Only five kilometres from the east coast of peninsular Malaysia, Gemia Island is easy to miss on a map. It is a tiny, rocky island covered in lush tropical greenery and fringed by curves of pure white sand. While this small gem may easily be overlooked, it will not be easily forgotten.
Gemia Island a stone’s throw from Kapas
Gemia Island is only a few hundred metres from the better known Kapas Island, but offers a very different experience. There is only one resort on Gemia, guaranteeing that you will have the beach coves and the aquamarine water almost to yourself.
Most of the rooms are built on stilts over the water and offer a superior level of comfort and spaciousness. The balconies are carefully constructed to ensure complete privacy, so you can enjoy the tranquillity of the view undisturbed.
Perfect relaxation destination
One of the other attractions of Gemia Island is the Spa. To round off your tropical island experience and to ensure that you go home relaxed and rejuvenated, do indulge in one of their treatments.
Indulge into the waters
Apart from treating yourself and lazing in the sunshine there are various ways to keep busy during your stay on Gemia Island. Enjoying the crystal clear water and the abundance of marine life here is a must. Most visitors will go snorkelling or scuba diving to get a closer view of the colourful corals, while others will rent a sea kayak and paddle around the island. There are many other ways to make the most of your Gemia Island holiday.
Gemia Island may be small but there is no compromise on comfort. A holiday here will leave you reminiscing about your days in paradise for a long time.
Gemia Island is 5 km from the east coast of peninsular Malaysia in the state of Terengganu, just north-west of Kapas Island. Boats to the island depart from Marang jetty which is a 30 minute drive south of Kuala Terengganu.
Boats to Gemia Island
Boat tickets can be bought at the jetty in Marang or pre-arranged with the resort usually included in your package. There are regular transfers throughout the day depending on the demands. Boat operators that offer transfers to the neighbouring Kapas Island also do transfers to Gemia in the same trip. Return trips cost around RM 25 and take 15 minutes by speedboat. Slower, cheaper boats are also available but would take about 30 minutes.
Getting to Marang
Marang is south of Kuala Terengganu and is not to be confused with Merang which is north of Kuala Terengganu and the departure point for boats to Redang and Lang Tengah Islands.
Things to see and do in Gemia
Gemia is a tiny island and the only resort is the Gem Island resort. Apart from lazing around in the sun, eating, drinking and relaxing with friends and family, the resort does not offer many other activities to keep the visitors busy.
Snorkelling around Gemia
Shallow, accessible reefs and crystal clear water mean that the water around Kapas and Gemia Islands offers excellent snorkelling. There is plenty to see and the water is calm, making it a pleasant experience for the whole family.
There are excellent snorkelling spots all around the island and the friendly staff at the recreation counter can advise you about where to go into the water when you rent your gear. The area between Kapas and Gemia Island is said to be particularly good.
The water around Kapas Island is also worth exploring and the resort can arrange boat excursions and guided snorkelling trips to the best spots.
The marine species that you are likely to encounter here include:
- giant clams
- sea urchins
- sea cucumbers
- nudibranchs (colourful sea slugs)
- and even turtles
Besides that, there are plenty of hard and soft corals, including sea anemones with tiny clownfish hiding between their tentacles.
The sheer amounts of visitors and careless practices have resulted in damage to the coral and consequently the marine life around the islands. To ensure that you keep yourself safe and do your part to contribute to the conservation of these incredible ecosystems, keep the following in mind:
- Touching or standing on coral damages or even kills them and re-growth takes years.
- Control your buoyancy carefully as the water is very shallow in places.
- Use a life jacket and only use fins if you are completely confident that you will not accidentally touch the coral.
- Do not litter. Some animals (like turtles) may mistake plastic bags for food and choke to death.
- Stay within the designated areas so that you do not cross boat paths and get hit
- Do not touch or disturb any marine life in any way. You may hurt them and some of them may hurt you, like fire coral or sea urchins. Keep your distance from Triggerfish as they may be aggressive, especially when guarding a nest
- Keep yourself protected from the sun
- When renting equipment, ask for assistance and tips from your resort to ensure a good fit (especially of your mask)
Scuba Diving in rich coral reefs
While Kapas and Gemia Islands are known as snorkelling paradise – partly because of the relatively shallow reefs – there are a number of excellent scuba diving spots as well. One of the most popular sites in the vicinity is a World War II shipwreck. Some illegal fishing trawlers have also been sunk here to serve as artificial reefs.
