East Coast of Malaysia Cruising Notes
Published: 2007-12-13 13:44:54
Prepared by Steve and Lyn on Carillon, 15m monohull, in May and June 2007.
We cruised from Singapore northwards along the coast to Tioman Island (where we checked in) and then further north to Perhentian before checking out in Kuala Trengganu and leaving Peninsular Malaysia to head for Miri in Sarawak. We left Singapore in early May and Kuala Trengganu in late June.
This is an excellent area for cruising. Very attractive islands and beaches with numerous sheltered anchorages. We were warned before our trip about thunderstorms and the constant swell but we did not have any problems with these. There was always a sheltered anchorage to be found and the thunderstorms did not last long. Security is not a problem and the people are very friendly and helpful. The water is clear on all the islands and there is good snorkelling and diving. We found some interesting jungle walks on many of the islands.
The Cruising Guide to Southeast Asia Volume 1 (Stephen Davies and Elaine Morgan) covers this area but many of the details are sketchy and are now out of date. The update (Supplement No 6, May 2004, available from the Imray website) has more detailed information but some of this is now out of date. There are new marinas and there have been reclamation, dredging and new sea walls in many of the harbours. Some of the navigational marks are now different to those described in the Cruising Guide and update.
There are also some cruising notes available on the Noonsite website. We found these useful but, again, sometimes out of date.
From Singapore northwards to about 2oN we had no wind and mostly thunderstorms. From 2oN we had light winds from the SE to the SW, increasing to around 15kn from mid morning to late afternoon some days. Thunderstorms with winds from the W or SW up to about 25kn some afternoons and overnight. The thunderstorms became much less frequent as we moved north.
There was a very light swell from the NE in early May near P. Tioman but not enough to be a problem anchoring on the east coast of the mainland or islands. From mid-May onwards the swell was mainly from the south east, but not very big.
We had northerlies while we were at P. Redang and P. Perhentian which caused quite a swell in the channel between the two Perhentians and in the bay to the north of Perhentian Kecil (Long Beach). However the big bay to the south of Perhentian Besar, Teluk Dalam, was very sheltered.
Best to stock up as much as possible in Singapore if coming from the south. The larger towns to the north (for example Trengganu, Kuantan) have good supermarkets and markets but there are few provisions to be had on the islands. The larger islands (Tioman, Redang, Perhentian) have villages with small village shops where there is a limited selection of fresh produce and, usually, frozen chicken and meat. Also they all have good ferry services to the mainland and a day trip to the shops is quite feasible.
Diesel is available in several places. We filled up at Sebana Cove, then took on a small quantity at Kemaman and filled up again at the fuel dock at Trengganu. We were told we could have diesel shipped over from the mainland at Tioman and diesel would be available in Mersing. Other yachts went in to mainland ports near the Perhentian islands to buy diesel and other provisions.
Malaysian regulations prohibit filling of jerry cans with diesel at petrol stations and these were applied fairly strictly on the east coast. One jerry can per visit to the petrol station seemed to be ok, so in one case (Kemaman) we parked our dinghy a few metres from the petrol station and filled one can at a time. Otherwise it is possible to get a permit to fill more than one can. Filling up at fuel berths is no problem.
Sebana Cove Marina
We went to the marina to fill with diesel (RM2.32/L) but anchored in the mouth of the Santi River at 1o23.91N 104o06.54E in order to get an early start the next day. Sheltered anchorage and good holding in mud. The marina is very welcoming, good pontoons, swimming pool. Check in/out for CIQ next door which the marina will organise for RM50. Regular ferry to Singapore.
We anchored in the north of the bay close to the entrance to the river at 1o54.37N 104o07.78E. The south of the bay looks good also and might be more sheltered if there is swell from the south later in the season. Good holding in mud. The bay is exposed to the E.
