This past week we had some friends from the UK come to visit us. They’ve been to Singapore before about 8 years ago and wanted to go on a little adventure to break up this trip but without boarding another aeroplane. So we hatched a plan to drive up into Malaysia to one of the islands just of the coast of Mersing, a little shipping village on the coast, and a short three hour drive from Singapore.
From my research there are three main islands to choose from; Sea Gypsy, Batu Batu and Rawa Island (although they aren’t in any way connected). From what I can understand Sea Gypsy is the basic island, no aircon and you stay in traditional Malay huts, but I’ve heard the staff are brilliant at entertaining the kids and taking them on island adventures. Batu Batu is the higher end island with nice accommodation and food but a bit pricier. So on this occasion we chose to try Rawa Island Resort, it’s middle of the road and seemed to tick some boxes with good snorkelling just off the beach.
What I didn’t realise when we booked is that there are two resorts on Rawa. Rawa Island Resort and Alang’s Rawa. Alana’s Rawa is on the far side of the beach, it has fewer huts and a smaller beach area. We stopped by to take a look and they are very cute with a blue and white greek feel to them. It’s worth noting that the bathrooms are basic and they have no air con. They offer a menu to order from at meal times unless there is a big group booking. The big ‘but’ for us (which is a win for others) is that no kids are allowed at weekends.
Booking could’ve been smoother, there were a few emails back and forth and it was unclear what was initially included. Basically you have your three meals a day with them and each one is served as a buffet. Then you’ll travel on their boat transfers from Mersing to the island. These will be listed on top of your initial bill.
As an extra they helped us arrange a mini bus transfer from Singapore to Mersing and back (there’s a small additional charge for travelling from Sentosa or Changi area). Mr Billy was the taxi company owner (+60 16 715 2266) a true professional, he shared the reg number and driver details before each trip. Our driver was Yong and we were very happy with his skills and patience whilst our kids sang for the majority of the journey.
We’ve never driven through Malaysia before and initially I was in awe at the beautiful palm plantations, until we got a few hours into the journey and I noticed that this was all there was as far as the eye could see for miles and miles… all the rainforests had been culled to grow palm oil.
We had a warm welcome to the ferry point in Mersing and a short wait for our crossing. We were a little alarmed at the life vests they asked us all to wear. But when we saw that the boat basically moved like a pocket rocket it all became clear, if not more so on the return journey.
Arriving on Rawa was a dream, cool drinks with a friendly smile awaited us with sunshine and a laid back beach. The bar staff were amazing all holiday, they anticipated all our needs, the kids just had to mutter that they were thirsty and they’d popped glasses of water in front of them.
Tip: make sure you have a Gin Buck cocktail.
Meal times were relaxed, come as and when you want. The chef made some really nice tasting meals, there was always pasta on offer for the kids too. My only niggle was that everything apart from the fries and rice weren’t kept hot enough on the buffet. I’m also a gluten free veggie as was my friend who we traveled with. We spoke to reception about our requirements and from then on they brought us platters and platters of suitable, piping hot, tasty food to our table.
The snorkelling was one of the highlights of the break for me. I got to take both the kids out to find Nemo clown fish in the shallow waters just off the shore line. Some of the coral was bleached but there were plenty of fish to find and observe. And the slide was a big hit with the kids, you just need to check the tide times for when it’s open in the water sports shop.
Tip: buy your own snorkel and mask before you go as the daily hire charges can add up.
I love love being out on the water and our friend can sail so he took us out on one of the little Hoby Cats. It was the kids first time at sailing and they couldn’t get enough of it.
The island isn’t huge but there is a hiking path around it which takes about 40mins to complete, with a few hills thrown in for fun. Keep an eye out for the lookout point which is up some steps off the trail. I can’t confess to having climbed all the way to the top, I chickened out when the path turned to rocks.
We had two hillside villas, which was two rooms next to each other with adjoining balconies. They proved a relaxing spot to sit and watch the peacocks and fruit bats in the big tree. The rooms were back to basics style but the beds were comfortable and the rooms clean.
I’ve never had such amazing room service even from a five star resort. They came in and tidied up so well it took me by surprise. But the rooms could do with a little sprucing up, I was desperate to get some Annie Sloan paint on that furniture. If anyone from Rawa reads this, do get in contact I’d love to help you revamp the rooms.
Tip: remember to take your own beach towels with you.
Tip: we had rooms 21 and 22 and they were the perfect location for getting to the beach and restaurant. This really worked for us, but you could hear some noise from the kitchen.
The island is affiliated with ORCA scuba, so you can do the classwork before and just focus on your diving when you get there. They also do bubble maker classes for kids over 8.
The journey back on the boat was hair raising to say the least… it was a real white knuckle ride for all the wrong reasons. We loaded up in blue skies and ended up in the eye of a thunder storm. The boat was certainly going, this way, that way, forward and backwards over the deep blue sea… I just didn’t have the bottle of rum to soothe my tum. It got so bad the driver had to stand up to navigate as he couldn’t see the harbour through the wind and rain, all whilst the rain was coming in through every hole on the boat. It was only as we got off did hubby decide to share that the fuel gauge had been on zero too! Never have I been so glad to get two feet on the ground.
I can’t quite say that it was value for money, I did come away thinking that maybe it was a little overpriced. But all being said and done we had a lovely relaxing weekend away and the kids enjoyed kicking back on the beach and having some freedom.
Please note this isn’t a sponsored post, just my opinion of our stay at Rawa Island.
Rawa Island Resort www.rawaislandresort.com
Office Address Rawa Island Resort Sdn Bhd, Tourist Centre, Mersing 86800, Johor, Malaysia
Telephone +607 799 1204 / +607 799 1205