Batu Batu  on Pulau (Babi) Tengah is a private little paradise, off Mersing coast, in the protected Johor Marine park. Not far from Singapore, it is the ideal luxury family getaway for a 2 or 3 day long weekend. You will enjoy a peaceful time, between the swimming pool and the beach.

Just to be clear… island names can be quite confusing in Malaysia. We are here referring to Pulau Babi Tengah or Pulau Tengah, off Mersing in Johor, Malaysia. Most people refer to it as Batu Batu (from the name of the resort on it). We are not referring to  Pulau Lang Tengah, located between Redang and Perhentian, accessible from Merang.

How accessible is it from Singapore?

Singapore to Batu Batu island journey details

Pulau Tengah is one of the islands off Mersing that you can access from Singapore via car and boat

The total door to door journey is 3 hours and 40 minutes from (your home/office in) Singapore to your room on Pulau Tengah assuming average traffic conditions (30 minutes waiting time) at the border.

How much is this going to cost us?

Transport from Singapore will cost you about SGD 430 return for 2. This estimate includes the transfer by van and the boat. Accommodation wise… take a deep breath. A full board 2 days and 2 nights stay for 2 adults will cost you about SGD 1150. So it’s definitely the most expensive option available in this area.

What about the kids?

Batu Batu is very kids friendly. The island is super clean and the facilities are great for kids of all age. The resort features a kid house where they can play. The beach and pools are great for kids. The staff can also baby sit your kids for a while. The resort clearly targets the expat families from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur and does a very good job at it. It’s a perfect destination for family with young children.

How remote and risky is it?

The island is very safe and clean. However, there is no medical infrastructure on the island. First aid kits are available. If anything serious happens, you will need to take a boat back to Mersing and then a car to Singapore.

When should we go?

The best period to visit Batu Batu and avoid the rain season are the months of March, April, May, June, July, August and September. Refer to the chart in the sidebar for details about the monthly average rain volumes and rainy days..

Batu Batu is open all year long (but most resorts on close by islands are closed in December and January because of the monsoon).  Of course, you can take your chances and go off season but there are good reasons why other resorts close…

Did you know?

Batu Batu has a rich history.  From 1975 to 1981 the island hosted more than 100,000 Vietnamese “boat people” refugees in transit to a new life in Europe, Australia or North America. You can find some testimonies of this period on this website. More recently, it has been the stage for Survivor series such as “Koh Lanta”. But you will wonder how this is possible when you see the island. It’s now a little paradise.

Alternatives to Batu Batu

There are a few islands off Mersing, take a look at this comparison where we compare 5 islands (Batu Batu, Pulau Besar, Pulau Rawa, Pulau Sibu and Pulau Tioman) to pick the one that’s right for you. Click the picture below to discover this comprehensive review in which we compare accessibility, accommodation, beach, snorkeling, diving, etc

Tripinasia - Destination battle - Islands in Johor, Malaysia

Connections from Batu Batu

If you plan to discover the islands nearby, we recommend you start with the others Pulau Sibu, Pulau Besar or Pulau Rawa and finish with Batu Batu. If you do it the other way you might be disappointed by the other islands… as Batu Batu is at the very top of the range in terms of accommodation. Batu Batu can also be a last stop relaxing destination after a trek in Endau Rompin National Park. These destinations are accessible from Mersing.

Getting from Singapore to Batu Batu

To reach Batu Batu you first need to get to Mersing,

You have a few options to go from Singapore to Mersing. From the fastest to the cheapest option.
(click the + expand sign to expand each section)

The most painful part of the trip is to cross the border. You can get an idea of what to expect by checking the traffic webcam on the One Motoring website. Hiring a van with a driver may be the fastest option to cross the border since they have a dedicated lane at the border and go through faster than private cars or taxis.

