After a lovely 5am rise in Georgetown we hopped on a mini-van with about six other people and took off on our six hour trip across peninsular Malaysia to Kuala Besut. As the Perhentian islands have next to zero facilities you have to bring enough money for your entire stay (or walk about a kilometre in Kuala Besut and the speed-boat will take off without you). You have to pay a 10RM conservation fee at the port. Then you hop on a speed-boat for about 45 minutes and you’re on the Perhentians!
So off we got from the jetty in Kecil and had a lovely leisurely breakfast on the beach. Then we started looking for accommodation. Island. Booked. Up. Come back tomorrow morning. What now? After a major struggle with backpacks on the beach and countless reception desks we took a water taxi to the Pulau Perhentian Besar (big island) in search of accommodation there. Eventually we found a shack in the ‘Tuna Bay Resort’. Resort my eye, they had a communal TV, woo. We hid out here for one night and one major thunder and lightning show which continued until 4am whilst I was freaking out that we wouldn’t be able to get back on to Kecil (which houses much cheaper accommodation). Got a speedboat back to Long Beach in Kecil the following morning and found a shack (quite literally) in ‘D’Rocks Garden’ which we booked for over a week. This shack = 4 x plywood ‘walls’, 1 x plywood ‘floor’, 1 bathroom with over-toilet shower and open air to the room, a balcony with a beautiful sea view and about 19.5billion insects. All for €23 per night. Bargain. Well that’s actually a bargain in Malaysia. It was fine once we bought mosquito coils, insect repellant, OFF! spray (for spraying on all exposed skin mosquito saviour). We stayed there for eight nights – it was about 30 feet in the sky at the end of the beach and into the jungle so we both have some pretty epic calf muscles now. Moved to the ‘World Cafe’ for a further eleven nights which is directly on the beach and not so shack-y, although shack-y all the same. It has sporadic wifi too which is semi-useful.
The Perhentian Islands are probably the most laid back place we’ve ever been. It’s pretty much white sand, turquoise water and coconut trees (although they do have a pretty serious litter problem). There are no roads here, just beaches and one path from the two main beach areas. Supplies come pretty regularly from the mainland although many places run out of things by midweek. It’s a diver’s paradise, that’s actually pretty much what the islands are all about – diving and snorkeling. You can do the PADI 3 day dive course here for approximately €200 – I believe it’s one of the cheapest places in the world to get certified. Most of the shops and speedboat taxi stands here rent out snorkeling gear. An umbrella and two beach-mats will set you back 10RM – about €2.34 (at current exchange rates!) – do you hear that Spain??? That’s about the only cheap thing here though. A can of beer will set you back €2.50 and a bottle of wine upwards of €20. We had one really nice dinner in ‘Bubu’ for a special occasion – we ate a lot and it cost about €85. It’s a nature lover’s paradise here – we’ve spotted plenty of monitor lizards (one particularly large one), innumerable species of fish, some sea-jellies (I’ve recently learned that jellyfish is an incorrect term), geckos, turtles…
We spent most evenings in Ewan’s Café at Coral Bay on the other side of the island, a whole ten minute walk/hike (it’s a pretty steep hill so I’m going to go with hike here) away. Owned by a lovely family, it’s one of those places you see the same faces in every night. Most days were spent lounging on the beach although it can get quite hot – think it was about 34 degrees during our stay.
Advice if heading to the Perhentians: Bring more money than you think you’ll need, bring way more sun-screen than you think you’ll need, don’t arrive at the weekend unless you have accommodation (it’s really busy at the weekends and then really quiet midweek), Get off the speedboat at Coral Bay; they’ll charge you more and take you to a second boat if you go all the way to Long Beach; it’s an easy walk.