• 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
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
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
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.
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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