The name Pulau Jerejak, was given by fisherman who lived on the island. Long before it gained its alias as the Alcatraz of Malaysia, because of the Jerejak Prison. This 362ha island is located between the Penang Main Island and Seberang Prai. It's an island rich with history, flora and fauna.
This island though not as famous compared to other islands in Malaysia, has had its fair share of auspicious historical events. Francis Light, Founder of Penang was said to have arrives in Pula Jerejak in early 1786 before heading on to Penang.
Jerejak made it's debut in colonial records when colonel Arthur Wellesly of Wellington, England, proposed that the island act as an alternative naval base to Fort Cornwallis in 1797. The military post in Jerejak was suppose to provide protection for the new town opposite Jerejak, which was to be called Jamestown, now known as Bayan Lepas.
However a sudden outbreak of Malaria caused for a delay in plans. It is believed that the outbreak was a result of clearing the jungle. It was during this time that George Town emerged as a profitable port. Thus the turn Jerejak into a naval base was aborted.
In order to stimulate the growth of Penang, Francis Light allowed immigrants to claim whatever they could clear thus causing Penang to be flooded with immigrants. As a precaution, these immigrants were first sent to Jerejak for health inspection. In the year 1910, Jerejak was made a health quarantine centre for immigrants planning to go to the main island.
After passing the health check, they were sent to Penang to work. Later in the late 1930's, the British Empire built a hospital for patients with Tuberculosis that could house 150 patients at one time. This was located at the eastern part of the island.
The Russian Cemetery
Jerejak saw military action during the World War II, when a German submarine attacked a Russian naval vessel. It is believed that Jerejak was the site for a German submarine base from June 1943 to March 1944.
In the book entitled History of the USA Naval Operations in World War Two, S.E. Morison wrote that German U-boats sunk about 18 ships in the Indian Ocean. A ceremonial cemetery dedicated to the Russian soldiers still remains on the island, where however, no records indicate that actual bodies were buried at that site.
A Penal Colony
The Jerejak Rehabilitation Centre began operating from 12 June 1969 to August 1993 with its batch of inmates. This first batch consisted of those detained during the 13th May 1969 race riots.
In it's one and only internal riot incident in 1981, The Jerejak Rehabilitation Centre was rampaged when about 100 inmates rioted in the prison, destroying several buildings. The riot was caused by dissatisfaction over decision to lengthen the service period of inmates.
The following years, saw an upsurge in drug related convictions that resulted in the highest number of detainees in Jerejak, 982 to be exact.
As a security measure, fisherman from nearby island were given strict instructions to keep a distance of 200 metres from the beach area of Jerejak. However, 7 inmates still managed to plan a getaway. The escapees were inmates who worked outside the prison area and were nearly finishing their sentences. The first escape incident in January 1988, saw 4 inmates 'leaving' the island while the second incident in May 1988 saw 3 inmates flee. The exact escape routes of these inmates still remains a mystery.
In it's course of closing down the prison, 900 detainees were transferred to prisons in Johor. The first transfer involved 100 detainees whom were sent to Muar Prison, Johor. The following transfers were in groups of about 60 detainees and were all stationed at the Simpang Ranggam Prison, Johor.
The last group left on 13 August 1993.
Nowadays there's a beautiful resort on the island. It's called "Jerejak Resort & Spa".
It's very quiet and you can relax all day. In the daytime you can go visit the main island of Penang or you can do outdoor activities on Jerejak. In the evening you can't do much on Pulau Jerejak, because there a no roads or villages. There's just the resort. All that's left is the the island of Penang.
In the daytime adventure village of the resort is where you go for outdoor action on Pulau Jerejak. Take it to the limits with abseiling, rock climbing, mountain biking or take to nature with fishing, jungle trekking or camping under the stars. The recreational facilities such as rock and wall climbing, low ropes obstacles and archery are ideally situated next to the Adventure Village for easy access.