Tiger Rock

Pangkor Island, Penang & Pangkor, Malaysia Book from RM1,380

Family friendly houses in a sociable jungle hideaway on Pangkor Island
A small fishing island with great beaches off the coast of northwest Malaysia, Pangkor is reached by a 2.5-hour drive from Penang, then a short boat ride. Formally the family home of Malaysians David and Rebecca Wilkinson, Tiger Rock is a collection of airy timber houses cocooned in Pangkor's jungle, and it's a very special set-up altogether. There's a relaxed, lived-in vibe throughout, walls are adorned with Rebecca’s colourful artwork, and like an exotic Gauguin painting, the shimmering greenery dominates the landscape, exploding into view through every door and window.

There are 4 houses with a total of 8 rooms, so you can book a room or come as a group and rent a couple of houses or the whole place. Open-air communal spaces and comfortable interiors encourage a convivial house-party ambiance, and at the heart of the property is a stunning infinity pool, fringed by tropical plants and loungers.

Come dusk, guests convene in the Pool House with its glowing lanterns, to enjoy the balmy evenings. Talented cook Bavanni rustles up fine Malay cuisine which you eat at one big table, while husband and manager Mohan ensures the smooth running of the whole show. About as far as you can get from a bland 5-star hotel experience.

Highs

  • Bedrooms are large with cheerful throws and plump cushions
  • Living in close quarters with nature, surrounded by giant butterflies, great hornbills, eagles and civets, with their thrilling whoops and calls
  • Bavanni’s menu is delicious, the best food you’ll eat in Malaysia: fish curries, nasi lemak, chicken in pandan leaves
  • It's extremely easy to relax and do very little except lie by the pool, though there's a tennis court if you get restless
  • Exploring the island and local culture (a tour is included in the rates) - expect beautiful beaches, interesting boat yards, ornate Chinese temples and colourful markets
  • Great for families and couples alike

Lows

  • Jungle living means mosquitoes, ants and crawlies so be prepared with repellent
  • The nearest beach is a good 25-minute walk through forest trails; best to get Mohan to drive you to the best beaches on the island
  • The price tag is high, though it does include all meals plus a help-yourself afternoon tea
  • The accommodation is more homely than hip, and some furnishings look a little dated
  • Occasional day visitors

Best time to go

Although there is no rainy season as such, April to July has less rain on Pangkor Island. The busiest time is mid October to mid Feb so guests should book well in advance over these periods.

Our top tips

Bring tools for relaxation such as books, iPods and speakers, and lots of loose informal clothing such sarongs. Binoculars would be useful for bird and monkey watching, and insect repellent is a must. If you'll want to play tennis, bring trainers.

Great for...

Family
Foodie
Great Outdoors
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Jungle Hotel
  • 8
  • All-inclusive
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Tennis Court
Room:

Rooms

There are 4 houses for rental; book a room in one or the whole thing.

The Main House (sleeps 4-5)
The Main House is set on a grassy slope, accessed via stone steps that wind up from the pool. This 2-storey wooden building was originally David and Rebecca’s house, and many of their knick knacks are still in place. Downstairs there's a kitchen and living space, filled with cookbooks, decorative crockery and wooden ornaments. There's also a dining table with chairs and a padded ‘chill out’ area with cable television and a DVD player. Upstairs are the sleeping quarters, including a twin room suitable for children with a gorgeous wall mural, a dressing room which can accommodate a rollaway bed, and the master bedroom, which opens out onto a small covered terrace facing the dense undergrowth. We stayed in this room and loved hearing the jungle noises at night and watching the monkeys from the terrace. There are 2 upstairs bathrooms with tiled tubs and showers, plus an extra toilet downstairs. This house is best suited to a family with 2+ kids.

The Studio (sleeps 2-3)
Further up the slope, the adorable Studio is hidden behind a huge grey stone. A large bed sits in the centre of the room; all around are vivid jungle scenes swathed on large canvases, plus a stack of brightly painted tiffin boxes. It's no surprise that this room used to be the artists' studio. The French doors fold back, engulfing the room with light, to reveal a stunning jungle panoramic. The bathroom is fairly small and contains a unique tub, with boulders jutting out between the tiles. This would be our top choice for couples, and makes a good family/friends grouping when booked in conjunction with the Main House.

Hill House (sleeps 8-10)
Formally the Wilkinsons’ guest house, Hill House actually consists of 2 separate houses, each with 2 double bedrooms. Smartly furnished throughout, the rooms are less cluttered than the main house, but there are still lots of fun, colourful paintings. The bedrooms have ensuite bathrooms with tubs and all have private terraces. The upper house has a connecting door between the rooms, so it's good for families. In between the two houses is a communal outdoor pavilion scattered with comfy chairs, plus an outdoor dining area with a view to the sea. Hill House is located away from the other houses, up a steep slope and across a bridge, so it feels more secluded and is ideal for a large group of friends.

Pool House Chalet (sleeps 2-3)
This small house is located near the pool and dining area, so is a good option for those who find stairs difficult, but it still feels very private and is a good option for a couple. Inside, it has a large bed and a bathroom with shower only. At the front there's a small veranda with a beautiful view onto the jungle and pool.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fan
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • Terrace
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

All meals are included in your stay at Tiger Rock, and Bavanni reigns Queen of the Kitchen with good reason. Her food is fantastic and thanks to the lack of a menu there's no agonising over what to have (although she can cater to special requirements). Mealtimes become a relaxed activity; plate after plate of delicious food comes to the table and you simply help yourselves and focus instead on the conversation.

