A real hidden piece of paradise can be found over in the Perhentian Islands on the East Coast of Malaysia. Comprising of two main islands – Perhentian Kecil (small island) and Perhentian Besar (big island) – this was one of my favourite places I’ve visited throughout South East Asia, and despite the mission impossible trek to get there, it was worth every last moment.
It is important to understand a few key points about the Perhentians Islands so you know what to expect. You won’t find any roads here. Only water taxi’s. There are no cash machines on the islands, and certainly no banks either. Don’t expect a buzzing nightlife, as there are no bars or clubs to be found. In fact, even alcohol is limited and only sold in a few restaurants across the island. What you will find is an authentic stripped back island offering you nothing but crystal clear waters and stunning white sandy beaches, a world away from the hustle and bustle the rest of South East Asia has to offer. In my eyes, this is perfection.
The smaller island tends to attract more backpackers, whilst the bigger island has a slower pace of life, with more resorts. It’s easy enough to travel between the islands via a water taxi, which should roughly cost you MYR 20 / £3.50. We chose to stay on the bigger island, Perhentian Besar, along Teluk Dalam, to the south of the island. Our budget friendly dive lodge was located in the centre of the beach, a picturesque crescent shaped bay that was small enough to see from one end to other. The beach front was dotted with a scattering of accommodations and basic restaurants, and not much else. To the far left of the beach there was a jungle track that linked the south to the west of the island.
Whilst you won’t have an action packed stay here, there is still enough to keep you busy so don’t worry about that. Make the most of the calm crystal clear waters and try your hand at diving or snorkelling by joining a day trip or renting equipment from one of the dive shops along the beach. Kayaks can also be rented at a number of places too. Failing that, just head out for a paddle in the waters.
Visit the turtles on the aptly named Turtle Beach along the northern coast of Perhentian Besar. You’ll be able to watch them lay their eggs during the evening, and there is also a volunteer programme which you can join to help maintain the turtles nesting areas. Yay, we love anything animal related 🙂
Head over to Perhentian Kecil along Long Beach, the closest you find to any nightlife on the island, where a few of the resorts host fire dancing each evening.
Take a hike through the jungle along well trodden tracks from Teluk Dalam, over to the west coast beaches. You do not need to join a tour group for this, but head out early to avoid the heat and make sure you pack some insect repellant. The dense jungle was oozing with little critters, and the further in we trekked, the sweatier we got, and therefore the more we were attracting an insane amount of bugs (mainly ants). Our exit onto the beach the other side must have seemed rather frantic as we ran out stripping off our clothes to get into the ocean as fast as we humanly could to cool down.
Otherwise sit back, relax and enjoy the sunset! You don’t have to explore every last corner of the island to have a great time, and besides, who doesn’t like a little R&R?
I won’t lie. This was one of the most long winded routes I have travelled to reach a destination, but don’t be put off as I promise what awaits you at the other end will totally be worth it.
We tagged our trip onto the back end of a holiday to Bali, so we whilst we were flying through Kuala Lumpur to connect back to London, we decided to make a detour to visit the islands.
Our complex route involved an internal flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Bharu (1 hour), an overnight stay at the budget friendly Tune Hotel (£20), a taxi the following morning to the coastal town of Kuala Besut (1 hour), and then a ferry out to Perhentian Kecil (45 mins).
Now imagine the reverse trip when we were travelling back to London, and we had an international flight to add onto the end of that!
Visit during the summer months of April until October for clear blue skies and the least chance of rain. We visited during May which fell during low season, however we timed our visit badly and overlapped with a local public holiday which meant locals were outnumbered by tourists! Note, the months of July and August can get really busy as you head into peak season.
Avoid monsoon season during the months of November to February, when everything shuts down. The waters become extremely dangerous, and considering the only way to reach the islands is by boat, you really don’t want to be making that journey during that time!
Although I visited the islands a few years ago back in 2013, it seems the costs haven’t increased too much!
Flights – Internal flights from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Bharu can be purchased for as little as MYR 60 / £10 with Air Asia when booked in advance.
Boats – The ferry transfer from Kuala Besut out to the islands should be no more than MYR 70 / £12 for a return ticket. Our accommodation arranged our tickets for us.
Island Fees – A compulsory Marine Park Conservation fee of MYR 30 / £5 is applicable to all visitors.
Accommodation – This will of course depend where you are staying, however expect to pay from MYR 75 / £13 for a basic no frills room, MYR 150 / £26 for an air con room, and anywhere up to MYR 1000 / £178 for a luxury resort hotel.
Personally, I don’t see the point of staying somewhere so flash, especially considering you are staying on such a stunning island, but each to their own. We stayed at The Bayu Dive Lodge which cost us MYR 320 / £60 for 4 nights. Our rooms were slightly cheaper than usual as we were visiting during the low season (between March – May), whereas visiting during high season (June – Aug) bumped up room costs.