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Perhentian Islands

Photo © langkelana

Travel Guide Asia Malaysia Terengganu Perhentian Islands

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Introduction

Pulau Perhentian Besar

Pulau Perhentian Besar

© All Rights Reserved TulsaTrot

Pulau Perhentian means "Stopover Island" and it is said that the islands got their names from fishermen who would find cover and stop at the islands in times of thunderstorm and bad weather.

Consisting of two islands, Pulau Perhentian Besar (literally Big Perhentian Island) and Pulau Perhentian Kecil (Small Perhentian Island) situated off the coast of Terengganu, the Perhentians have captured the hearts of backpackers from around the world with its unspoilt and undeveloped natural beauty.

There being no airports and roads, the Perhentians can only be reached by boat from the mainland jetty, Kuala Besut jetty or Tok Bali jetty, both 40 minutes away from the heavenly white powdery sand and crystal clear azure waters of the Perhentians.

Perhentian Kecil caters mostly for backpackers with simple wooden chalets and longhouses with a young and lively atmosphere whereas Perhentian Besar caters for travellers who have the extra cash to splurge on some luxury, namely resort style living with air-conditioning and 24-hour supply of electricity and is the place to go for some private time and quiet relaxation.

The Perhentians have a very distinct atmosphere compared to the islands in Thailand as although teeming with young and lively backpacking community, there are hardly any 24-hour beach parties to get drunk at. Alcohol is not freely available on the island and topless sunbathing is now something of the past as travellers are now more sensitive to the Malaysian culture and social customs.

Perhentian Islands_Sunrise_1

Perhentian Islands_Sunrise_1

© All Rights Reserved JennyLutao

The Perhentians are also a good spot for diving and snorkelling with abundant marine life. You are guaranteed a turtle sighting if you take the round-island snorkelling trip which makes a stop at Turtle Bay, home to the Project Aware funded turtle sanctuary (hardly wild but a turtle nonetheless). There's also a good chance of spotting at black-tip and the imaginatively named 'Shark Point'. Dive sites around the island are numerous and offer a range of drift, mud, wreck and coral bommie dives. Well worth the trip is the 2-hour ride out to Redang Island which has successfully enforced a fishing ban 2 kilometres around the island, and with some consciencious anchor management from the dive boat operators has left the reef in pristine condition and the marine life in a healthier state.

However, things are changing fast with the global environment getting stressed with development and pollution. The Perhentians have not been spared as on a recent visit (June 2007), there are now works being carried out on both islands to construct jettys and shoplots which will inevitably affect the well-being of the islands, their surrounding environment and marine ecological systems.

Despite these developments and construction being carried out, the Perhentians still are a few of the most beautiful islands on the east coast of Malaysia, bypassing even some of the well-known islands of Thailand, making the Perhentians a must for any self-proclaimed sun and sea worshipper!

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When To Go

Perhentian Island

Perhentian Island

© All Rights Reserved suzy

As the Perhentians are situated on the east coast of Malaysia, they are susceptible to bad weather in the form of monsoon rains from October/November until March/April. Most chalets, longhouses and resorts on both islands cease operations and ferries would stop their service during this time of the year.

The rain begins to subside in April and while it's possible to visit the islands in March & April, the sea is still a bit choppy and visibility not at its best.

The best time to visit the Perhentians would be in June to August when the weather is good and the sea is calm with great visibility for diving and snorkelling but that also means increased prices, increased travellers' traffic and limited lodgings.

The shoulder seasons in April & May and September & October are worth considering if you don't mind getting the ocassional rain showers.

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Getting There

By Boat

There is not a direct single route to get to the Perhentians. To get there, one must first go to the mainland jetty of Kuala Besut, Terengganu or Tok Bali, Kelantan – with the former having more reliable ferry services – and then take a boat to the islands. Most boats go directly to the place on the Perhentian Islands where you want to go. Sometimes, an extra fee might be charged.
From Kuala Besut, the options are:

  • Speed boats - which take 30-45 minutes, charge RM40/70 for a single/return trip, and depart according to demand (4-5 times a day). Some are enclosed, others are completely open. In both cases, expect a sometimes bumpy ride across the seas.
  • Airconditioned ferries - ferries with airconditioning take just 5-10 minutes longer and charge about the same price. More comfortable and less bumpy
  • Slow boats - usually wooden fishing boats with some seats on the deck which take 2-3 times as long as the speedboats. Around 300RMB for 12 persons maximum.

Sometimes, boats (daytrips, diving trips) to Redang Island can take you there, but there are no regular ferries or other options. You can check if there is place on one of these boats.

By Plane

The nearest airport to the jetties is the Sultan Ismail Petra Airport (IATA: KBR, ICAO: WMKC) at Kota Bharu, Kelantan. Both Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia have daily flights from Kuala Lumpur. Firefly has connections to Penang and Kuala Lumpur.

After arriving Kota Bharu, a taxi is required to get to Kuala Besut or Tok Bali. Both jetties are approximately an hour away from Kota Bharu.

By Train

KTM Intercity operates two daily overnight trains (with sleeper berths) to Wakaf Bharu, Kelantan.

Train No.Train NameRoute (only main cities shown)
16Ekspres WauKuala Lumpur 2035 – Gemas 2350 – Jerantut 0330 – Wakaf Bharu 0929 – Tumpat 0946
18Ekspres TimuranSingapore 1800 – Gemas 2240 – Jerantut 0212 – Wakaf Bharu 0842 – Tumpat 0900

The east coast railway track is connected to the west coast track at the Gemas junction, located about three hours south of Kuala Lumpur. This means the east coast-bound train from Kuala Lumpur will have to head south to Gemas first to access the east coast line.

Upon arriving at Wakaf Bharu, take a taxi to Kuala Besut or Tok Bali. Both jetties are approximately an hour away from Wakaf Bharu.

By Bus

From Kuala Lumpur, you can take an overnight bus to Jerteh, Terengganu, which is merely 15 minutes away from Kuala Besut jetty by taxi.

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Getting Around

Walking is the way to go on the islands. Otherwise, for a little longer distances there are water taxis. Prices are around RM 12 for most hops from one beach to another, and a little more when travelling between different islands.

Some of the nicest walkes are Long Beach to Coral Bay which is about ten minutes and a very easy walk. Long Beach to D'Lagoon is also possible but the track is a bit rougher. Another route from D'Lagoon is to Adam and Eve beach.

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Eat

There are various beach cafes on Long Beach, Perhentian Kecil serving an array of local and Western cuisine. Most chalets operate their own restaurants.

Vegetarians would be well catered for as well.

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Drink

Beer and alcohol are not freely available on both islands. You would need to bring your own. Otherwise, other beverages and bottled water are easy to find.

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Sleep

Accommodation is basic on Perhentian Kecil and although there are about 15 to 20 chalet and longhouse operators on the island, accommodation does not come by easily especially during the peak season between May and September as almost all chalets and longhouses do not accept prior bookings.

On the other hand, if you are not travelling on a budget, you will most likely find reasonable resort style accommodation on Perhentian Besar by making prior bookings. There is no budget accommodation on Perhentian Besar.

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This is version 24. Last edited at 2:49 on Sep 15, 10 by Hien. 6 articles link to this page.

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