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The Alcatraz of Malaysia

pulau jerejak

What tourists said about the Jerejak Island in Penang

“Amazing Jerejak!!!”

My first honeymoon time.. i’d celebrated here in JEREJAK RAINFOREST RESORT… This place being the most fantastic moment to me and my wife to enjoyed the nature and the nice seaside.. also not to forget to all the staff here is so friendly with us.

Very privacy… calm places and whoever want to feel the adventure.. you’re welcome here bro and sis!!! tq from us aida & mie JUST MARRIED on 31 AUGUST 2013.. MERDEKA!!!

Stayed September 2013, travelled as a couple

jerejak island penang

Jerejak island in Penang

“Good place for teambuilding”

Good Point
– Friendly staff & ready to help – Mohan, Vicky (Front Office)
– Good food (if ala-carte) – Chef Palandran
– Calm enviroment – Good place to relax and fishing

Minus Point
– No beach to have fun
– Need more renovation for the rooms
– Swimming pool needs daily cleaning

It’s take 10 minutes from Penang bridge to reach the Jetty. It’s located beside Queens Bay Mall.

Stayed June 2013, travelled with family

“Excellent place to unwind.”

Place was a bit run down but many rooms were undergoing renovations. I went there with my husband, Mother in law and an uncle and aunty. They found it difficult to get in and off the ferry as steps to high but for us it was ok. Place is nice. Husband and i took a walk to the Prison which was located about 20 to 25 mins walk from the resort. We didn’t use the guide.

Rooms were good. Food, we were lucky that the resort had a Sri Lankan Chef. He cooked for us some Sri Lankan dishes. Our family love spicy food. People at the front desk are helpful as well.

The only sad thing, they do not make much effort to keep the pool clean. There were alot of dried leaves sunken to the grounds of the pool. They do not have a beach where we can swim and relax.

I think the resort should consider having one part of the resort with beach. On the day we left, there were many people fishing around the resort. So if you like fishing, you can come to this place.

Stayed June 2013, travelled with family

“Truly Paradise..Romantic Paradise”

Well, i travel around the world but staying at the Jerejak Rainforest Resort is truly a lifetime experiance. The resort is located on a remote island which is only accesable through a boat which is provided by the Resort itself.

I travelled with my friends to this resort which really creates a relaxing environment.The staff and the service of the resort is truly a benchmark in the hospitality sector.The rooms were very clean and service was up to the mark and exceeds the customer expectations.

I am really thankful to each and every employee of the resort who makes a great effort to fulfill guest needs.
Room Tip: A Honeymooners Paradise

Stayed December 2012, travelled with friends

“Good for those who love nature.”

I stayed for 4 nights for our marine team’s retreat/workshop. I was told that the resort was just renovated and refurbished hence the rooms and facilities were clean and new. If you have read other reviews that say the place sucks and what not, do check on the time it was reviewed. Possibly then it was a run-down place but not anymore.

There are team building activities such as obstacle course, wall climbing, treasure hunt and paintball ground. If you like nature, you can opt for trekking, cycling or bird watching. There was no night trekking offered. However, because we were a big group, we requested to a have a night trekking for about 1 hour ++ and the resort kindly arranged it for us.

They have retains some of the original trees on the island by not cutting them down for resort development. So the landscape of the resort was quite nice and cool for a morning or evening jog/walk. Overall, it was quite a peaceful place to stay with very friendly and attentive staffs. But don’t stay too long or you’ll be bored with the food.

Try take a boat ride back to the main island if you want more food option. After all, Penang has the best food option in the country.

Stayed April 2013, travelled on business
Source: Tripadvisor

jerejak island penang

The panoramic view of Jerejak island.

About Jerejak Island Penang

Once known as the Alcatraz of Malaysia, Pulau Jerejak has been transformed into a haven for holiday-goers.

BACK in the 1960s to the early part of 90s, if someone told you “if you break the law, you will be sent to Pulau Jerejak”, that was considered a dire warning or a threat.

