Pulau Besar - Johor Malaysia

There are a cluster of 3 islands just off the coast of Mersing in Johor which used to be overrun by wildboars. Nobody knows how the wildboars got across to inhabit the islands but these hardy creatures have been known to swim long distances. Perhaps, floating islands ie little clumps of land that had been torn from riverbanks during heavy monsoon rains could have carried them to these islands and thence multiplied as there were no known predators until man came along. Fisher folk named the islands , Babi Besar (Big Pig), Babi Tengah (Pig in the Middle) and Babi Hujong (Pig at the end) but 'Babi' was consequently dropped from the name and thus, today they are more popularly known as Pulau Besar, Pulau Tengah and Pulau Hujong. As with the name, the wildboars on these islands have also disappeared.

Pulau Besar is the largest of all the 3 islands and stretches about 1 - 2km wide and 5 km long. The resorts are located on the western side of the island as the eastern coast faces the open sea and tends to be rough. The fishing villages are long gone, though you can still see the quaint old police station and vacant village huts along the path that runs parallel to the western beach. Pulau Besar and Pulau Tengah were the host islands for the popular and controversial reality TV show in Europe called the 'Expedition Robinson' that ran for 9 seasons. The crew spent at least 7 months on location at this island as well as the surrounding islands for a number of years until the show ended its run in 2005.

Pulau Besar is the ideal island for a lot of sun bathing, catching up on sleep, finishing that novel that's been kept by the bedside table for months gathering dust, a bit of island exploration, and just to immerse in the tranquility of the island life. For city folks, it may be a little difficult to get used to... no traffic honks, suits and power dressing, no laptops and continuous ringing of the phone. It's tough to just let go of the everyday chores and routine but once the island breeze lulls you into that dream-like state, it's difficult to leave.

For those a little more energetic, the island hopping trips to pulau mensirip and pulau harimau for some snorkelling is definitely the icing on the cake.

One thing to note, don't forget your insect repellant for those pesky sandflies.

Pulau Harimau

Pulau Harimau has a cavern which can be easily reached if you snorkel a short distance from the drop-off point at the beach. The ceiling of the cavern has fallen through and is a nice little private pool where you can sit and enjoy the sun warming your back and the cool water lapping your heated skin.

Pulau Mensirip

This is a private island not too far from Pulau Harimau. It is deserted and a sign on the beach warns would be trespassers against alighting on the island. This tiny island belongs to the Johor royal family. But the snorkelling just off the beach is wonderful!! Try it - its worth every penny! Well, actually for a day trip out - we negotiated a reasonable price for the boat to take us to these two islands.

Suggestion: bring along some sun block, drinking water and packed lunch. These islands are not inhabited, so be prepared with some food and water.

best time to go

Apparently anytime between early-March and early November. But the weather being what it is, try checking with the resorts before setting off.


Please check the tidal charts or weather forecast before leaving or planning your trip at www.met.gov.my

If you're planning to go to the islands during the Full Moon or when there is no moon, then be warned that there will be very extreme tidal conditions ie very high hightides and very low lowtides so boats may have difficulty leaving or entering the Mersing jetty. You may have to wait quite a while for the tidal change. Check the tidal charts.http://www.jupem.gov.my/

getting there and away

By Air

Nearest airport is at Senai, in Johor Baru.

By Car

-From Kuala Lumpur

Take North-South Highway, head south towards Johor (from KL or North) . Exit at Ayer Hitam (exit 244) After toll gate , take a right turn at the traffic junction and head towards Kluang. Before entering Kluang town, there’s a roundabout, take 3 O’clock. Continue straight for several kilometres until the next roundabout where you take the 12 o' clock exit. Follow road signs to Mersing or Route 3.

Approximate travelling time : 5 hrs from KL

-From JB and Singapore

Via Woodlands causeway: After crossing over to Malaysia take the first U turn heading back towards the causeway. Take Jalan Wong Ah Fook and this will lead you through Johor Bahru City passing City Square shopping mall on your right. Look out for the overhead Bridge with the sign 'Kota Tinggi - Desaru'. Follow this sign leading you to route 3 . Route 3 will take you towards Kota Tinggi and Mersing. Just follow the signs.

Approximate travelling time : 2 1/2hrs from JB

- From Terengganu/Kuantan

Take Route 3(coastal road), heading south towards JB. For roadmap, please go to: www.jputra.com

Approximate travelling time from Kuantan, 3+hours

By Bus


A relatively small town with several streets and roundabouts linking the roads, one can just about walk around Mersing town in 1hour. On arriving at Mersing and if you wish to go straight to the jetty, either walk from Restoran Malaysia, which is one of the drop-off points closer to the guesthouses and motels in town or wait till you get to the final destination at Plaza R&R at the Mersing jetty if you do not intend to stay on in Mersing. This is your gateway to the islands and ferry tickets plus accommodation can be arranged with the various resort and transport offices. Be careful of touts!

For more information on how to get to or away from mersing by bus, go to Mersing Bus Schedules and Singapore-Mersing Bus Schedules

By Boat

If you're planning to visit the islands off the Mersing coast like Tioman, Besar, Rawa, Pemanggil & Aur, the usual boat service is Bluewater Ferry Services .

The Johor government levies a RM25 fee per overseas traveler and a RM10 fee applies per Malaysian traveler .

If you book the resorts on Pulau Besar, they will add the boat transfers into your package. Normally about RM90 for a return boat trip. The times for pick up is are normally in the early afternoon but do check with the resort on the times before you start making your way to Mersing.

If you have problems with boats to Pulau Besar, then try getting onto bluewater ferry services but i hear they don't make the trip to Pulau Besar unless it's a large group going in.

Bluewater Ferry Services

The Bluewater Ferry Services (+60 7799 8518 or 07-799 4811) has been around for the longest time and they also have monopoly over the boat transfers to the Tioman Island.

Take note that after the ticket collection you will also need to pay a Marinepark fee directly to the Marinepark authorities at the jetty in Mersing in cash (currently MYR 10.00 for locals or MYR 25.00 for foreigners).https://www.facebook.com/BLUEWATER-EXPRESS-BISTARI...

Once you have the tickets you will need to wait for the boarding pass counter to open and get your boarding pass. They will call the colour of your pass once the ferry is ready for boarding.

Just a word of caution for those who would like to endure the hardship of travelling in Malaysia during Public Holidays and more so during major National Festivals : the ferries can suffer long delays & missed schedules - all that makes going on holiday a stressful and unpleasant experience.

The best advice is to stay clear away from the favourite holiday destination spots especially when it involves crossing seas.

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