Here’s a non-sponsored review of our week-long beach vacation at Redang Kalong Resort, Terrenganu, Malaysia.
Earlier this year, we were planning for just a short holiday which is affordable and have lots of fun with Mother Nature. After shortlisting a few destinations, we finally settled for the beautiful Redang Island and made our booking in March.
Redang Island has a total of 13 resorts, with the bulk of them lining the main beach which the locals called “Pasir Panjang”. As the name suggests, the beach is endlessly long and very wide. The hype of all things alive is probably found along the main beach. With day-long live band, beach side eateries and pubs springing up along every inch on the beach, it is no wonder the most populated and noisiest beach on the island. Pasir Panjang would be great for yuppies who has lesser worries than a mum with young kids.
We decided that we wanted exclusivity and a quiet family trip without the extra frills. Who has the time to drink beer or sun-tan when the kids are just keen in frolicking in the sea and/or fetching seawater to build their sandcastles but that is so far down the beach? The main beach is peppered with dreamlike powdery white sand that makes one want to lie down on it for the entire summer. Yes it’s too beautiful but we felt not too safe for kids due to the mix of crowd and more dangerously, the occasional big waves that lapped on to the beach because it faces the South China Sea. Just for information, the soft, powdery white sand is that beautiful because nature worked hard at it day and night and especially during monsoon months, I was told the waves pound on the Pasir Panjang 6-12m deep inland. Tonnes of sand get washed off every year end, and returned again at the end of the storm. That explained why all the amenities and infrastructures are built much further inland!
#1 – Room Booking
With the above consideration (not that it’s anywhere near monsoon season now), we decided to book our rooms at Redang Kalong Resort. According to TripAdvisor, the resort is ranked #2 of 13 hotels on Pulau Redang and 82% of the reviews rated the resort with 4* and above. With that decided, we booked our 5D4N stay via email. Response was pretty fast and we got our reservation and invoice within a week after all questions asked.
#2 – Singapore-Merang Jetty, Terengganu-Singapore
With the rooms booked, we did not immediately purchase coach tickets even though we were advised that coach transfer from Singapore to Merang Jetty, Terrenganu is the most straight-forward option. We were eventually convinced after Berjaya Air decided not to service the Singapore-Redang direct route (since 2014) and all other options (Malaysian Airlines, SilkAir, Singapore Airlines, FireFly, AirAsia) require a transit at Kuala Lumpur, with a few hours wait before reaching Terengganu Airport after dinner hours. By then, we would have to find a night’s lodging within Terengganu Town as there is only one time slot for boat transfer from Merang Jetty, Terengganu to Redang Island, which happens at about 10am daily. My hubby was keen in driving up north and to leave his car at Merang Jetty. Though it has been done by others (from online reviews), and there is a guard looking after the simply-sheltered car park, I wasn’t very keen as he would have to drive in the night with me falling asleep and unable to help him watch the road. Next thing is, he would be diving on the day we check in.
We ended up deciding to go via coach transfer with tickets from Konsortium Online. I was taken by surprise when coach tickets were sold out 2 months prior to our trip. With a desperate attempt to call the tour agency for help, they opened another coach for my group. I believe it was because my group alone will be occupying half the coach capacity, hence the viability to operate another coach out to Terengganu for that weekend. Each coach ticket costs $140 all-in (return fare) when it used to be $90 many years back. Anyway, I later found out that there were 5 coaches going up the same place but couldn’t be happier to know that all the other groups are going to various resorts on the main beach “Pasir Panjang” except for my family ❤
#3 Merang Jetty
Merang Jetty was recently reconstructed with better pavements and shelter. Although nothing elaborate, the place is much cleaner compared to a decade ago and there was no shelter. Do note that different resorts have their own private jetty that is constructed like, 50-100m apart from each other. However, Konsortium does not service each jetty and the coach driver will alight all passengers at Merang-Summer Bay Jetty. From there, Redang Kalong Resort will arrange for a 1-min mini-bus transfer to/from their own jetty. Please also note that prior to alighting at Merang-Summer Bay Jetty, there is another main alighting point and that is Shah Bandar Jetty (which serves Terengganu Town). Do NOT alight at Shah Bandar Jetty as you will incur additional land transfer cost to Merang.