Meals are served in the Pool House, which is beautifully lit by lanterns in the evenings. The food is mainly Malay, inspired by Indian and Chinese food, and can be vegetarian if you prefer. Throughout our stay we were extremely impressed by the huge range of dishes, all perfectly seasoned and utterly delicious. Seafood and fish feature often, sometimes a whole mackerel in dry, aromatic Indian style paste or prawns nestling in an omelette. Vegetables come either stir-fried with tiny shrimps or battered lightly in tempura with a spicy chilli dipping sauce. Asian staples such as rice and vermicelli noodles come fried with chicken and egg.

Puddings at lunch time usually consist of fresh fruit, but in the evenings Bavanni often presents a more stylish option, such as sautéed mango with coconut and Tia Maria ice cream: a luscious mixture, which blended perfectly on the palate. You can order wine (a limited selection), beer and soft drinks from the informal bar, or BYO (no corkage charge).

When you've eaten your fill, we'd recommend post-dinner coffees in the library. Mohan will bring the drinks up, often with a surprise liqueur, and always with little bowls of chocolates and dates. This is a wonderful spot to relax and listen to the nocturnal noises of the jungle, just beyond. There are CDs to listen to, board games to play, or you can laze with books from the overflowing shelves.

Breakfast is served between 7.30-8.30am and is the most informal meal of the day. Tables are laden with muesli, cornflakes and yoghurt plus bowls of papaya, oranges and bananas. Baskets are brimming with varieties of breads and croissants. Eggs can be cooked to order and we can recommend the buttery scrambled eggs. Strong cafetiere coffee is brewed to order, or you can have Earl Grey, Darjeeling and scented rose petal tea.

If you'd prefer to have meals served in your house, just ask. The in-house kitchens aren't for self-catering, but parents will find them useful for preparing bottles etc.

Features include:

  • All meals included
  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Communal dining
  • Cooking classes
  • Organic produce
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Laze by the pool, read a book in the library, or play a game of tennis - there are floodlights for evening knockabouts

  • Birders will be busy - spot several types of hornbill around the grounds; keep your binoculars handy to spot eagles and fish owls; listen out for the rare Argus Pheasant

  • Get tattooed (temporarily!) with beautiful henna designs perfect for hands and feet; Mohan can arrange for a local lady to come and decorate you

  • He can also arrange for massages from a local Chinese couple, who work in tandem to release knots

  • Watch Bavanni at work and learn the secrets of her fantastic cooking, including her addictive sweet chilli sauce and tomato chutney

  • Ask Mohan to show you how to tap a rubber tree, a traditional art

  • Take a boat trip to the Sembilian Islands for great snorkelling and beach life. You can hire equipment at the beaches to go kayaking, jetskiing and waterskiing

  • Hire a motorbike or mountain bike to explore, or take a tour of the island with Mohan (included in the rates), to see ornate temples, traditional boat building yards and learn about Pangkor’s cultures from local people

  • Trundle through the jungle to a secluded beach, 25 mins' walk from Tiger Rock. Be sure to take one of Bavanni's packed lunches with you

  • Go on a fishing trip with a local; Mohan can organise

  • Tee off at the golf course on the exclusive resort of Damai Laut

  • Walk the reflexology path by the library to aid ailments and work off lunch

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Cooking classes
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Jet skiing
  • Kayaking
  • Mountain biking
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Traditional cultures
  • Waterskiing
  • Wildlife

Kids

Tiger Rock has an ethos that makes this particular parent very happy: "Our main aim," they told me, "is to keep kids well catered for so their parents can relax." You can't argue with a hotel that is parent-friendly as well as child-friendly, can you? The small team will discuss activities with you on arrival and offer free beach transfers too. It's a good place for all ages - as long as your children are outdoorsy and intrepid travellers (the airport is 4 hours away).

If a child is sharing room with 1 adult there is a reduction in rates; enquire when booking

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

Most rooms sleep parents plus a baby; the Main House is good for a large family (up to 4-5 kids) and in Hill House, you can book the purple and yellow rooms, which connect.

Babysitting:

English-speaking babysitter available, see rates.

Baby listening:

You can borrow their plug-in monitor (note that it doesn't work throughout the whole of the property however)

Baby equipment:

  • Cots
  • Baby bedding
  • High chair
  • Pushchair
  • Baby backpack/rucksack
  • Potty
  • Night light
  • Baby bath
  • Bottle warming

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

Food is available all day. They don't have a specific kids menu, but they do serve an early dinner if necessary; you can also use their blender. You can discuss any specific meal requirements with the chef who is happy to accommodate anything.

Kids Activities on site:

  • Swimming pool with shallow end
  • Children's DVDs
  • Farm animals nearby
  • A selection of toys
  • Tennis courts
  • Library
  • Various cultural/farming activities like rubber tapping, sari wearing

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Beaches nearby (free transfer from hotel) for swimming, watersports, snorkelling, picnics etc
  • Jungle trekking
  • Kayaking
  • Hiking

Families Should Know:

There are steep slopes and steps here as well as a potentially dangerous jungle. You will get a safety talk on arrival which among other things cautions against running around barefoot. Sunburn and insects are 2 of the biggest hazards overall.

Distances:

  • Airport: 4 hours (Kuala Lumpur International)
  • Hospital: 10 minutes by boat plus a 5 minute drive
  • Doctor: 5 minutes by car
Kid Friendly:

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