Desaru is a stretch of beach that we have been to many times. We like it very much. The location is a bit off anything that has to do with cities or residential areas, and offer a quite nice and relaxing seaside experience. There are a couple of resorts on the twenty kilometres long beach stretch, and if we are not on a day trip, and hang at the public beach, we usually stay at the Pulai Desaru Beach Resort. If you stay here you pretty much must have a car, or a budget for taxi fares, because there is nothing to eat or buy, in or around the resort. That is if you are not really keen on hotel food and snacks. There is a local Malay restaurant at the public beach but it is at the other end of the beach. We usually take the car to Bandar Penawar, which is the nearest something akin of a city. There are a couple of restaurants and we have found one that we really like, Diwanda Seafood Restaurant. You can read about how we found it here. Also there are some good nasi kandar restaurants at the Taman Desaru Utama strip, located five minutes drive from Bandar Penawar.
If you are naturalist there is plenty of wildlife you can enjoy. It is common to see dusky leaf monkeys, water monitors, kingfisher and sunbirds within the resort area. The bird life is really amazing, especially when you have a balcony and can enjoy the birds pretty much in their own habitat. The downside was the macaques. There is, or maybe was, a large group that made a habit of raiding the compound, but lately they were nowhere to be seen. Maybe the hotel “took care” of this issue. Anyhow, once the macaques scratched our car pretty bad, when they tried to play car wash at the parking lot, using sand as detergent. A couple of kilometres north of Desaru, in Tanjung Balau, there is a museum about how traditional Malay fishermen used to live and work. At Tanjung Balau you also have a public beach and a couple of eateries. The beach is not as good as the one in Desaru, since the sand is of a finer grain, gray and a bit like mud. Not far from the beach there is a jetty and a small cove, where you will find mudskippers.
Desaru is pretty much a weekend destination for Singaporeans. They make up the majority of the resorts guests, especially now after the build of the Senai-Desaru Expressway in 2011, which has shortened the trip from Singapore/Johor Bahru with about an hour. You will see a very limited quantity of westerners, and the ones you see are mostly expats from Singapore.
Malaysia’s largest entrepreneur in family themed attractions, Themed Attractions & Resorts have invested RM267 million in coming mega projects, Ocean Quest and Ocean Splash, which was originally planned to be completed 2014, and now pushed forward to 2016. I drove around and investigated how the project was running, and it is still under construction. The infrastructure, like roads and land preparations is pretty much done, which I also drove on, after somehow getting cleared at a checkpoint. I doubt that these projects will have such an impact on the now sleepy nature of the beach. There will be so much going on in these theme worlds that the visitors probably don’t have time to take a stroll at the beach.