Driving your own car (or rent one) takes about 2.5 hours if there is no traffic at the border (to be honest, unless you travel in the middle of the night, there is always some traffic at the border so 3h30 is more realistic) . Renting a car will cost you from SGD 300 for 48h rental (check Avis Singapore). You can park your car at Mersing (open air carpark with limited (if any) surveillance, RM 15 per night). The GPS coordinates of the Mersing Jetty are 2.434352, 103.839191 (Jalan Abu Bakar)

Woodlands or Tuas? Which is fastest?
If you drive the car yourself, you will have the option to cross the border at either Woodlands Causeway or Tuas Second Link checkpoint.
We found that, generally speaking, there are less vehicles at the Tuas Second Link checkpoint. However, depending on where you start your trip in Singapore, going through Tuas may add up to 50 km to the total journey. The road between Tuas Second Link and Johor Bahru (where you connect with the traffic going through Woodlands Causeway) can be busy. So, if you travel in the night or outside of peak hours, use Woodlands as it’s shorter. If you plan to be at the border on at 7PM on a long weekend Friday and don’t mind burning additional gas, you may want to give a try to Tuas Second Link (but there is no guarantee) and hope that the waiting time is shorter compared to Woodlands Causeway.

Arranging a car with a driver from Singapore (passenger car, minivan, etc) takes about 3 hours if there is no traffic at the border and costs approximatively SGD 350 per car for a return trip up to 4 pax and SGD 450 per mini van for a 10 seaters. You can book via Discovery Tour agency: +65 6733 4333 / Email : sales@discoverytours.com.sg.

Compared with private cars, taxis and buses, vans are the fastest way to cross the border since they use a special lane and carry less passengers than buses.

Arranging a specially licensed taxi (regular taxis cannot cross the border) is another option. If you use these taxis you will have to transfer vehicle at the taxi station. 

  • From Singapore to Malaysia:
    – (only specially licensed) Singaporean taxis can go to  Kotaraya taxi stand (near Johor Bahru City Square).
    – Malaysian taxis can take you anywhere in Malaysia but can only be taken from Ban San Street Taxi Kiosk at Rochor Road, in Singapore. This is close to Bugis MRT station. It costs SGD 10 per person or SGD 40 per car.
  • On the way back, from Malaysia to Singapore you can take a taxi at Kotaraya taxi stand (near Johor Bahru City Square). The ride from Kotaraya taxi stand to Ban San Street Taxi stand (Rochor road) cost RM15 per person or RM60 per car.

You can book cross border taxi services with SMRT taxis or call the taxi stations at+65 6296 7054 (Singapore) or +60 7 224-6986 (Johor Bahru).

Take a look at taxisingapore.com for more details and contacts.

If you prefer a transfer from anywhere in Singapore to Mersing (or anywhere in Malaysia) with no change of vehicule, you can book contact limousinecab. The transfer is SGD 300 upwards from Singapore to Mersing (depending on the car).

Taking a direct bus from Singapore to Mersing takes 4 hours or more depending on the traffic at the border and costs approximatively SGD 30 / pax for one way. Several bus companies offer daily coach transfer to Mersing. Most buses leave from the Golden Mile Complex near Lavender MRT. You can try Transnational Express (departure around noon / +65 6294 7034). FiveStar does not operate this service anymore.

Taking a bus from Singapore to Johor Bahru and then a taxi from Johor Bahru to Mersing. This is useful if you cannot catch a direct bus as they leave quite early. This option is suitable if you want to leave right after work on Friday for example.

To reach Johor Barhu, you can take the Singapore-Johor Express bus or the Causeway Link Express bus, departure from Bugis / Beach Road and arrival to Larkin Bus Terminal in Johor Barhu. A one-way ticket costs SGD 2.5. It runs from 6:30 AM to 11:00 PM at 15 minute intervals. If you have large luggage with you, you will have to pay for a second ticket for your bag. You’ll have to get off the bus at the immigration checkpoint, take all your belongings, keep your tickets.

Taxis from Larkin Bus terminal to Mersing will cost approximatively MYR 100 SGD 40and will take 2.5 hours. Taxis are available at the Larkin Bus Terminal.

then the resort will arrange a boat transfer to the island:

Regular transfers ( RYM 100 per adult, per way):

  • Mersing to Batu Batu: 11AM &  3:30 PM
  • Batu Batu to Mersing: 1:30 PM& 4PM

You can also charter a boat from 7AM  until 9PM (you would need to leave Singapore around 5PM to catch the boat at Mersing).

  • Adult  RM 175 per way
  • Child (4 years +)  RM 100
  • Infant (Under 4 years) Free
    There is a minimum charge of RM 500 per boat.

The boat ride lasts approximately 20 min.

Where to stay on Pulau Tengah?

