysia generally). Obviously, the idea is to stop swimmers being run over by boats, so you can sorta understand it.  But I am a believer in pragmatism, freedom and personal responsibility.  I’m quite capable of avoiding getting run over by a boat and if it happens, then I’ll take responsibility for it.  On a quiet, end-of-season mid Wednesday morning, there were only two boats in sight – way, way out on the horizon, but that didn’t stop them both driving 2 km out of their way to tell me what a horrendous danger I was being. I wonder if they also tell the turtles not to swim there.

Anyway, rant over.  My point is that, in busier times, it probably IS dangerous to swim out into open water to get to these outlying islands. So I’m not suggesting that you do it.  I guess you can kayak out here if you want to take a look.

The channel from the main island to Pulau Paku Besar was a boring, ten-minute swim across flat sandy bottom at about 8-10m.  There was only this shoal of Yellowtail-Fusiliers to wave to on the way.

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Arriving at Pulau Paku Besar, there was a good-sized patch of soft corals on the south west corner at 2C:

Swimming from 2C towards 2D, there was a range of very good coral – good health, good diversity.

Turning left at 2D, there was a very strong current that I could barely swim against, I hugged-in close to the rocks of the coast, (and inadvertently scared off a turtle who had had the same idea).  Being there, in-tight to the rock, I did see some firecoral, which you don’t see much of in Malaysia.

I had planned to swim all the way around the island, but the current was too strong, so I stopped at 2E and headed South towards Pulau Paku Kecil (“Little Spike Island “?).

The channel (2D to 2F), seemed quite a long swim. Halfway across I met this big beastie.  About half a metre across the bell and with tentacles 4 metres long:

The staff on the island say that these are super-sting-y and you should avoid them at all costs.  Well, at least at that size you cant miss seeing them!

I had been out to Pulau Paku Kecil the night before. It looked pretty nice at point 2L, but it was almost dark so I didn’t get to check the rest out.  Today, I arrived at point 2F.

The West coast is boring and rocky.

There was a strong current running from 2G to 2H, so I didn’t check out the entire West coast, but it doesn’t look very special that side.

But the South side is really pretty. It was a real slog getting through the current around the cape at 2H, but here’s a couple of shots around 2J and 2K:

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Area 2L was also gorgeous:
   

There is a small patch of beautiful purple soft coral around 2L:

The previous night, I had seen some blue ringed angelfish, moorish idols and a titan triggerfish frolicking around there, (but the light wasn’t conducive to photography)

From Area 2L, the swim back to Redang island involves crossing the main boat lane. There is quite heavy traffic here – it’s probably a bad idea to swim this bit.  Use a kayak instead. There was a mooring buoy at 2L, so you can tie up your kayak there. when snorkelling from kayaks, check the currents as soon as possible, so you don’t get swept away from it while underwater.

On the other side of the boat lane is the tip of Tanjung Tangah – a popular snorkelling spot with easy-access from the main beach. More details in section 3, below.

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Area 3 – Tanjung Tangah  (Middle Cape)


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In the middle of the main beach is a small island which has become joined to the beach by a cuspate spit. It is the centre-point for most tourist-brochure photos of Redang.

Although it is well-and-truly attached to the landmass of Pulau Redang, many maps still show it as being an island. I haven’t seen anywhere showing a name for the island, but the map at the Marine Park Headquarters calls it ‘Tanjung Tangah’ (Middle cape), so lets go with that.


This is Pulau Paku Kecil and North Tanjung Tangah, taken from Redang Bay Resort.    Pulau Paku Kecil is on the left.  You are looking at its rocky NW side (Areas 2G; 2H; 2J).  On the right of the picture is Tanjung Tangah, (Areas 3A 3B 3C), note the swim-zone buoys give plenty of room for exploration.  Way out in the distance is Pulau Lima. Too far to swim!

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On the North side of Tanjung Tangah  (on the left, looking from the beach) there is some interesting coral in pretty good condition about 40-100m away from the beach. I also saw a good selection of interesting fishies out there.

On the South side is a patch where baby reef sharks cruise. Further from the shore on the South side, there is a large garden of attractive green and brown staghorn coral.

The whole cape is roped-off from boat traffic.

