I was astonished when a famous photographer from West Malaysia showed me some stunning photos of Batu Luang, a bell-shaped rock located in a beach of Kuala Penyu. Batu means “Rock” in Malay language, and Batu Luang means “Luang Rock” literally.
Batu Luang is surrounded by mossy green rocks, sea, pebbles, rusty-red rockface, and caves, when one or more of these being framed into a photo during orange-hued dusk, you will get one of the most amazing sunset shots of Sabah.
It is funny that it’s non-Sabahan who introduced Batu Luang to me. Anyway, I’m excited to check out Batu Luang near Tempurong Beach (or Pantai Tempurung). The rock is very accessible and near to the main road in Tempurung Village.
Batu Luang Beach
The view is better than what I saw in the photos online, which show only a small part of the beach. The beach and rockfaces are covered by pebbles in different size and shapes. There are 5 or 6 caves at the base of the hills there. The biggest cave can fit in 10 or more people, other caves are more like a hole.
Batu Luang may look small in photos. Actually it’s over 12 Meters high and the only big rock standing in the sea (as far as we can see).
Though Batu Luang is a new hot spot for local photographers, there is no hotel, restaurant, parking lots and toilet nearby. Occasionally you would see some local youngsters frolicking there in hot days, or a few photographers taking photos during dusk, Most of the time you would be the only one at the beach.
Therefore, Batu Luang Beach retains its beauty of untouched nature. It has some special geological features which are uncommon in Sabah. For example, the rustic-red color of the rockfaces are so magnificent when they are painted over by golden sun ray in late afternoon.
Legend of Batu Luang
The beautiful Batu Luang has a tragic story about a newly-wed couple. Many years ago in Kuala Penyu, after the wedding celebration at the bride’s home, the couple walked to the house of bridegroom with their families in a fine morning. When they were approaching Batu Luang, the sky turned dark, and they were hit by heavy rainstorm.
Therefore, they ran and took shelter in a cave at Batu Luang. When the storm was over, the group moved out from the cave. The couple was the last to exit. Suddenly, the cave collapsed and closed, the bride was the last person on the way out. The bridegroom grabbed her hands trying to pull her out. Unfortunately, her hands slipped and left the wedding ring in the hand of her husband. She was sealed in the cave forever.
The locals say sometimes they can hear woman crying inside the rock at night. So sad… On positive side, the bridegroom doesn’t need to buy a new wedding ring if he remarries.
According to a local blog by Muzaffar Libon Jueh, there is a part two for this story. The bride was trapped in the cave and alive. The villagers tried everything to open the cave but unsuccessful. Then a bird flied by and chirped, like saying, “Poke with a needle then it’ll open.” However, the people there just scoffed and ignored it. After 7 days of trying, the villagers gave up, so was the bride. She handed over the wedding ring to her husband through a small opening, asking him to forget her. She was then locked inside forever and marry to the guardian spirit of the cave, and became an angel named Kasum. If you bump into a pretty girl playing at Ara tree on top of the hill near Batu Luang, she could be Kasum.
However, this sounds like a “modern” legend because Sabah had no such thing as wedding ring a few hundred years ago. Very likely parents make up this story to scare children, so they won’t go playing around Batu Luang, which can be dangerous due to a few reasons. The water at Batu Luang Beach can be quite deep during high tide, and the current is strong.
Furthermore, they could be hit by falling rocks from the loose rockface above. Our people also believe exploring cave would disturb the “Bogeymen” dwells inside, hence the warning they would be eaten alive by cave and become the next Batu Luang.
A Beach that Rocks
Batu Luang is not the only interesting rock here. Just look around and you will be fascinated by variety of rocks at the shore.
Most of the rocks at Batu Luang Beach are cobble with round edges, after being moved and tumbled by sea waves over time.
The most intriguing rocks are those covered with green algae. These rocks are only present from January to June, the months when monsoon washes away the sand that buries them.
The conglomerate deposit on rockface and the beach is another highlight of Batu Luang Beach. Conglomerate is made up of rounded pebbles glued together, formed by the lithification of cobble-size rocks and gravel.
To me, the conglomerate cemented with round pebbles looks like dinosaur eggs fossils. This is the first time I see such rock formation in Sabah.
The conglomerate is really nice, like a piece of art, so I joked to my friends that I wanted to bring some home. The moment I finished talking, a few rocks fell right in front of me. We have to watch our mouth in the wild, because “something” might be listening. Ok then, I took nothing but photograph.
Tour around Batu Luang
Batu Luang is a public beach, so anyone can go there. It’s safe for children to explore around under the care of adults.
The only problem is the tiny blood-sucking sandfly. Its bite can stay itchy for days. Try to cover as much exposed skin as you can. There are not many sandfly anyway.
If weather permits, you can have wonderful picture and welfie moment during sunset.
Part of the beach is rocky, so you better wear shoes.
There are a few villagers living near to the beach. You might find them catching fishes in the morning.
At another side of Batu Luang is a vast area of sandy beach. The waves are quite strong, so don’t go too far away from shore.
The old folks say there was used to be a deep cave at Batu Luang in the past, which they believe hidden with a lot of treasures, but the cave has disappeared. You may try your luck there. Just watch out for falling rocks when you explore the caves.
How to get there
There is no public transport that reaches Batu Luang, so you have to get a taxi or drive on your own for 2 hours. If you depart from KK, you will reach a roundabout with turtle statues (about 10 Km before Kuala Penyu town). Turn left to the direction of Menumbuk.
After 1.5 Km, turn right to the junction with the signs (see photo above) that read “JLN Kasugira BT Luang” and “Selemat Datang ke Kg. Gorowot” (opposite to Rumbia Information Center).
Then follow the road sign to Tempurung Golden Beach Resort, and you will see Batu Luang at your left after 4 to 5 KM. The place is highly accessible by asphalt road in good condition. You can park your car at the roadside and walk 100 Meters to the beach.
Photos taken in Kuala Penyu, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo