By Anis Rozalina Ramli
On the 45-minute boat journey from Merang, Terengganu, it was evident which of the many islands on the horizon belonged to Pulau Lang Tengah. It was the only one circled by a lone eagle, or lang, in flight.
The island’s geographical location, sandwiched between Pulau Perhentian and Pulau Redang, explains the other part of its name.
Like the middle child in a family, Pulau Lang Tengah does suffer somewhat from the middle child syndrome. It is often overlooked in favor of Pulau Redang’s famous marine park and Pulau Perhentian’s Long Beach – both having earned a following among tourists and backpackers from foreign countries.
When it comes to Pulau Lang Tengah, even the locals in Terengganu could only offer a blank stare as to its location.
Well, perhaps, this disregard is not such a bad thing because, in the end, it puts Pulau Lang Tengah where it should be – left for the quiet enjoyment of those who truly appreciate the peaceful nature of this secluded gem in the South China Sea. Because unlike its siblings, Pulau Lang Tengah is best enjoyed unhurriedly, like that slow sip of fine champagne or the melting of a truly fine piece of chocolate on the tongue.
Without the crowd of lounging backpackers, swaggering divers, and tired-looking families, you get the sense that the island is all yours. There is no one around to block the sun while you sunbathe, no one to elbow at the buffet counter, no one to fight with over the last deck chair. With only a handful of resort operators spaced out on separate beaches on the island, there really is space for you to breathe and relax, whether on land or in the water.
Of course, when in the water, you might have to jostle about with the schools of fish, but again, that’s not a bad thing. Not when you have colorful parrot fish, silver needlefish, and sergeant fish coming up close to inspect their new swimming partner.
With just a mask, fins and, for safety, a life jacket, one can already enjoy what Pulau Lang Tengah serves up best – abundant marine life in its beautiful blue waters. Most resort operators here offer full-board package deals that already include a few snorkeling trips around the island.
Snorkeling off the beach easily offers encounters with colourful fish and corals. With a boat, snorkelers can explore the underwater world at other parts around the island like Batu Bulan, Karang Nibong and Blue Coral where the best snorkeling sites are Fry fish, silvery pompano, red-breasted Maori wrasse, snapper and masked rabbitfish are among the common underwater denizens. The various types of coral here include a table, boulder, brain, cabbage and staghorn corals.
There have been sightings of blacktip sharks around the rocky outcrops in the sea by snorkelers. Harmless, the guys at the dive shop say. Still, a close encounter with this shark may stir memories of another dorsal fin that struck fear in many. Besides spotting a shark or two, the other highlight would be to see turtles coming up to lay eggs on the beach at Turtle Bay. It happens but is a rare occasion. Guests can check with the resort operator for details.
For an even closer look at the underwater world, there is diving to be done. Most of the resorts on the island have their own dive shop with PADI-certified dive guides. The ten or so dive sites around the island are colourful feasts for the eyes.
So yes, despite being the hidden gem that it is, Pulau Lang Tengah has plenty to keep its guests occupied. But then, who cares about all that when you’ve come to escape from it all.