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Starting on the North side, then.  At point 3A, entry is into the water is easy – just walk down the gently sloping sandy beach. In the shallows here, you will be swamped by sergeant major damselfish who are used to being fed scraps of bread.

As you get into 2 or 3 metres of water, you start to see the occasional big chunk of brown hump coral.  When I was here, the underwater visibility near the beach was appalling – you could only make out the silhouettes of the coral formations in the murk, but at least they looked like they had a bit of character. A couple of days later, the visibility had improved a little – enough to take some close-up snaps.  The coral around area 3A isn’t spectacular, but it’s not too bad either.  Fish-wise, you’re really talking just sergeant-major territory, plus maybe a few moon-wrasse and gold-saddle & foxface rabbitfish:

As you head further away from the beach, the water gets a bit clearer and the quality and diversity of the corals increase.  Starting about 40m out from the beach (Area 3B) the coral is quite diverse and OK quality. There is a fair-bit of red table coral and some finger, lettuce, fire and brain corals:

Water depth around area 3B is around 7 metres. At ~60m offshore and in relatively deep water, this area is not great for kids or beginners. I guess it partly depends on the weather.  I’m told that this North side is more sheltered from the waves and wind than the South side, but it was calm when I visited.

Further out towards the tip of the cape (3C) I was happy to see some unusual fish life. Humphead parrotfish are huge and can grow up to 2m.  I went out here about 5 times and saw humphead parrotfish every time.  Including, once, a crowd of 6 of them!
 

This one looks like he has had an argument with a boat propeller :

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Other fun stuff I saw around here was a small squid who turned from this greeny-yellow spotted colour to pitch-black before jetting off.

A couple of juvenile batfish.

A single hawksbill turtle, scavenging around in the depths at around 8m

A pair of big marbled groupers (too murky for pictures).

And the occasional blue ringed angelfish.

The coral isn’t great around area C. The water is pretty deep and the rocks of the cape tend to dominate things.   There were a few strands of whip-coral dotted about.

These silver batfish /diamondfish/ spadefish  are sheltering behind the line anchoring the swim-zone markers to the bottom.  Who, other than silver batfish, can hide behind a piece of string?  Fashion models, maybe.

You can swim around the end of the cape and back into shore on the South side (in the direction 3F-3E-3D), but I guess most people probably come at the South side of the cape by starting on the beach and going 3D-3E-3F, so lets spirit ourselves back to the beach and do that.


Tanjung Tangah from the South

Entering the water to the South (right) of Tanjung Tangah, there are lots of big flat rocks on the sand.  It’s a hassle to walk through them, but if you go 30 metres to the right (South) there are fewer rocks, so it’s easier to walk in there and then swim back to the cape when you’ve got some depth.

The big appeal of Area 3D is that it is a nursery for baby black-tip reef sharks. (Some people call this area ‘Shark Bay’).  The sharks cruise around in 1-2 metres of water about 30 metres from the beach. Don’t worry about safety, black tips aren’t dangerous at the worst of times, but with these babbys at 60-80cm – even less so.

They are gorgeous:

Note how grey and broken-up the coral is here.  This isn’t a place to enjoy the beauty of the scenery.

Some folk have reported coming here and never seeing any sharks, but in October, I saw them every time  – probably the same four or five – cruising around constantly.

Occasionally a bigger one (~1.2m) would pass by for a look,

..but generally the bigger ones stayed in the deeper waters, towards the end of the cape.

Heading on out from the beach, there is an area halfway along the cape (at 3E) where there is a patch of more interesting and diverse coral.
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With these corals comes a decent range of coloured reef fish:

…plus these fish, already shown above: 1 2 3 4

….and the occasional shark..

Actually, apart from the Marine Park (Area 9), I would say that 3B was the best area for colourful reef fish.

I also saw a couple of the monster sting-y jellyfish there one morning.

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Starting about 60 m away from the beach (at 3F) and at 3 metres depth, there is a huge garden of green/brown stag coral. The coral is beautiful and the big field of it stretching as far as the eye can see is very attractive (although areas of single, fast-growing species aren’t great ecologically).

As you move out towards the tip of the cape, the water starts getting deeper. The staghorn coral is still going when the sea-bed gets to 10m deep and you can’t see it any more.

There are also the occasional spots of other coral species around here:

…plus the occasional bigger shark:

but mostly this area is all about the green staghorn-coral.