The night before our resort stay, we arrived at Konsortium’s office located at Golden Mile Tower half an hour earlier before scheduled coach departure at 930pm. After a long 10-hr coach ride, that didn’t turn out to be that bad for the young and old (including myself), There was a light rain at 830am when we reached Merang Jetty. While my brother walked off to buy coffee, the rest of us waited at the shelter for our boat to arrive. At about 930am, guests who have checked-out from the resort that morning arrived at the jetty and the staff began loading their boats with fresh food supplies for day. We were told that the boat was ready for us by 10-ish am and to board the boat. Thankfully we had a fully-sheltered cabin boat as we watched the other resort’s guests boarded their speedboat. They would definitely be pretty wet travelling on sea under such rain condition! Our boat was equipped with seats and life jacket strapped over each seat like a mini-ferry. Having all settled down, we took off for the resort on very calm seas and arrived by 11am.
#4 Redang Kalong Resort
As we neared the resort, we started seeing different shades of blue and white at the shallow area along the beaches. We know paradise awaits. Like all excited children, we ooOoOooo and ahhhhhh at the beautiful waters surrounding the island.
Redang Kalong Resort is a 15-year old resort with 39 rooms with a restaurant overlooking the sea, a bar counter, a big dive centre with washing facilities and a chill-out bay fronting it, a recreation block and 3 blocks of rooms (plus another 2 blocks for staff). They underwent a room refurbishment exercise in 2010 with new beds and furniture. The rooms are available based on either twin or triple-sharing basis. We took a triple-sharing room for our family of 2A2C and it came with a Queen and Single bed. No guesses who got to sleep on the Single bed. My parents took a twin room (Queen bed) and has much larger room space because the floor area is the same for the entire block of rooms at Blk 2.
Our room was very simple, but clean with the basic but NECCESSARY air-conditioning available 24-hours (but then who would want to stay in the room all day when one is at the beach? It was nice for afternoon naps though :)). The bathroom was clean with a squarish layout with tiled walls and floor. Hot water shower was available day-long as well though I would describe it as tepid which was really just nice for a bath after day-long heat on the body. The toilet bowl and wash basin was clean too. We also had an in-room safe that didn’t work quite well as my hubby had to get the staff to manually open the safe for us twice. When I realize I forgot to keep my pouch with RM900 cash in it, hubby was embarassed to trouble the staff any further and we decided to just keep the pouch in my handbag and left it on top of the safe. Since there was no room-service, we decided that it should be safe but did constantly check that the doors were locked properly every time we leave the room which happened like 20 times in a day because all our activities were either at the beach in front of our rooms, or dive centre or the restaurant. All were within sight because the resort is small. We didn’t bother to pack all we need for the day unlike at other places or bigger resorts where the room is a far walk from main activity areas.
# 5 Meals
The restaurant serves day-long free-flow of white bread with water (hot/cold), coffee, tea and orange squash. Guests are free to “import” or consume any kind of outside food, drinks or tidbits within the resort. No pork (jerky / luncheon meat / pork floss, etc) is allowed on the island though. Although they don’t check, but do respect the locals and their culture even though it is not a Malay community & resort. Do bring along your favourite 3-in-1 coffee should you have special preferences. Don’t forget the packet milk or milo for the children as the ready-mix Milo sachets costs RM2 each. For main meals, don’t expect rich buffet with all sorts of different cuisine like other 5-star resorts but you will get all you need in a meal. Meals were cooked by Myanmar nationals who also kept the restaurant tables sanitized after every meal.
Breakfast comes with porridge, bee-hoon, mee goreng, nasi lemak, some side dishes like mini pancakes, nuggets, fish cakes and a live egg-cooking station. As I slept late daily past the breakfast hours, I don’t have any photo of the breakfast spread but only what I could find left over. The fried bee-hoon remained my favourite breakfast item even though they were “over-fried” while being cooked, had no colour nor much of an ingredient cooked with it. The seemingly tasteless bee-hoon was full of flavour but not salty at all. I didn’t even bother to go for the other food selections. Audrey saw my photo posted on Facebook but couldn’t bring herself to believe me. How about you? hahahah
Main meals (lunch/dinner) were very simple buffet style with a clear soup, chicken, fish, veggies and rice. No pork were served on the island. Desert always came with a fruit (banana or watermelon), some jellies, salad and canned fruit in syrup. On alternate nights, we had BBQ food for dinner served with spaggeti, tomato paste sauce, chicken wings, lamp chop (at the live cooking station again), fried calamari, fries, veggies and fruits. I don’t eat lamb but the others in my group raved about it describing it as tender and having no lamb smell.
Daily tea break comes with either fried banana or sweet potato fritters, fried noodle, with green bean soup, pulut hitam or barley water. It’s also our time to whack all those crackers and instant noodles we brought from home.
The dishes for all meals were rotated every two days with little variety in cooking style. Overall, the dishes were tasty though not much variation but we found the soup a little too salty. Both K, R and my niece all ate very well during our stay there.
