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good beach and snorkeling

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Hello,
I will have a weekend free when I am in Singapore and I am looking for a good place to go for a pretty beach and snorkeling. I could leave on Friday mid-afternoon and must return by Sunday evening. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. :-)

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    Assuming your trip is NOT between late October and early April, I would suggest Rawa Island, which is in Malaysia, on the east coast off Mersing. It is a small island (you can swim or canoe around it). It is without doubt one of the most beautiful beaches in the world: soft white sand and clear water that changes from blue, to green to purple depending on weather. There is one hotel on the island, and as it is small, the staff is very attentive. The hotel is about a 3-star, but the beach and surrounding islands make up for any lack of luxury. You can dive or snorkel right from the beach, or the hotel will arrange for a boat to take you to more remote islands/reefs/wrecks with better snorkeling and diving. The hotel is called Rawa Safaris. I would suggest you check their website: rawasfr.com. To reach Rawa, you could drive from Singapore (3 hours, you can charter a taxi) and then take a ferry for about 1 hour. You might also fly from KL to Kuantan and drive to Mersing (maybe 1 -2 hours), then take the ferry from Mersing.

    My personal view is that Rawa Island is the most beautiful of all the islands in this part of the South China sea, and offers the best snorkeling and diving, esp if you hire a boat for the day to go to outlying islands and reefs. Pulau Besar would be a close second to Rawa, and better in my view than Sibu. A good website is http://www.visitmalaysia.com/terenisle.htmyou can find information on Besar as well as Rawa, Sibu and other islands in the Malay archipelago. I think you will find fairly basic accommodations generally in these islands. These islands and most of the east coast of Malaysia aren't nearly as developed or heavily touristed as places like Koh Samui.

    On Pulau Besar, I did once stay at the Hillside Island Chalet Resort, basic chalets but perfectly fine, good food as I recall; however that is more than 10 years ago so I can't say it is the same. I could not find a website for the Hillside Chalets, but did find the following:

    Hillside Chalet Island Resort
    Office Address: Gerai Majlis Daerah,
    5B Jalan Abu Bakar, 86800,
    Mersing, Johor.
    Tel: 07-799 4831

    I am not a fan of Tioman Island, a bit south of Rawa, which sometimes gets mentioned on this site and is a very popular weekend destination for Singaporeans. It is overbuilt and overcrowded and there is not a lot of snorkeling from the beach, and what there is is not very good. It is however very easy to get to from Singapore as there is (or used to be) direct ferry service and air service. If you hire a boat and get out about an hour or more to deserted islands then Tioman works as a base, you just can't expect to do any good snorkeling right from the island.

    If you trip is between late October and early April, I would not recommend Rawa or the east coat of Malaysia, as it is quite rainy then, esp November through end February. It gets harder for weekend reccos at that time, Phuket would be good but you have to get a non-stop flight to make sure you can justify just a weekend there.

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