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When you’ve finished with Tanjung Tangah cape, you can walk Southwards down the southern half of the main beach (Pasir Panjang), and to the good snorkelling out the back of Redang Reef resort.

The long main beach itself is the busiest swimming beach on the island.  It looks like it’s all flat sandy bottom so I didn’t spend a lot of time here. The one time I did go in here, I met this yellow margin triggerfish.

The accepted wisdom with triggerfish is to not go near them as they can get territorial and aggressive when guarding their nests.  Personally, I have found that they usually scamper-off as soon as you get within 5 metres. This one was perfectly friendly and it made a nice change seeing a yellow margin, because you mostly just see the black and yellow Titan variety around these parts. “Yellow margin” refers to the yellow line on the edge of the fins.
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Area 4 – Around Redang Reef Resort

 

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It is reported that some of the best coral in Redang is around Redang Reef Resort. This is true (AFAIK), but there are two or three different areas that could answer to the description “around Redang Reef Resort”, so lets do a little orientation first.

The first contender is at the South end of the main beach (Pasir Panjang). There is a little sandy area at 4A where there are a few sting rays, underwater boulders and bread-hungry sergeant-major damselfish. Entering the water here is pretty easy, but there’s no coral at all.

For the next contender, you can walk along the long wooden bridge (4B) that leads to Redang Reef resort proper, or swim out from 4A.  There is a tiny beach at the front of the resort at 4C. It is easy to enter the water from this beach and it leads to some reasonably nice snorkelling round to the right, at 4D.

Beyond 4D is a long, rocky cape (that most maps don’t seem to show). The best snorkelling is around the other (South) side of that cape, in a little bay at the back of the resort. The cape is called Tanjung Mak Chantek (marked 4D to 4F on the map) and the little bay is called Teluk Mak Chantek (marked 4G to 4O). You can also get to the bay by taking a short walk through the resort (turn right after their dive shop), arriving on the beach at 4K.

The downside of Teluk Mak Chantek bay is that access to the water is almost impossible at low tide.  Save this one until its high tide.

Here are a couple more aerial pictures of the area 1 2 . (Due credit goes out to the image rights-owners).
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OK, Area 4 orientation over. In the interests of chronology, lets start in the North at point 4A and swim out around the headland first.

Like I say, it’s easy to get in the water at 4A.

There are plenty of sergeant majors about:

I saw a single blue spotted ribbon tailed stingray run-hide under a rock there. Can you see him ?

Want another game of find-the-stingray ?  This feathertail stingray was given away by his remoras/shark suckers. See him ?

here he is. . .

I have since read that area 4A is a known stingray hangout.

Swimming parallel to the rocks & wooden bridge towards the little the beach at 4C, you are in roped-off safety from boats and the coral is generally OK. I saw a nice patch of lettuce coral somewhere around there.

A little further out (level with Reef Resort’s bar and a little beyond it, at (4D) the coral is reasonably good, with lots of table coral, and some more patches of lettuce coral:
   

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You can continue on out towards areas 4E & 4F, but the coral fades out and mostly leaves boring rocks (also the area is no-longer roped-off from boats). Children or beginners might not be happy here.


jellyfish dweller

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Right out at the tip of the cape (4F), I saw some fun stuff like a juvenile black-spotted boxfish and a filefish chowing down on one of the monster jellyfish:

…and a Great Barracuda:

(It was massive – at least a meter and a half.  But a bit camera-shy).

At the tip of the cape, the water is about 10 metres deep.  As you go around the cape and into the bay Teluk Mak Chantek, there is plenty of coral on the bottom, but it is so deep that you can hardly see it.

Wanna play ‘Spot the turtle’ ?   Click here.

The wind was calm when I was there, but I’m told that the water can get pretty choppy out here.

Into Teluk Mak Chantek :
As most people approach the bay Teluk Mak Chantek from the small beach at the back of Redang Reef resort, let’s magic ourselves back to that beach (at point 4K) and start from there.

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Teluk Mak Chantek is a lovely little bay – the seabed is mostly covered in stag-horn coral, with patches of other coral species dotted around; I saw more sharks here than anywhere else and I saw a couple of hawksbill turtles on every visit.