Entrance to the river looks feasible if more shelter is needed. The Class C fishing boats were entering the shallow water from the east at about 1o54.3N 104o07.7E, then at about 320o until the centre of the river channel bears 340o. Then direct to the centre of the river channel.
The west coast is very sheltered and looks to be a good anchorage but we did not stop. We anchored in the NE bay at 2o13.69N 104o04.05E. Good holding in sand but some swell when we were there. Good beach with sandflies. Two friendly resorts and snorkelling along the headland to the N.
Very sheltered anchorage behind the reef and off the village jetty at 2o16.72N 104o07.09E. Good holding in sand, the entrance is deeper and easier than shown on our charts. Good snorkelling on the reef.
It looks possible to anchor almost anywhere along the W coast but we liked the shelter behind the reef. We weathered a particularly nasty thunderstorm here with no problem. There is a bay on the north coast which is reported to have a good anchorage.
Pulau Babi Besar, Pulau Babi Tengah and Pulau Rawi
There are feasible anchorages on the west coasts of P Babi Besar and P. Babi Tengah, all exposed to the W and rather close to the shore. We anchored off Pulau Rawi at 2o31.00N 103o58.48E. Good holding but very rolly after the evening thunderstorm. Resort on shore. We went there a second time a few weeks later and did not stop as quite a big swell was working in and the afternoon wind was directly on to the shore.
The best anchorage we found here is on the west side of the reef between P Babi Tengah and P Babi Hujung at 2o28.80N 103o57.26E, very sheltered from the southerlies and the swell. The large structure on the shore is used for games in the TV Survivor series.
The islands to the north of P. Rawi have pleasant daytime anchorages.
Pulau Seri Buat and Pulau Sembilang
Excellent anchorages and very attractive islands. We anchored between the islands to the north of the reef at 2o41.86N 103o53.93E and south of the reef at 2o40.51N 103o54.15E. The reef between the islands dries at low water.
The new marina in Teluk Tekek is now open. Good pontoons and shelter and we were told they can accept boats up to 35m LOA and 4m draft. Water and power on the pontoons. Charges 2RM per metre plus water and power. When we were there the office building was not finished, just go in and pick up a berth and pay at the Jabatan Laut office at the ferry pier next door. The marina was nearly full of local craft but we were told they will be cleared out when the construction work on the channel to the north has been finished.
Check in at Immigration, Customs and Jabatan Laut at the ferry pier (note Immigration is here, not at the airport). Very quick, easy and friendly, cost 3RM for light dues.
Tioman Island has clear water, good snorkelling and good diving. We dived some of the inshore reefs on our own but for the offshore sites we dived with East Divers Tioman in Kg Tekek, just south of the marina. We can recommend them – contact Sufian on 0127877155.
Tekek has some provisioning but this is quite limited. Frozen meat and a few vegetables and fruit. Petrol is available but expensive and we were told we could have diesel delivered to the island. Duty free alcohol at similar prices to Langkawi, but not such a big selection. There are some restaurants in the village, we ate at Liza’s which was fine.
Getting ashore is easy on the beaches and we were comfortable leaving our dinghy everywhere we went. There are government jetties at all the villages which can be used but it is not so easy to leave a dinghy alongside the jetty.
The Marine Parks people have laid moorings around the island. They have orange buoys and strictly there is a charge but nobody asked us for any money. We checked a few while diving, all have large concrete blocks (about 1m cube) and strong fasteners and lines. All the ones we checked were in good condition.
Teluk Tekek. Anchorage close to the south of the marina is possible but we dragged. We picked up a Marine Parks mooring at 2o49.09N 104o09.12E which was ok. This had been serviced by East Divers and they normally keep their own boat here. The water sports centre just to the north of East Divers told us they have moorings which some yachts have picked up in the past, no charge.
Our mooring was exposed to wash from the numerous speedboats and ferries moving up and down the shore. An anchorage or mooring to the north of the main jetty might be better.
