If you’ve got a few days to spare in your travels through Malaysia, then I highly recommend braving the 10 hour journey from Kuala Lumpur to the beautiful Perhentian islands. Two small islands off the north-east coast of Malaysia offer everything from budget backpacker accommodation to all inclusive resorts. With endless bays of white sand beaches and water with a year round temperature of 30 degrees, it’s easy to lose a few days or a week to a place like this.
Koala Besut it the main departure point to the islands, with boats running several times a day. Try to get there before the last boat to the islands at 6 pm or you’ll have to spend a night in town (like we did) twiddling your thumbs until morning.
At least there are a few good restaurants down by the pier to help you kill time. During the peak season from July-August and Christmas holidays, it pays to get to the island early in the day as accommodations fill up quickly. Outside of this time, prices drop and you’ll have the run of the place. Diving and snorkeling are the main leisure activities here, besides just laying on the powdery white sand. This is a great place to get certified if you aren’t already as dives are as cheap as they come anywhere in southeast Asia. We paid around $25 AU for a dive, which also got us a 10% discount on our accommodations, free use of snorkel gear for our stay, free refills of water, tea, coffee, and free use of internet – not a bad deal.
We choose to do a wreck dive off the coast of the island – a 90 meter boat that was sunk 10 years ago for the sole purpose of attracting fish and thus divers. With the water being so warm we decided to see what it’s like to dive without a wet suit – 48 minutes under the water and still toasty warm. The sugar wreck has only been on the bottom of the ocean for 10 years but has already become home to thousands of sea creatures from schools of bait fish to marble rays, turtles and bamboo sharks. Just watch out for the hundreds of nasty sea urchins, think sea porcupines, with large spikes just waiting for an unsuspecting foot or hand.
There are a few bars to keep you entertained in the evening, as well as movies on the projector screen at Panorama bungalows where we are staying. Or you can kick your feet up and watch the sun set on the west coast of the island over tasty Malaysian food with friends. It doesn’t get much closer to paradise than this.