There is no through-route for boat traffic and not many people seem to venture this far, so it’s pretty quiet. The downside (there’s always a downside!) is that it’s almost impossible to get in or out of the water at lower tides.  There are wide flat rocks in the shallows which are too slippery to step across and a real slalom to walk round. There are also tiny patches of live coral in the gaps between the rocks.  I suggest only coming here at high tides.


This is the beach (4K, on the map) at high & low tides.

The staghorn coral starts at around 3m depth, 10-30m offshore (it varies with the tide) and goes down to about 12 m depth at the mouth of the bay.

Heading out from the beach, after the slippery flat rocks, you will probably come across a bare patch of sand about 20m x 20m with a small clump of coral in the middle. It had a boat mooring buoy floating over it when I was there – presumably snorkelling and/or diveboats come visit here.  On either side of that sand patch, and deeper out into the bay is the staghorn coral.

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The sharks and turtles cruise around the coral, which makes a much prettier backdrop that the dead, grey stuff over at Tanjung Tangah (3D).

The bigger sharks tend to stay further out in the bay, cruising around the coral tops, which can be frustrating. The bottom is fairly deep here and low visibility often puts them out of visible range:

I saw (the same) two turtles every time I went to Teluk Mak Chantek  (one of them was easy to identify as she had lost a back flipper).  They were both pretty nervous of humans..

There’s a bit more coral diversity dotted around the bay:

I think it was over to the left, near area K where I saw these lettuce corals:

Out towards the end of the cape between 4G and 4H there is some character in the coral formations:
 

This is how things look over on the right hand side, by the rocks (4N –4O):

If you want to, you can swim round the southern headland to the next bay Teluk Bakau (more about this in the next section). But it starts to get pretty dull as you get further round the corner:

Teluk Mak Chantak does have a few patches of boring or dead coral (choked by algae), but there’s not much of it in this bay – mostly things here are in good condition.

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A few interesting species spotted in Teluk Mak Chantek:

Grey mullet; blue spotted boxfish.; initial phase bird wrasse; striped surgeonfish &  fox faced rabbitfish

When I visited, (first week of October) there were thousands of jellyfish that blew/washed in from the East. Unfortunately, this bay is the perfect shape to funnel them all into.  In the early morning, the water was absolutely full of them.  Most of them were harmless species, but there were also lots of the tiny, mostly invisible,  “make-you-red-for-a-week”  type and one or two of the huge “avoid-at-all-costs” type (photos at the top of this page).

If you find yourself stuck in the bay because of the low tide, your best exit-point is probably the rocks at 4J. Alternatively, you could make the swim North round the headland to the beaches at 4C or 4A. Personally,  I wouldn’t go in Teluk Mak Chantek without wearing something on my feet.

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If you are in a hurry reading this, you can afford to skip forward to Area 9.
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Area 5 – Teluk Bakau (Mangrove Bay)


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Aerial pic again

Telek Bakau (Mangrove Bay) is the next bay South.

Maps at resorts and dive shops show many places around Redang with large expanses of coral, but which aren’t specifically marked as snorkelling spots. This was one of them. I wanted to check out the snorkelling, to get some idea about what this meant.

You can get to Telek Bakau by walking along the 300m paved road at the back of Laguna Resort. Or you could get to it by swimming South around the headland from Teluk Mak Chantek (go from 4N to to 4O, then continue South/West).

Telek Bakau has a long beach, but it’s not an attractive one

The main function of the bay seems to be to house the jetty for the massive Redang Laguna Resort. There were huge, luxury, resort-owned ferries parked-up there and lots of supply boats and daytrip speedboats coming and going from the jetty.

They were all using a narrow ‘shipping lane’ that bisects the bay. You would have to swim across it if you were going to snorkel all points in this bay.  I seriously advise not swimming across this boat-lane – the bay is far from the usual tourist-swimmer territory, so the boat drivers go at a fast pace and won’t be looking out for you.

That means if you wanted to see what was North of the boat lane, you should get to it by swimming round from Teluk Mak Chantek in the North.  If you want to see the South side, you should walk to the bay and enter the water to the South of the jetty and the boat lane.

I walked to the bay and entered the water South of the boat lane. Everyone looked at me like I was nuts.  They must not get many snorkellers there.  Why ? Well because the snorkelling there wasn’t very good.  I hugged the South side of the boat lane (which is marked by a rope strung with white buoys).  The first 100m off the beach was waking through shallow muddy water, over and around lots of rocks (footwear required).