I mentioned before that Redang Kalong Resort has a private beach with clean sand, crystal clear water, high coconut trees, hammocks (some are quite worn off I must say), sun loungers and beautiful view from the seaview rooms, restaurant and dive centre. The long but narrow beach is a safe haven for young children to play on their own next to the relatively calmer waves compared to the Pasir Panjang. We either watched them from the comfort of the restaurant or at the chill-out deck in front of the dive centre. It helped that the kids know when their feet should not stay submerged in water, and when they are allowed to swim and frolick (that’s when adults wanted a dip). Most of the time, all is quiet at the resort except for Friday/Saturday when the resort rooms were all filled up. Even then, when they all went snorkeling or other places to chill, day time was mostly peaceful and we pretty much had the whole resort to ourselves as we were lazy to trek over to the main beach.
Diver’s Den is Redang Kalong Resort‘s in-house dive centre and is operated by the same boss who views respect for safety above everything. The dive centre is rated 5* Dive Centre and Gold Palm Resort status by PADI. Try doing funny stunts while diving and see what you’d get from AB Lee (pronounced “Aybee”), his wife (Sharon). They do not tolerate limits testing especially underwater and won’t have doubts to abort a dive should a diver not respect the safety of diving and/or endanger other divers’ life because of him/her. The team at Diver’s Den has been operating with a HQ/dive shop at Kuala Lumpur teaching theory and confined practical lessons at their 3-m depth swimming pool and sending their students up to resort in Redang for the openwater lessons before certifying them fit for dive as an Openwater Diver (OWD). Before setting up their resort in year 2000, they were already diving in the area for another 15 years (in jeans and t-shirts!). With 30 years of diving around Redang waters and knowing every operation at the back of their hands (yes, AB doesn’t mind sweeping the beach even though he’s the boss), no wonder they know the dive sites so well and are well-respected in the dive industry and community as diligent and down-to-earth dive professionals in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.
On the island, their dive centre is big and clean, with ample space for 30 divers during peak season. Dives are operated out of their 4 dive boats if needed. We were very lucky to be blessed with only us (4 in the group) and another pair of divers during our trip. I don’t really like to see strangers when underwater except maybe when I need help ;p Every diver will be assigned a plastic tub for their own equipment and accessories and everything will be locked inside the dive centre after the last dive is over. At the dive centre, there are 2 jacuzzi-sized tubs filled with fresh water for rinsing wetsuits and BCDs (buoyancy control devices) after each dive. There are also 2 shower points at the sides. For the photographer buffs, you’d be pleased to know that there are also 2 dedicated tubs for rinsing your underwater camera housing too.
There are more than 20 dive sites around Redang Island and one could never finish diving every single site within a short stay. Besides, we found it easier to follow the locals as they were the ones who decide where to dive base on the diver profiles and current conditions underwater. Yes they know which way current flows, which point is the strongest and how fast it would be BEFORE we enter water! We were given dive briefing of the dive site profile before we gear up for the upcoming dive. We were also told what creatures to look out for, and sometimes, how many of them in the family. Hahhahah!
Divers have their own schedule for 3-4 dives a day. As our group has seen much of Redang over the past few years, we chose slow and easy dives and well-spaced out schedule to enjoy the chill-out. I myself turned lazy bones and skipped 2 morning dives because having breakfast at 7am and going out for dive at 815am was “too early” for me. I also skipped 2 afternoon dives because my Tarnasal (Cuneiform) bones hurt badly from my fins on this trip.
From the dives I made, I’m happy that Redang’s dive sites are still very much alluring with plenty of hard corals at the shallower zones (8-12m) and bountiful of soft corals in the 15-20m zone. The reefs were teeming with life. Don’t ask me what things I saw while diving because turtles, groupers, stingrays, lion fish, barrucada, moral eel, trevally and other fishes bore me to death. For large fishes, it is always my hope to see the whale shark and manta ray on every dive. But then if these don’t appear, then there would be nothing else to see as they don’t appear on at shallow and crystal clear water. They love the open sea filled with zillions of microscopic organisms that make the water blurry at the same time. At Redang, my favourite zone is at the soft coral area or sandy House Reef. I simply love to enjoy the underwater landscape and breathing compressed air while having immense satisfaction locating the next shrimp or crab.
#8 Underwater Photography Specialty
AB Lee, the boss, is a Master in photography. His underwater photos are oh-so-jawdroppingly rich as he showed us his recent shots taken around Redang. Through him, I picked up many tips about photo composition and picture lighting. However, I am completely untalented especially when I constantly produced underwater photographs in blue or green hues even though he kept teaching me what to look out for. I liked that although he offers underwater photography courses separately through other events, he was not stingy in imparting his skills and knowledge to anyone who asked.
