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Islands of Terengganu ~ Kapas Island

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Snorkelling Other Activities Stay Eats Caution Drawbacks

Kapas Island or Pulau Kapas is an island 6 kilometers off the coast of Terengganu. Pulau Kapas is a small island, just over 2km long and 1km at its widest point, is just 4 nautical miles from Marang. The Island is an ideal place to break away and chill it out. Pulau Kapas has numerous deserted, white sandy beaches lined with shady palm trees to make a perfect niche to laze on.

Offering a refreshing change from everyday haste, the place is so serenely beautiful and it's the kind of serenity that leaves one with a longing to return. Relaxation is the foremost occupation here.

How did Pulau Kapas get its name? After all, kapas means cotton in Malay. The origin however, is far from it. The island was believed to be "bisa" (deadly!). Every one who landed on the island would fall sick. When they returned on the mainland they would die and as uslims, their bodies would be wrapped with kain kapan that is piece of white cloth. With many dead bodies, there would be many kain kapan, hence the island was associated with kain kapan. Over time, this eventually became "kapas".

Tucked in a secluded side of a beach is little hill with a little lighthouse perched on top that offers a spectacular bird's eye view of the island and the Terengganu coastline. Batu Tenggara, Harmony Beach and Batu Berhala are part of the island's Long Beach. Beyond it, are Batu Payung, Safari Beach and Derdak Beach, altogether spanning some 3.5km.

Snorkelling in Kapas
The reefs hosts an abundance of beautiful coral inhabitants such as the parrotfish, pufferfish, angelfish, damselfish; eels; giant clams; rays, sea urchins, sea cucumbers and nudibranchs. This is the place to really indulge in snorkelling. There is a wonderful snorkelling spot around the rocky outcrops just to the southern end of the long stretch of beach. The water here is shallow and it is best to wear a lifejacket.

In some places the water level at low tide may only be as shallow as 2 feet. There is just so much to see around that snorkellers often lose track of direction and may get trapped in the shallow ends. When this happens, they often panic and start trashing about and usually try to stand up in the process. This is dangerous as the seabed is covered with extremely sharp corals and can cause deep wounds. The other danger to look out for are the sea urchins hiding in and around the corals. Across Safari Beach and
just five minutes by speed boat lies the secluded Pulau Gemia or Gem Island. The sea in between is home to stunning coral gardens and other marine life. The spot is a haven for snorkelling and diving.

For the advanced snorkellers, a night dip in the coral gardens is a delight especially on when the moon is full. The entire scene transforms itself and introduces a host of nocturnal marine life that are rarely seen during the day. The corals extend their feeders out in full bloom to capture tiny plankton washed in from the open sea, the nudibranchs leave their hiding place to feed on the coral polyps and squirrel fishes come out to play.

Other Activities
For landlubbers, there is a rough track through the middle of the island and towards the eastern side. Trekking for about 45 minutes through untamed jungle will take one to the uninhabited side of the island where mere human presence is a definite intrusion to the unspoilt nature and to the many birds that have claimed the area as their own sanctuary. If that's not your cup of tea, it is possible to hire canoes for exploring the more secluded shores and beaches towards the northern tip of the island. The waters two nautical miles from the island coast are part of protected marine parks of Terengganu.

Stay-in Kapas Island
There is no village on Pulau Kapas, only chalets. During the monsoons, the island is deserted. Since it is so close - only 6km from the mainland, visitors seldom stay overnight. For those who prefer to spend a longer time on the island, places to stay here ranges from camping sites to dormitory to island chalet resorts. Electricity are available from 6pm until 6-7am only.

But if you are the type who cannot do without air-conditioning, TV, telephone, fridge and all the modern trappings and luxurious comfort in a holiday resort, then it is not for you. Neither is it for those looking for fine cuisine, karaoke, slot-machine games and the like. Relaxation is the foremost occupation here and it offers a refreshing change from everyday haste.

