Rawa Island

Rawa Island Package

The relatively unknown island of Rawa in Johor is different from many Malaysian islands that I have been to in the sense that it is owned by the Johor Royal family and that your entire stay at the island is paid for in a package that includes two nights of accommodation, the boat transfers to and from the island back to Mersing, and all the meals (from dinner the evening of arrival to lunch the day of departure). I would normally be repelled by the idea of a travel package as my regular travel style allows me to completely control every element and fine tune and customize it according to both the necessity as well as the costs involved. Since another friend was organizing the trip, I decided to just put my fastidious and frugal tendencies aside and to just 'go along for the ride'.

Due to the size of the group (which consisted of 9 individuals), we decided to take the Group Room package which accommodates 6 pax and above. This package had a listed weekday rate of RM 390 per pax but the 16% tax brought the total up to RM 452.40 per pax and the 10% discount brought the final total down to RM407.16 per pax. We were given the attic room (C3), which was described as :

"A third and much larger attic room (C3) is situated on the second floor. This spacious Group Room contains a private double bedroom, a charming mezzanine bedroom reached by a ladder, a main group room, and a gorgeous balcony with wonderful sea views and a comfortable seating area - perfect for sharing a bottle of wine over a flaming sunset. This room is able to accommodate a minimum of 6 and maximum of 12 people, and is perfect for groups of friends. Please note that the private bathroom for this room is located on the ground floor, so may not be suitable for older guests or groups with small children."

Getting to Rawa Island

Since the bus (which cost RM 62.21 return) that left the Bandar Tasik Selatan (BTS) station at 09:00 reached Mersing well after lunch (approximately 14:00), the boat that left for the island from the Mersing Jetty, located at GPS coordinates '2.434455, 103.838460', ended up leaving at low tide. To make things worse, the phase of the moon was close to that of a new moon (both celestial bodies located in the same section of the sky) which meant that the tides were spring tides, which were about 20% lower on average during low tide than the levels of neap tides during low tide. Having checked the tide tables of the marine reports a few days later, extrapolating backwards would have given a rough time of 15:42 for the low tide of tide set two for the 10th of March.

After a prolonged journey, due to both the entanglement of jetsam on the motor that took some time to unravel as well as the reduction in speed (close to Mersing) due to the low spring tide, the boat arrived at Rawa island. Instead of dropping the group off at the Rawa Jetty, located at GPS coordinates '2.517901, 103.975194', the boat went right up to the beach where we were greeted by one of the staff from Alang's Rawa.

Getting There

Location of Rawa Island Pier

Rawa Pier

The Room in Alangs Rawa

The first thing we did was to bring our bags up to the room which turned out to be somewhat pleasant although not quite what you would expect for the amount that we were paying. We were to find out soon after though that the food on the other hand was! The variety, the quality and the quantity were all up to par although the preparation time for each dish did seem to be somewhat excessive. Towards the end of the trip we resorted (pun intended) to passing our order to the staff and then only going back to the room to freshen up before dinner. The menu had a variety of Asian and Western hybrid dishes and were chosen based on a single main dish as well as 2 smaller side dishes (potatoes, wedges, rice, salad, etc).

Water and drinks were not part of the package however (except for coffee or tea in the morning) and the prices that were listed were atrociously overpriced. You can expect to pay RM4 for a small 500ml bottle of mineral water and RM8 for a large 1.5l bottle for example. Other drinks (including a can of beer) were well in excess of RM10. I was fortunate enough to have realized that drinks had not been listed as part of the package and as such had brought along 3 large 1.5l bottles of mineral water with me that I had purchased in Mersing for RM1 each.

The day wound down fairly quickly after that with some snorkelling preceding dinner. The group then decided to take a leisurely stroll along the beach in a North-Westerly direction that ended up joining up to some wooden walkways that spanned the North-Western tip of the island. From there the trail progressed inland with a slight incline. The trail then curved back around the Northern tip of the island and began to head South. After following a few curves in what would now be considered a road, we arrived back at the cluster of resorts that populated the West coast of Rawa. Unfortunately I had not expected the 'leisurely stroll' that we ended up taking to head that far North and as such did not record the walk on the Suunto Ambit.