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Once I got to swimming depth (area 5B), there was a little coral – mostly dead – swamped by the dark green algae that you see in patches elsewhere.  The algae was widespread and pretty shallow, so at least it gave me a change to get a good look at it, and how it grew on the coral (all around each polyp).

Heading further out into the bay (5C), patches of red table coral started to appear.

There was a patch of “proper” looking coral at 5D just under a big, square orange buoy near the mouth of the bay.  The coral was pretty decent actually, but there wasn’t very much of it.

- – -

I changed direction here and (unadvisedly) swam across the boat lane – back North towards Teluk Mak Chantek.

The only reason I am even mentioning Section 5 is that this area (5E) was a great location for sharks.  There were four or five small-medium ones cruising around the shallows just North of the shipping lane. The water was only a metre or two deep and the dark green curtain of algae made a great photographic backdrop for the sharks:

North Telek Bakau could be the best area for shark-spotting at Redang. At Tanjung Tangah (3E), you’ve got light grey-skinned sharks against grey rock/dead-coral in low-visibility, sandy waters; at Teluk Mak Chantek (4G-4O), you’ve got lovely coral as a backdrop, but the sharks are often at 5-10 metres depth, so you can’t see them very well; but here at Telek Bakau (5E) you’re up-close to them in shallow waters with a well-contrasting background and relatively clear waters.  If you want a good look at sharks, then this area is worth checking out.  But approach it from Teluk Mak Chantek in the North, not from Telek Bakau in the South, so you avoid the boat lane.

If you’re not into sharks or you’ve already had your fill of them, then there’s no reason to come here.  Oh, I did see a squid and a porcupinefish:

- – -
Area 6   – Pasir teluk kalong kechil

Big map again

You can walk around the back of Telek Bakau to the next bay South – a long, sweeping, sandy beach called Pasir teluk kalong kechil  (err, “small bat bay” ?)

My resort took us here on one of its snorkel boat trips. We swam on the reef at a point about 100m offshore; towards the Southern end of the beach. You could easily swim to it from the beach.

Strewth, it was awful.  Just algae-choked coral as far as you could see.  What a shame. I wonder what it was like when it was alive.

To be fair, there were 2 clams and a nemo there, as well:

Most of the guests on the boat were merrily throwing bread to sergeant-major damselfish and wouldn’t have noticed if we were on Mars.
.

I had originally planned to swim the whole East coast on the way back from the marine park (but the boat driver had wet his knickers and wouldn’t let me off the boat).  If this stretch is representative of the main East coast, I’m glad I didn’t do it.

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Area 7 – Pulau Ekor Tebu 

(Main map again)

Another boat-trip laid on by the resort was to this smallish rocky island a few km to the South East of Pulau Redang.

There were some waves breaking over shallow rocks towards the Northern half of the island, so they dropped us off near the South West corner.

There is a big patch of boringness around 7A, but there is about 100x40m of gorgeous, diverse coral around 7B.  I would have to say that this is the best coral that I saw in Redang.

Area 7A:

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Area 7B:

I also saw a green bird-wrasse here, flying around with his big wings and schnozzle:

On the South West corner of this island, there was a strip of beach that links the West and the South coasts. It’s pretty cute at about 20m long.   The South side of the island (7C) was OK, but not as spectacular as 7B.

I didn’t stray too far, for fear of missing the boat back.

.
– – -

Area 8 

(main map again)

I didn’t go here – I’m just including it on the map, because most of the maps at the resorts showed it as a snorkelling spot.

- – -

Area 9 – The reef outside the Marine Park Headquarters on Pulau Pinang

Here is the Marine Park’s map, flipped upside down so that North is at the top and things are the same way round as-if you were standing on the beach:

(main map)
All Pulau Pinang map

This area seems to be the main draw for mass tourism on Redang, if you take any package deal at Redang, you will be brought here at least once.

The resort boats drop you at the end of the pier , then you walk along the pier to  the beach to start your snorkelling.  Kudos to Tezza for pointing out that the good stuff is at the West end of the beach (the left hand end as you look at it from the beach).