That’s an easy one… There is only one resort on Pulau Tengah. It’s Batu Batu. It’s great. Spacious rooms with great view over the ocean (ocean view rooms), amazing food, great facilities, and good service. Last time we checked, you could only book directly through their website. It’s all there. Finally the luxury destination on a small island accessible under 4 hours from Singapore you’ve been looking for.

We were just a bit surprised by the salted water in the shower. It’s probably a good thing for the environment (although we would need to check the power used to treat that water). But not to worry it was OK to take a shower.

Some rooms are pretty far from the restaurant (10 min walk) so make sure you take your baby phone with you if you plan to put your kids to bed before you have dinner.

Overall there were a couple of small things that could have been better (windows were not very clean and the bathroom was below standard). There are 2 ways to look at these small issues. One would be, hey, given the price I pay, it’d better be perfect! The other one would be, hey, seriously, you are in Malaysia on a remote island, what you have is already amazing and way above anything you would get in a hotel on the nearby islands.

All in, boat transfers, room and full board, you will pay about RM 3400 for 2 adults, 2 nights in the Ocean Villa. That’s if you don’t get crazy on the cocktails at the beach bar (drinks are extras).  Details about rates can be found here. You will pay in 2 times (and it probably helps forget about the cost…) one at the time of booking (room and boat), one upon checkout (full board and return boat).

Book early if you want to have a chance to stay there. There are only a dozen bungalows and they get booked very early. Batu Batu is very popular with expat families.

To see & to do in Batu Batu

Enjoy the beach

Long beach, a few minutes’ walk from the rooms and the reception area is the largest beach. Nice white sand and great for a soccer game (ball and gates provided), a drink by the beach bar or a dip in the water.

Enjoy the pool

The pool is nice and offers nice view on the sea. It’s big enough for the number of guests.

Rent a kayak to canoe around the island

Rent a kayak and take a tour of the island. It takes about one hour and is great way to see the beaches and rocks from a different perspective.

Walk  around the island

There is a path going around the island. If you start from the reception, go left when you look inland as most of the beaches are on this side. There are a few very nice little beaches with nice rocks. The path is good and easy to follow. If you continue clockwise, the end of the path is not so interesting as it goes into the jungle. It’s also a bit steep and slippery at times. If you want to avoid this part, you can stop when the path starts going up and return.

Snorkel

It’s too hot to stay on the beach? Put your snorkeling gear on(you can rent some from the resort) and run into the sea. Don’t expect amazing corals, crazy sea life but give it a try, you’ll see nice small things. The water is clear during the dry season. If you want to do some serious snorkeling, ask at the dive center they can arrange boat trips for you.

Dive

There is a dive center on the island. They can arrange all types of diving activities for all levels of divers from shore diving to day diving boat tours.

Pamper yourself at the spa

We are not huge fans of Spa but… we know some of you just love it. You can find their Spa menu here

You can find more activities and details on the Batu Batu website

Batu Batu map

Map from Batu Batu website.

More info to prepare your trip

Wifi is available in the rooms and common areas

What to pack for Batu Batu

Your main bag

That’s the one you leave at the hotel. Ideally you want to avoid checking in your luggage when flying. So check the weight and dimensions for hand carry luggage with your airlines (some airlines will allow only 7kg, some will allow up to 10kg). From head to toes.

