” To escape and sit quietly on the beach – that’s my idea of paradise.”
The two Main Perhentian islands, Besar and Kecil are about a 45 minutes speedboat journey from the quaint little port town of Kuala Besut. The boat boys tend to try to do the journey in 30 though so be prepared for a bumpy ride and dont be afraid to express your discomfort if they are going to fast, for the most part they will listen and slow down.
It is worth taking your time getting there as it really is a lovely part of the world, the journey take you past the river enterance from Besut jetty and past eagles fishing ( if you are lucky) and onto the South China sea, you will power past tiny outcrops dotted in the sea, until the larger islands appear on the horizon.
The boat will then take you to one of the two inhabited islands, when we have been we went to Besar, the bigger of the two but less populated. The reason being the snorkelling here is simply incredible, but more on that later. It will pull up at yor resort, depending where you are staying, there will be, if lucky, a pier or floating walkway, if not lucky then you will get to feel the water a little earlier than you had planned. Where you drag, wheel, paddle your suitcase to the reception of where you have chosen to stay.
We have stayed at two places and are planning a third this coming Spring, and can recommed both. These were the Barat Perhentian and the Perhentian Island Resort.
The first time was an 8 day trip with my parents, whose main criteria is walk in off the beach snorkelling. This was at the Barat Perhentian and although prehaps not exactly walk of the beach it was walk up the beach towards the Aptly named Coral view, and then off that beach snorkelling. The hotel is perfectly fucnctional, with a bar, various rooms all fairly similar in all but price so dont get to caught up in getting the best room, it has canoes and snorkel gear for rent and has a dive shack on its beach.
The food here is fine, its not amazing but after jungle treking or swimming all day it certainly does the trick. It is also possibly the better of the restaurants on this end of the island judging from the popularity. Though it also serves alcohol whereas the other two do not, this may also offer some explanation for its popularity!
Its beach is not the best, but the 100 metres walk to the Coarl view and the further 100 Metres to the Perhentian Island Resorts beach are not a chore and well worth doing. This was the reason we were here, for the beaches and the water.
And you can see why.
In front of the Coral View resort there is a shallow rock garden that had, at least when we were there, a resident titan triggerfish and a couple of baby reef sharks in about 3 feet of water. It is also the only time i have seen a water Monitor Lizard swimming while i was in the water and that was a surpise for both me and it! We both set off in opposite directions, it more sucessfully than me.
There are plenty of rocks around there and if you go to the other side there is a mild current to be aware of as it turns into a headland a little way round to the left as you look from shore so be aware.
This spot can be done time and time again as there is plenty of life in the water and the further out you go the clearer and more diverse it gets.
When you are here you can see the Jetty than brings people to the Pehentian Island resort colourfully and photogenically framing what has to be one of the best beaches in the world, until you go round the corner and see one that then lays claim to that title again. And yeah, the beaches here are really that good!
The Beach at Coral view is more crushed coral and not that soft, but the short walk up and down stairs and past a massage place with a view, leads you to The P.I.R beach and that is something you will leave with ALOT of photos of.
The massage place is a little engimatic, it is not offically supposed to be there as its located in a public view point, but its been taken over by a local guy who charges for a massage. It is within your rights to go in take photos all while someone is gettign a massage, though its a right we passed up as we thought good on him for the enterprising idea!
The Beach at P.I.R is soft, long, curved and leads to water that has to be seen to be beleived. It is warm and welcoming and you will be spending a lot of time here. If you swim out from the centre it is coral free, the coral making way for sea grasses which come with there own daily visitors. Sea turtles are an almost permanent resident here and you can see them by swimming 40 metres off the beach. If you find they are difficult to spot then at certain times of the day just aim for the 3 or 4 boats that appear to be gathered around for no reason, and when you hear the squeals of the snorkellers you know you are in the right place.
I have a youtube video of some of the things you can see while here.
To the left of the beach and under the Pier there are schools of fry, big schools! and the omnipresent sargent major fish along with an occasional barracuda.
To the right there is a coral garden with numbers of bumphead parrot fish, which come in at a fair size and the occasional reef shark.
It will be hard to drag yourself out of the water.
We did stay at this resort, but really it is not needed unless you are unable to walk the stairs or distance from the other two resorts. The rooms are better, but not twice the price better and they have added cost to everything in the restaurants and bars there. Its not better its just more expensive.
You do have a few steps to that beach though, and although the view is priceless they have cleared put a price on it.
If you are looking for something to do as an out of the water activity there is also a path straight through the middle of the Jungle, that is not used very much and very very easy to follow. It takes you from this side to the bottom of the island and the resorts there, past jungle, suprised monkeys and in our case two huge monitor lizards having a fight. It is a nice walk that goes past the most huge and random stones perched on top of each other about 3/4s of the way through.
The south of the island is, in our eyes, not as pretty the north but the food actually seemed better and cheaper. They also have a selection of resorts here, one has its own pool.
On this side there is also Shark point a little way out in the bay where, if you are lucky, you can see full grown reef sharks in the morning and evening with a guided tour. Do be careful as there have been accidents here, not because of sharks I hasten to add, but because of tides and swimming. Take a life jacket. I am a strong swimmer and I wear one, Also wear fins if they are on offer.
In the evening we ate at either Coral View or Barat, the bonus when at Coral View was at the sun set you got a view of flying foxes, fruit bats, coming out of the forest and setting off. A few at first, then more and more. the only other time i have seen them was on honeymoon in the maldives ( not sure where they hid on that island!)
That kind of sums up the Perhentain Islands. The Maldives are the top of the pile luxury destination, amazing beaches, amazing water, amazing food, and amazing rooms all at amazing prices.
I cant call Perhentian a budget Maldives as it doesnt do it justice, but with the exception of accomodation choices the differences are hard to tell!