I headed out towards the far left end of the roped-off area, initially with high expectations; and then with a growing sense of dread as I saw that the corals around area 9A were rather unimpressive:

Having hit the far (West) corner of the roped-off area and turned back to start my sweep Eastwards, I was relieved to find the coral quality picked up a lot.  The best area in the roped-off zoned seems to be this 40m x 30m patch between 9B and 9C.  The water is about 3-6 metres depth around here. You’ve gotta say that this is pretty good:

There were several species of fish here that I didn’t see anywhere else in Redang. Notably, and pictured above:

Vermiculated Angelfish – Chaetodontoplus mesoleucus
Eight Banded Butterflyfish-Chaetodon octofasciatus
Juvenile Black Damsel-Neoglyphidodon melas
Blackeye Rabbitfish-Signus-puelloides
Spotgill Cardinalfish-Apogon  chrysopomus

(see the specieslist for decent pictures of each)

Apparently there’s a moray eel that lives around here, too.

.

Continuing eastwards near the grey, plastic pontoon (9D), the coral quality is rather patchy – varying from ‘totally crap’ to ’OK’ to ‘pretty good’ in the same 40x40m patch of seabed.

.

Heading on East from the pontoon to the Jetty (9D to 9E) in the slightly deeper waters around 3m there is also a lot of nice coral :

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Unfortunately, the shallower areas around here are the territory of fish-feeders and coral-stompers:

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I’m a po-faced environmentalist when it comes to fish-feeding.  At the very least, it distorts the natural distribution of fish species, which in turn, can lead to the death of corals and other fauna.  Here, read this.  I’m not necessarily saying that in Redang there’s a direct causal link between fish feeding and corals choked by green algae, but there sure is a lot of both going on.  And, hey, as long as the resorts can make a buck by selling tourists photos of themselves feeding bread to the fish, that’s what counts, eh? When even the official Tourism Malaysia literature says “..visitors should not miss the opportunities to snorkel and hand feed the beautiful fish in the Marine Park”, you know you’re fighting an uphill battle.  And don’t worry consumers – I’ll go round after you and pick up all the empty bread bags & bottles that you drop on the reef.  Sheesh.

.

The East side of the jetty (9F to 9G) was a total washout.  As far as I could tell, all the coral had been trampled to death.

.

I didn’t try the area between the Eastern pontoon and the ‘shipwreck’, because the boat driver was starting to tap his watch and rev his engine.

.

I did have a look at the Eastern beach.  I had seen a map that said there was good snorkelling off the North East coast of Pulau Pinang, so I had a look around for it.  Nothing doing. I went from the Northern end, right down to the first rocky headland  (about 200m down the beach, past Park “zone C”) and about 150m out into the (very shallow, rocky) water.   It’s all like this, don’t waste your time here.   Maybe the good stuff is further South.

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Here’s a couple of general views of the National Park HQ area. It seems that all the tours congregate at about the same time (possibly tide related?).  The picture with no people was taken at about 4pm.  Someone on our boat asked if we could stop there. The answer (“no”) was attributed to the fact that it was low tide.

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Area 10 – Pasir Akar , West side of Pulau Pinang 

(main map)

This was a resort boat-trip. Actually, it was on my first day and was the first boat-trip I took. Having so-far only experienced the dismal-visibility murk of rainy-day Pasir Panjang, I was happy to be anywhere I could see further than the end of my arm!

We stopped just South of the first beach on the West side of Pulau Pinang.  I’m assuming that this was Pasir Akar, as the maps don’t show any other beaches near there.

There was some really good coral here, (mixed in with about 40% damaged or dead stuff).

Not so good:

Good:

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…and some fun stuff like a nudibranch, and a monster moray eel:

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Well, that’s it for my underwater adventures.  In case you haven’t had enough yet, here are a few Gratuitous Pretty Pictures to finish with:

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

Topside

I didn’t spend a lot of time out of the water.  The venerable Tezza provides a lot of good info and opinion about jungle hikes and surface-level exploration, etc.

I stayed at Redang Bay Resort (because they have dorms and they are cheapest place).  The place was great. I had a 4 bed AC dorm to myself.  Tezza stayed there previously and says everything that needs to be said about the place.

I booked direct with the resort office in Kuala Terengganu. It cost 328MYR for a “3D/2N” plus 140MYR for a one day extension (Early October 2012).

