I wish to narrate some of our experiences in visiting the Lanting Beach Resort- both positive and negative. We visited this resort between 15th and 17th of May 2011. The Lanting Beach resort is situated on Pemanggil Island, 65kms off the eastern coast of Johor. We had booked at the MATTA FAIR to visit the Lanting Beach resort.
1. TRAVEL: To reach this place, we travelled on the 14th May by bus from KL to Mersing from where we were supposed to travel by speed boat to this resort. We spent the night at the DView hotel before our boat journey to Lanting. One of the biggest challenges (and a pricey one at that!) is in reaching the resort, as the journey across the sea is fairly long. There are two modes of boat travel available- fast and a slow boat service. Our package was a full board package and in addition we paid for a fast boat to reach the resort from Mersing town. A few days before we left for Mersing, we were told that there is no fast boat available and we thus were forced to agree to travel by the slow boat. On 15th morning, around 5am, we were dropped off at the Mersing Jetty for our boat ride to Lanting. We were not exactly expecting the Queen Mary II but being uncomfortable is an understatement for this mode of transport. The slow boat is actually a boat which carries various goods and groceries for this resort. It is also agonizingly slow, taking 3 ½ to 4 hours to reach the resort. More importantly, there are no chairs to sit on this boat! There is a small enclosed area on the boat (used as a storage space) where we had to confine ourselves during this slow journey. I and my family of wife & two small kids had to adjust in this space. Certainly, it is an uncomfortable and a claustrophobic affair! Apparently, the fast boat is a pricey affair and caters to a group of 30 people. If you are a small group, this travel becomes very expensive (550RM for a one-way trip). On our trip back to the mainland, my wife firmly insisted that we cannot travel by this slow boat and the resort had to make the arrangements for a faster mode of travel. Upon this, the management arranged for a faster motor boat. The speed boat is small and accommodates around 8 persons. To sit, there are only planks (again very uncomfortable-specially for a 3 ½ year old child); mercifully it takes only 1 ¾ hours to reach mainland from the resort.
2. ACCOMMODATION: There is no electricity at the resort! Yes, no electricity. The resort is dependent on generators for all electrical usage. Accommodation is a small room which has very basic amenities. Sadly, the room provided to us was badly in need of a refurbishment. There is no TV and of course there is no phone. Mobile phone services are only provided for Maxis holders; hence all other phone users are at a disadvantage. There is also no provision for internet. Also, in the room there is no air conditioning and only a small fan on the ceiling. The fan also moves slowly as the place is run on a generator. There are no cupboards and you have to hang your clothes on some hooks provided. The only desk provided had only one drawer, unfortunately these was a gaping hole in this drawer. There are also cockroaches and lizards for company in the room. So, beware of these insects! In the bathroom, there is no mirror; no shampoo for use (extra 4.5RM is charged for a small bottle of shampoo) and only a rudimentary soap for use. There is no hot water and the water is stored in a large tub in the bathroom. My kids being used to warm water for their shower, found it a little difficult to take a shampoo with cold water. Afternoons and nights are extremely hot on the island and without air-conditioning in the room, it becomes unbearable. Mosquitoes are another menace, but we had armed ourselves with gels and mats to protect us at nights. The coolest part of the resort is the main dining hall and lounge which receives some breeze. The main lounge has a TV here which shows 4 channels for those interested in catching a bit of whats happening in the outside world.
3. FOOD: If you are a vegetarian, you have to be prepared for the worst. In spite of informing through the phone and through e-mail, the concept of vegetarian food is not understood. The cooks and helpers at this resort are all Indonesian. English is an alien language to them. You have to try your best to explain what vegetarian food is all about, then only you can survive at this place. The helpers do not have much idea about vegetarian food, hence our food experience was certainly raw. On the 2nd day of our stay here, my wife decided to take things into her hand and entered the kitchen. She herself cooked our meal in the kitchen to feed our family! Must be the first time that a guest had to do the cooking themselves!
4. STAFF: The resort was managed by the younger daughter of the owner. She left on the second day of our trip and we had to deal directly with the helper staff. These Indonesian helpers are very warm and friendly people. They made our stay more bearable and kept us supplied with cold drinks during our indoor stay to combat the intense heat at this time of the year. A big thanks to the three Indonesian couples who understood our predicament and tried their best to help us.
5. THE SURROUNDINGS:
a) The Lanting resort is situated on Pemanggil Island, which is a tiny outcrop of rocks covered by rich vegetation. The resort itself faces the south-eastern direction and has a jetty of its own. Being the non-rainy season, the sea is pretty calm. At the jetty itself, you can visualize the corals through the 8-10 feet water. There are a variety of coloured fish seen in the shallow waters around the beach. There is also another secluded beach which is accessible through a small walk. This portion is called the Lanting Beach Lagoon. The beach here is a combination of rocks and soft sand here and dotted with coconut trees. The rocks are covered with medium-sized black crabs while the beach has lots of broken coral and also littered with different types of shells. The water is clear and clean, however it becomes deep a few meters from the beach. Hence, children have to be closely supervised.
b) There are different types of trips available. We took the snorkelling trip on our first afternoon; however we could not indulge in this activity as there are no instructors available (we were unaware of even the basics). Hence, we sat on the boat while others did the snorkelling. Thus, it is helpful if you know how to perform snorkelling. On our 2nd day, we went on a fishing trip. This was enjoyable as we could indulge in fishing and even manage to catch some medium sized fish. The waters around this island are teeming with all sorts of fish. In deeper waters, game fish too is available. If you have the inclination, one can also take a trip to the nearby islands of Aur, Dayang and Tioman from this resort. We however were in no shape to take further boat trips.
6. OTHER TRIVIA: One has to leave all footwear before you enter the resort proper. So, you have to be bare foot all the time-in and out of your rooms. At meal times, a bell is rung which can be heard from all the rooms announcing that food is ready. Something unique at this resort!
In conclusion, a trip to Lanting Beach Resort can be enjoyable only if you travel in the fast boat from the mainland; are able to adjust to a non-a/c room in the intense heat and are familiar with water activities. For those who are strict vegetarians (like ourselves), it is a big bother. Lastly, for families with small children, it is probably better to keep away from this resort and select some more family friendly resort for a beach holiday. For the management, improving upon the services provided such as better transport to the resort, up grading facilities in the rooms and presence of guides and instructors will certainly help in drawing the well meaning visitor to their resort.