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PULAU TENGAH, MERSING, JOHOR, MALAYSIA
This island retreat set within Malaysia’s protected Johor Marine Park has a deep respect for nature. Batu Batu strongly believes that private sector tourism can act as a catalyst for positive change through the preservation and regeneration of the rich but fragile biodiversity around the Johor islands. As evidence of this conviction, Batu Batu founded and provides core funding for Tengah Island Conservation (TIC), a biodiversity management initiative dedicated to the research, rehabilitation and regeneration of the surrounding natural environment.
Meaning rocks in the local Malay language, Batu Batu is a laid-back retreat set among coconut trees on the uninhabited island of Pulau Tengah. Constructed by local carpenters using traditional techniques in the Malay vernacular style, the 20 one-bedroom and two two-bedroom villas sit within the island’s wild greenery in a way reminiscent of a Malay kampung or village. Guests can spend days exploring the island’s eight white sand beaches, hiking through the jungle, kayaking around the island, snorkelling on the house reefs or learning about the island’s fragile ecosystems from the Tengah Island Conservation scientists.
Batu Batu aims to tread lightly, source sustainably, behave responsibly and support the local economy wherever possible. Proud winners of the WTM Responsible Tourism silver award 2019 under the category Best for Wildlife and Nature Conservation, Batu Batu believes this is a never-ending journey you have to be in for The Long Run.
Batu Batu joined The Long Run in 2020 embarking on a sustainability journey committing to a holistic balance of the 4Cs – Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce – as a means to contribute meaningfully to the biodiversity and the people of their local region.
Batu Batu believes that private sector tourism can act as a catalyst for positive change through the preservation and regeneration of the rich but fragile biodiversity of the surrounding marine park. Firstly, through creating transformational tourism experiences, it hopes that guests leave informed and inspired with greater mindfulness and respect for the environment. Secondly, the destination sees the benefit of incoming tourism revenues flowing to the local communities with a portion applied to the protection and regeneration of biodiversity.
In 2019, Batu Batu founded the Tengah Island Conservation (TIC) at the Tunku Abdul Jalil Conservation Centre. TIC is a stand-alone, non-profit biodiversity management initiative that currently employs a full-time team of scientists. TIC has expanded its scope of environmental work beyond sea turtles to coral reef conservation, marine debris management, and community outreach and engagement. Last year (2019), the TIC team surveyed and mapped 1-million square metres of coral reef, patrolled seven islands covering 85km2 each morning, and removed over 13 tonnes of marine debris from the reefs.
Batu Batu continues to provide core funding for TIC’s existing projects and will also donate all of the resort’s dive and nature activity profits to the conservation projects on an ongoing basis. Find out more here (https://www.tengahislandconservation.org).
Batu Batu also founded Turtle Watch Camp in 2015 to formalise sea turtle conservation by establishing the first privately-run sea turtle hatchery in Johor state in conjunction with the Marine Parks Department and the Department of Fisheries. Since then, over 17,000 endangered Green and critically endangered Hawksbill turtle hatchlings have been released.
Batu Batu is a member of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) and through TIC, a member of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) and the Society for Conservation Biology’s Turtle Working Group, Malaysia.
Batu Batu works with a range of stakeholders from the local community advocating for and working together to create a sustainable plan for the area, particularly in the tourism sector. Batu Batu is a founding member of Sustainable Travel Mersing—a multi-stakeholder group that works with local government, private sector businesses, and the local community to create a five-year plan to become a certified sustainable destination (currently using GSTC destination guidelines).
The resort’s buildings were constructed by local carpenters using traditional techniques in the Malay vernacular style.
Where possible, Batu Batu provides employment opportunities for the local community and purchases goods from local suppliers. More than 50% of operational supplies are purchased from the nearby town of Mersing.
Batu Batu has created an organic food garden in partnership with FOLO (Feed Our Loved Ones). This project promotes health and sustainable living awareness among employees and guests as well as showcasing several circular systems like food waste to compost to food, human waste to compost to food, and rainwater for plants to food.
Situated in the South China Sea, approximately nine nautical miles off the east coast of peninsular Malaysia, Pulau Babi Tengah (Middle Pig Island in the Malay language) lies within the Seribuat Archipelago. Pulau Tengah was a UNHCR Refugee Transit Camp from the mid-1970s to early 1980s, and during this period, around 120,000 boat people fleeing Vietnam transited through the island. Many ex-boat people come back to visit Pulau Tengah and stay at Batu Batu recounting their incredible stories.
To celebrate the Malay culture, KakakTua Guesthouse has been established as Batu Batu’s little sister in Mersing featuring a guesthouse, coffee shop, and community space. KakakTua means cockatoo in Bahasa Malay. It is also the title of a famous old Malay folksong Burung KakakTua. Batu Batu chose the name for the guesthouse and community space because the folksong is a symbol of shared Malaysian roots and heritage regardless of our ethnic backgrounds (a tune that any Malaysian can sing, hum or whistle).
Batu Batu are staunch advocates that for-profit businesses can and should give back to the environment and operate sustainably to preserve the pristine environment around us.