One of Peninsular Malaysia‘s most southern east coast islands, Sibu Island, or Pulau Sibu is situated off the coast of Mersing, Johor Bahru. It is made up of a cluster of islands that consists of Sibu Besar, Sibu Tengah, Sibu Kukus and Sibu Hujung. The main island, Sibu Besar (Big Sibu) is about 6km long and 1km wide. It is mostly covered by jungles and vegetation; with a small fishing village and several resorts scattered around its beaches.
Prior to my trip to Pulau Sibu, I wanted to do some research on interesting things to do around the island, as well as what to expect. However, there’s not much information online about the island except for those on Wikipedia, TripAdvisor, and a couple of the resorts’ websites and hotel booking sites.
Therefore, I decided to come up with a list of things to know about a holiday on Pulau Sibu– the basic information and other things of note. Here’s hoping it helps you with your travel plans to the island!
1. Getting to Pulau Sibu
The jetty to Pulau Sibu is located in Tanjung Leman; about a 5 hours drive from Kuala Lumpur, and 3 hours from Singapore. There is a secured car park at the jetty for about RM4 a day for the first two days, and RM8 a day for subsequent days.
Most of the boats leaving the jetty are usually scheduled by the resorts and included in the total price. My boat was scheduled for Pulau Sibu at 2pm; and upon arrival, I approached the counter and checked myself in. I was required to pay a ‘Jetty Fee’ of RM5.30 (US$1.2), as well as a ‘Johor National Park Conservation Fee’. Locals pay RM5 for that, and foreigners are required to pay RM20 (US$5). I arrived at the Tanjung Leman jetty 2 hours early, so I had lunch at one of the many small Malay stalls in the jetty’s main building while waiting. There is also a KFC outlet at the back.
The boat ride to Pulau Sibu takes about half an hour, but the ride may get bumpy and wet. I didn’t go prepared, so I was soaked through! I was lucky to be in slippers though, as my boat landed on the beach, and I had to jump into the water to get to shore.
There are several types of resort and homestay accommodations located around Pulau Sibu. The resorts facing the east side of the island are Sea Gypsy Village Resort and Sari Pacifica Resort. Sea Gypsy is a spacious wooden chalet-style resort, and the dated Sari Pacifica is located within the hills and was undergoing renovations during my visit. The bamboo-based Rimba Resort is one of the prettiest beach resorts on the island, and is located towards the north. On the western side of the island facing the mainland are homestay resorts like Coconut Village; and other basic chalet resorts like Junansa Resort and the Twin Beach Resort.
Almost all the resorts are all-inclusive with room, board and transport. Alcoholic beverages are not included, but most resorts offer them.
During my visit to the island, I stayed at the Sea Gypsy Village Resort. You can read about my wonderful experience here:- Sea Gypsy Village Resort in Pulau Sibu, Malaysia.
3. Touring the Island
It is possible to walk the entire length of Pulau Sibu. Most of the resorts are linked to one another either by the beach, or by a marked pathway through the jungle. There are also concrete walkways circling the island at some points.
During my visit, I stayed at the Sea Gypsy Village Resort on the northeast side of the island– and made daily walks to different parts of the island. I visited a couple of the other resorts for sun-downers in the evening, walked through a coconut plantation, climbed the volcanic rocks towards the rugged sea caves, and trampled across the island to see the mangrove swamps. There are just so many things to explore around Pulau Sibu.
4. The Village
There is only one village on Pulau Sibu, located on the southwest corner of the island. It is called Kampung Duku, and is home to about 200 people. Most of the villagers of Kampung Duku live in Malay traditional stilt houses and work as fishermen (though tourism now plays a big part too). The main area of the village has a police station, a community hall, a mosque, a clinic and a huge primary school (with 5 teachers to 35 students). There is also a football field in the village where the local children play football in the evenings.
It is possible to visit the village and have a look around. If you’re looking for a big ‘Pulau Sibu’ sign for photos, there is one in the village. There are also a couple of coffee shops in the main part of the village so bring some money and sit down for a cuppa with the locals.
5. Trekking through the Jungles
Pulau Sibu is mostly covered by greenery and vegetation. Some resorts are only accessible via a pathway through the jungle. I arrived on Pulau Sibu on the west side near Coconut Village; and had to make a 10-minute walk through the mangrove swamps and jungle to the east side of the island, where my resort, the Sea Gypsy Village Resort is located.
