Pulau Jerejak - Forgotten Isle' Of The Past,
Beautiful Tropical Island Today

The History
Known as the Alcatraz of Malaysia, the 362 hectare Pulau Jerejak was once a prison that held prisoner way back in 1960s. The island is located between Penang Island and Penang Mainland. According to history, it was Sir Francis Light who first arrives in Pulau Jerejak in early 1786 before heading to Penang Island.

Later on when Colonel Arthur Wellesley proposed to use Jerejak as an alternative
naval base to Fort Cornwallis, the tiny island made its debut in the colonial records in 1797. The idea for the military post is to protect the new township of Jamestown (now known as Bayan Lepas) for any attack. However, the plan was delay due to serious malaria outbreak. When the British found that Georgetown to be in a better position to make a profitable port, Pulau Jerejak naval base project was totally abandoned.

Photo by Flickr
In 1900, Pulau Jerejak was turn into a quarantine centre as Penang started to experience growth. Many immigrants who flooded Penang at that time were sent to Pulau Jerejak for health inspection. Only those who pass the heath check are allow to go to the main island to work. A hospital was later built in 1930s on the eastern part of Pulau Jerejak to treat patient with Tuberculosis.

During WW2, Jerejak saw military action when a German submarine attacked a Russian vessel. Jerejak was then made a base for German submarine from June 1943 to March 1944. S.E Morison wrote a book title USA Naval Operation in WW2 stated that the German U-boats sunk about 18 Russian ships in the Indian Ocean. Many Russian soldiers died during this period. In this island, you'll be able to see a ceremonial cemetery dedicated to the fallen Russian soldiers that still exist till now.

From 12 June 1969 to August 1993, Jerejak was used as a Rehabilitation Centre with the first batch of inmates consists of those detained during the 13th May 1969 racial riots. Internal riots in then prison follow soon when more than 100 inmates
rampaged the centre destroying several buildings. Luckily the, officer in the centre are able to contain the problem without much difficulties.

A year later, Pulau Jerejak saw an upsurge of detainees due to more and more drug related menace. Due to more prisoners and as a security measures, fisherman from nearby island were prohibited from going near to the island (not more than 200m from Jerejak beach). There are few incident of inmates reported being escape from the island and the exact escape routes are still remains a mystery. Prior to the prison closing down in 1993, all the inmates were transferred to Johor. The last group of inmates left the island on 13 August 1993.

The Flora & Fauna of Pulau Jerejak
Today, Pulau Jerejak is an island rich with history, flora and fauna. The island has many ancient emerald enviroment which are known to be older than the equatorial forests of the Amazon or the Congo with an ecosystem that is both inspiring and engaging. Such an irresistible offering of fascinating natures can never be found elsewhere.

Now days, there is even a resort built in the island for those who want a complete relaxation and spa treatment after exploring the natural flora and fauna of Penang tropical forest. The resort provides among others, an action-packed activities such as the game of "paintball", archery, jungle trekking, fishing, mountain biking, canoeing, beach soccer, volleyball or just camping under the stars. More on Jerejak resort.

FLORA of Jerejak
There are about 210 species and 71 families of plant can be found in ageing coastal forest of Jerejak which is over 4,000 years old. Some of this includes Dipterocarp, Mangrove, Revine Coastel and Weedy species.

Found on hilly areas, Dipterocarp is a timber species that forms high proportion of emergent and main canopy strata of the forest. The forest is richly diversified and contains price timber such as Meranti (Shorea spp.), Mersawa (Anisoptera spp.) and Keruing (Dipterocarpus ssp.)

Mangrove Swamps (named after a of mangrove trees) are plenty in the forest wetland. The largest ones are located near the old prison buildings on the northern part of the island. The mangrove tree which is abundance here can tolerate brackish water and saltier coastal condition. Usually, the tree is surrounded by watery wilderness and provides natural habitat and breeding ground for organisms such as crabs and jellyfish.

Coastal plant community such as Mengkunyit and Bintagor also inhibits the Jerejak tropical forest. This plant act as a barrier between an interior plant and exposed beaches.

Another interesting plant that has a commercial value in the Pulau Jerejak forest is the Eurycoma Longifolia or commonly known as Tongkat Ali. The plant has long been use as an aphrodisiac and as a local ginseng to increase strength and energy.

FAUNA of Jerejak
There is about 39 animal species can be found on Pulau Jerejak such as White Bellied Sea Eagles. Monitor Lizards a Long Tailed Macaques. Although there are no endangered animal species on the island but quite a number of animals here are protected under the Malaysia Wildlife Act 1972.

The White Bellied Sea Eagle (Haliaectus Leucogaster) is black in color and has a white spot underneath. The bird resting site is at the southern tip of the island. This is an ideal place for bird watching as this is also the perching area for many other bird species.

The Long Tailed Macaque with long arms and short legs also inhabits Pulau Jerejak. They are usually born with black fur but eventually turn a yellowish greenish, reddish brownish shade as they mature. Long tailed macaques are active during the day and arboreal (tree-living) animals. They tend to sleep on tree branches. So when you are exploring the jungle, look up on the tree and try to spot any of them 'hanging out'.

Monitor Lizards and Mangrove Snakes are among the reptiles that live on the island. Monitor Lizards are daytime lizards and actively search for their food. Their prey includes snails, grasshoppers, beetles, birds' eggs, crabs, fish and nestling birds. This tropical reptiles do not divest themselves of their tails like some others lizards. Once lost, the tail will never grow back.

Mangroves Snakes live around mangrove area such as trees or swamp. The snakes often hang around the tree branch or banks and will drop into the water whenever there is a provocation. However, this snake will fight back if cornered or caught. Others snakes species can be found in the Pulau Jerejak forest are the reticulated python.

Getting There:
From Bayan Lepas International Airport to Jerejak Ferry Terminal is about 15
minute. From there, take a 5 minutes ferry ride to Pulau Jerejak. For ferry schedule
and ticketing, click here!