perhentian islands: paradise

Before cracking on with perhentian islands, Have you read about our previous location, Kuala Terennganu? Click here to check it out, and here to find out about who we are and what we’re doing.


getting to perhentian islands malaysia

Our bus ride to Kuala Besut (the first leg of getting to the Perhentian islands) is a somewhat rustic affair. No airconditioned coach here; the driver keeps the bus cool by leaving both front and middle doors open for the whole journey. Bus transport in Malaysia is a bit hit and miss, we are learning (apart from in Kuala Lumpur, where it’s consistently excellent).

When we arrive in Kuala Besut we swiftly transfer to the boat to get to the island (70RM return, 40RM for PY Jr, and PY Jr Jr is free). We had heard that this was a bit of a thrill ride to complete the 30-40 minute journey and a traveller we met on the bus (who has done this trip many times) told us to ‘hold on tight’ as the engines started.

She was right to do so. This was a nerve-jangling, spine-shaking whizz over the water, and the children were in raptures the whole way. They loved it.

There are two main islands: Perhentian Besar (‘big’) and Perhentian Kecil (‘small’). They are regularly featured in the top ten of polls of the most beautiful islands in the world, and are popular dive locations. As we arrived at the jetty on our beach, we could see why. The water is crystal clear, and we walk to the beach, watching fish of all sizes and colours in the water underneath us. There are no roads on these islands, so one catches a water taxi to get around.

Our Perhentian island resort (Coral View, on Perhentian Besar), has chalets right on the beach, but we are a few minutes walk away, up some stairs, in the forest. The chalet is cosy, with wood panels and atmospheric lighting, though there’s no kettle. The walkways get slightly more worse for wear the further away you get from the beach front (expensive) chalets, but it’s all safe and fine.

The Hotel, and the PERHENTIAN ISLANDS Wildlife

Although the rooms close to the beach look great, we end up being very happy with our little room/house in the forest. We are able to watch the monkeys up in the trees, and the large bats as they wake up and shuffle up and down the branches as we approach dusk. We then get to enjoy the bat exodus, as hundreds of bats swoop down and through the trees, from over one foot wide to tiny specimens only a few inches across.

When we awoke on our first full day, we were confronted with a flying lemur with her baby, hanging on the tree trunk in front of our chalet, only 6 feet or so from our front door. There was also the numerous lizards and a few 2 metre-long monitor lizards prowling in the undergrowth. To get to see such wildlife was a real treat for all of us, and that was just the land-based animals.

We hired snorkels and explored the coral reef on our first full day and it was incredible to see so many fish of all sizes only a few feet away. Heidi even saw a reef shark!

The beaches were white, and although sandy, were flecked with lots of tiny pieces of coral, which has washed ashore over the years. Not quite as nice as the soft sand of Cherating, but lovely in a different way.

The beach we are at has a few food places, but we dine in the hotel restaurant, as we’d heard it was decent, which is was. Everything here, though, is expensive. Instead of 2RM for a large bottle of water, it’s 5. Whereas we can eat well at a moderate restaurant elsewhere for 40-60RM, the hotel restaurant (and the others on the beach) are more like 70-80, and that’s on top of the cost to get here. There is free wifi but it’s dire and only works around reception. Generally pretty friendly staff, with the odd exception.

Nevertheless, we can see why people give the Perhentian islands rave reviews. They are stunning; surely among the best in east Asia. The clear water, beautiful beach, marine life, white sand, blue skies….it’s obvious why people see these islands as paradise. Though we can imagine how busy it will be in peak season.


Bye Bye Beach, Hello Kota Bharu…

Unfortunately though, we need to leave after 3 days. The hotel makes a balls up with our transfer back to the mainland, and we then end up on the slow boat back. After the sweatiest walk yet, we get to the bus station, and as I am in the shop buying ice lollies, the bus arrives. We hurry on and make it before it leaves. There’s 6 lollies and only 4 of us, so we give two strangers an ice lolly and judging by their reaction, it made their day.

Less than two hours later and we’re in Kota Bharu (KB). We’re not going any further north than this now. We can’t really; we’re not far from the Thai border. We’ve got 4 nights here, and only one night booked in a hotel (we’ve decided to do this and see if we can get a better deal at the very last minute) so after getting to our sleeping quarters for the night, set about finding some other options after we eat.