Updated: Aug 21, 2020
After having been stuck at home for the past six months with no possibility to escape the daily grind of working from home and nowhere to go except the supermarket once a week, we were all craving for a beach getaway. So, where to go?
The East Coast of Terengganu is dotted with plenty of small islands that are covered with palm trees and surrounded by white beaches, and crystal-clear waters filled with colorful coral reefs and marine life.
We looked for a hidden gem and we found one - Gem Island. Beautifully located in a Marine Conservation Park, it is the perfect getaway destination to relax and unwind.
Here is what you need to know about Malaysia's gem Gem Island ...
How to Get There?
From Kuala Lumpur, you can either take a plane or drive to Terengganu and then take a boat to the island.
Plane: The journey from Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Terengganu by plane takes about 1h. After landing at the airport, you need to take a taxi to Marang Jetty where the boat is waiting for you.
Road-Trip: A road-trip from Kuala Lumpur to Marang Jetty takes about 5h. Once arrived, you can park your car near the jetty. There are parking lots reserved for those heading to the island. Just ask someone at the Jetty, they will point you in the right direction. Parking costs about RM10 per day and it is safe.
To Note: When you set your Waze for the road, make sure to type in Marang Jetty not Merang Jetty.
Now all that stands between you and your beach vacation is a short 15 min boat ride. Depending on the weather, the ride can be bumpy, so make sure you keep your phones and cameras safe.
To the Island: The boat leaves Marang Jetty every day at 9:00 am, 11:00 am, 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm.
From the Island: When it's time to go back, boat services are provided every day at 9:30 am, 11:30 am, 1:30 pm, and 3:30 pm.
Where to Stay?
Gem Island is a small private island. The Gem Island Resort and Spa is the only accommodation on the island and consists of seafront villas wrapped around the coastline of the island.
The hotel rooms are clean. They are equipped with a small bathroom and a super comfortable bed near the window. This allows you to wake up with the sound of the waves crashing against the shore and the wind blowing lightly into your room. My favorite part of the villa is the balcony with a view of Kapas Island.
The food served on the island is primarily Malaysian with lots of seafood options. The dishes may be simple but the quality of the food is really good. They also have some Western dishes on the menu.
In terms of drinks, alcohol is quite expensive on the island. We saw some people bringing their own cans of beer, which probably saved them some money here and there.
To Note: The energy for the entire resort comes from a generator. In order to save electricity, the hotel has an electricity break scheduled between 2.30 pm to 5.30 pm.
What to Do?
Gem Island is the perfect place to relax and unwind. There are two beaches where you can sunbathe while listening to the incoming waves. The hotel also offers massages in a beach hut overlooking a coral reef. If you are interested in that, it is best to check with the hotel ahead of your arrival to confirm whether or not the hotel staff in charge of the spa is on the island. Just to manage expectations.
Aside from relaxing, snorkeling or diving is almost a must. There are plenty of amazing spots all around the island to do that. You can observe plenty of colorful fish and corals. It is beautiful to see. Ask the friendly resort staff, they will point you in the right direction.
To Note: The waters around Gem Island are shallow and full of sharp corals. To avoid any injuries, we recommend wearing aquashoes.
Photos by Manuel Vértiz
The beaches there are also wider and offer plenty of space to relax in the shadows of the palm trees. Some parts of the beaches on Kapas are also free from corals, which makes it possible to walk into the water without aquashoes.rtles. The breeding season is in May. During this month, you have the best chances to see some and swim with them.
The beaches there are also wider and offer plenty of space to relax in the shadows of the palm trees. Some parts of the beaches on Kapas are also free from corals, which makes it possible to walk into the water without aquashoes.
The beaches there are also wider and offer plenty of space to relax in the shadows of the palm trees. Some part of the beaches on Kapas are also free from corals, which makes it possible to walk into the water without aquashoes.
While on the island, you can also go for a short hike up the hill. Best to go early in the morning or towards the evening in order to avoid the hot midday sun.
What to Bring?
Snorkeling Gear: We think it's better to have your own snorkeling gear. In case you forget to bring yours, you have the option to rent snorkeling gear from the hotel for RM30 per day.
Aquashoes: The water around the island is very shallow and dotted with sharp corals. Make sure you bring your aquashoes to prevent injuries.
Go-Pro: Gem Island is surrounded by amazing snorkeling spots filled with sea life. Bring your go-pro to capture some amazing underwater photos.
Sunscreen: Are you planning to come home with a sun-kissed rather than a sunburned body? Make sure you pack some sunscreen. Please remember, you are going to a Marine Life Park. Try buying a sunscreen that is formulated without oxybenzone and octinoxate. These two chemicals are toxic to coral reefs and other marine life.
Long Sleeve Swimsuit: We snorkeled every day. The sun is strong and can easily burn your back. To protect ourselves, we brought long sleeve swimsuits and old T-shirts.
Mosquito Spray: There are a lot of mosquitos on the island. While the hotel rooms are equipped with a mosquito net over the bed and a mosquito repellent for the room, bringing a mosquito spray to the island is definitely advisable. To Note: Malaysia is a tropical country where dengue outbreaks continue to occur every year. Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne tropical disease that causes high fever, headaches, muscle and joint pains, and a skin rash among other things. The best way to protect yourself against it is with mosquito spray.
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