Azalina, who is also Tourism Minister, felt that the district has the potential to be developed into a tourist destination as it is rich in historical significance and natural environment.
One of such areas is the Pengerang Battery in Tanjung Pengelih.
“The British had built the battery prior to World War II as a defence against the Japanese, which they believed would come from the south (Singapore).
“However, the battery was never really used as the Japanese came in from the north through Thailand instead,” she told the press during a recent trip to Pengerang with the media.
An Internet search revealed that the Pengerang Battery was believed to have been completed in 1939, and was meant to strengthen the British’s defences in Singapore on the eastern channel through Calder Harbour (the Calder passage between Pulau Tekong and Pengerang).
It is also believed that Pengerang may have been one of the last British military footholds held on the Malayan mainland right up to their surrender on Singapore on Feb 15, 1942.
“This historical site has always been here, but many people don’t know about it. It would be good if we can use it to educate people on the historical value of this place. But first, there’s a lot of cleaning up to do,” she said, as the place is overgrown with trees and wildlife.
Another historical site is a grave, believed to be that of Si Bongkok, a lesser-known Johor warrior who fought against the British colonisation in the 19th century.
His gravesite is located in Tanjung Puteri, near Tanjung Belungkor. The only way in currently is to trek through the surrounding jungle, but there are already plans to create a path in from Sungai Lebam.
As for fruit lovers, a place of interest would be the Desaru Fruit Farm, which sits on 40.5ha of land. The farm has 10 species of plants and more than 100 varieties of cultivar of tropical fruit, among which are the durian, rambutan, pulasan, mangosteen, roseapple (jambu), guava, passion fruit, cempedak, jackfruit, kedondong, ciku, pineapple, mango, and calamansi.
It also has a bee colony and a petting zoo, which houses various animals such as kids (baby goats), ostriches, peacocks, turkeys, wild fowl, rabbits, pythons and tortoises.
Azalina said that Sungai Lebam, with its mangrove swamps, could be turned into an eco-tourism spot for research work.
“There are kelongs (offshore houses) here which I am sure not many urban people are familiar with. It is a great opportunity for urbanites to get close to nature,” she said.
Azalina said they were targeting tourists from Singapore, who make up half of the 20.1 million visitors who came to Malaysia last year.
“The best part is that Pengerang is only 25 minutes away from Singapore, if one enters by ferry from the Changi Ferry Terminal to Tanjung Belungkor,” she said.