Friday, September 27, 2013

Lang Tengah

Visited Sept 2013


Lang Tengah is a small hilly rainforested island in north west peninsula Malaysia between the Perhentians (20km) and Redang islands (13km). The mainland access pier is at Merang (28km) and the nearest regional capital is Kuala Terrenganu (a bit over 30km from Merang - KT airport abt.25km).

The beaches are found along the southern and western coasts. When I visited there were 4 resorts, D'Coconut, Lang Sari aka Lang Resort, Sari Pacifica and Summer Bay. Lang Sari is one of those traditional Malaysian package resorts that run like a summer camp, the others mid-range places although Summer Bay looked like it still had a less expensive package wing.

BEACHES

Long beach
This 600m long beach is arguably the nicest on the island - its sand seemed even whiter and water clearer than the others which aren't bad. Note the unique blue coral patch off the southern end - a big-blue tinted bommy which somehow actually stains the water blue - and I am told the nearby sand gets a blue tint at night. I snorkelled the area but was too lazy to walk over from D'Coconut to check the night sand. You can see the access track from the southern beaches bottom right of shot - 3 minutes flat stroll from the inner middle of Lang Sari's most southern accommodation blocks.

This is the southern section of the beach adjacent the blue coral - seems pretty white at the time of shot

3 piers detract from appearance but this is still a pretty nice place to spend time.

Summer Bay towards the north end of Long Beach seemed to have the most guests of the resorts - mostly Malaysian and Chinese package tourists. This place had a pretty good store with reasonable prices for an island retail outlet.

Sari Pacifica is near the southern end. It had similar accommodation prices to D'Coconut and if room and resort facilities were the same as Sari Pacifica Redang where we stayed after Lang Tengah, it may have been the better option. Not that D'Coconut was poor it: could have just been a bit better for the money. However guest comments on the user sites suggest maybe SP Lang Tengah is a bit short of the mark.

Lang Sari Beach
This beach including the recurved western end is not much shorter than Long Beach. Note the rocks separating the two at far left don't seem impressive but I found it was not possible to pass by there at a fairly low tide level. No matter, that track you can see near the "north" symbol is a quick way to change beaches. The pass-through to D'Coconut's west beach at far right is a mere 20m path behind the seaside rocks.

The above shot is taken from those far right rocks. The beach looks pretty sweet but in fact is a step down from Long Beach - in the section you can see, high tide takes a lot of the beach and the sand is coarser. The best section is around the corner far end towards the rocks - fellow D'Coconut guests seemed to be enjoying the snorkelling there.

For some reason I didn't take any good snaps of Lang Sari/Lang Island  resort, so I had to raid Google's panoramia for this one from bteung, The resort is one of those places which specialises in package tours for domestic tourists - I stayed a few years back at a similar joint on Redang, Bay Resort, which proved quite good value although the atmosphere was holiday camp.
Looks good here but the place was a virtual ghost town when we passed by. Apparently it has changed hands - the people there seemed to be doing a major refit although the place appeared open for business. Judging from scathing user reports it needs this. I think the current name is Lang Sari.

D'Coconut Beaches
D'Coconut guests get to choose between 2 beaches. The longer, D'Coconut West is way smaller than Long or Lang Sari beaches at just over 100m. A 300m rainforest path over a low saddle joins them.

West beach is the better of the two  D'Coconuts. I thought it wasn't quite as white and fine grained as most of Long Beach but people who like small intimate beaches may prefer it.

West beach from the opposite end. That's the beach bar near right - the West Wing's restaurant is behind it. Some guest reviews complain of insufficient sun lounges at busy times but with only 3 guests staying this side during my visit that was not a problem. Water very clear here but coral pretty ordinary; quite a few fish to check out. That's Lang Sari beach far background.

East beach is smaller, has slightly coarser sand and more broken coral underfoot at low tide levels....

....but it aint exactly unattractive as you approach from the mainland. That's the East Wing restaurant and reception at left. Snorkelling is much the same as at East Beach; scrappy coral ok fish. I also snorkelled the several hundred meters between the 2 beaches - ditto. The most interesting area is probably around those rocks at left - some clinging coral patches and plenty of fish.

Turtle Bay and Batu Kuking
A short distance east of D'Cononut east are the final two south coast beaches - Turtle and Batu Kuking. There is no beach at Batu Bulan.

