Palau Tengah Island
Latitude – 2°28’37.02” N Longitude –103°57’38.49” E
Situated in the South China Sea approximately nine nautical miles off the east coast of peninsular Malaysia, Pulau Babi Tengah (“Middle Pig Island” in the Malay language) is one of the islands in the Seribuat Archipelago. The island is one of 13 islands that make up the protected Johor Marine Park.
The interior of the XX sq. km island is covered in tropical forest; its 3 km circumference is adorned with eight sandy beaches framing clear waters and rocky outcrops. The rich marine life around the island includes healthy coral reefs that play host to dugongs, whales, dolphins, porpoises, and sea turtles.
The postcard perfect nature of the island belies a more sober past. Between 1975 and 1991, the island was home to a UNHCR Refugee Transit Camp where approximately 120,000 displaced Vietnamese boat people found a temporary haven on the west side of the island, where remnants of the camp remain.
Today, the island remains a sanctuary for the flora and fauna that thrive in this corner of the world.
How to get there
Pulau Tengah or Tengah Island lies nine nautical miles or 15 kilometres off the east coast of peninsula Malaysia in the South China Sea. The island is accessible by Batu Batu’s private speedboat from the coastal town of Mersing, approximately 130km by road from Singapore.
The journey time from Mersing to Pulau Tengah by speedboat is 20-30 minutes in good weather. We have one or two scheduled return speed boat journeys each day (dependent on occupancy and tides). Additional chartered boat transfers can be scheduled at an additional cost. Please see BOOK for information on scheduled and chartered boat transfer prices.
We can provide contacts for several taxi companies that run private taxi transfer services between Singapore / Kuala Lumpur and Mersing. From drop-off at the jetty in Mersing, you can then catch Batu Batu’s private speed boat to the island.
If you prefer to self-drive, there are several secure car parks in Mersing close to the boat jetty. Please view our FAQs for more information on getting to us. If you need further information or have any specific questions not covered, please contact us directly.
Seasonality and activities
The island enjoys warm tropical weather year round with an average temperature of around 30 degrees Celsius. Sunny blue-skied days are the norm from March to November, when the water clarity is at its optimum.
During the rainy season from December to March, the island’s forests take on a lush deep green. At this time, should the sea get too choppy, scheduled boat transfers are cancelled for guests’ safety and Batu Batu will endeavour to accommodate travellers at the next possible opportunity.
History of the island
** mock-up text ** Between 1975 and 1991, Pulau Bidong, Trengganu took in around 250,000 refugees. More importantly for our purposes, Pulau Tengah was, from the mid-1970s to early 1980s, a United Nations’ Refugee Council Transit Camp for around 120,000 refugees.
Here, on the western coast of this sea-wet rock framed by white-sanded beaches and palm trees — an unexpected paradise after their ordeal at sea — this traumatised diaspora waited for the call to come from their new homes where they could start afresh with new lives.
The presence of the refugees had a large, long-lasting impact on Pulau Tengah’s ecology, the effects of which are still visible today. Vast tracts of forest were denuded for firewood and building purposes. The Malaysian government, which had taken over the island temporarily for the purposes of the camp, paid the island’s owner compensation of five cents for every coconut tree that was felled.
There were three camps on Pulau Tengah. Long Beach was then called Trung Dao — easily identified by the big abandoned steel ship called Yet Kieu on the sand; Angsana Beach and Red Sand Beach, Bac Dao; and Sunrise Beach, Nam Tao. Most of the daily activities were focused on Long Beach where the main buildings were located including a main hall, kitchen, concrete wells, the Malaysian police department and toilets.