Thursday, September 3, 2009

Redang Islands

There are nine islands in the Redang Archipelago, which is close to Merang on the coast ofTerengganu State. Pulau Redang is popular with Malaysian tourists and those from further afield, and much of the east coast is now taken up with tourist development – even the forest has been cleared to make way for a golf course. Kampung Air (Water Village) was built by the government in 1976 to rehouse the fishing families displaced by hotel building. Like the old village, it is built on stilts over the water and it houses around 1,200 people. Most of the east coast is now lined with up-market resorts.

The coral reefs around Redang and its satellite islands make up one of the Malasiya’s marine parks, whose management involves the protection of sensitive ecosystems from the impact of rapid human activity.

Tourists are required to pay a conservation fee on arrival. Jet-skiing and water-skiing are banned to protect the coral, and the only fishing allowed in the park area is by the residents, but Redang offers exceptional diving and snorkeling. Outside the monsoon season,diving visibility is at least 20 m though corals and fish can be clearly seen a few meters from the beach. The reefs, composed of corals of a variety of colours and formations, teem with an extraordinary diversity of marine life, including angelfish, reef shark, squid, lionfish, butterflyfish and bathfish. Most diving sites lie off the eastern shore, but it’s also possible to snorkel off the southern coast and around the small islets.

When to go: March to October. Population: 2,500 (2006 estimate). How to get there: Flights from Kuala Lampur or Singapore of ferries from Merang. You should know: Learning to dive – Redang offers diving courses as well as dives for the experienced. The festival of Candat Sotong in April involves using hand-held lines to catch squid.

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