The famous travel book loves Ping Anchorage travel agency in KTG.  I found it cheaper to deal direct with the resorts.

Don’t pay someone 40MYR to take you from the Terengganu bus station to the jetty- you can walk it in ten minutes.  Directions: Standing in the bus-station where the bussess arrive, face away from the McDonalds and just follow the road ahead of you. Follow its curve around to the right  until you get to a t-junction (there’s a fire station (Bomba) opposite you and a Mydin department store to the right). Just skip 20 metres to your left, then carry on in the same direction you had been previously been heading.  The market and fish-market are on your left.  Follow the curve round to the right and you will see the river (and the big jetty) on your left.  The entrance is opposite the Post Office.

- – -

Here’s a list of Redang Resorts taken from the Kuala Terengganu tourist brochure.  Note that a few resorts on Redang weren’t listed.

From North to South :

BERJAYA REDANG BEACH  RESORT & SPA
http://www.berjayahotelsresorts.com
bht@hr.berjaya.com.my
09-6308888

REDANG HOLIDAY BEACH RESORT
http://www.redangholiday.com
redholi@redangholiday.com
Tel: 09-6245500

CORAL REDANG ISLAND RESORT
http://www.coralredang.com.my
crdive@streamyx.com
09-6236200

REDANG PELANGI RESORT
http://www.redangpelangi.com
skkho@pc.jaring.my
09-6242158

REDANG BAY RESORT
http://www.redangbay.com.my
sales@redangbay.com.my
09-6203200

REDANG LAGOON CHALET
http://www.redanglagoon.com
admin@ redanglagoon.com
09-6665020

REDANG BEACH RESORT
http://www.redang.com.my
travel@redang.com.my
09-6238188

LANGUNA REDANG ISLAND RESORT
http://www.lagunaredang.com.my
enquiry@lagunaredang.com.my
09-6310888

REDANG REEF RESORT
http://www.redangreefresort.com.my
contact@redangreefresort.com.my
09-6226181

(Redang Bahtera not listed)

REDANG KALONG RESORT
http://www.redangkalong.com
ddenmsia@tm.net.my
09-6221591

(Redang Mozana not listed)

(Redang Amanna Gabba not listed)

REDANG MUTIARA BEACH RESORT
http://www.redangmutiara.com.my
khairulazizie@yahoo.com.my
09-6531158

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(SARI PACIFICA HOTEL, RESORT & SPA is on Pulau Lang Tengah, 5 km west of Redang
http://www.saripacifica.com
foredang@saripacifica.com
03-89428888)

There is also lots of Resorts info on redang.orgTezza has some; and there are the usual reviews on tripadvisor etc.

- – – – -

Kuala Terangganu is a sprawling, chilled, muslim oil-town in East Malaysia.  Local attractions include a beautiful, glassy mosque on the river, a ‘theme park’ of scale models (about 1:10) of twenty-three iconic mosques from around the world, and a long, long beach.

You can also book and depart from the town of Merang.  I don’t know owt about that, except it’s nearer to Redang than Kuala Terangganu is.

Linkies:
Alternative maps:
1 Redang Bay Resort map – good for divesites and local placenames.  Shows reef locations.
2 Redang Reef Resort Map – good for divesites and local placenames. Shows reef locations. Note that pink is reef and white is land which are a bit difficult to distinguish. Dark green is sand, black is cliffs
3 Redang Bay Resort diveshop map – good for divesites
4 Redang Bay Resort map – difficult to decipher
5 National Park map – good for divesites and local placenames. Shows reef locations
6 National Park HQ area map – the right way up this time
7 Terengganu Marine Park – other islands on the East side of peninsular Malaysia
8 Marine Parks of Malaysia

Tezza does his usual good job.

I strongly urge you to read all of the excellent Redang.org, especially their sections on General island info; conservation, marine life; and snorkelling. The snorkelling section describes some areas that I didn’t get to.  They also have a forum which answers every question you could possibly imagine.

There’s also a good, concise coverage on wikitravel.
Kuala Terengganu govt tourism site: http://tourism.terengganu.gov.my/

Marine park :  http://www.dmpm.nre.gov.my/?lang=en

Glossary
Species list
Safety
Environment, conservation
Sharks
Mainpage

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