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Survivor Island – Part Two

Pulau Tiga in Sabah, Malaysia is known as “Survivor Island”, because the first season of the hit television series was filmed there. Daryl Yep spent a few days there and lived to tell about his adventures, including frolicking in a muddy pool and searching for highly venomous sea kraits.

[continued from Part One]

On the way to Snake Island and on our way back, our boat passed by another island, namely Pulau Kalampunian Besaror Sand Spit. It has been reduced to a strip of sand bar as a result of wave erosion. Some land and sea-based challenges during Survivor were held there. Pulau Kalampunian Besar and Pulau Kalampunian Damit, together with the main island Pulau Tiga (meaning “Island of Three”), form the Pulau Tiga National Park. They were designated as forest reserve back in 1933 and finally gazetted as a park in 1978. It was only in 1998 that the Sipadan Dive Centre signed an agreement with the park to develop the Pulau Tiga Resort, which was completed in 2000.

If Pulau Kalampunian Besar and the creepy Pulau Kalampunian Damit are nothing to shout about, the same cannot be said about Pulau Tiga. It was apparently formed some time on 21 September 1897, when a huge earthquake at Mindanao Island in the Philippines triggered a volcanic eruption at the northern part of Borneo. An island measuring 66 feet wide was formed as a result. The subsequent eruptions of the same volcano over the next 40 years, and the eruptions of two adjacent mud volcanoes that expanded and coalesced, formed the present Pulau Tiga. The last eruption took place more than 60 years ago. Nevertheless, warm mud still oozes from these geothermal vents of the island. Pulau Tiga is currently about 4.5km long, 1.5km wide and covers an area of 20.7 km². Except for the resort and the Park Headquarters that occupy a small part of the island, the majority of Pulau Tiga is still untouched vegetation.

A natural spa treatment

Although there are natural and recreational attractions aplenty on the island, no trip to Pulau Tiga is complete without a dip in the mud volcanoes, not the eruptive kind but merely bubbling mud pool. The mud bath is said to have therapeutic effects, capable of curing rashes, for example. The prospect of getting a free natural spa treatment got all of us excited. We had to hike up the 1,100-metre scenic Pagong-Pagong Trail that leads to the Mud Volcano. The downpour the previous night made the trail extra slippery. After hiking for about half an hour, we were greeted by what was basically a large pool of mud.

The muddy pond looked rather diluted, probably because of the rain. Not everyone would find the idea of coating themselves with natural mud appealing unless it’s done in a spa. Some people are hesitant about jumping into the muddy pond. Perhaps they are afraid that they might get sucked in, quicksand-style. To prove that it was totally safe, Nell immediately stripped to his boxers and splashed into the pond, encouraging us to follow suit. The surprisingly cool mud was pleasant to soak in. Bubbles of thermal gas that rose to the surface every few minutes made “gloop” sounds.

Those who were convinced joined him to test the therapeutic effects of the mud, while others were satisfied just to observe from a nearby hut, built for visitors to leave their clothes and belongings. As the mud in the pond was quite watery, any attempt to splatter it all over our body for a more realistic group photo was futile. All hope was not lost when Nell informed us that there was another small mud volcano with thicker mud which was used specifically for “touching-up”. If you want the mud to work its magic, don’t wash it off before it is completely dry. Just lie on the sandy beach for a while before taking a dip in the sea to cleanse yourself.

What else to do?

Besides having props from Survivor scattered here and there on the island, the tribes’ names were also a recurring feature. Hence the beach on the north-east side of the island is called Pagong while the one on the south-east side is Tagi. Also, check out the Tribal Council. Those who go jungle trekking along the various trails can see monitor lizards, macaque and proboscis monkeys, hornbills, sea eagles, and other flora and fauna. If you’re lucky, you will find the Megapodes (Megapodius Freycinet), a ground dwelling bird that looks like a chicken but can meow like a cat! Pulau Tiga also offers a number of dive sites and non-divers can enjoy snorkelling at a designated area near the resort, or try kayaking and fishing.

Daryl Yap is a traveller and a writer who loves to combine the two in writing about his travels around Malaysia. This article was published in Senses of Malaysia magazine, a publication by The Expat Group.

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