WITHOUT doubt, Terengganu is one of the best holiday destinations, with its beautiful outlying islands. Whether it is the powdery white sandy beaches, the underwater world of crystal clear azure waters, coral reefs or sea creatures, there are many reasons to visit these islands.
Here are eight of the best islands
Touted as one of the most beautiful islands in the world, Pulau Perhentian, which is 1½ hours by speedboat from the Kuala Besut jetty, is part of our National Marine Park.
It comprises Pulau Perhentian Besar, Pulau Perhentian Kecil, Pulau Rawa, Pulau Serenggeh, Pulau Susu Dara Besar and Pulau Susu Dara Kecil, about 20km from the mainland.
Snorkelling is highly recommended as you can spot manta rays, reef sharks, barracudas and turtles.
For divers, it is definitely a haven. The best time for diving is between March and September. Dive equipment for rental is readily available at most dive centres on both Pulau Perhentian Besar and Pulau Perhentian Kecil.
Or, you can just sit back under the shady palm trees and enjoy the sun and cool breeze. If you are lucky enough, you may also get to witness turtles laying eggs at night.
Pulau Lang Tengah
Situated between Pulau Redang and Pulau Perhentian, Pulau Lang Tengah is about 40 minutes from Merang jetty by speedboat. Its name comes from the word helang, which means “eagle” in the Malay language.
You will find isolated and idyllic stretches of pristine white sandy beaches here. There are also about 12 dive sites around Pulau Lang Tengah and the probability of divers encountering turtles, jacks and leopard sharks around the tiny coral island is high.
Embellished by tourism infrastructures, Pulau Redang is one of the more popular islands.
Under the Fisheries Act of 1985, it is one of nine islands — including Pulau Lima, Pulau Paku Besar, Pulau Paku Kecil, Pulau Kerengga Kecil, Pulau Kerengga Besar, Pulau Ekor Tebu, Pulau Ling and Pulau Pinang that form the Pulau Redang Marine Park.
Redang is accessible by air, with direct flights from Subang Airport, Kuala Lumpur and Seletar Airport, Singapore, operated by Berjaya Air.
It takes about 45 minutes by speed boat from Merang jetty. Alternatively, a ferry ride from Shah Bandar Jetty in Kuala Terengganu to the island will take about one hour 45 minutes.
There are pearly-white sandy beaches, sparkling clear seawater and impressive marine fauna. Dive sites include Tanjung Lang, Tanjung Tokong, Tanjung Gua Kawah, Pasir Panjang and Batu Mak Cantek.
Its strategic location off the coast of Dungun, and being the furthest of the islands off Terengganu, makes Pulau Tenggol the natural habitat of mature coral gardens and other species of underwater creatures.
Once nominated the best diving site in the peninsula, it is about an hour by speedboat from Kuala Dungun jetty and has some of the deepest waters in the east coast.
It is a haven for divers looking for thrilling night dives as the depths descend to 20m at some places.
What is interesting is that Pulau Tenggol is also along the migratory route of whale sharks, which are normally on the move from August to October every year.
On any other day, there is always the possibility of seeing humphead parrotfish, giant stingray, bat fish, leopard sharks and schools of scads.
Further inland are forested rocky hills that rise up to 243 metres.
This privately-owned island is a perfect destination for honeymooners and couples. There is just one resort, built on sturdy stilts fronting the South China Sea.
Amenities include a restaurant, recreational facilities, swimming pool, dive centre and a luxurious spa. Located in a Marine Conservation Park and just 10 minutes from Marang jetty by speedboat, Pulau Gemia is blessed with natural lush tropical greenery, clean waters and remarkable underwater seascape of corals and marine life.
Regular visitors include the green turtles, Hawksbills, Olive Ridley and occasionally, the giant leatherback.
Just 800m from Pulau Gemia and six kilometres from Marang town, Pulau Kapas is one of the earliest tourist destinations in Terengganu.
It is an ideal retreat for families. While it is known specifically for squid jigging, visitors can go swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving, jungle trekking and canoeing.
Located 45km off the coast, Pulau Bidong is one of the more undeveloped islands and served as a transit point for Vietnamese refugees before they were relocated to the West under UNHCR. The refugee camp has since closed in 1990.
The State government has no intention to develop the island apart from upgrading the facilities left behind by the refugees.
Tourists are allowed on the island on day trips for recreational activities such as snorkelling and diving.
University of Science & Technology Malaysia is undertaking a study on the conservation of turtles, hatchery sites and sea ecosystems.