Ben van Wijnen.
Malaysia has many tropical islands with white sandy beaches and clear blue waters. Offshore, 67km east of Mersing, Pulau Aur, is such a tropical paradise.
The tropical waters of Malaysia offer some of the world's best scuba diving. This is a place endowed with some of the sport's best possibilities: you can dive with whale sharks,
hover around immense coral gardens and walls, or dive on ominous and hulking shipwrecks.
The population is spread along the coastline in small kampongs of four to six buildings. There are no roads or vehicles. The main industries of the island
are fishing and supporting the few dive resorts on the island. The island is surrounded by warm crystal clear seas teaming with life.
Together with Pulau Dayang, Pulau Lang, Pulau Pinang en Rayners
Rock and Pulau Pemanggil which is 15km northwest of Pulau Aur, it belongs to the Johor Marine Park. Most of the rocky islands are well
forested and have isolated coconut plantations. With deep, clear water, healthy corals and regular encounters with large pelagic species, these islands have the
potential to become international diving locations
The main kampung on Aur is Kampung Teluk Berhala. Everyone seems to be related to each other.
There's a school, a police station, a small surau, a balai raya and a jetty there.
There's also the friendly Makcik Fatimah who owns the only grocery store in the village. It may be small but it is well-stocked.
There's also the only public telephone on the island, solar powered and accepts only telephone cards. According to the locals the telephone is unreliable.
Further south is another cove called Teluk Sebukang. It's quite hard to reach by foot so a boat ride is advisable. Just go to the jetty and ask any available
boatman his schedule. For a price, you can take a boat ride to the nearby island of Dayang or other villages on Pulau Aur.
Pulau Aur has always been a stopover point for fishermen.
With a supply of frsh water and plenty of fish in the waters, a few later moved their families to the island. However Aur was never the peaceful island as we
see now. The deep dark secrets of the wild days are only beginning to unravel within the historic data collected from salvaged treasures hoisted from sunken
Chinese junks, sailboats and old merchants ships found shattered in its waterygrave.
The diving resort on Pulau Aur
Historically, Aur has been known to Chinese sailors for centuries. A map printed in the 17th century, which derived its information from the famous voyages of
Admiral ZhengHe in the 15th century, identifies Aur as two island (as indeed it does appear to be from a distance) according to its two peaks, Xi Zhu Shan (west bamboo mountain) and Dong Zhu Shan (east bamboo mountain).
In the 19th Century, Aur harboured a thriving population of about 1,400 inhabitants consisting of fishermen, traders and slaves. The islands
were an ideal location for pirates to run their business of pillaging, ravaging, slave trading and even sinking a great number of boats during fierce raids with
foreign boats on their way to Indonesia or to Thailand and beyond.
If you wish to visit the other village to the back of the island, there is a coastal walk from Kampung Berhala right across, with
well maintained steps most of the way. The trek takes approximately 1 hour each way and also takes you through some great views so bring along some water and camera for a longer than expected trek!
Dayang Island, is the second biggest island in the Aur group. Facing the Aur Island, separated by Dayang Channel, is Kampung Pasir Putih - The
Village of White Sand... And its in this small village where the popular Dayang Island Resort is situated.
Dayang Island Resort, privately owned and operated, offers an experience of living with basics by the beach. Communal Living is the thing on this
island. For many cosmopolitan slaves, this can be heaven - kicking off the shoes and just try to disappear with nature.
Built in traditional Malaysian heritage, it promises arustic and cozy setting with all facilities and comfort. Whether you are
an angler, diver or holiday maker, this is the place to get away from it all.
A place where you can really shake off the city, put on your swimsuit and savor the rich tropical beauty.
The resort on Pulau Dayang
Together with Dayang, Aur is mostly visited by foreigners and hard core divers. Aur has about
300 settlers and only radio phones work here. Aur came into the limelight when a Royal Australian Air Force F-111 bomber crashed into its peak during a Five Power Defence Exercise in April 1999.
The aircraft impacted tall trees on a ridgeline, then tumbled in the air for a further mile down track before coming to rest in the jungle. Due to the
inaccessibility of the region, the RAAF left most of the wreckage of A8-291 on site. A memorial has been dedicated at the scene.
Several underwater Pinnacles on the east side of Pulau Aur rise 30m from the sea floor to within 10m of the surface with good hard coral growth including undamaged table corals (Acropora Sp.).
The Pinnacles are about ½ hour by boat from the main village and just a little distance from Pulau Pinang.
'Rayner's Rock' northeast of Pulau Dayang, is a similar place 33m high, submerged rock where there are impressive Boulder Corals (Porites Sp.),
Whale Sharks have been seen and delightful encounters with large Manta Rays (Manta birostris) are common.
It is surprising to see extraordinarily large numbers of juvenile fish (juvenile barracudas, lots of young groupers, fusiliers) this far offshore.
Many are so different in shape and markings from their adults that they can be mistaken for different species.
The packages usually include land transfers from Singapore/ Kuala Lumpur to the jetty in Mersing, boat transfer to resort on Pulau Aur, 6 dives and full
board. Packages are available from most dive operators in Singapore/
Diving map Pulau Aur
A ship wreck Pulau Aur
Schedule your weekends for some world class wreck dives. A boat will bring you up to unchartered
wreck off the South China Sea to explore pieces of history lying within recreational depths.
Here's your chance to look at more than 50 sharks in one dive, sand rays and so much more. Bring along your camera!
You can make several recreational wreck expeditions. It's a tremendous experience for all of you onboard.
Weather will be excellent and the wreck will be filled with marine life.
Sharks, Giant travellies, Mirror of Batfishes and so much colour. Trip covers wrecks within the recreational dive limits. Basically World War II remains and older.
April to June are the best months for diving with clear and calm waters.
The inner islands (i.e. excluding Pulau Pemanggil and Aur) are popular with non-divers so stay away from the islands during weekends and public holidays!
|A huge rock in the shape of a lion on Pulau Aur is known as Batu Berhala and according to legend was formerly
home to an 'orang bunian' or a good spirit. The 'orang bunian' was believed to have stashed away a horde of cargo from a shipwrecked Chinese junk in a secret cave within Batu Berhala.
Those who believed in the good spirit and required help would perform specific rituals to appease the sentient being and when satisfied with the offerings, a door would spring open from the face of the rock.
A tunnel led into the cave filled with everything one would wish for.
The only other condition was that everything borrowed from the cave must be returned after their use had expired.
However due to the second nature of most human beings, many never returned the items taken. Disappointed with such behaviour and disrespect, the orang bunian left Batu Berhala never to return.
A rock in the shape of a lion ( Batu Berhala)
Kampong on Pulau Aur
The channel between Aur and Dayang is rich with coral reefs in relatively shallow waters.
At the middle of the
channel lies a sunken aircraft wrapped in a fishing net, you also have a unique opportunity to dive on a wreck from the Ming dynasty.
Pulau Pinang, a rocky area, has steep drop-offs that provide shelter to giant stingrays, groupers, large schools of barracudas and sometimes whale
sharks. All this makes Pulau Aur ideal for divers of all levels of training.
Some small villages dot the coast and the only access to these "kampongs"
is by trekking or by boat.
Have a look at theSchool Holidays and Public Holidays!
Drive yourself to Mersing Jetty which is located in Johor Bahru. It will take you approximately 3 hours if you are from Singapore whereas it will take almost 6 hours if you drive from Kuala Lumpur to Mersing. Then, there will be a boat waiting at the jetty to bring you to the island. From there, it will be another 4-5 hours to reach Aur Island. It will be longer if the sea is rough during the transportation.
Ben van Wijnen