The resort will be able to arrange recreational dives so that you can explore this for yourself.
The marine species that you are likely to encounter here include eels, giant clams, cuttlefish, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, pufferfish, angelfish, damsels, nudibranchs and even turtles. There are plenty of hard and soft corals, including sea anemones with tiny clownfish hiding between their tentacles.
If you enjoy exploring the underwater world, do your part to protect it. The golden rule, apart from never holding your breath, is to take only photographs and leave only bubbles! Below are some guidelines that every responsible diver must follow.
- Choose a dive operator that respects the environment and actively contributes to conservation efforts in the area.
- Never touch or step on coral. The slightest touch can harm them and some may hurt you.
- Prevent accidental contact with the reef or kicking up sediment by keeping a safe distance and practicing good fin and body control.
- Do not collect any “souvenirs” – living or dead – underwater, but do pick up recent rubbish
- Do not touch, chase, try to ride or otherwise harass any marine life. Feed and handle marine life only under expert guidance.
- Ensure that your dive boat does not anchor on the reef and make sure that all rubbish (especially light plastics) is carefully stowed away.
Those that prefer to stay out of the water can enjoy the untouched jungle on the neighbouring Kapas Island, as the resort is able to arrange a jungle trekking excursion for you. Several footpaths cut through the greenery and Kapas is home to numerous species of small mammals, reptiles and birds. To fully understand the diversity of the fauna and flora on the island, including the traditional uses of some of the indigenous plants, a guided jungle trek is your best bet. You can easily do the trek on your own though. The 45 minute trek from the jetty to Kapas View Point is one of the favourite routes to take: the spectacular view from the top is a well-earned reward for a sweaty walk.
Remember to bring plenty of water and a good insect repellent.
If you are lucky, you will be able to witness a mother turtle laying her eggs on one of the beaches here or be present to see the beautiful sight of baby turtles hatching or being released into the sea for the first time.
Four species of marine turtle are found in this area and the Gem Island Resort runs a turtle conservation programme to help boost the ailing population of these beautiful creatures.
Turtles come ashore on Gemia Island yearly to lay their eggs on the beaches. The beaches are monitored and the eggs are collected and put in the resort’s hatchery. This is to protect them from natural predators as well as poaching by humans.
When the baby turtles hatch, they are kept in a special pool for a few weeks until they are less vulnerable and better able to fend for themselves. After that, the turtles are released into the sea.
Under natural circumstances, turtle hatchlings have a one percent chance of reaching maturity. Hunting of these animals, collecting of their eggs by humans and destruction of their habitat have decreased this slim chance even further, placing the turtles under serious threat of extinction. Programmes such as these boost their survival odds and help avert this threat.
Enjoying the Spa
The newly opened Tusila Wellness Spa promises to make your holiday in paradise even more relaxing and rejuvenating with one of their special treatments. Treatments at the spa include massages, body wraps, herbal baths, scrubs, facials and foot reflexology. Single treatments as well as packages are on offer. The Spa uses natural ingredients – including wild herbs that grow on Gemia island – and traditional techniques to ensure only the best Spa experience.
Other activities in Gemia
- Sea kayaks for rent
- Yoga and meditation classes available
- Fishing trips and other excursions
- Banana boat
- Windsurfing (own equipment needed)
- Water ski
- Wake boarding & knee boarding
The best time to visit
The monsoon season peaks between November and March every year. You can expect more rain and rough seas and the resort is closed from end October through end-February. Peak season is between July and August.
Climate and weather around the island
Equatorial with fairly consistent temperatures year-round, ranging from 21ºC (70ºF) to 32ºC (90ºF). Humidity is high (85-95%). Annual rainfall varies from 2,000mm to 2,500mm and most rain can be expected between November and February.
Clothing guide in Gemia
Very casual. There are no dress restrictions on the islands and light cotton clothing, t-shirts and shorts would be suitable. In some villages and rural areas, modest clothing is more appropriate. Topless sunbathing for women is not acceptable. Terengganu is an Islamic state and it is best to dress modestly when in doubt.