Delta Days

06 December 2017

Pulau Pantai Suri, an island off the shore of Kelantan, is home to families who have lived on the water for generations.

At the northern tip of Kelantan, the estuaries of the Kelantan river flow around a cluster of small islands. Known as the Kelantan Delta, there are more than 30 islands here altogether, but only 13 are inhabited.

Pulau Pantai Suri is among these islands. It’s one of the largest settlements, together with its neighbouring islands, Pulau Teluk Renjuna, Pulau Beluru and Pulau Seratus.

Here on the island, away from buzzing city life, tall coconut trees sway to the rhythm of wind. The only way to get around is by foot, bicycle or motorbike. Bridges connect the islands over the rivers.

The island’s name is said to be derived from the name of a village midwife called Suri, one of the early settlers of the island. Today, most families on the island are in the fishing trade, and fishermen’s boats are moored all around the kampung. But as times change, the younger generation are more likely to look for work beyond the island.

For now, Pulau Pantai Suri is sheltered from reckless developments and continues to move at its own pace, like the rivers around it.

Tok Ayah, as the locals call him, has been living in Pulau Pantai Suri all his life, earning his living by fishing ever since his youth.

Daily life takes place on water. Rows of boats wait to take passengers across the Kelantan river.

River-flow from the upper hills brings down the soil residue, depositing brownish sediment into the Kelantan River.

A man and his child bring their birdcages on their boat to a bird-singing contest being held on the mainland.

Resident Seman Salleh, 85, estimates that the island has been inhabited since the early 1800’s. He tells a story of how the island has stood the test of time, including the Japanese invasion during World War II.

A small coffee shop where the locals meet and gather to pass their free time.

A small shop to cater for the needs of the islanders.

Looking dapper in his sunnies, one of the villagers takes a stroll around the island.

Located by the sea, fishing has become an island way of life, enduring through many generations of the villagers.

Since 2016, a floating market has become the latest attraction at Pulau Suri. So far, there are only a few traders. They sell a variety of food from their boats, which also includes a makeshift kitchen for cooking.

The markets are dominated by women. Kelantanese women are famous for their thriving entrepreneurship, contributing to household income while their husbands go out to sea, fishing.

Pulau Pantai Suri and its neighbouring islands are interconnected by bridges, providing easy access for the villagers.

A common scene of the Kelantan Delta, where fishermen’s boats are moored around the islands.

Text and photos by Esha Hashim.