These days, though, if you hear the same words, you can reply “the pleasure is all mine”.

Gone are the days when Pulau Jerejak was known as the island for criminals, tuberculosis and leprosy patients.

The past of Jerejak Island

From 1910 to late 1930, Jerejak was a quarantine centre for immigrant workers enroute to Penang.

If they were deemed fit, they could proceed to Penang island to work.

pulau jerejak jetty

The Jerejak jetty at the Penang Island

In the later part of the 1930s, a hospital was built on the eastern side for tuberculosis patients. After the May 13 incident in 1969, the island became a penal colony to detain those involved in racial riots.

The Jerejak Rehabilitation Centre was also used till 1993 to house detainees with a drug addiction.

A new lease of life for Jerejak Island

Hence, for many years, the island was stained with a reputation that made all residents of decent background shun it.

However, a few years ago, Jerejak was given a new lease of life when a holiday resort and spa, the Jerejak Rainforest Resort, was built on a scenic side of the 362-hectare island.

The name Jerejak was given by fishermen who lived there before it gained its reputation as the country’s “Alcatraz”.

pulau jerejak rehabilitation center

The Jerejak Rehabilitation Centre

Did any inmates escape? Oh yes, seven did. The escapees worked outside the prison area. The first escape in January 1988 involved four inmates. Two months later, three more fled. Their escape routes remain a mystery till today.

Where Jerejak Island is located

Sandwiched between the main island of Penang and Seberang Perai, Pulau Jerejak is surrounded by the waters of the South Channel.

Because of its long years of isolation, the 4,000-year-old coastal forest is rich with numerous flora species. Mangrove swamps are a common sight on the north side where the old prison was located. There are no longer any convicts there.

The last batch left for the Simpang Ranggam Prison in Johor in August 1993.

jetty penang island

The jetty at Penang island where the ferry will depart for Jerejak island.

Attractions of Pulau Jerejak

Indigenous residents like monitor lizards and wild monkeys still consider Jerejak home. If you come across a seven-foot monitor lizard slithering across your path, do not be alarmed. It is probably just going out for lunch.

However, for the faint-hearted, a family of monkeys, especially when led by a grandaddy with a grey beard, should be treated with respect.

Our short stroll along a seldom trodden path along a rarely visited coastline was interrupted by a primate family. The grey bearded head of the primate stopped, stared and challenged us with a few seemingly threatening grunts.

Like all males of most primate species, this long-limbed ape probably thought some of us were eyeing his female companions. With a quiet retreat on our part, peace descended quickly.

There is documented proof that the long-tailed macaques and the white-bellied sea eagles have also made Pulau Jerejak their home but we didn’t see any.

pulau jerejak suspended bridge

The suspended bridge

Jellyfish abound in the surrounding waters. You really wouldn’t want one to flirt with your feet, or worse, your body. Apart from these encounters, the island is, on the whole, very beautiful and serene.

Adventures at Pulau Jerejak

The Jerejak Rainforest Resort is a sight to behold. Its manicured lawns are almost pristine. The sun-kissed beach and its white sands look desolate but otherwise very inviting to tired city folks.

For RM35, you are entitled to a return trip to Pulau Jerejak, with a buffet lunch thrown in at the resort. The lunch alone is worth the fare.

Visitors can eat to their heart’s content but don’t be a glutton. The dessert, with tea, coffee, ice-kacang and cendol, are immensely satisfying especially when the sea view is so soothing.

Jerejak Rainforest Resort

Jerejak Rainforest Resort

If you’re game for other activities, there are tours to historical sites on Jerejak, jungle trekking, spa sessions, karaoke and archery.

One of the jungle trails, the Razak Trail, leads to a bridge suspended 60m over what used to be a dam that supplied water to the hospital and staff quarters.

Activities on the island

Near the bridge is an area for flying fox activity — just imagine sliding along an almost vertical rope strung across what remains of the dam.

History buffs may want to check the Prison Trail that runs 3km from the resort. The scenic route through lush jungle leads to what’s left of the old, concrete prison.

