Pulau Besar is an interesting day trip destination.
It is located about 15km south east of Melaka city and can be reached by ferry or speed boat.
As the name suggests, it is a large island (168 hectares) and is said to be shaped like an expecting woman lying on her back, though I could not see much resemblance myself. Perhaps they sliced some of her 'bulge' off when they were building the golf course back in the 1990s.
Photos (L) The profile of the island is supposed to resemble a pregnant woman. (R) The tomb of Sultan Al Ariffin Syeikh Ismail.
It is best known for its ancient Islamic graves, tombs and mausoleums which are scattered around the island.
Notable among these is the tomb of Sultan Al Ariffin Syeikh Ismail. According to the notice board outside the tomb, Syeikh Ismail was the 18th descendant of the Prophet and was born in Baghdad in 1464AD. While visiting the Prophet's tomb in Medina, he received a calling to go and spread Islam to Java. He reached Pulau Besar in 1495 and from there helped disseminate Islamic teaching throughout the Malay Archipelago. He died at age 58 and was buried on the island.
The tomb of Syarifah Rodziah/Siti Sarah (one of Syeikh Ismail's relatives) is located nearby as are several other graves and mausoleums. These tombs attract many visitors, particularly Malaysian and Singaporean Muslims of Indian descent.
Photos:(L) Tomb of Syarifah Rodziah. (R) Other graves on the island.
The island has a number of other attractions, some of which are rather mystical including:
You can find out more about these and the islands' other strange attractions on the Melaka Government Website (the page is in Bahasa only but you can ask Google to translate).
Photos: (L) One of the wells, still in use. (R) Horse Head Rock.
There is also a Museum on the island, Muzium Pulau Besar, which explains some of the weird and wonderful legends and sights on the island. Entrance is RM5.
There was an attempt in the 1990s/2000s to create a tourist resort here. A substantial hotel, Putera Island Resort, was built with a 750 seater ballroom among its many facilities. It closed down after only a few years of operation and now lies empty and wasted. Perhaps the elves sabotaged the hotel!
There was some renovation activity going on at the resort during my visit in December 2012. A sign mentioned an Islamic Centre so perhaps part or all of the resort is being converted for that purpose.
There is a golf course adjacent to the hotel. I think it may no longer be operational but it appears that the greens are still being maintained.
Photos: (L) Museum (R) Part of the defunct Putera Island Resort.
When I visited, the beaches on the island were clean and attractive and the sea was calm, inviting and suitable for swimming, although being located on the busy Straits of Malacca, it only needs one ship to throw its garbage overboard for the beaches to be affected. Since the island is also a Muslim pilgrimage site this is not a place for lying on the beach in a bikini but swimming wearing a T-shirt and shorts (i.e. Malaysian Style!) is acceptable.
There are a few food stalls and shops on the island for refreshments.
Photos: (L) Beach on the island. (R) Anjung Batu Ferry Jetty.
Take the coast road (Highway 5) from Melaka city towards Muar. At Umbai, follow the signs for Umbai Jetty. Here you can park your car (RM5) and hire a speed boat to take you to the island. I paid RM100 for the round trip. The boat is capable of holding a dozen or so people so is good value for a large group. After dropping us at the island, the boat driver gave us his mobile number and we just called him to pick us up when we wanted to go back.
His name is Abu Chik with mobile 016-677 5035. I see from his business card that he also runs trips to smaller islands in the vicinity such as Pulau Lalang, Pulau Serimbun, Pulau Nangka, Pulau Dodol, Pulau Undan, Pulau Hanyut, Pulau Binatang, Pulau Burung, Pulau Feringgi and Pulau Hantu.
Photos: (L) Umbai Jetty where the speed boats can be hired. (R) Passenger disembarking at the island with the help of a ladder.
If you are alone or in a small group it would be better value for money to take the ferry.
The ferry operates from Anjung Batu Jetty which is just one or two kilometres further on from Umbai. There is car park at the ferry terminal (RM3).
There are 7 ferries a day in each direction:
RM10 Child (ages 5-12)
RM 3 Child (ages 1-4)
As mentioned the Putera Island Resort is closed down and most websites quoting accommodation on this island are out of date. I would recommend a day trip only and instead stay overnight in Melaka.