Perhentian Island, Malaysia - Beach Paradise
May 8, 2006
|Perhentian Islands - Beach Paradise
For three years now I have heard so much about the elusive Perhentian Islands. The perfect white sand beaches sparkling in the sun. Shades of blue and turquoise water so clear it is like looking through glass to the sandy bottom below. Palm trees arching across nearly empty beaches. Finally, I have now seen it for myself and can say, all the hype is true.
Eric being the world traveller that he is discovered Perhentian Islands about twelve years ago while in Malaysia. This was before the age of digital photography and he accidentally double exposed his roll of film and lost all of his pictures of paradise. Since then, he has vowed to return to retake his lost pictures and enjoy the beautiful beaches and laid back island life that has been a standard set in his mind to measure all other beach havens - which few can even can close in comparison. So here we are, basking once again in another paradise and although he can tend to exaggerate sometimes, (I know, hard to believe but it is true!) he was totally right about Perhentian. Over the past ten years since his first visit, the island has become much more developed but it is still a perfect beach paradise.
A half hour ferry ride on a small speedboat that could hold about fifteen people, followed by a 2 minute water taxi ride and we were standing at the end of Long Beach - an arching one kilometre stretch of white sand meeting the clearest blue water. Unfortunately for us, it was overcast and drizzling rain but the island still looked impressive and over the next seven days as the rain fell in the evening and sun shone in the daytime, it did not disappoint.
We stayed at the Mohsin Bungalows perched up on the hillside over looking Long Beach on Perhentian Kecil, meaning small Perhentian Island. Originally we were going to split our time up between the neighbouring Perhentian Besar, (large Perhentian Island) however, the beach and salty seas sucked out all our energy and we could not be bothered moving. Instead, we split our time up between Long Beach just minutes from our door and some of the isolated smaller beaches on the west side of the island. Reaching the western beaches was a leisurely 20-minute stroll through the jungle, passing the odd mammoth sized lizard that looked large enough to eat us whole. Luckily, although looking like something straight from Jurrasic Park, they seemed to have no interest in us at all. Besides, we didn't have much choice as the islands have no roads or cars and you can only get around by foot of water taxi.
On the beach or on our balcony, we spent our time reading, lounging in the sun and shade, snorkelling the clear waters and idly chatting with other travellers. The temperature on the island was perfect (we were glad to have relief from the intense Cambodian heat) and the water was comfortably warm, and not too hot as we experienced in places like Zanzibar and Cambodia. Overall, Perhentian was a perfect paradise and great primer for our upcoming three months in the South Pacific. Of course, it will be interesting to see how those beaches stack up against Perhentian's gold standard.
TRAVEL TIPS FOR PERHENTIAN ISLANDS
1. Perhentian islands are made up of two islands that are side by side separated by a narrow channel. One is Perhentian Kecil, or small island and the other is Perhentian Besar, or large island. Perhentian Kecil is geared more towards the budget travellers with simple accommodations, whereas Perhentian Besar is more for proper resorts geared towards couples and families.
2. To get to the Perhentian Islands you take a ferry from Kuala Besut on the mainland. The ride is about 30 minutes long followed by a short water taxi ride in to the beach of your choice. The water taxi and a marine park conservation fee are both an extra cost not included in your ferry ticket, but very inexpensive.
3. Perhentian Islands are largely affected by the monsoon winds that blow from November to February when the islands shut down as it is too rough for the ferries to run. Peak season on the islands is from June to August.
4. During peak season accommodation can be hard to confirm. Most places on the small island do not take reservations in advance so try to catch a ferry first thing in the morning to get a room as someone else is checking out. Reservations can, and should be, made in advance for the large island.
5. If you arrive on the small island and can not get your choice of accommodation, book into somewhere else for one night and then try again first thing in the morning when there is a good chance people are checking out and the morning ferries from the mainland have not yet landed.
6. On Perhentian Kecil, Long Beach has the most accommodation and is most popular however you can walk through the jungle to Coral Bay on the opposite side of the island in about 10 minutes. This bay is a much quieter place to stay although the beach is not as nice.
7. If you are looking for a small and quiet beach explore the islands as there are plenty to be found. On the small island, walking just north of Coral Bay will bring you to many small, peaceful paradises.
8. The Perhentians are a snorkellers and divers dream with their warm, clear waters. Courses are offered for people looking to get their certification and prices are quite reasonable.
9. Dining on the small island is limited with most places offering basic menus. Being a Muslim country alcohol is not on the menu at most places although often they will have it if you ask for it.
10. If you are looking for a similar beach paradise with higher end resort accommodations, try Rednang Island not too far from the Perhentians. It is supposed to be incredible with higher end accommodations, more developments and amenities (more restaurants, golf course etc.)