Perhentian Islands, the islands once known as The Station Island
Most people will not think of Perhentian Islands when asked about beautiful islands in Peninsular Malaysia. The more popular & commercialized island like Redang, Langkawi, Tioman will most probably pop up in their mind. I was guilty of that too until a visit to Perhentian Islands. It completely changed my view. The beautiful blue sky, clean pristine white beach and crystal clear water will surely blow your mind. Perhentian Island is, hands down, one of my favorite islands in Malaysia, Tioman Island and the Kota Kinabalu islands being the others.
Perhentian Islands consist of tiny group of gorgeous coral fringed islands located off the coast of northeastern Malaysia in Terengganu. The most famous of these islands are the Perhentian Besar & Pehentian Kecil. The much smaller uninhabited islands are the Susu Dara, Seringgi & Rawa islands.
When to go:
Definitely not during the eastern monsoon season from December to May and also whole of November. So, that leaves a very limited time for travelers to enjoy the true beauty of these islands from June to late October. What happens when you decide to still travel during the off-season? You will be traveling in very limited ferry rides on a very choppy sea and end up settling in whatever room you can get. All the shops & restaurants will be mostly closed and most probably you will end up being the only ones there along with some locals.
How to reach the Islands:
Since its not far off the Thailand border, you can also easily travel from Thailand. Its about 83 KMs away from the border, so driving in or taking a bus in is still very much doable without much hassle or trouble. Otherwise you can fly to Sultan Mahmud Airport in Kuala Terrenganu before continuing your journey by road.
Whether you are from Thailand or traveling from within Malaysia, you have to get yourself to Kuala Besut as that is the only jetty with ferries to the Perhentian Islands. The are a few routes you can take to reach Kuala Besut, from either Kota Bahru, Jerteh or Kuala Terengganu.
You have to pay a very minimal amount as the marine park conservation charge. The amount I paid was just RM5 per person.
What to do in Perhentian:
1. Eat Local Delights
Malaysia is a foodie’s paradise. There are just so many delicacies to taste & devour. Seafood is of course a must. All those fresh fishes! Just yums.
2. Track the walking tracks & Go for Jungle Trekking
The many beaches that can be accessed by the many different little walking tracks but mostly the island is covered by dense forest. You can awe yourself with some incredible viewpoints along your track as beach after beach is a splendid view on itself. Relatively still unspoiled, its beauty will take your breath away. You can also walk up to the Lighthouse Towers viewpoint. A pretty decent trail is available from the Watercolours Paradise & the Arwana on Perhentian Besar. Be amazed stumbling into the island’s wildlife like the huge monitor lizards, big spiders and monkeys. The monitor lizards are big fellas but harmless, so nothing to be worried of. There is also a paved walking trail from Coral Bay to Mira Beach which is about 30 minutes brisk walk and from there on to the Impian beach and from there further to the main fishing village on the Perhentian Kecil (about another 20 minutes walk).
This must be the most famous activity in the island with almost all tourist getting their hands on the snorkeling gears. You can easily get the gears from the resorts or the shops where you can rent it for little money. Go to the south-west of the island for some good spots for snorkeling in a group. Its shallow water and clear water due to its location without any resorts around makes it a very good spot. Generally, the view is that the corals are much nicer here compared to the other more commercialized islands like Redang.
Good spots for snorkeling on Pulau Kecil would be around D’Lagoon (northern end of the island’s west coast), Long beach on the north and the Turtle Bay. Chances of seeing beautiful tropical fishes are good here.
4. Scuba Diving
Perhentian have good diving spots & diving is undoubtedly another great activity to do here. The island is a haven for beautiful sea life and lucky ones can even see sea turtles in addition to the usual coral and tropical fishes, including some species of shark. Some famous dive sites include the Pinnacle also known as the Tokong Laut. Meanwhile the Sugar Wreck is easier to access. Diving is reasonably cheap, ranging from RM90-150 each dive. The cost will depend on how many dives you want to do and whether you have your own gear. You can also do your PADI training here. Be careful when choosing your gears as its not always about the price, safety comes first.
You can see multiple diving centers across both the islands. Some popular ones are Seadragon Divers, Sunlight Divers, Angel Divers, Turtle Bay Divers, Quiver Dive Team, Spice Divers, and Steffen Sea Sports.
Both the islands can be ‘kayaked’ easily individually in a day trip as its not too big or rough.
Perhentian Kecil is about 8.5 miles in circumference and takes approximately 3 hours of easy paddling. You can always stop and wander to explore the beaches, go for a swim, snorkel and to simply just chill around.
Meanwhile the Perhentian Besar is about 10 miles in circumference. There are numerous places where you can rent kayaks at some decent prices.
6. Pamper Yourself at the Spa
What’s a relaxing beach vacation without some rejuvenating spa visit. Get some good massage and pamper yourself to the numerous spa treatments package offered. Most of the mid-range to luxury resorts offer a wide variety for you to choose from.
Perhentian Islands are breathtakingly beautiful with its nature value still very much intact thanks to the marine conservation but it is now turning into more commercialized due to its increasing popularity. Please pay your part in conserving the beauty of these splendid island by keeping them clean and choose to snorkel and dive with responsible local operators.
More of my pictures of these amazingly beautiful islands: