Some people describe the Perhentian Islands as paradise found. There are two main islands Kecil (Small) and Besar (Big). Kecil is popular with the younger backpacker crowd but for those looking for better accommodation and a quieter atmosphere, Besar is the island they should choose. There is a narrow strait between the two islands and boats will carry guests between the two if they are not pleased with the island, they picked sight unseen.
The high season for the islands is between May and September. Everything pretty much shuts down during the monsoon, from mid-November to mid-April. A few of the hotels do stay open year-round for those looking for extreme quiet. There are no banks on the island, no ATMs and Internet access is sketchy at best. People come to relax on the beach, snorkel or do nothing much at all.
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
David wasn’t too keen on spending any time at a beach and we’re not really beach people ourselves, but for some reason, Anil and I were keen on checking out the Perhentians just to see what they were all about. We had read that they are nothing like the party islands in neighbouring Thailand, and that piqued our interest for sure. For that reason, we booked our hotel for only two nights feeling that we would get a decent sense of the facilities and attractions in that much time.
We were settled into our beachside chalets before noon and eating lunch a half hour later. We ate a light meal and headed into the water to snorkel almost immediately afterwards. Were we ever in for a treat! The water was crystal clear, the sand was as soft as powder and there were just enough rocks on the beach to add mystery and beauty at the same time.
And the fish! It’s all about the fish once you put your mask into the water and gasp (don’t gasp with a snorkel between your teeth) and the wide variety of aquatic life before your eyes. We were all captivated and none of us wanted to leave the water until we were hungry and thirsty again. David was more than a little shocked that our hotel chose not to serve alcohol, but we did have to pinch ourselves and be reminded that we were in a very conservative part of a Muslim country.
We were told that we could access the Internet at a neighbouring restaurant further along the beach, and when we ventured there for our evening meal, we discovered that there was a small grocery store that sold cold beer. Oh happy day! We had a great meal of grilled meats and delicious flat breads and salads and spent the evening chatting with other travellers. As we walked back to our chalets, David wondered aloud why we weren’t staying longer. He was an enthusiastic convert.
We were up for a relaxing breakfast early the next morning, lingering over multiple cups of coffee and soaking in the scenery and the warm tropical breezes. We were surprised to see a young female solo traveller that had shared the boat ride to the islands passing by our hotel with her huge backpack. We had dropped her off on Kecil, the smaller island, but she had bailed on the scene there.
She told us the beach was littered with cigarette butts and broken glass and her hotel was marginal at best. She had just come across on the boat taxi and had checked into our hotel despite the higher cost. She was thrilled to find the paradise she had been looking for.
We spent much of the day back in the water enjoying the fish and we even managed to spot a small shark and a sea turtle relatively close to the beach. There were opportunities to hire boats to the nearby coral reefs but we were more than satisfied with just wading into the water on our beach to see the living reef there. Had we had more time, we could have done a little hiking on the island, but we were happy to relax and soak up the shade, tired from our time in the water.
After our two nights at the Coral View Island Resort, we awoke to pouring rain during breakfast. The weather had clearly changed for the worse, so we weren’t too very sad to be heading back to the mainland. Despite the fact that we had been told that we would have to pay our hotel bill with cash, we were able to put the charge on our credit card. However, for small purchases, for meals and for souvenirs, cash is essential to have on hand.