There’s a bunker with a very deep hole — it was used by the British to “stash rebels” who fought the colonialists. Guide Mohd Sadiq Mansor said the hole is about the height of a two-storey building!

jerejak island penang

There are a lot of things you can do on the island.

Other trails include the Balqis Bike Trail — a rugged undulating trail to the “wilder” and uninhabited side of the island, and the Dipterocarp Trail flanked by giant meranti, keruing and other hardy trees with lush canopies that provide shade in the forest.

Accommodation on the island

On the hilly slopes, there are chalets for families, honeymooners and foreign guests and little huts for health spa aficionados, near an infinity pool.

Although there’s a big Selamat Datang (welcome) sign at the Sungai Nibong Pulau Jerejak jetty where the ferry is anchored, you are advised not to bring durians or your pets to the island.

Fishing is not allowed at the jetty but you can do so on Jerejak. There are ferry services at two-hour intervals from the island and the Sungai Nibong jetty. The ferry ride is only about 10 minutes.

Used as military base during second world war

Pulau Jerejak is full of surprises. After more than 220 years when Captain Francis Light first set foot on the island (in fact, he was said to have arrived in Jerejak first before going to Penang), it has finally unveiled its hidden delights.

Consider for a moment that in the late 18th Century, Jerejak was an alternative naval base to Penang’s Fort Cornwallis and, during the Second World War, the Germans were suspected to have made Jerejak their submarine base.

pulau jerejak

Overlooking Penang bridge

A Russian naval ship was sunk near the island. And you can still see the ceremonial cemetery dedicated to the fallen Russian sailors.

Regular visitors to Penang who think they have seen it all, may want to consider Pulau Jerejak on their next visit.

Life on Jerejak Island

JALIL Said fidgeted with his water bottle. It was apparent that the 52-year-old, fondly known as Pak Jalil, was shy and uncomfortable when recalling his childhood days on Pulau Jerejak.

Born and bred there, the gardener at Jerejak Rainforest Resort recalled seeing boats landing at the jetty to unload prisoners.

A little boy then, he understood little of what was going on. He would watch the prisoners being marched from the jetty till they were out of sight. Often, this happened when he was taking boat rides to the Sir Edwards Primary School where he studied up to Standard Six.

He is one of six siblings and his family lived at the Public Works Department staff quarters. His late father, Said Ahmad, worked with the PWD on the island.

Apart from prisoners, Pak Jalil said that pilgrims who had just returned from Mecca and were suspected of contracting tuberculosis were quarantined there too. It was also a center for those suffering from leprosy.

He shuddered at the memory of the leprosy patients. “There were those without a nose and fingers or had frightening looking limbs,” he said.

One of most horror places in Penang

He would hear them cry and groan, and stories of suicide were quite common. There are mass graves here too, he said.

At school, pupils were given liquid fish oil by the hospital. “It tasted so awful but we had to swallow it daily during assembly as the teachers said it’d make us strong,” he said, adding that the children were X-rayed every month to ensure that they were free of the contagious disease.

The echoes of the past still ring true for Pak Jalil as he goes about tending the gardens of the resort.

“It’s so peaceful now…” he said softly, with his eyes focused in the distance.

Nearby Attractions



Famous Streets


  • Pinang Peranakan Museum
  • Khoo Kongsi
  • Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
  • Old Protestant Cemetery
  • Clan Jetties
  • Kapitan Keling Mosque
  • Gurney Drive

Shopping areas

  • Gurney Plaza
  • Gurney Paragon
  • Queensbay Mall
  • Prangin Mall
  • First Avenue



  • The Camera Museum
  • Penang State Museum and Art Gallery


Location, Driving Direction and Map of Pulau Jerejak

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{ 3 comments… add one }
  • pavithra October 28, 2015, 10:15 am

    please let me know honeymoon package

  • ain October 3, 2018, 3:29 pm

    hi, i am interested to run a team building at pulau jerejak. it is my pleasure to know more details on that. please kindly email me for more informations. thanks 🙂

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