Perhentian Islands – Magnificent Malaysian Getaway
Located just 20 kilometers off the Malaysian coast are the beautiful twin islands of Pulau Perhentian Besar (Large Island) and Pulau Perhentian Kecil (Small Island). Accessible by short boat trip from Kuala Besut, together they are collectively known as the Perhentian Islands, translated from Malay as “The Place to Stop”. Once the place for sea traders to stop, these days they are the place for travelers and tourists to stop and enjoy their deep blue waters and power-white sands.
Head to Kecil for cheap chalet accommodation and lively nightlife in the company of a fun-seeking backpacker crowd, or to Besar for better quality (but pricier) hotels and a relaxed, more sophisticated vibe.
The best time to travel here is between October and March when the seas are calm and the sun beats down from the deep-blue skies day after beautiful day.
Things to see and do on the Perhentian Islands
If it’s ancient culture or historic architecture you’re after, cross the Perhentian Islands from your list as you won’t find them here. This is a place whose charm lies in its raw and natural beauty and where daily life revolves around the beach. Boat hopping from island to island and from cove to cove is the order of the day, taking time to explore the palm-fringed beaches flanked by jungle-covered rolling hills. There are several trails running through the woodland on the islands, making for some fun adventuring and leading to some spectacular viewpoints such as the Lighthouse Towers where you can also take part in a spot of daredevil cliff jumping.
There is some interesting wildlife to be found here including large monitor lizards and monkeys, and the islands are a nesting ground for the famous Green and Hawksbill turtles. Sadly recent oil spills from tankers and nearby platforms have had some considerable impact here but there are still around 300 nestings a year and the number is once again increasing thanks to the setting up of various conservation projects.
This is a great destination for diving and snorkeling with warm waters, plenty of marine life and several species of relatively unthreatening sharks to spot. The Sugar Wreck, a huge hauler, is a popular dive site locally, or for even better visibility and variety take a trip out to Redang Island. Competition amongst the dive companies is high and costs are low as a result, making the Perhentians a great place to notch up some dive hours or achieve your PADI accreditation.
There are plenty of resort hotels on the islands offering buffet-style dining with a mix of International and Malaysian dishes and the larger beaches are well stocked with bars and cafés. Seafood is the tastiest and most cost-effective option as it is freshly caught locally.
Kecil is the place for some lively nightlife though it can be pricy and most of the Muslim-owned cafés do not serve alcohol, although there are several places where it may be sold under the counter. Equally some will turn a blind eye if you bring your own so if you have the chance, stock up on the mainland beforehand. Head to Blacktips for late night drinks and a dance on the beach.
Internet and Accomodation on the Perhentians
Accommodation is relatively basic, especially on Kecil where air conditioning is something of a rarity. Mosquitoes can be a problem so it is a good idea to bring your own net if you are planning on staying somewhere lower end. Long Beach, on the eastern coast of Kecil is the most popular destination offering beds in basic rooms and a variety of chalets with private facilities.
Internet has traditionally been slow and relatively hard to find, though many of the hotel complexes are now installing satellite broadband services, making this a compelling option for Digital Nomads looking for somewhere off the beaten track to explore, relax and work.