  • Short sleeves tops: your main outfit. Everybody will see them on all your pictures. You really want to take that old Mickey Mouse T-shirt? Be mindful that you will be in a different environment so it might be a good idea to adjust your wardrobe.
  • Long sleeves tops: to protect yourself from the sun (if you’ve stayed for 5 hours on a motorbike with short sleeves you know what I mean) or to enter religious buildings or to protect yourself from mosquitoes in the evening.
  • Pullover. Yes I know, you’re going to a country where the temperature never goes down below 25 degrees and you need to pack a pullover? You will thank us when you’re back. Remember that flight during which  you were freezing? Or this museum where the aircon is set to the “polar bear” temperature?
  • Short/skirt (you should be able to chose the appropriate one by yourself).
  • Trousers for the same reasons you need to take long sleeves tops. Jeans are usually not a good option. They are heavy and keep you too warm.
  • Underwear: well, you know. If you plan to walk or ride motorbikes for long hours, take something comfortable as the combination heat + friction can make you regret this sophisticated silk underwear. Cotton is good.
  • Shoes: one pair of flip flap and one pair of confortable shoes. Remember that you are going to spend most of the time on your feet. Forget about high heels and leave your Westons at home.
  • Swimsuit: even if you don’t plan to go to the beach, you never know. A nice river, a swimming pool, a heavy rain? Always have one with you.
  • Raincoat and protection for your bag. Even if you are visiting the country during the “best season”, you never know what the sky will be like.
  • Torch: take a pocket torch with you if you visit countries where the power is not reliable… Can come very handy when stuck in the dark in your room.
  • Toilet bag: Shampoo, soap, toothbrush & toothpath, deodorant, sun screen, tiger balm. Ideally, all these in miniature formats.
  • Sleeping bag liner (if you plan to stay in very cheap or dirty places, not required if you are staying in a 5-star hotel…)
  • Your IT stuff: iPad, eBook, laptop, chargers, memory card, batteries, etc.
  • Dryer sheets: they will help keep a fresh smell in your bag.

Your small bag

That’s the one you keep with you, all the time. Hence, a backpack is the best option.

  • Your passportcashcredit cards and other life saving items like your insurance card with emergency contact details. Not a bad idea to put them in a zip-lock bag  in case it rains. It will keep your documents dry.
  • Your driver’s licence if you plan to rent a car or a motorbike (some countries are quite particular about this so take it with you in case you are not sure, even for a motorbike rental).
  • Your emergency medical kit: painkillers, mosquitoes repellent, dressing/plaster, disinfectant, anti diarrhea, eyewash
  • Tissues and toilet paper (you will thank me later). Remember that in a lot of countries, you will not be provided napkins when having a meal.
  • Water – plastic bottles are a good option as they are lighter than a gourd/flask.
  • Biscuits (always buy some before you go when you are not sure what you will find. Always have “emergency” biscuit  and water in case you cannot find food around and need to recharge batteries)
  • Sunglasses: you’ll need them. Take them even if it’s raining. Weather can change very fast in the region.
  • Scarf (krama, or any kind of fabric that you can use to put around your neck, put on your head to protect it from the sun, cover your shoulders in temples, dry your sweat, etc). Can come very handy in some situation. It will not stay clean for long so it’s wise to pick a dark color…
  • Camera and its protection.

Beach pack

Remember that this one comes on top of the Regular pack (above)

  • Beach towel or equivalent (pareos / sarongs are lighter)
  • Snorkeling equipment: mask, scuba, (fins?)
  • Shoes you can wear on the beach or in the water (to protect your feet from being cut by corals)
  • Dry bag if you plan to go on a boat and want to keep your stuff dry.

Well, you will probably adjust your bag after a few trips. Remove the stuff that you have not used and add the one that you missed. Post a comment to share your tips!

Happy packing (it’s the worse part of the trip but it’s worth it…) and travelling!

Malaysia

Malaysia

  • Language: Bahasa Malaysia
  • Time zone:   Kuala Lumpur GMT +8 hours, no time difference between Malaysia and Singapore
  • Currency: Malaysian Ringgit (MYR)
  • Phone: + 60
  • Electricity: 220V 50 Hz

Immigration and airport taxes on arrival

A lot of nationalities are exempt of visa to enter Malaysia. You can check on the Malaysia Immigration website. If you are arriving by:

  • By air: On busy weekends, expect to wait for quite a while at the immigration counter
  • By land: If you are driving from Singapore remember to have your fuel tank full to 3/4 when crossing the border. Buy a Touch & Go card (to pay for taxes, tolls and fees) and remember to take it with you when going to Malaysia. More details on the card on the Touch and Go website.