Next : Rawa Island (Part 2)

Sunrise Hike

Rawa Sunrise

The next day began really early as the group wanted to make the trek to the tip of the island for the sunrise. We began walking to the Rawa Island Resort which was just next door and just behind the the resort a sign labeled 'Hilltop Jungle Trekking' pointed the way. The trail itself, which we had completely overestimated, was just a short flight of stone steps leading up to  the Eastern side of the island which overlooked some cliffs. It had only taken 9 minutes and 30 seconds to reach that point and as such were in for a long wait. Following the trail would bring you to the South tip of the island which also had some great views. 

A little beagle (Canis lupus familiaris) called Daisy had followed the group up the trail, but she on the other hand seemed to have overestimated the trail as she was puffing and panting by the time she reached the top. I think we were all glad that she had come along though as her antics kept us entertained. The sunrise itself was not as breathtaking as some that I had seen but the fact that the elevated viewpoint was also very open and exposed made the time we spent there quite worthwhile. After spending just over 2 hours chatting and taking in the views, we made our way down to the resort to place orders for breakfast.

360 Panorama

Suunto Movescount Stats



Next : Rawa Island (Part 3)

Snorkeling & Kayaking

We remained under the greatly appreciated shade for most of that day as we were completely incapacitated due to the blistering, sweltering heat. During that time however we witnessed the arrival of a black speedboat that pulled into the jetty and a group of soldiers disembarked, a few armed with automatic rifles. We were told by some of the staff there that these men preceded the arrival of someone they called TMJ which stood for 'Tengku Mahkota Johor' (the Crown Prince of Johor). At that time we dismissed the event and thought nothing more of it not realizing how much it would later impact our trip.

By the time it was cool enough to emerge from the shade to go snorkeling, it was already past 17:00. I found the coral reef in front of the resort to be somewhat mediocre although there were patches of coral here and there that had large amounts of biodiversity. There were quite a few Clownfish (Amphiprion sp.) protecting their symbiotic anemone as well as a lot of Common Parrotfish (Scarus psittacus) chomping on the coral below. There were also certain areas, albeit a bit further out from the shore, that had large numbers of sea urchins that could pose a threat to those swimming barefoot. 

After a while, Kayleigh, Lesly and I decided to take out the kayaks that were part of the package (as was the snorkeling gear) before it got too late. Lesly and I ended up paddled around the Southern tip of the island as the sun began to set and as we rounded the tip, we found to our dismay that the strong current that was flowing from the North was now against us. We proceeded Northward nonetheless and followed the coast for some time before deciding that we had better turn back as it was beginning to get dark. There was also a small cove of sorts, perhaps more akin to an inlet, that Kayleigh had discovered and the rest of the girls had clambered down to. The cove was accessible by kayak but it was too small and the rocks at the sides were a little too close for my liking. 

Kayaking Rawa Island

Sundown & Starrise

The dinner was somewhat disappointing as the presence of the TMJ had left the staff in an irascible state. The choices available on the menu were also suddenly limited. Despite all this, the group decided to play a game of charades after everyone had eaten their fill. I had heard of this game before but to my recollection had never actually played it which made me reluctant at first but as the game went on, the more my competitive nature began to show. We were shocked and disgusted at one point when one of the staff had the impertinence to come over and to ask us to keep our voices down as the TMJ was seated nearby. We carried on with the game trying our best to not let what had just happened bother us but I later realized that the staff in question may have done what he did for our benefit rather than for the TMJ's benefit. 

As we were heading back to the room, I realised that the stars that night were out in their blazing glory which seemed to more than make up for the previous events. I then decided to take some long exposure shots before retiring for the night.

Milky Way Over Rawa

A Horrid End

Rawa Slide

The next day began with me in a querulous state as I had found the night before to be almost completely devoid of sleep. I had awoken with a start around 04:00 to blaring music that was so loud that ear plugs failed to help and found it close to impossible to get much sleep from that point on. I decided to consume copious amounts of caffeine during breakfast hoping that it would keep me going long enough before getting some rest on the bus back to Kuala Lumpur.

After giving the slide on the Rawa jetty a try, we went back to the room to pack as we were to depart shortly after lunch. The boat that was to take us back to the mainland arrived during lowtide and as such was forced to stop at the jetty. It turned out that the TMJ was on the beachfront having lunch so the staff herded us around through the back via another route to reach the jetty. Never have I been treated more like cattle. To make matters worse, there was no space at the jetty for the boat to dock properly and we were forced to clamber down some tyres that were tied up to wooden posts in order to board the boat.

We were later to find out that the Caucasian couple that was sharing our boat had cut their 4-day holiday short after the second day due to the cacophony the night before. Such a horrid end to an otherwise pleasant trip...