I also went jungle trekking in the evening to Rimba Resort towards the north of the island. It is a relatively easy 15-minute walk through the dense jungle on a marked path. The walk back after sunset was a little more challenging as it was pitch black in the jungle– but I brought a torch with me. Halfway through the walk though, I came across a wild boar who let out a loud (and very terrifying) snort as I approached. I was startled and screamed, and I guess that scared it off. I was lucky it didn’t come charging at me; as the jungles in Pulau Sibu are apparently full of wild boars. And monitor lizards.
6. Diving and Snorkeling
Pulau Sibu is a protected National Marine Park area (since 1993), and therefore its waters are teeming with beautiful corals and fishes. Some of the sea activities you can do while on the island are diving, snorkeling, paddling and swimming. Some resorts offer daily snorkeling trips to places like the Sibu Coral Garden.
My visit to Pulau Sibu was supposed to be a diving trip– but the weather was less than favorable for diving while I was there. The seas were rough, and the visibility was really bad. However, I did manage one dive near the shores of Pulau Tinggi (the island next to Pulau Sibu). It was only a 10m dive, and because the visibility was horrendous, I could only spot a couple of corals, a few fishes, and a cuttlefish. Pulau Sibu is said to offer amazing dives– but unfortunately for me, I visited at the beginning of the opening season in March, which is the tail-end of the monsoon season. I guess at the end of the day, it really depends on luck.
The best season to visit the island is from April to September. Most of the resorts on Pulau Sibu and the rest of the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia close for the monsoon season from October to March.
7. Sunrise and Sunsets
Like all islands and beaches, the sunrise and sunsets on Pulau Sibu are absolutely breathtaking. I was on the northeast side of the island at the Sea Gypsy Village Resort, and woke up early every morning to watch the sun peek out from over the horizon.
To watch the sunset, I made my way to Coconut Village and Kampung Duku during the evenings. They offer one of the best views to watch the sun go down. Having sun-downers at Rimba Resort on the north side of the island is also a great way to end the day– though it only offers a partial glimpse of the sunset.
8. The Beaches
Pulau Sibu has beautiful beaches especially on the north and northeast side of the island. The Sea Gypsy Village Resort faces an approximately 350 meters long beach with golden sand that slopes gradually into the sea, making it perfect for swimming (waves can be a little strong though). The beach is divided from the southeast side of the island by a series of steep cliffs with rocks of colorful dark red and green patterns. They are formed a long long time ago by the composition of layers of volcanic ash that ran through flowing lavas– a proof of the once volcanic nature of the island. There are also sea caves and abrupt arches along these cliffs.
On the other side of Pulau Sibu, especially on the southwest coast– the beaches are sheltered from the winds from the open South China Sea. The sea is so calm on this part of the island that mangrove trees grow along the shores. Most of the island’s small wooden jetties are built on this side of the island; and boats from the mainland usually arrive here.
9. Families with Kids
I added this point especially for families with children. I believe Pulau Sibu is a great island to bring the kids to– beautiful beaches and plenty of activities to keep them busy; on land and in the water.
The Sea Gypsy Village Resort is the perfect resort to bring the little ones to. They have their own Kid’s Club— and the resort has a large amount of space for the children to run around in, as well as many supervised activities. I saw a whole entourage of school kids arriving at the resort on the day I was scheduled to leave.
During my visit to Rimba Resort, I noticed that they have facilities for kids as well. And if you have children who prefer a huge pool to jump into– Sari Pacifica Resort has one.
10. Other Random Stuff
Here are couple more quick (and important) information about Pulau Sibu:-
It is really hard to get wifi connection on the east side of the island– so during my stay at the Sea Gypsy Village Resort, I had to walk around the entire resort in search of sweet spots. However, during my visits to the island’s west side, I was able to obtain relatively good signals. It is not reliable though, because after all, Pulau Sibu is a pretty secluded island.
Like all beaches in Malaysia, the sandflies on Pulau Sibu are vicious! So make sure you bring enough protection– those bug and mosquito repellants are itch-savers. If the sandflies still attack, remedies like baby oil, lavender oil, vinegar and calamine may help. Most resorts provide mosquito nettings with their beds, so make sure you use them at night.
There are no ATM machines on the island, so make sure you bring enough cash to pay for your resort accommodations and drinks. ATMs are only available on the mainland– there are none at Tanjung Leman so get your cash from the bigger towns on the way. Most resorts accept credit cards but check with them before you go.
If you have other information about Pulau Sibu to add to my list, please leave a comment below!