Cape Rachado – Pulau Masjid Beach

Three and a half years ago (time flies!) I wrote on this blog about Cape Rachado (Tanjung Tuan).

At that time I explored the lighthouse and the beach at the tip of the headland known as Pulau Intan beach.

I went back again recently to look for another beach, Pulau Masjid. Here is how to get there.

Map showing location of Pulau Masjid, Cape Rachado

After walking on the tarmac road through the forest from the main gate for about 10 minutes you will see a path leading off to the left.

Turn left here to go to Pulau Masjid Beach

Take that path which starts off as a concrete pavement with railings and later turns into a jungle track.

Path leading to Pulau Masjid Beach, Tanjung TuanPath leading to Pulau Masjid Beach, Tanjung Tuan

It only takes another ten minutes or so to descend to the beach. On the way you pass a well that looks pretty old, and a short stretch of boardwalk.

Old well at Pulau Masjid, Tanjung TuanBoardwalk to Pulau Masjid, Cape Rachado

Eventually you emerge at the shoreline and you can go left or right. On the right are some shelters and a sliver of beach where a frangipani tree somehow manages to survive.

Shelters on Pulau Masjid Beach, Tanjung TuanBeach at Pulau Masjid, Tanjung Tuan

The better beach is off to the left, overlooking an island, presumably the island that the beach is named after. There are some shelters here too.

Pulau Masjid Beach, Cape Rachado, Port Dickson

The water looked clear and clean but there was nobody there apart from a couple of fishermen.

Pulau Masjid Beach, Cape Rachado, Port Dickson

If you are looking for a peaceful spot away from the crowds on the nearby Port Dickson beaches you could consider this place. Take a few people along with you though – I thought there was a slightly eerie atmosphere here, but perhaps it was just the gloomy weather!

In the Footsteps of Hang Tuah

Hang Tuah duelling with a Majapahit Warrior.

The name Hang Tuah is one that keeps cropping up as one travels around Malaysia. He is a historical folk hero but some question whether he ever really existed. Perhaps like Robin Hood, his legend may be based on a real person but his supposed exploits have been embellished with fantasy over the centuries.

Hang Tuah's well

According to the information at his burial site, he was said to have migrated as a child from Bentan (Indonesia?) to Melaka in the early 1400s. He grew up in the village of Kampung Duyung a few miles outside of Melaka city, where this well, claimed to have been dug by Hang Tuah himself, can still be seen.

Tak Melayu Hilang Di DuniaAs youths, Hang Tuah and his friends/relatives Hang Jebat, Hang Kasturi, Hang Lekir and Hang Lekiu became accomplished practitioners of silat, Malaysia’s highly effective form of martial arts. The gang used these fighting skills to fend off pirate attacks and resist incursions from Siam, thus gaining recognition and gratitude from Sultan Mansoor Shah of Malacca (1456-1477) who appointed Hang Tuah as Laksamana (Admiral) and Shahbandar (Harbourmaster).  Malacca prospered during this period and Hang Tuah was said to have coined the phrase ‘Malays will never vanish from the face of the earth’.

Gunung Ledang (Mt. Ophir)

Illustration: Tim Lai

One colourful tale recounts how Hang Tuah, by this time an old man, was commanded by the Sultan to seek Puteri Gunung Ledang’s hand in marriage. The princess laid down conditions that her dowry must comprise a (40km long) golden bridge from Melaka to the top of Gunung Ledang (Mount Ophir) , seven trays of mosquitoes’ hearts, seven trays of germs’ livers, seven jars of virgins’ tears and a bowl of Raja Ahmad’s blood (the Sultan’s son). Needless to say, he was unable to comply.

Hang Tuah and his friends became entangled in various insidious intrigues at the palace. Hang Jebat ran amok, slaying several officials, before Hang Tuah was ordered by the Sultan to kill Hang Jebat. Hang Tuah himself was, by some accounts, murdered by his own brother Hang Kasturi though other versions have Hang Tuah dying of old age.  Hang Kasturi and Hang Jebat’s tombs can be found in Melaka as described on my Malaysia Traveller website.


