A quick weekend visit to Pulau Kapas is very easy, if Firefly don’t cancel your flight (this did happen to me due to ‘operational issues’… luckily I was able to change it to the following Saturday).
A 2pm finish on a Friday afternoon often allows for a quick getaway from Kuala Lumpur’s actual airport, Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport, Subang for short (not the pretend KL airport which is an hour south of the city). Despite this I just couldn’t get to the bottom of the taxi/boat travel times, I didn’t think I’d make it to the actual island on a Friday afternoon/evening so I decided to travel early on a Saturday (with hindsight I could’ve just managed it, oh well next time)!
It was a very sleepy 6am check-in (zzz) for a nervy 7:30am propeller plane (argh) to Kuala Terengganu, K.T., a starting point for many of Malaysia’s most paradisiacal east coast islands.
Rain greeted me as a raced to order a Grab Car for the drive to Marang Jetty, hopefully just in time to catch the early 9am boat across to Kapas (only 40RM return). At Marang Jetty there seemed to be a few shop fronts selling boat tickets, I choose a random one to purchase from.
I did indeed catch the boat because it was running late. By 9:15am there were six of us on board and we set off in the drizzle towards the island that didn’t seem too far away AND had clear skies above it, bonus!
The boat drops you wherever you’re staying, there’s no proper jetty on the island apart from those wobbly rubber ones that feel more like a water park ride than a jetty. Plus if you’re like me and staying at Qimi’s Private Bay, you hop off in the shallows right on the beach itself.
Qimi Private Chalets were to be my home for one night, all arranged via Whatsapp (love the laid back Malaysian way of booking things) with no cash up front, friendly messages, all very simple (telephone number: +60 179175744).
The accommodation was like most accommodation in Malaysia, basic, quite dated, not spotless but fine for a night, maybe two, I wouldn’t have stayed a third night. It was the type of place where you probably need to bring a sleep sheet (the bedding was clean just very, very old). The balcony was excellent, facing right on to the bay below, and the service always came with a smile and absolutely no questions about travelling alone (a serious irritation of mine) so definitely no complaints there.
I explored the main bay on Kapas where the rest of the accommodation is located and it’s all very similar; basic rooms, not pristine, alright for a short stay (not a bay you’d really swim at either, quite small and busy for this empty island).
Malaysian accommodation is not that of Thailand or even Indonesia, if you want better quality you have to pay A LOT of money and even then it can still be a let down.
Anyway forget that, it was all about exploring the beaches, enjoying a good swim in the ocean and getting lost in a book/podcast/playlist.
The sunshine appeared around 11am; you can tell this immediately by the fast retreat of the locals and Malaysian tourists to the shaded areas underneath the trees.
From Qimi’s bay walk towards Pulau Gemia (Gem Island) which should be on your left, and just keep going for the best, emptiest beaches (well all the beaches are empty, I mean the beaches that have absolutely nothing on them other than white sand lined with dense, green jungle).
Sidenote – I will return for a stay on Gem Island, much more expensive that anything on Pulau Kapas but I’m intrigued to try it out. It looked like they had kayaks too and as you can see from the photo above, it’s really close by meaning you could do Gem Island (in seconds, it really is tiny) and Kapas together on a weekend in a little bit more comfort should you require it.
There is a concrete path and steps up and over rocks which goes some of the way around the island, although you’ll get to a point where it’s been destroyed. Then you have to decide, do you want to swim or rock climb your way around the island? I did a bit of both. There was a point where I just couldn’t scrape my toes anymore, so I left my clothes and bag on a beach rock, then with Go Pro in hand, mask, snorkel (and swimwear on, just to clarify) I ventured in to the sea and swam along to another beach and around to the next and so on. Fabulous! I felt like a real explorer with the luxury of having a Go Pro to capture the sights!
To summarise, this was an easy, straight forward trip which I would definitely recommend if you’ve got plenty of time OR only got a night/the weekend:
- 6:00am – Subang Airport check-in
- 7:15am – Firefly flight
- 8:30am – Land & order a Grab Car at Kuala Terenganu Airport
- 9:00am – Arrive at Marang Jetty
- 9:15am – Set off on the boat to Kapas (a late departure for me)
- 9:45am – Step foot on to Pulau Kapas
- 10:00am – Swimwear on, Go Pro ready and you can be off to wander the beaches immediately!
To compare this trip to the Perhentians, there seemed to be more frequent boats to Pulau Kapas than to the Perhentians, a shorter drive from the airport as well and it’s definitely quieter than the Perhentians if you really want to feel like Robinson Crusoe.
A marvelous, mini adventure was had!
Kapas felt remote, despite being less than thirty minutes from the mainland, untouched, wild and incredibly tropical. Oh! I forgot something! The coral reef was absolutely fantastic too, straight from the beaches, you barely have to swim, lots of sea life and a variety of multi-coloured coral, dreamy.
Jump on that propeller plane and venture to this tiny island off Malaysia’s east coast.
*Fully aware of how lucky I am to be in the position of travelling to a tropical island for a weekend trip. Incredibly thankful and do not and will never take this luxury for granted!