Pulau Pemanggil ~ Johor Malaysia

Okay, now before embarking on a trip like this for reasons only you can justify, first let's take into consideration the travelling time. Pulau Pemanggil sits 45kms east of Mersing, the take-off point to most islands off the Southern coast of Peninsular Malaysia. To get to Mersing itself takes 4½ hours by car or roughly 6hours by coach from KL (we shall use Kuala Lumpur as a point of reference) and from Mersing it takes another 4 1/2 hours (by traditional fishing boats) to paradise island . And of course, there is the waiting time to take into account - waiting for tidal changes, for boat, for coach, for tardy friends hitching a ride down with you. But then again, these are the little joys of travelling to far-off places for when you arrive, you know the tough journey has been all worth the effort - you have left the masses behind!

As with most inhabited islands in Malaysian waters, Pemanggil has its fair share of history, mystery and spookytales. Such tales intrigue me and I was determined to find out more about the island and its people, and wallow in waters of Malaysia's best maintained marine parks.

The Myth

It all starts with Batu Buau(The Buau Rock). Almost a century ago, a boat carrying an Indonesian family came by these waters. One night, the father had a dream and in this dream he heard a voice beckoning him to settle on the island. The voice as was believed, belonged to the guardian (or the 'Penunggu' in traditional Malay folklore) of the island. Taking heed of the Guardian's advice, these first inhabitants steered off in the direction of the island and landed on the beach at the foot of the rock.They named their village, kampung Buau, after this rock, Buau Rock.

As years went by, many more Indonesians were invited to stay on the island followed by a number of Malay folk arriving from P.Aur. Hence the name 'Pemanggil' or 'The Caller' was bestowed on the island. It is believed that Nenek Buau, the Guardian of the island lives on Batu Buau. Every year the penghulu(the village head) pays respect to this highly revered 'sentient being' by leaving an offering of polished rice and a payment of 1sen at the top of the rock. Failing to do so, it is believed, would bring untold hardship to the island community.

The villages and its people

In the early 60's its population swelled to a healthy number of 700, the settlement soon spread into 3 villages. The villagers made a living from the sea and to supplement their lack of fishing activity during monsoon season, they took to the hills - clearing areas for fruit and coconut plantations.

The only source of fresh, drinkable water came from a stream at the foot of Batu Buau. The porous structure of Batu Buau acts as filter in which rainwater seeps through the many layers of various densities of rock. Through this process, impurities are sieved out. The village folk collected water from this stream. In those early days, one of the women folk's daily chores was to trudge up and down slopes. They usually had their infants in tow, slung across one shoulder and balanced on the other was a makeshift water barrel made from a large 6 foot bamboo tube.

Life is much easier now for the villagers and their visitors; water is transported through a series of hoses and pumps connecting the water source to the villages. And there are other modern amenities available on the island..however, with much blessing- short of karaoke lounges, blaring sound-blasters, water scooters and banana boats. But who needs all these modern toys anyway. The sound of waves lapping the shore, flying foxes bickering above amongst the coconut fronds and appreciating that that crunching noises we hear whilst snorkelling come from parrotfish snacking on corals. This surely must be the concept of an island experience?!