Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bidong Island ( Pulau Bidong ) - Mini Saigon

Pulau Bidong

Located about 5 miles south of  Redang Island, a 15-20 minutes speedboat ride away, Pulau Bidong  is one of the few an undeveloped island in Terengganu. Pulau Bidong serves as a transit point for Vietnamese refugees during the Vietnam war. Refugees that were stranded in Malaysia were sent to Pulau Bidong until they were selected to go to a third country in the west under UNCHR.

Old picture of the refugee camp in Pulau Bidong
About a quater of a million refugees (boat people) spent time in Bidong Island from late 1970s  to 1991. Today all the refugees have resettled in other parts of the world. The restriction to visit the island was thus lifted in 1999.

Now all that remains of the refugee camp are collapsed wooden jetty, wooden shacks overgrown with bushes and other remnants of the refugee camp. There are no resorts here, but there are plans to preserve the Mini Saigon, memorials and other historical relics here. Studies on turtles conservation, hatchery sites and sea ecosystems are also undertaken by the University of Science & Technology Malaysia here.

Tourists are allowed to come to Bidong Island on daytrips to visit the remnants of the refugee camp and for snorkelling and diving expeditions. Special arrangement need to be made to dive here as not many operators bring divers here. However a trip here is well worth it, as the coral and marine life here are just spectacular.

Bidong Island Dive Sites.

Batu Tengkorak (skull rock)
An excellent dive site close to Redang that has  large fish such as barracudas and mackerels. The  corals are very nice (large Porites corals mostly) too.

Pulau Yu Besar and Kechil
You can find larger fish such as barracudas, mackerels, bumphead parrotfish, sharks and do some deeper diving for a change.

Blue Garden
This dive site is full of blue anemones. Go there, when it is starting to be dusk, because then the anemones close their tentacles. Their bodies seem to give off a blue light. You'll also some porcelain crabs and cleaner shrimps living on the anemones.

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