From Taman Negara we want to get to Marang, via Jerantut and Kuantan. In Marang we can get on a boat to Kapas Island, which is supposed to be a less touristy island then for example Perhentian or Langkawi, where everyone seems to go.
Getting out of Taman Negara
Our next destination will be Kapas island so we have to leave Taman Negara. It seems to be quite easy to get out of Kuala Tahan, the small village where we’ve been staying during our visit to Taman Negara National Park. According to the employees of our hostel there’s a local bus leaving every day at 10 am to Jerantut, for only a few Ringgit per person. It’s not very clear where this bus is leaving, because everyone we ask seems to have a different answer. Eventually we walk into the direction of (where we think is) the bus station. While walking we see a bus standing still a little bit further up the street. Could that be our bus? It’s nowhere near any of the places the people pointed out to us… We decide to go for it anyway and run as fast as we can. Unfortunately the bus leaves without having seen us, despite our desperate arm movements. Oh well, it probably wasn’t our bus anyway because it’s supposed to leave at 10.
We walk to a small square where there’s a large touring car. Maybe that’s the local bus. It doesn’t look like a local bus to us, but the bus driver tells us that it is. We only have to wait 15 minutes until it leaves. So we sit down on the sidewalk and after about 10 minutes a huge group of people arrives and start putting their stuff into the bus. That’s odd… There’s also a lady checking their tickets before they can enter the bus. When we ask her what’s going on she tells us this is an organised tour bus to Jerantut, and we should have booked it yesterday. The local bus has probably left 5 minutes ago sh says! Luckily she’s very nice and she tells us to wait until everyone is on the bus, so she can see if there are any seats left. We sit back on the sidewalk, cursing on the bus driver who gave us the wrong information and made us miss our cheap bus, and wait for another 15 minutes.
Unfortunately the bus is completely full. There will be another bus arriving in another 15 minutes. We don’t have much choice then to wait for this bus, but when it charges us double than the previous bus, we decide to go look for a taxi. If we call one it would be an hour before it gets here, so that’s a waste of time. Meanwhile it’s four people trying to get to Jerantut, so we can at least share a taxi. Finally our luck turns. There’s a taxi driver in town who’s willing to take us to Jerantut right now for 100 Ringgit, hurray! Still a lot more expensive than the local bus, but the next one is at 2.30 pm so then we’ll be sure that Jerantut is our last destination today.
The taxi driver drops us off at the bus station, where we soon find out it’s 3 hours until the bus to Kuantan leaves. Great! Not.. Once we’re finally on the bus we find out that the bus ride can take up to 5 hours! Didn’t know that. Luckily there’s a Dutch couple on the bus that we’ve met earlier in Taman Negara. We can borrow their Phone to book some accommodation, so at least we don’t have to wonder through the city when we arrive in the evening. Starved and sleepy we arrive at our hostel after another bus and a free ride from a guy at the bus station. We decide to stay here until we’ve rested a bit and done some laundry. Unfortunately there’s absolutely nothing to do in this city and we spend most of our time on the blog.
After two nights we take an Uber to the bus terminal just outside the city, to leave for Kuala Terranganu at noon. Luckily the bus driver is friendly and let’s us get off in Marang, where the boats to Kapas Island leave. Otherwise we had to drive past it to get another bus to Marang in Kuala Terranganu. With our maps.me app it’s quite easy to find the Jetty in Marang. We buy a ticket for the boat transfer, which only takes about 10 minutes.
When we arrive on Kapas Island we go find a place to sleep. Soon we find out that a lot of accommodations are already full. People we run into on the beach tell us that they have been asking everywhere yesterday, and only found 1 place with vacancy. All our hope is set on a campsite, all the way on the other side of the 2km beach. With our heavy backpacks and in the burning sun, there’s not much fun in walking around. Even they have no vacancy! Now what? We’re starting to get desperate and are even considering the first boat back to the main land. On our way to back to the jetty we decide to ask the only two accommodations we haven’t checked yet.
The first one surprisingly has a room! We didn’t expect this because the staff here didn’t look interested at all when we walked up to the reception. They are quite unfriendly and seem very bothered that we’re making them work. Unfortunately this is our only option if we want to stay on the Island, so we pay the 100 Ringgit for a smelly, warm hut with a dirty bathroom and without breakfast. I really don’t know why they call this a resort. Just in case you’ll visit Kapas, this place is called Ombak and you should never, ever go there. We drop our bags and quickly walk back to the campsite to book a tent for tomorrow. Luckily they are still available. We only pay 30 Ringgit each there, which we really need after this expensive night.
Food is quite expensive too. Of course it’s an Island and there are no supermarkets, so every tourist is eating out. Luckily we find a really nice place with the most friendly staff (we really needed that), which makes it less painful to pay so much money for some food. This place is called KBC and we can really recommend it. The resort looks beautiful too. The guy that works here tells us that there will be a wedding here in two days, which is why it’s so crowded. There are indeed way too many tourists here for an (what we read online) ‘undiscovered’ Island. After a lovely meal we try to put all the stress and frustration of today aside to get some sleep.
Diving at Kapas Island
The next day we decide that the vibe on this Island just doesn’t feel right for us, and we want to leave as soon as possible. The only thing we want to do first is diving. There’s only one dive shop on the islands, but prices are not bad at all. For 130 Ringgit we can make a dive, equipment and dive master included. That’s about 26 euros. We make a reservation for this afternoon, so we can make another dive tomorrow morning (with a discount!) if it’s really as beautiful as they say. We will take to boat back tomorrow afternoon at the latest.
It’s still early so we move out stuff into our tent and go for a swim. The beach is really nice and water is perfect. Clear, blue and warm, we can’t get enough of swimming here. We even hear a Dutch woman telling her mom that she’s just seen a sting ray while snorkeling! That’s very promising for our dive later. We’re quite happy the sun is shining a lot less then yesterday. Even though, we still got sunburn, whoops!
Yeah, it’s time for dive number one. We’re in a group with 2 other people and a dive master. There’s two more people on the boat, a French guy with an instructor, but they will dive separately. We back-roll into the water and go exploring. Soon Riny finds a baby blue spotted sting ray and luckily he points it out to me just in time. Really cool! But a bit strange that mom and dad are nowhere to be found… After about 5 minutes, our dive master signals ‘abort dive’ and we have to go up. Apparently there’s a storm coming, so the boat signaled our dive master to come back. The other two are still out of sight and all the noise the captain is making doesn’t seem to make any difference. This noise worked perfectly for us, so why don’t they hear it? 20 minutes later they are finally back on the boat. Back at the coast, the ocean is already too rough to get the boat to shore, so we have to get back in the water, swim to shore and walk out. Not much fun with all your heavy gear. Luckily the dive shop is fair and we don’t have to pay for this dive. Tomorrow morning we can try again, let’s hope for better luck.
The next morning we’re lucky that we get to do a full dive. Unfortunately the group is way too big, especially for the amount of dive masters. Because we have to go up when the first person reaches low on air, and we are quite good with our air consumption, it’s always a disadvantage to dive in a large group for us. The sight is not very good, but at least we see 2 cool things, the largest eel we’ve ever seen and underneath a huge yellow fish with spiky back fins. No idea what that could have been. Now finally it’s time for the ferry. After an hour wait and letting a whole group of Asians go first (because the captain told us so, no idea why…) we are finally on the boat back to mainland. Bye Kapas! See you never again…