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Tanjung Tuan Light House

by Mr.Toh Hon Leong / October 31, 2020

When we talk of Tanjung Tuan, invariably, we discuss the lighthouse, forest reserve, secluded beaches, Batu Putih and raptor watch. These are some of the icons which represent Tanjung Tuan. During weekends or public holidays, hundreds of hikers converge on this unique and lovely location, either to exercise or to admire the breath-taking natural beauty, availed to us by Mother Nature.

Tanjung Tuan is a cape and was known as Cape Richardo, meaning "broken cape," in Portuguese. We guess, it's the boulders and jugged cliffs surrounding the cape that give it the appearance of being "broken" from a passing ship. The Tanjung Tuan Lighthouse is located right at the summit of the cape and close to the sea, making it highly visible from afar. It appears tall and majestic to a passing ship.

The Tanjung Tuan Lighthouse is the oldest in Malaysia and was built by the Portuguese in the 16th century, after their conquest of Malacca in 1511. It was built to guide and warn ships of the rocky landmass protruding into the sea. It is a real danger particularly to ancient ships, without sophisticated modern equipment and instruments.

According to historians, there are more than 30 shipwrecks off the coast, in the vicinity of Tanjung Tuan. Some fishermen claimed to have caught broken pieces of ceramics in their nets. As late as 1997, an Indian cargo ship, MV Vikraman, sank near Tanjung Tuan, after a collision with another cargo ship. It happened due to the haze, caused by the frequent fires in South east Asia. The shipwrecks and collisions testify to the importance of a light house.

A fierce naval battle between the Portuguese and the Dutch in 1606, accounts for four shipwrecks of Tanjung Tuan each side losing two ships. The Portuguese who had 20 bigger ships, versus 11 smaller ships for the Dutch, won the Battle of Cape Richardo, but Dutch tenacity eventually prevailed, when they captured Malacca in 1641.

If you are thinking of being a treasure hunter, you ought to think twice. The many whirlpools in the waters around the cape, created by two opposing currents are treacherous, and have taken many lives. Telescopes in the lighthouse make evasive tactics futile, and besides, the many hikers would not only pry on you, but probably report you to the authorities. in any case, many of the shipwrecks have already been salvaged. Some of the retrieved artefacts are on displayed at the Lukut Museum.

The Lighthouse

The original lighthouse was said to be wooden, and it is believed that a second version was built in 1817 by the British, under William Farquhar. The present lighthouse was built in 1863, when Malacca was part of the Straits Settlement. A second tower next to the lighthouse is the MEASAT Radar, used to monitor shipping and for better communication.

As Malacca was ruled by the Portuguese, Dutch and British, the lighthouse came under three colonial masters. Consequently, and historically, Tanjung Tuan became a part of Malacca, even until this date. Tanjung tuan is under the district of Alor Gajah, but their presence in the area of rubbish disposal is a logistic problem and appears lacking and sorely needed.