There are about seven chalets and a camp site on the island. Because of its proximity to the mainland, Pulau Kapas and its surrounding waters are said to be not as pristine as those around far away islands. This has its blessings though. Most resorts here provide satisfactory amenities and service and are mainly clustered together on two strips of white sandy beaches facing the mainland, whereas the rest of the island is largely forested harbouring lots of small mammals, birds, insects and reptiles.

Kapas Island Resort is near the jetty and is the biggest and most luxurious resort. It has a small swimming pool. The resort has its own boat service to collect you from the mainland. Tuty Puri, is another luxury place with arguably the most of charm. It has standard rooms with a fan and the rooms have a shower. Also a Dorm. The hotel was built in 1993 and it is set on the prime beach in front of the beautiful white-sands of Pulau Kapas.

Beauty island Resort has bungalows with fan and shower. Also a dorm. Light House is more for the backpackers. It has a the relative isolation on a nice section of beach. Big wooden rooms. Zaki Beach Chalet is a medium sized resort. Good food. What you may not like : the limited space, whether in the resort or the rooms. Mak Cik Gemuk a big resort. Off the beach and without charm. Rooms for up to three peoples. Kapas Garden Resort. A-Frame huts without fan but they have a shower. The Dutch owner has a relaxed bar. It's a small place usually busy with expatriates.

The only item that sometimes may seemed over priced are the food. Be sure that all menu has price listed before ordering. Just north of the pier, a couple of small restaurants serves the cheapest basic dishes of the island : Nasi or Mee Goreng. The first one gives good portions and sell big bottle of mineral water. One of the best local eating place on this island is at Zaki's.

Be sure that any valuables is locked in the room or better still be carried along where ever you go. Local islanders is always helpful and on the watch for these trouble makers. nyone caught on any unlawful acts will be deal with accordingly. However, they did not guarantee that your belonging will not be stolen. Mosquito can be a serious nuisance at dusk and dawn. Most resorts have mosquito net but for the outdoors, bring enough repellent.

For new snorkellers, bring along a lifejacket and a pair of fins and never, never step on corals. Fire coral is another thing to look out for. If brushed against, it causes a searing pain as if brushing against a burning cinder. This is another reason why it is always advisable that snorkellers should never touch corals and fishes for as pretty and helpless as they seem, they often have powerful defence mechanisms against predators

Getting There
Pulau Kapas is a mere 10 minutes by speed boat or 30 minutes by slow boat from Marang jetty. Marang is about 20 minutes by road from Kuala Terengganu.


After more than a decade of inhabitants, the infrastructure has yet to be developed on the island and piped water can be a problem especially during dry seasons when the fresh water level drops.

There are simply too many operators on the stretch of beach and many of them do not have proper sewage systems. This means that much of the sewage is directed into the sea. This pollution in turn is slowly killing the corals. Rubbish left on the island by day trippers is a sight. Although there seems to be much discontentment voiced by some of the operators of resorts on the island about the condition of their beaches and the little help that they receive from the government on such matters, there also seems to be not much done to arrest the issue of piling rubbish from these operators themselves.

Boat operators are also helping to kill off the corals by smashing them up as they manoeuvre their boats to shore specifically on the more remote beaches on Pulau Kapas. Their ignorance is indeed astounding for when questioned about their actions, most often than not the answer is derived from sheer ignorance that corals will and can sprout as easily as land plants!

A suggestion was highlighted by a concerned resort owner recently to resolve this matter of anchor damage - that is to provide mooring buoys. With such misconduct and ignorance, in a matter of 5 to 10 years the beauty and lure of Pulau Kapas will only be a memory.

The smaller Pulau Gemia or Gem Island, located just 800 metres north off Kapas Island, is another island resort with white sandy beaches, crystal clear water, beautiful corals and fascinating marine life.


Diving in Kapas & Gemia
Includes the islands of Kapas and Gemia, the key attraction is the World War II shipwreck land a 60-year-old Japanese landing craft wreck sits upright. Frequent encounters with whale sharks at this site.

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