May 6, 2010

Rawa Island

Since Lola was able to watch the kids last weekend, Mik and I decided to run off for a quick beachy getaway. We waited too long to make bookings, so flights to Bali or Phuket were wicked expensive; and everything on Bintan Island was fully booked. So we looked a bit further afield in Malaysia and more or less randomly settled on Rawa Island. Turns out that it would've actually made a great family weekend, though it was nice to be able to kayak, snorkel, kayak, snorkel (oh wait, yep, that's all there was to do), without having to worry about naptimes or bringing crayons and paper and things.
Just about everyone else at the resort had kids with them - the wide, white sand beach is perfect for little ones, and they even had a slide off the jetty for the bigger kids.
The reef is pretty close to shore, making for some easy snorkeling (though the visibility varied somewhat).
And there was some, ah, pretty cool wildlife to be seen. This was one of a family of 5-6 juvenile blacktip reef sharks, though "Mama" did swim by a bit later. We actually have a video of them swimming by, but it's too embarrassing to post as it includes audio of me yelling "AAAAAHHH! AAAAAH!" into my snorkel and then the camera jiggling around nauseatingly due to my climbing on top of Mik's back as he was trying to shoot the video.

The deets:
Rawa Safaris Island Resort - decent accommodations, so-so service, and fairly awful food in a gorgeous, kid-friendly setting. Hugely overpriced for what it is, frankly, but for the proximity and convenience, you can (just barely) justify the price. The "Book Online" button on their website doesn't work, but you can call and make a reservation fairly easily. They rent sit-on-top kayaks and those pedalboat things, but apparently their Hobie Cat has been out of commission since last year (though it's still listed as being available both on their website and on the activity price lists all over the island). They don't take very good care of their equipment - two of the masks we used leaked, and they didn't have any goggle defogger, so bring your own.

Getting there from Singapore: The resort has its own private ferry from Mersing to Rawa Island, so when you book, make sure to note the ferry times. We made the Johor Bahru checkpoint to Mersing in 1.5 hours, but that was with driving like a madwoman on 2-lane roads and having to turn off the a/c whenever we had to pass someone (we rented a 1.0-liter Chevy Spark). We could've gone at a much more leisurely pace had we left home just half an hour earlier, and had we remembered that there were immigration forms that had to be filled out before entering Malaysia. Sigh.