Perhentian Islands have been rated as one of the most beautiful islands in the world. Located in the South China Sea about 25km off the coast of Kuala Besut, a small fisherman village in the Terengganu state of Malaysia, it is a virtual paradise for snorkelling and diving. It consists of two islands, Perhentian Besar island and Perhentian Kecil island. The name “Perhentian” is a Malaysian word meaning “Stopover”, “Besar” means “big”, while “Kecil” means “small”.
Both the big and small islands are surrounded by rows of swaying coconut trees, white and soft sandy beaches and crystal-clear turquoise-blue sea. A trip to this lush and exotic tropical island is a mesmerizing experience for nature lovers, especially for those who enjoy swimming, scuba diving, snorkelling, deep sea fishing, wind-surfing, sailing, boating or canoeing.
Corals are still quite well preserved around these islands. You can see beautiful corals and colourful fishes within walking distance from your chalet, under a few feet deep of crystal clear water on the beach. As you go a few meters further out from the beach, at about 4 feet water depth, you can see a wide-spread of corals, large school of colourful fishes coming in abundance within your hand reach. Some small fishes like to scare you with some pinch-bites on your hands or legs! If you explore out to the deep sea around the island, various aquatic lives are visible such as turtles, sharks, and thousands of tropical fish.
The island interior is still quite untouched with dense jungle. Jungle trekking is a great way to venture into this tropical jungle to observe various kinds of fauna and flora. A short trek from Pasir Panjang (Long Beach) will take you through a clear trail to Aur Beach on the other side of the island. Here you can still see remnants of what used to be a beautiful plot of virgin jungle. If that’s not enough, you can see monitor lizards, monkeys, geckos, flying squirrels, butterflies and insects right in front of your chalet.
When the sun gets scorching hot in the afternoon, this place is great to laze on the white sandy beaches, having some juices under the coconut trees in the cosy restaurant, and enjoying the cooling breeze. It is certainly a great place to relax the mind and soul.
There is no road on the island. Water taxi or a small motor boat is used to commute from one beach to another beach. However, water, electricity supply and telecommunications are well developed on the islands. Speed boat drivers and hotel staff are often seen on the phone communicating for business purposes, whether they are on the land or in the sea.
The resort in the island offers snorkelling trips at the cost of RM40 (USD12) per person where they will bring you to 3 snorkelling areas around the two islands. Diving courses are also offered at various levels, and conducted in a few languages such as English and German language.
Western and local cuisines are available in all the hotel restaurants. Barbeque seafood such as fish, crab, prawn and squid are among the favourite with customers. Alcohol used to be freely available but it is getting a little difficult to find nowadays and if you do find it, they are really expensive due to scarcity. So, it is best to bring your own.
To get to this island, you can take 50 minutes flight from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Kuala Terengganu. On arrival, you have to take 1 hour and 40 minutes taxi north to a small fisherman village called Kuala Besut. At Kuala Besut, you can engage a travel agent for the 30 minutes boat transfer to Perhentian Island at the cost of RM70 (USD22) for return trip. The boat will depart as soon as they have enough passengers. While waiting for the boat trip, you can have a fresh seafood lunch by the sea in this exquisite fisherman village.
The hotels at Perhentian islands are often fully booked, especially during the Malaysian public and school holidays. Therefore, it is advisable to book the hotel in advance to avoid disappointment. The hotel room rate starts from RM100 (USD 33) up to RM300 (USD100) for double occupancy a night. Most of the hotels are village-style chalet, either build on the flat ground or on the hills, with balcony overlooking the breath taking white sandy beach and turquoise-blue sea. The hotels here are not 5 stars rated, but the hotel service is certainly worthy of praise, with humble, friendly and helpful people willing to serve you with a smile at all time.
The best time to go to Perhentian islands is any time between the month of March till October. The resorts are closed from mid-November until late February for the monsoon season, where the sea gets too rough and unsafe for the boat to travel from the mainland to the island.
So, if you are planning for the trip, here is the packing checklist:
- Clothing – shorts, t-shirts, light dress
- Snorkelling gear – mask, snorkel, fins, booties, life jacket (or you can rent them from the diving/snorkelling centres : Mask and Snorkel at RM10/day, life jacket at RM5/day)
- Diving equipment- mask, snorkel, fins, booties, regulator and octopus, BCD, dive table, dive logs, marine life ready reckoner, dive computers, knife, lycra or 3mm skin suits, gloves, underwater torches, dive watch and dive card, waterproof pouches, torch
- Toiletries – toothbrush, toothpaste, moisturiser, after-tan lotion, shampoo, soap, women’s sanitary products, shaving foam and shaver, comb, sun block lotion
- mosquito repellent (if you intend to go jungle trekking)
- Travel guide, reading material
- Prescriptive medicine, dietary supplements, motion sickness tablets
- Some biscuits or instant food