TURTLE BAY - This romantic beach is a tiny patch of sand accessed by heading up the steep jungle track alongside the "pier" at D'C East beach and turning right after about 30m. Total time, 3 minutes. The perfect place for solitude. Tide marks indicated not too much sand may be left at the top of the tide. I'm sure turtles can be spotted here, but the next beach east is the site of the turtle conservation project.

BATU KUKING
A bigger beach gives the turtle people more chance to study hatchings, protect hatchlings. Pretty deserted here because.....

....the conservation people, many of them western volunteers, work during the night and catch their zzzzzs during the day in this camp behind the beach.

Information board is interesting. This image may click expand.

I guess this is to stop hatchlings taking off before they can be counted, mesured etc.

BEACH COMPARISONS WITH NEARBY ISLANDS - Lang Tengah's beaches are pretty nice, better on average than the Perhentians. But I reckon Kapas has an overall higher standard. And providing lots of people don't put you off, the main beach at Redang is probably the single best in the region.


SNORKELING
Feeding the fish on D'Cooconut's around island snorkeling trip.

OFF THE BEACH - from what I saw the best off the beach snorkelling was at the southern end of Long Beach around the blue coral area. However this is about 70m off the sand and may be a stretch for many - no matter, the snorkeling boat trips include this place on their itinerary. I also found a very nice coral bommie (big round lump of hard coral) about the same distance off the beach in the swimming enclosure between Sari Pacifica and Summer Bay resorts, the area in the shot below.
These people are only about 30m off the beach - no matter, scatter some bread from the breakfast buffet and there's an instant crowd of colourful fish.

As mentioned up page I wasn't impressed with the coral off D'Coconut although the fish were okay - and people seemed to be enjoying the snorkeling at the far western end of Lang Sari beach (where the sand is nicest too). I was too lazy to check off Turtle Bay and Batu Kuking.

SNORKELING TRIP
Guests get fitted out for D'Coconut's snorkeling trip.

For the relatively small shoulder season crowd D'Coconut used its medium sized run-about, unlike Summer Bay's larger cruiser (see below). Chinese tour group seemed to enjoy themselves immensely and once again their interest seemed to be more on the fish than the coral. This seems fair enough - with flotation vests they can't get real close to a lot of the coral (although the water is amazingly clear and a lot the blue coral off Long Beach south is not deep) whereas a bit of bread will bring dozens of fish to the surface.


Having suffered too-long snorkeling trip in many parts of SE Asia, I found D'Coco's refreshing in that it took a total of under 2 hours with only 2 stops, Batu Bulan east and the blue coral area of Long Beach - 40 minutes each which gave plenty of time to check the scene.Another plus: we did a circumnavigation of the island which gave this happy camper a better idea of the scale of the location he was visiting. Conclusion - pretty compact island and you can see all the places worth visiting on foot.


The first stop was in the bay at Batu Bulan. I'd spied these nice bommies on an earlier trek across here but the snorkeling guys anchored a good 200m south-east where obviously the snorkeling must be better. It wasn't bad at all, quite a lot of plate coral and fish in incredibly clear water. Those bommies above were maybe 15-20m across. 


Second mate grabbing for the mooring at the second stop: the blue coral area Long Beach west. Blue coral pretty good, ditto fish - crew said snorkeling around rocks far background was okay, would maybe see some small reef sharks. Well maybe - but not when I went across: some fish and scattered coral but not as good as in area of boat.


Summer Bay resort's cruiser on a snorkeling trip. This baby parked adjacent to western end of D'Coconut west beach where passengers spent a good 30 minutes in the water. But when I swam out to this spot, the coral was very ordinary. Dudes must have been feeding the fish.

COMPARISON WITH NEARBY ISLANDS: Lang Tengah's snorkeling by SE Asian standards is pretty good. But not quite as good as the Perhentians and Kapas. And not as good as in the National Park area of Redang.


TREKKING

THE BEACH WALK - as seen above, someone starting at one of the Long Beach resorts can make their way to Batu Kuking via the beaches, the short track between Sari Pacifica and the western wing of  Lang Sari, the 300m walk across the low saddle between D'Coconut west and east and then the 5 minute not-too-steep jungle path across to Batu Kuking.
Arrow on rock just past tiny pier east end of D'Coconut east shows entrance to jungle track.

THE BATU BULAN WALK - walk inland in the obvious semi-clearing towards the far end of Batu Kuking beach and look for the track pointers.
The track goes for about 10 minutes thru some pretty good rainforest. Moderate slopes with lots of tree roots etc - good footwear is not a bad idea. On reaching the bay you will be on a high rock platform with a view across to Redang.....