National Public Holidays in Malaysia

2015

Day Date Holiday Comments
Wednesday January 01 New Years Day All regions except Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Perlis, Terengganu
Tuesday January 14 Mawlid Birthday of Prophet Muhammad
Tuesday January 14 Birthday of The Sultan of Negeri Sembilan Negeri Sembilan only. Always celebrated on 14 January
Friday January 17 Thaipusam Hindu festival. Kedah, Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Johor, Negeri Sembilan, Perak, Penang, Selangor only
Sunday January 19 Sultan of Kedahs Birthday Kedah only. Always celebrated on 19 January
Friday January 31 Chinese New Year 1st day of 1st lunar month
Saturday February 01 Chinese New Year 2nd day of 1st lunar month
Monday February 03 Federal Territory Day (observed) Kuala Lumpur, Labuan, Putrajaya only. Anniversary of the formation of the Kuala Lumpur Federal Territory in 1974
Tuesday March 04 Anniversary of Installation of the Sultan of Terengganu Terengganu only. Always celebrated on 4 March
Tuesday April 15 Declaration of Malacca as a Historical City Malacca only. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site on 7 July 2008
Friday April 18 Good Friday Friday before Easter Sunday. Sabah, Sarawak only
Saturday April 26 Birthday of the Sultan of Terengganu Terengganu only. Always celebrated on 26 April
Thursday May 01 Labour Day International Workers Day
Wednesday May 07 The Sultan of Pahang Hol Pahang only. Marks the death of a state Sultan
Sunday May 11 Mothers Day 2nd Sunday in May. Not a public holiday.
Tuesday May 13 Wesak Day Birth of Buddha. Observed on the day of the full moon in May
Saturday May 17 Birthday of the Raja of Perlis Perlis only. Always celebrated on 17 May
Tuesday May 27 Isra and Miraj Kedah, Perlis and Negeri Sembilan only
Thursday May 29 Public Holiday Perak only. Mark the passing of the Sultan of Perak
Friday May 30 Harvest Festival Sabah and Labuan only
Saturday May 31 Harvest Festival Sabah and Labuan only
Sunday June 01 Harvest Festival Sarawak only
Monday June 02 Harvest Festival Sarawak only
Saturday June 07 Birthday of SPB Yang di Pertuan Agong Kings Birthday. 1st Saturday in June
Sunday June 29 Beginning of Ramadan Johor, Kedah and Johor, Kedah, Malacca only
Monday July 07 Georgetown Heritage Day Penang only. Georgetown was given Unesco World Heritage Site status in 2009
Saturday July 12 Birthday of the Governor of Penang Penang only. 2nd Saturday in July
Tuesday July 15 Nuzul Quran All regions except Johor, Kedah, Malacca, Sabah, Sarawak
Monday July 28 Hari Raya Aidilfitri Eid Al-Fitr
Tuesday July 29 Hari Raya Puasa Holiday Second day of holiday for Eid Al-Fitr
Sunday August 31 National Day Independence Day
Saturday September 13 Birthday of the Governor of Sarawak Sarawak only
Tuesday September 16 Malaysia Day Became a Federal Holiday in 2010
Thursday September 25 State Holiday Kelantan only. Allow voting in by-election
Saturday October 04 Birthday of the Governor of Sabah Sabah only. 1st Saturday in October
Sunday October 05 Hari Raya Haji Festival of Sacrifice
Monday October 06 Hari Raya Haji Holiday Holiday in lieu. Second day of Festival of Sacrifice
Friday October 10 Malacca Governors Birthday Malacca only.
Wednesday October 22 Diwali The festival of lights. Except Labuan, Sarawak
Friday October 24 Birthday of The Sultan of Pahang Pahang only. Always celebrated on 24 October
Saturday October 25 Awal Muharram Islamic New Year
Sunday October 26 Awal Muharram (in lieu) Kedah, Kelantan, Terengganu only.
Monday November 03 Public Holiday Pahang only. Marks football team winning the Malaysia Cup final
Tuesday November 11 Birthday of the Sultan of Kelantan Kelantan only. Always celebrated on 11 November
Wednesday November 12 Birthday of the Sultan of Kelantan Kelantan only. Always celebrated on 11 November
Saturday November 22 Birthday of the Sultan of Johor Johor only. Always celebrated on 22 November
Thursday November 27 Birthday of the Sultan of Perak Perak only. Always celebrated on 27 November
Saturday November 29 The Sultan of Johor Hol Johor only. Marks the death of a state Sultan
Thursday December 11 Birthday of The Sultan of Selangor Selangor only. Always celebrated on 11 December
Thursday December 25 Christmas Holiday Internationally observed Christian holiday

* check the exact date as it varies from one year to another. When a public holidays falls on a Sunday, the following day will be Public Holiday. There might be some special public holidays in some states. Please refer to this website.