As an island maniac, I’m very picky when it comes to an island, especially because I came from a giant archipelago country, Indonesia, where there are many exquisite untouched islands, and for somebody like me who have seen such heavenly places around Indonesia, my standard expectation of an island is really high. That is why sometimes I underestimate the beach or the island out of Indonesia, whether they can surpass the best island I’ve seen in Indonesia. My assessment is not just about beach perfection but also the beauty of the underwater as well.
I must confess, there is one island in Malaysia overwhelms me, breaks my skepticism into pieces, and soars high beyond my expectation. Perhentian Island, its name, located on northern east coast of West Malaysia. Perhentian in Malay means “stopover”, indeed it is a perfect stopover for everyone, for travelers who have traveled for a long time and need a place for being lazy, and someone like me who attempt a short leave from my employer.
It’s been a while since the last I regaled myself in an island. I could feel it, the sensation of my skin being kissed by the sun and my feet being tickled by the sand, ah I miss them, I miss the smell of the salty sea, I miss everything! There are two main islands as the options to stay; Perhentian Besar (Big) offers pricey chalets and resorts to stay, suitable for family, and Perhentian Island (kecil) which is more down to earth, affordable for backpackers.
My choice fell to Perhentian Kecil. It is a small island with only two main beaches on it, Long Beach and Coral Bay. There are several chalets along both beaches but go for Long Beach. I was surprised, as the main beach, I was expecting it would be the same like Kuta Beach in Bali or Patong Beach in Phuket, completely different. The white soft sand stretches along with some relaxing colorful umbrellas and huts. Long beach is definitely a place for a long stop over. Nothing much you can do except laying on the beach, dipping in the water, or diving. You will completely lost in tranquility. Everything feels so slow, without any rush. If you used to busy places like Kuta Beach or Patong Beach, forget it, Long Beach is the opposite.
The island is blessed with healthy coral reefs as it is designated as a marine park area. Some resorts still have nice house reefs in front, but you can also book one day snorkeling trips. I took the long snorkeling trip and the reefs were not bad, in fact they were all in good condition. Each spot is dominated by a specific coral, for example the first stop we had was dominated with table corals. There were many giant clams, sea anemones, various fishes, I was lucky to see a giant fish that I’ve never seen before. Unfortunately my underwater camera has broken. There are also shark point and turtle point. I also spotted a giant turtle swimming near Perhentian Besar. Not the best underwater I’ve seen but I will rate them, maybe B.
What I like most about Perhentian Island is the cleanliness of the surrounding. Like I said, Long Beach as the main island is very clean, no rubbish along the beach and the water. Moreover, the local fishing village was as clean as Long Beach, means the locals aware the importance of preserving their home, the nature. They understand that their life depends on the sea, the source of their income. I wish Indonesia can do the same thing, not only Indonesia but everywhere around the world.
Getting to Perhentian Island
From Kuala Lumpur you can take flights to Kota Bahru, then take a taxi or public bus to Kuala Besut Jetty (90 mins). Or, you can directly take bus from TBS Station to Kuala Besut which takes approximately 8 hours. The bus runs twice a day 9 a.m. and 9.30 p.m. Take night bus so you can directly take the morning boat. Make sure you buy the tickets in advance. Price RM 44 one way.
Next, take the speed boat from the jetty. You can directly buy return tickets for RM 70. Schedule for both ways: 8 a.m., 12 p.m., 4 p.m. (30-45 minutes). Mention where you stay and they can drop you based on where you stay. You need to take water taxi to Long Beach (RM 2) cause the speed boat can’t go further cause it’s too shallow.
Where to Stay in Perhentian Island
As I mentioned before there are two options to stay in, Perhentian Besar or Kecil. You can search on google some chalets even though the information is unclear. In Perhentian Kecil, dorms are available from RM 20-40. Chalets are about RM 100-150. I personally stayed in D’Rock Garden Resort in a nice bungalow facing the sea. Chalets in Perhentian Besar cost about RM 300-RM 1000
The island is closed during the monsoon, the best time going to Perhentian Island is from June-October, other than that, the sea can be very rough. Check the weather and condition before you go the get the best moment.
Snorkeling trip: Short Trip, 3 spots (fish garden, shark point, turtle point), schedule: 1.30 p.m. price RM 40. Long Trip, 6 spots (coral garden, fisherman village, shark point, turtle, etc). schedule 10.30 a.m. price RM 50. Rawa Trip, visiting all spots including special Rawa Island. schedule 10.30 a.m. price RM 70. Includes only life vest and snorkeling mask, without fin. Rent one if you need it (RM 10).
Watch fire show performance in Sisha Bar every night 10.30 p.m. Beers starts from RM 9. Try also seafood bbq in the restaurants along the beach.
Traveled in 30 May-2 June 2015.
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