The mere mention of Pulau Aur will strike a sudden portrayal of white sandy beaches and prolific dive sites which are frequented by the much-sought-after underwater species like whale sharks, manta rays and even dolphins. Due to its overwhelming distance from the mainland of Peninsula Malaysia, Pulau Aur offers the clearest of waters and the most exciting dive sites in this part of the country.
Pulau Aur is located some 65 kilometres off Mersing. At this location, the island is the furthest of any offshore landmass in the eastern seaboard of Peninsula Malaysia. In general, Pulau Aur consists of a group of 4 islands, namely Pulau Aur itself where the main fishing village is located, Pulau Dayang, Pulau Lang and Pulau Pinang.
Pulau Aur is not easily accessible, at least when compared to its neighbouring Pulau Tioman or the more popular islands of Pulau Redang and Pulau Perhentian off the coast of Terengganu. While these popular islands offer very frequent passenger boat services, Pulau Aur does not. If you are thinking of visiting Pulau Aur on weekdays, there might not be any scheduled boat departures for that purpose, unless you are willing to charter a boat from Mersing, which can burn a hole in your wallet.
From my observation, there are only 2 or 3 departures from Mersing jetty to Pulau Aur. The most common one is the (in)famous slow ferry that departs on Friday's midnight from Mersing and only arrives at Pulau Aur some 4 1/2 hours later! This is as close as it can get to a maritime equivalent of a red-eye flight. The big passenger ferry is normally chartered by dive outfits based in Singapore, and often you will see close to 50 divers arriving from across the causeway when the clock strikes twelve. For the Singaporeans (and close-to-none Malaysians), this is the best way to maximise their dive trips - by sleeping haphazardly inside the ferry until it arrives at Pulau Aur, somewhat refreshed and ready to satiate their underwater adventures. The ferry normally returns to Mersing on Sunday's noon, another good 4 1/2 hour journey, yet again.
I actually took the slow ferry for my visit to Pulau Aur. The roundtrip fare is RM90 per person and the ticket booking was done in advance with Bluewater Ferry (contact info: Rizam 013-775-7960, Sal 013-744-0207, ticket counter 07-799-4811). As expected, the boat only departed at 0130 hrs when all the Singaporean tourists had arrived by the chartered buses. The journey can be bumpy as the ferry navigates across the wide open South China Sea. A good tip is to get your seats early, and if you are lucky, you might be able to stretch the full length of the seating row for a business-class sleeping experience (pardon my frequent association with airplane travels). Otherwise, I did observe a number of passengers sleeping on the floor of the ferry, which didn't seem like fun.
The less-frequent boat services are those chartered individually by Singapore dive centres, which normally depart early Saturday morning by speedboats. The journey takes about 1 1/2 hours which may seem like desirable to most. Other than that, I have received email information from a local agent on boats departing on 1030hrs on Friday and supposedly to arrive at Pulau Aur around noon.
Overall, Pulau Aur is not readily accessible by impromptu visitors. Advance planning is needed to visit this group of beautiful islands.
My interim travel articles will cover the many beautiful beaches in Pulau Aur, a number of resorts in both Pulau Aur and Pulau Dayang, as well as some hiking trails around the island.
- Batu Kembar, Pulau Aur
- Pasir Putih, Pulau Dayang
- Teluk Ba'ai, Pulau Aur
- Teluk Berhala, Pulau Aur
- Dayang Blues Resort, Pulau Dayang
- Diver's Lodge, Pulau Aur
- Bluewater Resort, Pulau Aur
- Atlantis Bay Resort, Pulau Aur
- Batu Berhala
- Teluk Ba'ai to Teluk Sebukang