Meet the man who went on a gap year that never ended
Chalkmarks Mat Dan

PEOPLE hint at quitting the 9-5 but for Brit Daniel Tyler he hadn’t even started a desk job before setting off for Southeast Asia. He left England for a gap year when he finished his A-Levels and is still not back. That was 10 years ago.

He’s now 29 and settled on a remote tropical island in the South China Sea. He has lost his English accent, speaks the local dialect and has married the love of his life in paradise.

The Bristolian was a teenager when he left home to backpack around Thailand and Laos in 2009 with four friends before university. He had three weeks left before flying home to the UK and decided to visit Malaysia.

He then heard about Kapas island, about 6km from the mainland, and went to explore.

He was quickly seduced by island life spending his weekends snorkelling and slowly he became an expert taking tourists out on boats, showing them the coral reefs – and because of his English he was a popular guide.

He slowly learned the local Malay dialect and started to make travel programmes posted on YouTube, which have catapulted him to fame. He’s since become a superstar in Malaysia with thousands of subscribers and 812,000 followers on Instagram.

He said: “I can’t go anywhere without someone wanting a selfie.”

In 2017 he was given permanent residency status by the Malaysian government and has also become an unofficial tourism ambassador of the state of Terengganu. (Pictured above Daniel visited the World Travel Market in London in 2017.)

Now known as Mat Dan, he converted to Islam, married his Malay girlfriend and had a son, in 2017 named Zayne.

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Even though he still dresses like an English country gent with a flat cap and tweed suit, he says he considers himself 99 per cent Malaysian and feels more comfortable speaking Malay than English.

He said: “I love it here. I live on an island, I speak the language. When I first came to Malaysia, I’d never heard of it. Originally there was four of us, it was supposed to be a gap year before going to uni. 

“We’d already done Thailand and we were looking where to go next. We looked at the map and said let’s go to Malaysia for three weeks – waiting for our flight home. My friends then went back to the UK and I didn’t.

“Kapas is 15 minutes from the mainland. I started taking people on snorkelling trips and now I have my own travel show.

“I met my girlfriend in Terengganu – everyone knows everyone so someone introduced me to her. She was a stewardess for Qatar.

“Her parents were apprehensive at first. I was 26 in 2005. They knew this white guy living on the island. It goes to prove we don’t know what’s planned for us.

“My parents love it. They come out once a year. Dad’s looking to retire and if my mum would let him he’d live out here.”

Terengganu also known as Ganu is a small island in the east of Malaysia. It’s known for its jungle, sandy beaches, clear turquoise water and coral reefs.

Chalkmarks WTM
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