Travel Report: Sibu Island, Malaysia.
May 2015. It’s weird to think that my blossoming travel career was already in its fourteenth year before I finally got round to crossing ‘secluded tropical paradise’ off my bucket list. Sure, I’d seen plenty of beautiful beaches and islands over the years. But I’d always wanted to experience something a little more on the Robinson Crusoe side of the scales. So when my old friend Lisa told me she’d taken a job at a beach village on Sibu Island in Malaysia, I knew I had to work a visit into my itinerary. It was the halfway point of my great South East Asia trip of 2015 and I was in need of a rest. Thus I figured Sibu would be my chance to really escape away from everything and everyone. In that sense it was almost reassuring to discover how tricky Sibu Island was to reach.
I met up with Lisa in the humdrum Malaysian city of Johor Bahru. From there we took a public bus to the tumbleweed outpost of Simpang Tenggaroh. Then a taxi through an extended stretch of no-man’s-land to Tanjung Leman Jetty, the gateway to Sibu Island. After much thumb twiddling, our pre-arranged speedboat showed up. And then boom, we were rattling through The South China Sea on a forty-minute race to our destination.
Lisa worked at a resort called Sea Gypsy Village, but their chalets proved a little too expensive for my taste, so I cut a deal with Twin Beach Resort on Sibu Island’s western side. I’d heard that Twin Breach was real quiet at that time of year and indeed the early signs were encouraging as the speedboat captain delivered me right onto Twin Beach jetty.
I was so full of anticipation as I made my way down the long, wooden jetty. There was a light breeze on my face, a pleasing silence and not a soul to be seen… just what I’d been hoping for.
From the jetty, a short woodland trail took me to Twin Beach Resort’s picture perfect Sunset Beach.
After some poking around I finally located the office, where Twin Beach’s napping manager greeted me before fetching the keys to my chalet. “Are there any other guests here?” I asked, to which he shook his head with a yawn. “This week only you sir, next week busy!” I cannot begin to tell you how good it felt as I wandered back onto Sunset Beach towards my Sibu Island home, my very own tropical island…
When I got onto my chalet’s wooden porch I felt so enamoured with my environment I propped my rucksack up in a corner and just sat there for half an hour before even going inside. In the distance, a couple rowed past in a canoe, but they were soon gone, leaving me with this delicious sea view and the sound of birdcall somewhere back in the woods.
My chalet at Twin Beach Resort was a creaky old shed with resident bugs, a bathroom that looked as though it might collapse at any moment and a raspy old fan that made heavy work out of doing what a fan ought to do. I couldn’t use the air con as I hadn’t paid the premium, but all in all I had no complaints with my Sibu Island digs.
As its name suggests, Twin Beach Resort boasts not one but two beaches! But in reality the rocky, narrow strip of sand known as Sunrise Beach isn’t really a place to hang out. Hence it was on Sunset Beach that I spent the next few days swimming, reading and napping. It even had a hammock for me to lie on and set my iTunes playlist to random.
My nightly rate, arranged directly through Twin Beach themselves, included breakfast, lunch and dinner. Served just away from Sunset Beach in a restaurant by the woods. In all honesty the food was ok, nothing special, but portions were generous and the ambience was great. I don’t know if it was because I was the only customer, but they seemed a bit lazy with the meals, even serving me the same thing two days running. “Uh…. I had this yesterday…”. But anyway, a minor complaint in the grand scheme of things. If you like the look of Twin Beach (and why wouldn’t you?) head to their website for the latest info and availability.
On day three of my Sibu Island experience I figured it was time to go and see Lisa at Sea Gypsy Village. I was absolutely determined to walk, even though the manager at Twin Resort warned me that the way was a little precarious. But I was not to be dissuaded, so off I set one afternoon in the burning sunshine.
The trail took me through a section of forest, over a rotting wooden bridge and down a muddy slope. Finally, I came out into Sibu Island’s fanciest village, Sari Pacifica Resort. This is definitely Sibu’s boutique option, with spacious, fully-equipped beach bungalows set in a landscaped garden complex. Apparently this is where the Chinese come, so do keep that in mind if you’re thinking about booking a stay! 😉
Sari Pacifica Resort also has one hell of a pool, located just steps from the beach. “No pool on Sibu as good like this!” chuckled the Indian attendant, who caught me taking a photo. For more on Sari Pacifica Resort, their website will undoubtedly get you dreaming about a visit.
The final leg of the trail to Sea Gypsy Village was the trickiest. This was due to the fact that I had to carefully pick my way over these jagged rocks to access their beach. And yes, I also had to negotiate these same rocks on the way back at night in the dark. Luckily, the good folk at Sea Gypsy Village lent me one of their torches.
Sea Gypsy Village is much larger and more developed than Twin Beach. They have a dedicated barbecue area, a creche for the kids and a dive centre with a qualified instructor and all the diving gear you need.
Sea Gypsy’s wooden, thatched chalets look deceptively simple from the outside. But I was amazed by how roomy and cosy they are inside. No doubt about it, this was a step up from my place at Twin Beach. Although the nightly rate here certainly reflects that!
Their restaurant is massive too. And it was in here that I spent quite a few nights drinking and playing Scrabble with Lisa and her workmates.
“Cocktail?” came my daily welcome as I dropped onto one of the comfy wooden stools. “Oh, go on then!”
For more info on Sea Gypsy Village, here’s the website. At the end of the day I’d happily recommend all three of the resorts I saw during my stay here. It just depends on budgets and personal tastes. The term island escape is often overused these days, but for me Sibu Island fits the bill perfectly!
Like this? Then why not check out my other reports from around Malaysia.
You might also be interested in my various pieces on Singapore.
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