The Perhentian Islands are a small group of beautiful, coral-fringed islands off the coast of northeastern Malaysia in the state of Terengganu, not far from the Thai border. The Perhentian Islands (pronounced Perhen-TEE-AHN, not Perhen-SHEN) lie approximately 10 nautical miles (19 km) off the coast of northeastern Malaysia in the state of Terengganu, approximately 40 miles (64 km) south of the Thai border. The name Perhentian means “stopping point” in Malay. This is because the islands became a staging point used by traders traveling from Malaysia to Bangkok.
The two main islands are Pulau Perhentian Besar (“Big Perhentian Island”) and Pulau Perhentian Kecil (“Small Perhentian Island”). Kecil attracts more travellers as it has cheaper accommodation, while Besar is a little more expensive and caters more to families and those who want to avoid the backpacker party scene.
The small, uninhabited islands of Susu Dara, Seringgi and Rawa lie off Kecil. All the islands belong to a protected marine park, which means that fishing, collecting coral and littering are strictly prohibited, although in practice litter is one of the major problems that face the islands.
When to go:
Due to the eastern monsoon, the season in the Perhentians (and all other east coast islands) is effectively limited to the period between the beginning of March until late October. Outside this period the seas can be very rough and choppy, skies overcast, and with currents that make swimming dangerous and most (though not all) accommodation options are closed. However, many of them located on Coral Beach start on beginning of Feb, while on the Long Beach usually a month later. Do not believe the travel-agents when they claim the accommodations are open. Even if they will provide a room, restaurants and all shops (i.e. no place to get water, food, sunscreen etc.) are closed in off-season. If the restaurant is open, food choices will be very limited and over-priced. However, in the village cheap meals and shops are available year-round. When going during off-season be aware that there will be no one there aside from you and maybe a handful of locals.
What to see:
There are no monuments, museums, viewpoints or other above-ground sights whatsoever on the islands; however, the beaches are a sight in themselves. White sandy beaches with clear water and flanked by rolling jungle covered hills make the views from the beach spectacular. Coral Bay on the small island is the only beach that provides a sunset, but construction of a new jetty has spoiled most of the view. On Besar, the best and cleanest beaches are on the west side of the island. Here the sea and the beach are beautiful and clear. The south beach on Besar is less inviting and had lots of broken coral, treacherous to bare feet and lots of litter and discarded rubbish (as of May 2012)!
There are several trails that you can take around Kecil island that offer spectacular viewpoints such as the Lighthouse Towers, which you can also climb up and jump off of into the sea.
With luck you might be able spot some of the islands’ wildlife, including huge harmless monitor lizards (almost guaranteed – they are not afraid of humans) and monkeys, not to mention nesting turtles at certain times of year. Arguably the Perhentians’ best sights of all are underwater, where you’re likely to see reef sharks and sea turtles amongst the corals and tropical fish. Kecil island also has a huge population of cats, most of which are kittens that a lot of the locals and expats take care of.
Also for a quick guide, Pulau Perhentian is divided into two main islands which is Perhentian Kecil and Perhentian Besar. Perhentian Kecil offer chalet which is lower in cost compared to Perhentian Besar and Perhentian Kecil is favourite for a backpackers.
What to do:
- Scuba Diving
- Turtle feeding
Where to Eat:
Many of the smaller resorts only offer meals as part of an all-inclusive package. These are usually buffet-style with a variety of Western and Malaysian dishes. Larger beaches, such as Pasir Panjang, offer a larger variety of eating options. Since everything (except seafood) has to be imported, expect to pay at least 2 to 3 times more than on the mainland. Restaurants on Long Beach (Kecil) are slow to deliver food (30 mins to 1.5 hours) and there are no hawker stalls and only one buffet (breakfast at Bubu’s), so ask the waiter first how long the food will take before deciding to eat there. Its worth taking some supply up to the island (like fresh fruit, cookies, cigarettes etc). All stores have the same prices and everything is double as expensive compared to the main island. Water for example is 4 MYR (mainland 1.80)
Information is collected from www.wikitravel.org