....plus the view down into the bay shown 6 pix up page. Climbing down for a swim/snorkel would take some effort but would not be impossible.

TREKKING COMPARISONS WITH NEARBY ISLANDS. The Perhentians have the longest and most interesting treks, Redang, Kapas and Lang Tengah are roughly equal.


D'COCONUT RESORT
Finding a place to stay on Lang Tengah was a bit of a challenge. With Lady Tezza along I was looking for a place a step up from budget. Maybe just as well - Lang Sari is the only place approaching budget (on its package deals) but at the time of booking was declining the same; at least on popular booking sites. Its own booking site was off-putting with statements like FOR MALAYSIAN NATIONALS ONLY. And reviews on the user sites weren't exactly positive.
So okay, I had a look at alternatives and they were are priced way upmarket from flashpacker. Way upmarket from most places. Thing is, the highest I've ever paid in SE Asia is $us75 and that got me a gorgeous resort in Bali - and here's these 3 joints on Lang Tengah not of the same standard but wanting $us135 or more! Tell 'em they're dreaming! Well I usually do, but I did want to check the island out so I selected the only one that had mainly positive user reviews at the time - D'Coconut.
I'll sum up my feeling on this joint: Nice place but overpriced.


As already mentioned, D'Coconut  is split over 2 regions – the West Wing is about 4 min/300m walk over a low saddle (steepness will only worry the VERY unfit) from the East Wing. Each has its own beach, pool & restaurant – there is not much difference except the East Wing had wifi (patchy reception) in its restaurant, a better breakfast & inferior pool & beach. 


Part of the connecting pathway. Lighting at night okay - bags carried across for you if staying at West Wing.


East Wing pool, restaurant/reception (left) and most recently constructed accommodation unit.


Food in the restaurants was  expensive compared to only slightly downmarket places we had just stayed at in the Perhentians. Like them the place seemed to be suffering from end of season wind-down even though early/mid Sept is a long way from season close at the end of Oct– many things on the menu were not available. The inclusive buffet was similarly limited –we had no fruit over 3 days – but it was possible to fill up on pretty tasty food.

The West Wing pool from the second restaurant. Beach is just out of shot to left.

Our Executive Deluxe room above the West Wing restaurant had nice pool & beach/sea views from its balcony. It was very clean, spacious, had quiet aircon, a comfy king bed plus a single and a divan. There was a jug but no tv. Lights were satisfactory and there was plenty of storage. No bottled water was supplied. The spacious bathroom had good hot water & a tub.

 Another problem of visiting when there are few guests is that we came out in the hotel’s small outboard boat rather than its bigger cruiser– the sea breeze had kicked in on this day making the 45 minute trip bumpy & wet. Not to mention cramped. Here sea conditions are more benign because we are in the lee of the island. Cost Sept 2013 rm55 per person one way.



Hotel fauna and flora pretty interesting

Overall, D'Coconut is a pretty nice place, but not to the standard of the 3.5 stars being claimed on our booking site. It can't justify its pricing$us135 for a nice but essentially lower-midrange room, expensive food with limited choice and an uncomfortable transfer is not balanced by the gorgeous location and exceptionally nice and efficient staff. The price was towards 3 times that paid at Perhentian resorts only slightly downmarket.


SO SHOULD YOU GO TO LANG TENGAH IN PREFERENCE TO NEARBY ISLANDS?
Certainly, if you are looking for exclusivity and don't mind paying for it. The nice beaches, clear water and good coral on a tiny island with only a few resorts a fair distance from the coast give you the idea of being somewhere pretty special. 

Our trip away from the island was way more comfortable. We wanted to jump the short distance over to Redang island - the resort rang this Mingstar boat at left which was fast and much drier than the resort's smaller boat at right. From what I can gather this outfit does a daily run to Redang from Merang around or a bit after 1100 and doesn't mind diverting to Lang Tengah to pick up island-hoppers. This suggests they will also deliver guests to Lang Tengah resorts who miss earlier boats..


IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING LANG TENGAH YOU MAY ALSO BE INTERESTED IN NEARBY REDANG, KAPAS AND PERHENTIAN ISLANDS. SIMILAR INFORMATION ON THESE CAN BE FOUND VIA THE INDEX.

If you see mistakes or have additional information, please post it below. But if you have questions please ask it on THE FORUM. I don't have time to check individual island pages very often - but I try to monitor THE FORUM most days when I'm not travelling.

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