Here are some of the other places I have visited in Malaysia associated with Hang Tuah:

Hang Tuah's Mausoleum at Tanjung Kling

Hang Tuah’s Mausoleum is located at Tanjung Kling, just outside Melaka.

At the peak of Gunung Datuk in Negeri Sembilan is an indentation in the rock said to be Hang Tuah’s footprint.

At the peak of Gunung Datuk in Negeri Sembilan is an indentation in the rock said to be Hang Tuah’s footprint.

One of Hang Tuah's 'footprints' can be found at Cape Rachado (Tanjung Tuan)

Another ‘footprint’ can be found at Tanjung Tuan (Cape Rachado), Melaka’s enclave near Port Dickson.

Cape Rachado

Pulau Intan Beach at Cape Rachado

Just beyond the busy beaches of Port Dickson lies a small headland jutting out into the Straits of Malacca called Cape Rachado.  This headland is well worth exploring. It contains a forest reserve, a historic lighthouse, the site of a 400 year old naval battle and probably the best secluded beach in this part of Malaysia.

Before you can get to the beach you have to park your car outside the entrance to the forest reserve and walk 30 minutes or so up a steep road which cuts through the jungle.

Entrance to Tanjung Tuan Forest Reserve. Cape Rachado is Portuguese for Broken Cape or Cape Split. Its Bahasa name is Tanjung Tuan which means Cape Sir or Master Cape!

The whole 75 hectare area is a wildlife reserve and is popular with bird watchers as the headland lies on the flight path for eagles, hawks, buzzards, kite and falcons making their migration to Australia every February/March.

The road ends at the lighthouse, said to be the oldest in the country with the original structure dating back to the 16th century.

Lighthouse at Cape Rachado

The first lighthouse on this site was built by the Portuguese to prevent their spice and treasure-laden galleons from being dashed on the rocks below as they negotiated the Straits of Malacca which are at their narrowest point along this stretch of coastline (on a clear day the Sumatran coast is supposed to be visible but I didn’t manage to see it).

Old map of the Straits of Malacca

The present lighthouse tower was constructed in 1863 by the British. The shorter concrete radar tower on the right was built in 1990. Although I was not allowed to enter the lighthouse compound (you can if you obtain prior permission), the area in front of it provided a splendid view of the Straits which were looking crystal clear for a change.

No sign of Sumatra?

A significant naval battle took place in these waters in 1606 between the Dutch and the Portuguese who were vying for supremacy in this region. Eleven Dutch ships faced twenty Portuguese galleons in a two day battle involving lots of grappling hooks and cannonball salvos at point blank range. Two ships from each side were sunk before the Dutch broke off the battle leaving the Portuguese to claim victory. The Sultan of Johor however was more impressed by the tenacity of the Dutch and threw in his lot with Holland, eventually forcing the Portuguese, some 35 years later, to cede their prized colony of Malacca to the Dutch.

The shipwrecks of the four sunken vessels  have since been found and items such as cannonballs, coins and ceramics were retrieved. This superb bronze cannon was salvaged in 1995 from the wreck of the Dutch ship Nassau and is now on display in nearby Lukut Museum.

Cannon at Lukut Museum

The other Dutch ship sunk was called the Middelburg which I suppose is Dutch for Middleton, as in Kate.

From the high point of the lighthouse, a steep footpath led down to the beach (another 15 minutes walk).

Path towards Pulau Intan beach. A lot of steps.

It was a hot and sweaty walk but well worth the effort – a virtually deserted and relatively clean sandy beach.

Clean sandy beach at Cape Rachado.

Not a plastic bag in sight!

On the other side of the headland the shore is more rocky and some local guys were about to do a spot of fishing.

Fishing spot.

Another reason why the beach was so empty (apart from the effort needed to get there) could be because crocodiles are said to be occasionally spotted swimming in these waters. Seems unlikely to me but I couldn’t hang around to find out. I had inexplicably left my water bottle in the car and was by now feeling the effects of dehydration. Time to make my way back.

Cape Rachado is certainly a very quiet and beautiful corner of Malaysia. Somebody even appears to have chosen it as his final resting place.

A gravestone perhaps?