Pulau Perhentian

Pasir Panjang ( Long Beach on Perhentian Kecil)

Paradise Found and Lost (Perhentian Kecil)

The phrase 'the grass is always greener' is certainly true of most travellers who have zig-zagged the globe thrice over but not have even ventured so far out of their home state. Well, this has proved true of me in any case.I have certainly travelled to faraway locations but never has it crossed my mind to spend time travelling through my own birth country. Until that is, this February, after meeting countless Swiss, Finnish and Australian backpackers who were perpetually raving on about the Perhentian Islands..I thought to myself, "This is pretty embarrassing, I better go see for myself what the hoopla's all about". So off I went on my search for this Malaysian paradise..me, my backpack, heaps of sunscreen and a big thick book for company. The journey there was relatively stress-free, a bus ride from KL to Kuala Besut, and a 30 min boat ride (fast boat, expect to pay more than the 1 hour slow boat) to Perhentian Kecil. Despite my doubts, I have to admit that my first glimpses of the Perhentian islands were pretty breath-taking.

Click on picture of map above to get you to the
interactive map.

I found it difficult to believe that there existed off the coast of Peninsular Malaysia, crystal clear blue waters and white-lined shores (not after the let down of Langkawi). I quickly found myself a chalet at Matahari Bungalows (strangely enough hardly any of the bungalows/chalets on the island are on the beach!). The bungalow was comfortable enough although a tad on the expensive side ($60 Ringgit) when compared to what one can get in Thailand. I soon found myself a nice spot along Long Beach (Pasir Panjang) and kept myself occupied with obtaining the perfect tan.

The island itself is rather small, there are a couple of walks that take you to the other parts of the island, but I found the best beach to be on Pasir Panjang.

Hawksbill turtles kept in a pail for release

However, I was disappointed to discover that most of the corals around the island have since been destroyed by speedboats, by too much human contact (and abuse) and general lack of environmental-consciousness by both the resort/restaurant owners and tourists. Whilst the water remains clear, there really isn't much to see by way of sea-life unless one goes diving. Which I did, and found it to be pretty interesting.

There were a couple of interesting marine life to be found like the trigger fish, turtles, whip-rays and large schools of fish. However, my regret is that I left it 10 years too late in paying a visit to this once-idyllic paradise.

the best sunsets can be seen over at coral bay

There's not a lot by way of night-entertainment which is I think part of the appeal to so many western travellers who are seeking respite from the incessant techno beats being belted out from every Thai island. If you love your beer/alcohol, a friendly piece of advice..stock up on the mainland and bring your booty over (beer is NOT cheap on the islands). The food was a bit of a let down..all the restaurants seemed to have worked off the same menu.there is certainly no shortage of mee goreng, nasi goreng, BBQ fish with choice of 3 sauces etc. As a food-lover and a born Malaysian (a lethal combination), the Malaysian food repertoire extends far greater (and far tastier) than that found on Perhentian Kecil.

Women travellers please take heed!

If you're travelling on your own or with a few fellow women travellers, please try not to take privately arranged snorkelling trips or tours while on the islands. Private boat operators may approach you and offer cheaper rates than what the resort can offer, but it is at your own risk. Best to stick with the resorts and make sure that the boatmen that is providing the service from the resort is validated by the resort itself. There have been several unpleasant accounts of harrassments and indecent proposals.

Thank you.