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Robinson islands near Mersing

Mersing is a harbor on the east side of peninsular Malaysia. It was once used for by the English and Dutch troops controlling the region. After the second world war, Sabine's dad was one of the soldiers being trained in Malaysia before shipment via Mersing to Indonesia. Following his footsteps, we visit this town, nowadays serving as a harbor for Pulau Tioman and other bounty islands.

Mersing Harbor early in the morning

From Malacca there is no direct bus to Mersing. Instead, we take the air-conditioned bus to Kluang, from where we take a local bus to Mersing. This one rushes over a windy road through the accidented landscape, which is dominated by numerous palm oil plantations. We are hit by a number of showers under way, but it's dry as soon as we arrive in Mersing after a 6 hour trip.

The first thing we are asked in Mersing is whether we want to move on to Pulau Tioman. We don't, which answer is frowned upon. But first we search for a place to stay, and find it at Omar's, although Omar isn't there. There is a note, though, saying that we should just check-in. Another do-it-yourself guesthouse, and we decide to take the one available room.

Expedition Robinson

It is time to take a look around town. In the center there are a number of offices arranging trips to Pulau Tioman and other islands. At one of those we notice a number of photo's of the Dutch TV show Expedition Robinson. After asking around, we learn that this show, as well as several foreign versions of it, was shot on the islands in front of the Mersing coast. At this very moment, the Swedish version was shot, and not before long the Dutch would come back to prepare for a new series. Hearing this, we are curious to see the islands.

Back at Omar's, our host appears and we ask him for the island hopping tour on offer. He only organises it when enough participants apply, but for tomorrow, that's not the case. Yet he is willing to arrange a speedboat for us to visit a few islands.

Snorkling

So the next day and old man is taking us in a speedboat to the islands. The boat goes fast and makes a few big smacks on the waves. After 45 minutes we arrive at Hujung island. This island is semi-permanent inhabited, and one of the small houses appears to be our captain's. He goes to his house while we lay on the beach and snorkel a bit.

The beach of one of the Robinson islands near MersingThe clear water in front of the beach is full of coral. Armed with our snorkels we go out to explore the underwater world. The coral is nice and undamaged. We also see a lot of colored fish, including our favourite: the clownfish swimming in the poisonous tentacles of the sea anemone. The beautiful velvet-like shells are also present, and Sabine is lucky enough to spot a stingray.

Back on the beach, it appears to be inhabited by numerous small crabs who retreat in their shelters when we arrive. When we wait patiently, they appear again, which makes for a nice game. When our captain comes back with coconuts, the image of a bounty island is complete. And we don't even like coconutÂ…

Refugees

Around 1 PM our captain brings us to Pulay Tengah. This island is famous for the Vietnamese refugees waiting here for asylum many years ago. There are a few boat skeletons on the beach and we wonder whether these were the original boats with which the fled. There is also a kind of camp on the island, and there are some other people around. When we also see some wooden constructions we conclude that this has something to do with the TV-show of Expedition Robinson. Our captain tells us that indeed the English version is shot here and what we saw was the camera crew.

Sand flies

Only when we get back to Mersing we notice how many itching bumps we have on our bodies. These are bites of sand flies, of which there are many on the islands apparently. They are worse than mosquito bites, and we are full with them, only from a few ours on the beach. On the positive side, they make it very easy for us to decide not to go to Pulau Tioman. It was very nice to visit Mersing and the islands for a few days, but with our bodies full of souvenirs we move on to Singapore.



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