Kampung Ayer Batang (ABC). There is an anchorage in an area of sand at 2o50.4N 104o09.5E just to the south of the jetty. There are buoys in the bay off the ABC jetty and the Marine Park jetty to the north which were empty. Restaurants ashore.
There are also several places to anchor to the west of ABC with better shelter if the swell is from the north.
Teluk Berus Dalam (Monkey Bay). This is a delightful bay with better shelter from the SW than Teluk Tekek. There are 3 government moorings, we picked up the one to the south at 2o51.81N 104o09.05E, then on a second visit the one in the middle. Anchorage looks possible in the NE corner of the bay. Snorkelling on the north side of the bay.
Teluk Salang. We were told the buoys here are all private and very few yachts anchor. There is a wreck to the north of the moorings. Restaurants (quite good), bars and backpacker accommodation on the beach. Best to moor in Monkey Bay to the south and come round in the dinghy if you want to visit the restaurants.
Pulau Tulai. N Bay. There are moorings very close to the rocks. Daytime use only.
S Beach. Nice daytime anchorage on good weather. Exposed to the prevailing southerlies.
NW Bay. There are several moorings which are reportedly ok. We did not go here but other yachts did. Good shelter and very pretty bay.
Teluk Juara. This is a large and very peaceful bay, probably the only place to anchor on the east coast. Some small resorts and restaurants ashore. We ate at the Juara Beach resort which was ok. Pleasant walk along the road and tracks at the back of the beach. Anchor anywhere in the bay, to the north or south depending on the direction of the swell, good holding in sand. We anchored at 2o47.54N 104o12.34E in the north which is convenient for the jetty and restaurants and at 2o47.00N 104o12.38E in the south which is more sheltered if the swell is from the SE.
We did not go into Mersing. We were told from other yachts who did go in that entrance is feasible on a good tide but once in the river the only place to stop is to tie up to a fishing boat, and other fishing boats will tie up alongside. Anchorage outside is ok but rolly. There are supermarkets and wet markets in Mersing (next to the new bus station on the edge of the town). Much better to leave the boat in the marina in Tioman and go shopping in Mersing by ferry. There is a good Yamaha outboard motor dealer in the town.
Northwards from P. Tioman is a long sail and we stopped at the north entrance to Sg. Pahang to split the trip into two day sails. The entrance needs care and a high tide. We had <3m on a 2m tide and the channel is not easy to find. There is a centre channel marker which is in shallow water about 1m from the channel. This mark should be ignored We found the outer end of the channel close to the southern side of the entrance at about 3o31.91N 103o28.60E. Then close to the southern shore into the river. Once in the river there was shallow water on the port (south) side and deeper water to starboard, with some sandbanks. We anchored off the village at 3o31.75N 103o27.85E. Very sheltered once in the river. Strong currents.
Sheltered anchorage in the river with an easy entrance. Start at the lime green buoy to the south east of the entrance. Pass close to this and head for the green tripod to starboard and a red buoy to port. The shallowest water is between the tripod and the buoy but we had >3m on a 1.6m tide. From here keep the same heading towards the mouth of the river. There are fishing boats moored on either side of the river, plenty of space and water in the middle. We anchored just before the bridge off the police jetty at 3o48.53N 103o20.26E.
All facilities in the town. We left our dinghy off some concrete steps under the bridge and a short way up the river, near some restaurants on the riverfront.
The Shell fuel berth is no longer there and fishing boats seem to go up the river to a new fishing port for fuel. There is a petrol station near the concrete steps where jerry cans can be filled. Very helpful tourist office on the side of the open space in front of the petrol station and good internet café in the shopping centre opposite the petrol station. Laundries in the Chinese part of the town around Jalan Teluk Sisek, wet market on Jalan Tun Ismail east of the Pacific Hotel, supermarket in the big shopping mall behind the internet café.
