Batu Batu Resort set on the tropical Malaysian island of Pulau Tengah is rich in both breathtaking beauty and an interesting past as a UN transit camp for Vietnamees refugees and a set for European Survivor TV productions. Today, this simple yet stunning resort offers fine sandy beaches, a PADI diving centre, mouth watering food and if that’s not enough, is also home to a turtle sanctuary.
What to do at Batu Batu Resort with kids?
If you’re feeling restless on the beautiful South beach or by the infinity pool you can try your hand at kayaking or paddle boarding, which I can confirm is harder than it looks. Or you can while away an hour just jumping of the pier, which again I can confirm is higher than it looks. But when there are six-year-olds prepared to take the plunge, you feel you are obliged as an adult to show no fear. But no one that has done it will judge you if you let out a rather long and loud argghhhhh on your way down.
If you are not a fan of heights, fear not, you can go grab your snorkel and mask and swim out to find some fancy fish. There is something so magical about listening to kids squealing with delight when they spot some new and exciting sea creatures when snorkeling. During our visit the kids discovered rainbow fish, clown fish, sting rays, sea cucumbers and anemones to name just a few. Plus I seem to recall some equally excited dads when they spotted a black tip reef shark.
However, one of the things that all the kids liked best about island life was not the kayaks, paddle boards, pier jumping or snorkeling, it was in fact the playroom. The room itself was just a simple hut with books, DVDs and a few toys. But because the island is so small with no cars and a limited number of guests, they were allowed the freedom to be in the playroom with their friends in the evening watching films. Meanwhile the adults were able to enjoy each others’ company, together with their delicious three course meal just a stone’s throw away.
Amazing accommodation and fine food
Accommodation on this private island consists of 20 one- or two-bedroom villas, in a choice of locations including the beach and jungle.
Some have a small attached annex specifically designed for the kids. The other option is that they share the room with you. But unlike at some hotels, at Batu Batu Resort you are not faced with two double beds for a family of four and then a battle to decide who has to share with the duvet-stealing child that wriggles the most. The rooms are simple, stunning and spacious, so there is plenty of room for you to relax in the comfort of a four poster king-sized bed whilst the children can doze off in their own single beds.
Have you ever seen a better view from a washroom?
There is only one restaurant on the island, so you have no choice but to eat there. The buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner are provided on a 3-Meal Plan or “Board” basis at RM 290++ for an adult per day and RM 145++ for a child per day. Infants under 3 years old eat for free. They will even provide fruit and vegetable purees for babies.
The daily menus feature fresh local seafood and high-grade meats in European and local Malaysian dishes. I still dream about the tuna steak they serve, it was so good!
How to get there and other practicalities
So what’s the catch, I hear you ask. To get to the island is a four-and-a-half-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur along some interesting roads.
Some things to bear in mind before you set off on the road. The first being that you need to pack plenty of snacks to keep the kids quiet, as your choices of where to eat on the way are limited. You also need to top up your touch-and-go card, the total for the toll road is around RM35 each way. Don’t put yourself through the shame of having to reverse at the toll booth because you don’t have enough credit.
I find long car journeys often do not bring out the best in people, so for the sake of your marriage or friendship you may want to break up your journey, like we did. We drove up as far as Kluang the night before, which took us three hours.
There we stayed in the rather cool and new Kluang Container Hotel. The rooms are small, as you would expect from converted shipping containers, but they’re perfectly formed, complete with all-important air conditioning. There is a pool with a slide for the kids to let off some steam before you bundle them back in the car.
Photo: Kluang Container Hotel Homestay
The remaining one-and-half-hour stretch of the road running from Kluang to Mersing is not something I would attempt at night, mainly because poorly lit, unfamiliar twisty roads are not my idea of fun.
The boat ride to the island from Mersing takes between 30 to 45 minutes, but there is only one designated boat a day and the timing is dictated by the tides. If you are getting this main boat you will need to be at the terminal 30 minutes before it sets sail. However, there is an option to pay a bit more and to take an earlier or later boat.
As an added bonus you can check your overstuffed bags into the reception area at the boat terminal for them to magically appear in your villa after check-in. There are no shops on the island. So if you forget something vital for the holiday you won’t be able to buy your way out of the situation. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that in retrospect I was a little guilty of panic packing. Maybe the blankets and jumpers were a little unnecessary.
Final verdict – perfect for groups
I cannot stress enough how beautiful Batu Batu Resort is. The adults that we went with have a wistful look in their eyes every time we talk about our visit to the island and my children some days ask me on a hourly basis when are we going back.
I highly recommend the resort for a group of friends or family to get together to make some memories. But you will need to book well in advance as accommodation is limited and the island is particularly popular with our Singaporean neighbours. Because it is a private island it doesn’t appear on the usual holiday booking websites – you will need to contact them directly.
I would like to finish by slightly amending the famous saying that states that ‘No man is an island’. In my opinion it should read ‘No man is an island, but every woman should gather a group of friends and head to Batu Batu to celebrate a ‘big’ birthday’. When I was looking for a memorable place in Malaysia to celebrate my 40th people in the know recommended this private island. And now having visited it myself I can really see why. It has all the necessary ingredients to make a memorable, fabulous family holiday.
The rates start around RM1,000/room/night, but you need to add the cost of the meal plans, drinks and the boat transfers. You can check other travelers’ reviews of Batu Batu here. Read this list for other getaways from KL and if you are keen to check other island resorts, read our review of Rimba Resort.