The beauty of its coral reefs, historical relics of Vietnamese refugees, and the existence of Malaysia’s first underwater gallery are main draws
KUALA NERUS : After being brought to a standstill by the Covid-19 pandemic for almost two years, Bidong Island is starting to ‘breathe’ again. This comes on the back of the government’s announcement to allow Terengganu to move on to Phase Three of the National Recovery Plan from last Friday.
Although not as popular as other resort islands in Terengganu, Bidong Island, once called ‘a second life’ island by Vietnamese war refugees, has remained the top choice, especially for history and nature lovers.
Bidong Heritage Travel Sdn Bhd managing director Badrol Hisham Zaki said the beauty of its coral reefs, historical relics of Vietnamese refugees, the diversity of flora and fauna that are still ‘untouched’ and the existence of Malaysia’s first underwater gallery have made Bidong Island popular among environmentalists as well as snorkelling and scuba diving enthusiasts.
“Bidong Island is not for those who want to enjoy a luxurious vacation because it has no fancy restaurants or eateries and luxury facilities like on other islands.
“However, it has always been a dream holiday destination for tranquillity and those who want to experience living like an islander,” he told reporters recently.
Badrol Hisham is also a registered operator of one of the two campsites on the island. He said he has been receiving encouraging response from the people who want to know more about this historic island since the Terengganu tourism sector was allowed to operate on September 1.
In compliance with the standard operating procedure (SOP) set by the government, he said the number of tents is limited to 50% of the usual capacity.
Apart from that, he said only fully vaccinated individuals were allowed to travel to the island. They are required to follow the SOP such as using hand sanitisers and wearing face masks.
Pulau Bidong was declared a Vietnamese Boat People settlement centre from August 1978 to November 1991. During that period, a total of 252,390 people took refuge on the island. Thereafter, they moved to third countries such as the United States, Canada, Germany and Australia.
It was first opened to tourists in January 2017 but limited to day trips only. Those who want to spend the night need to get prior permission from the Terengganu State Museum Board.
Several tourists expressed their excitement at the resumption of the tourism sector. They hoped that the state government would continue with the existing tourism concept. This would ensure that the island’s invaluable natural treasures remained preserved.
Nurul Ain Norazuan, 31, said Bidong Island is different from other resort islands. Because it has no permanent human settlements, it is still free from any form of pollution.
“The beauty of its coral reefs which can be found near the campsite is mesmerising,” said the private sector worker. She was visiting Bidong Island with her colleagues.
For Mohd Rushdi Samsudin, 39, those visiting Bidong Island must always ensure that cleanliness is maintained. They must abide by the rules set so that the island’s natural treasures can be enjoyed by future generations.
Meanwhile, state Tourism, Culture and Digital Technology Committee chairman Ariffin Deraman said a mass gotong-royong programme would be held next week in Bidong Island to symbolise the reactivation of tourism activities on the island.
He said the state government would carry out repair works and upgrade public facilities or infrastructure on the island for the convenience of tourists.
“The cleanliness aspect will also be given priority because we do not want the island to be carpeted with garbage. Although Bidong Island is open to the public, we will limit the number of tourists. We want to keep it as an exclusive island to preserve its natural beauty and historical value,” he said.