#9 Recreational Activities
Aside from diving & snorkelling, there are several things available at the resort free of charge. Snorkelling trips are arranged twice daily, after breakfast and after lunch. The trips are made available free of charge, but rental of safety vest (RM20) is required for non-swimmers and snorkelling gears (if required). In the morning, it would normally be some offshore island where non-snorkellers cannot leave the boat to walk on the shore as there would be no jetty. In the afternoon, it would always be at the Redang Island Marine Park where beautiful palms line the beach with plenty of shades and beach benches available for leisure visitors to relax. Ironically, we saw our only black tip reef shark while snorkelling instead of diving. Though used to human in the water, the baby shark was more scared of us than the kids were of it. The kids probably didn’t even see it given that it swam away every time it came near to check us out. They were too busy clearing their masks and taking long deep breaths before having their face in the water! As for me, I struggled with flotation with the denser seawater keep pushing me up to the surface everytime I tried to swim in midwater or reach for the sand bottom. Should have brought along a weight belt next time I decide to try snorkelling again. I don’t really like snorkelling to begin with.
When asked what their favourite activity was during their stay at Redang, ping pong was high on R’s list at #1! He called for a ping pong game a few times a day during our stay. The boy doesn’t like being “dirty” with sand stuck everywhere on him. But he did display great fun just digging and throwing sand on the beach, as well as throwing seashells into the sea. His favourite activity was to hunt for sticks to pretend-play as old man 老爷爷 or to poke at insects on the sand.
K being all things girly, loved sea-shell picking, moving the sand here and there and making sand castles. Now that she can swim better and is taller, she enjoyed swimming in the sea tremendously and asked for a dip daily.
Aside from getting to swim in the sea (I don’t bring them to swim in Singapore waters as East Coast waters is too dirty and I used to always get stung by some sea bugs at Sentosa), the kids were in for a treat when they discovered 16 baby turtles swimming in a tub in the safety of the resort’s dive centre. These turtles were hatched from the eggs which their mothers laid while on her return trip to the same beach she was born at. It has been the resort’s practice to protect these eggs and release the baby turtles once they are big enough to reach for the ocean depths. The children enjoyed watching the turtle having “swim lessons” daily in the afternoon when the tide is lower. They are released into a pen and swim “freely” in the sea for 2 hours daily. These turtles will be released into the ocean in September this year and during Project Aware Day at Redang Kalong Resort / Diver’s Den.
There is an air-conditioned recreation block behind the dive centre where one can find different card and table games, karaoke, mahjong, dart games, and a great condition ping pong table. It may sound funny but I had observed that nobody ever goes into there during the day time but every evening, guests would always congregate there for after dinner activities before they turn in. I guess this should be the way to go when one is at the beach – to be outdoors with the sand, sea and sun!
WHEN ALL HAS ENDED
Here we are, back again at Merang Jetty, where R was given a chance to be the Boat Captain of The Day! How awesome was that for a little boy to drive a speed boat maneuvering a boat and docking everybody to safety at the jetty?
I would definitely return again perhaps in another 2 years, for local tasty food and feeling of privacy. K will be 10 years old by then and she might be keen to take up the Junior SCUBA diving programme. First of all, I will ensure that she is an able swimmer as top most priority for now! Special thanks to everybody especially our Dive Guides (Tim and Rolanto) at Redang Kalong Resort for making our week so relaxing and stress-free. It is great to share that that I did not need to worry about anything, as once package is paid for, just turn up at the jetty and my family was able to enjoy the full board holiday and peaceful resort. The resort and dive operations were very well organized!
Knowing how well AB & Sharon operate and run their dive certification courses with professionalism and pride, I would never send my kids to anywhere else for SCUBA course. Instructors and dive schools that practice drinking and partying past midnight then dive the next morning – sorry, no thanks! It’s a wrong signal.
Redang Kalong Resort / The Diver’s Den
Web site : http://www.redangkalong.com/
Facebook : (Redang Kalong Resort) https://www.facebook.com/pages/Redang-Kalong/196291297078660
Facebook : (Diver’s Den) https://www.facebook.com/divers.den.90
|THE DIVER’S DEN / REDANG KALONG RESORT|
|Address||:||No. 4 Jalan Universiti, 46200 Petaling Jaya|
|Tel||:||603-7960 7163 / 8163|
|Hotline||:||019-225 3000 or 012-261 2155|
Konsortium Express & Tours Pte Ltd
6001 Beach Road #01-52B
Golden Mile Tower Singapore 199589
Tel: +65 6392 3911 (Hotline : +65 6392 5000)
Fax: +65 6392 1850
Opening Hours: 7.30am – 10.30pm (Daily)
~ SAys! Shirley