LANGKAWI (Bernama) – Be introduced to a unique island in Langkawi, a place unheard by many but holds great beauty so worthy a place to see and experience – a hidden gem called Tuba Island.
Located about 5 kilometres away from the Pekan Rabu tourist jetty, the 17 sq km Tuba Island is blessed with immeasurable natural wonders just waiting to be explored.
A trip to the remote island, an idyllic fishing village with a population of about 5,000, is like stepping back in time; about 30 years back into what was once the lifestyle of Langkawi.
This writer was among 10 media representatives who were here on the first day of the Ekspresi Media programme organised by Tourism Malaysia to gain insights into the daily lives of the rural community in Tuba Island.
To reach the island, tourists need to take a boat or ferry ride that is readily available for a return fare of RM10, and upon arrival there, visitors can either take a van or rent a motorcycle to enjoy the panoramic view of the villages.
MEANINGFUL HOLIDAY PACKAGE
A tour guide in Langkawi Zamri Anuar said while Langkawi is far popular than Tuba Island, the latter, which has its own appeal, is transforming into a must-visit tourist destination.
“Accommodation is available at Tuba Island with various motels and villas offering as low as RM60 for a night stay, and the most attractive is a holiday package with a foster fisherman’s family at a homestay here.
“Through the package, tourists will learn to catch prawns, crabs and fish such as kebasi (chacunda gizzard) and snappers as well as gain experience in padi cultivation and other local activities such as mengkuang weaving. The package offered is between RM150 to RM300 a day based on the total number of participants,” he added.
For the more adventurous, the island boasts of a series of caves including Gua Kelawar (bat cave) and Gua Wang Buluh, filled with exquisite stalactites and stalagmites. Both are equipped with attractive and challenging trekking trails.
However, Bukit Batu Licin climbers are advised to go on their expedition with a licensed forest ranger due to the absence of trails and routes leading to the hill.
AN ISLAND RICH IN HISTORY
Zamri said Tuba Island is home to geologically significant limestone formations dating back over 350 million years, which are best seen at Bukit Kecik.
He said the rock formation is sendimentary rock composed primarily of calcite and aragonite. “There are three types of limestone of different colours available at Bukit Kecik, with the most common is white limestone that is also found at other limestone hills.
“Also found are mossy limestone (as it is not exposed to sunlight), orange-coloured and yellowish limestone. What is unique about the limestone here is all three colours are present at every rock here which is not found at other limestone hills.
“There are also striped rock formations at Bukit Kecik that were caused by tectonic earth movements thousands of years ago, with the rocks turning black and mossy green.
“Also found here are white dotted rocks brought about by sea shells. This area is believed to have been submerged under great depths of water thousands of years ago,” he shared.
Zamri said, several other popular beaches here included Tanjung Pandan, which is known for its crystal clear water, as well as local delights such as prawn mee.
Nature lovers who visit Bagan Asam, which is surrounded by mangrove forests, also get to enjoy the spectacular view of unique limestones here.
The island was named after its native tuba tree which is easily found here. It is also rich with exotic plants which may not be found elsewhere such as pandanus tectorius, tiger orchids and cycad trees that only grow on limestones.
Tourists also get to watch the scenic and mesmerising spectacle of eagles, such as the brahminy kite eagles and the white bellied sea eagles, soaring high above the clouds.
Zamri opines that the low visitor arrivals to Pulau Tuba is perhaps due to the misconception that the island lacks basic facilities given that the majority of the people lead a simple and laid-back kampung lifestyle.
According to Zamri, there are also schools, clinics as well as internet facilities, which would also benefit tourists during their stay here.
SIGH OF RELIEF
Meanwhile, a van rental service provider in Tuba Island Mohd Senafi Ishak, 63, said he could now heave a sigh of relief following the government’s move to reopen Langkawi to domestic travellers, which has since boosted tourist arrivals to the island.
Langkawi, a cluster of 99 islands in the Straits of Malacca, became the first destination to reopen for domestic tourists from Sept 16 under a domestic travel bubble, with strict protocols in place to thwart the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On average, he said, the locals in Tuba Island are heavily reliant on income from ecotourism and rural tourism.
“As a van rental service provider, my income has also been reduced especially during the Movement Control Order (MCO). However, things are now looking up for the tourism industry as tourist arrivals to the island are showing an uptrend.
“The services that I offer to tourists are affordable; a round-the-island trip of Tuba Island for four hours, will cost only RM100, using a large van that can accommodate about 10 people.
“To date, I have already received bookings for one or two trips a day but I’m relieved and grateful for this,” said Mohd Senafi, who is also known as Pak Ali.
He said, among the popular tourists destinations are visits to the old 800-metre long Pulau Tuba jetty, which has been the location for several local films such as Ombak Rindu and Langit Cinta.
EKSPRESI MEDIA PROGRAMME
On this year’s Ekspresi Media programme, Tourism Malaysia Director of Corporate Communications, Datin Rafidah Idris said, the four-day event from Oct 11 to Oct 14, is held for the first time in collaboration with AirAsia.
“The programme kicked off simultaneously with the lifting of interstate travel restrictions and the reopening of domestic tourism, which are aimed at restoring travel confidence and promoting Langkawi as a safe and clean tourist destination under a new normal,” she said.
“The programme is the fifth in the series of the Ekspresi Media programme, which still retains the interactive familiarisation visit concept by highlighting experiential tourism.
“It is hoped that the sharing of experiences by the media will boost domestic tourism promotion under the Cuti-Cuti Malaysia campaign,” she added.