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Islands of Terengganu ~ Tenggol Island
The Island Boat People Refugee Camp Diving in Pulau Bidong

The Pulau Bidong archipelago consists of Pulau Yu Besar, Pulau Yu Kechil, Pulau Gelok, Pulau Karah, Batu Tengkorak and Pulau Bidong. Pulau Bidong is located about 5 miles south of Redang, a 15-20 minute speedboat ride away. It is also possible to go from Merang by boat.


Close enough to Redang for a day trip, Pulau Bidong has no resorts but holds many memories for Vietnamese refugees who once passed through its gates.


Boat People
As many as a quarter of a million refugees spent some time at Bidong throughout those years. From the late 70's till 1991, Pulau Bidong was an island camp for Vietnamese refugees (boat people) fleeing from Communist persecution and hardship, and was declared a restricted zone, off-limits to visitors. Mainly ethnic Chinese, at its peak, there were as many as 45,000 Vietnamese 'boat people' living here. Today, all the refugees have been resettled in other parts of the world or have repatriated, and after 1999, restrictions on visiting the island was lifted.

Refugee Camp
Now, all that remains are ruins of the once bustling camp - A collapsed wooden jetty, refugee shacks overwhelmed with secondary jungle, old Vietnamese signboards. The zinc sheeted wooden frame church is, quite remarkably, is still standing with its rows of empty pews. There is a memorial of sorts outside the church. Here, on a mass of cement shaped as a ship's bow, dozens of stone tablets commemorate all those who didn't make it over. Next to the church is a Vietnamese temple with the remnants of a Kwan Yin deity outside. It can thus be argued that it would be best to see Pulau Bidong now, to get a feel of the original refugee camp, before development dolls the place up beyond recognition.

To date, however, few Malaysian tourists come here, not because they are not familiar with the name but of the claim that there is black spirit on the island. (there were many deaths here).

There are no resorts or dive operators on this island. There are plans to preserve the remnants of 'little Saigon' here, as well as the memorials and other relics of historical importance, but how the island should be developed is still being discussed.


Diving in Pulau Bidong
Diving around Bidong and its surrounding islands are not as easily accessible as dive sites around the Redang Archipelago. Not many dive operators will bring divers out here unless special arrangements are made.

BIDONG DIVE SITES

Batu Takorak (skull rock)
This dive site lies close to Redang. An excellent dive site with large fish, such as barracudas, mackerels etc. and very nice corals (large Porites corals mostly) also.

Pulau Yu Besar and Kechil
These islands lies at the edge to deeper water, so you can find larger fish such as barracudas, mackerels, bumphead parrotfish, sharks and do some deeper diving for a change.

Blue Garden
As the name suggests, this dive site is full of blue anemones. Go there, when it is starting to be dusk, because then the anemones close their tentacles. Their bodies seem to give off a blue light. You'll also some porcelain crabs and cleaner shrimps living on the anemones.




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