Approach the cardinal mark off the entrance from the east (bearing approx 280o). The shallowest water for us was just to the north of the cardinal mark but even here we had 4m on a 1.2m tide. Just after the cardinal mark turn to starboard to about 340o towards the white leading marks. About 100m before the first leading mark turn to port towards the red buoy. There is a sheltered anchorage in the channel to the north of this buoy which would be good for an overnight stop. To get to the town follow the river past the red buoy keeping to the north side. Anchor off the town just outside a group of buoys at 4o13.97N 103o25.74E. Dinghy access to the town at the concrete steps by the park. Limited provisioning but we took on diesel at the petrol station and the market was good.
Anchorage at 4o48.40N 103o40.46E.
Anchorage at 5o13.73N 103o15.66E.
This was a Vietnamese refugee camp and there are some interesting memorials on the shore. We picked up a mooring at 5o36.80N 103o03.49E. Anchorage in this bay or the bay to the south would also be feasible. Beware that the middle part of the central bay is fouled with sunken refugee boats. These cover a big area roughly in the centre of the bay on a transit between the headlands at the north and south and can be seen easily from the surface.
A very attractive island with many resorts. The whole island is dedicated to tourism. There are three main anchorage areas:
South Bay off the Marine Park Headquarters. Plenty of space to anchor but we picked up one of the Marine Park moorings at 5o44.86N 103o00.18E. This bay is sheltered from the swell and from any thunderstorms but suffers from wash from resort boats travelling to and from the Marine Park Headquarters.
East Coast. We anchored behind a group of small islands in Teluk Kereng at 5o45.62N 103o01.54E but there was both a swell and wash from the resort boats.
North Bay. This bay is dominated by the Berjaya resort and is very quiet and sheltered. We anchored off the beach to the east of the resort at 5o47.27N 103o01.12E amongst the fishing boats which come in here for shelter most afternoons. The resort welcomes visitors and has a good restaurant.
There is a small village a short walk to the south of the Berjaya resort where some provisions can be obtained.
There are two islands and several anchorages. We had northerly winds and swell so anchored to the south of Perhentian Besar in Teluk Dalam at 5o53.32N 102o44.94E. The anchorage is deep and there are many coral heads to foul the anchor; picking up one of the moorings in the bay would be better than anchoring. These seemed to be available for general use when we were there. We later moved onto a mooring and there were several other yachts on moorings.
In southerly winds Long Beach in the bay to the north of Perhentian Kecil (or the small bay to the north of Long Beach) would be better and there are several anchorages to explore off the beaches on the west of Perhentian Kecil. The channel between the two islands would also be possible but would suffer from wash from resort boats and the water taxis.
The islands are full of backpacker style resorts and restaurants but there are no bars so are quiet at night. Interesting jungle walks on Perhentian Besar and some provisions are available at the village on Perhentian Kecil.
There have been extensive works on the harbour and these were continuing when we were there. The access is now easy as the channel has been dredged and new breakwaters built. From the centre channel buoy off the town head for the entrance to the breakwater and then continue on the same bearing towards the marina. For an overnight stay there is space to anchor inside the breakwater to starboard. Otherwise anchor to the north of the fairway near the marina.
The marina has recently opened but this is expensive, has no facilities and entry and exit is difficult in the strong currents (up to 3kn in the marina). The marina is build on an island with no access to the town unless you have a car. There seems to be no reason to go into the marina and there is plenty of space to anchor.
Access to the town (even from the marina) is by dinghy and there are several public steps. We used the steps immediately to the north of the market, but there are also steps to the south of the market and by the Sri Malaysia Hotel to the south of Chinatown. You will need a stern anchor for the dinghy. Alternatively there is a tiny beach close to the north of the market.
This is a large town with full facilities. Good market and supermarkets. There is a fuel berth under the bridge a short way up the river. We filled up with jerry cans but other yachts have been alongside the fuel berth.
Check in/out at Customs and Harbour Master near to the Sri Malaysia Hotel. Immigration is at Wisma Persekutan about 20min walk up Jalan Sultan Ismail.