The East Coast of Malaysia

PERHENTIAN ISLANDS

Global Mark : 12.79

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Parks Culture Market Relax Fiesta 

Cost

AVER.
5 5 1 1 1 5 4 1 11.50

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
26 96% (25) 69% (18) 88% (23) 6 to 20 14.08


Note : Showing up in the very busy season, I decided not to visit. The below notes are based on conversations with travelers. Feel free to contribute...

Description : Two beautiful islands with great snorkeling & diving opportunities

Comments : The nicest islands in Malaysia seem unfortunately on their way to over development as tourists & backpackers now flock heavily

What to do ? Take the horizontal position on the beach / Put on a mask and explore the clear & colorful underwater / At the right time, see turtles, reef sharks or other impressive marine creatures / Learn how to dive / 

What you may not like ? The cost of the boat (R40 slow or R60 fast return) / The cost of accomodation and what you get for your money : R20 for a tent during HS ! / The cost of food & drinks / The cost of snorkeling equipment (R10-15 per day) / The cost of internet (R1 per mn !) / The cost of boat-taxi (R5-12) / In HS (June to Sept), having sometimes to wait a few days before a "cheap" place becomes available / The lack of money changing facilities / All those robberies stories (in the rooms or on the beach) which are actually true ! / The limited electricity (usually from 7pm to 7am but sometimes up to midnight only) / The impossibility to walk round the islands, making some beaches difficult or expensive to leave / Some jellyfish / The limited alcohols on sale on those Islamic islands and the cost when available / The peepholes in some of the cheapest places / More annoying, the sexual harassment that sometimes occurs (it is Muslims and since some girls wear bikinis...)

How long ? As long as you can afford !

Where to stay ? It would be useless to recommend a place as you usually have to settle in any GH with a bed, room or bungalow available ! 

Small (Kecil) or big (Besar) Island ? Both are popular and rather expensive but, recently, due to the recommendations of a famous guide book, most people were flocking to Kecil, making Besar a somehow easier place to find accommodations during the HS. This is however subject to change and you may wish to ask around before committing. A taxi boat between the islands should cost R12.


A few beaches on Kecil ?

- Long Island (east) : Why ? Scenically the nicest, the largest choice of accomodation & restaurants (good fish meals for R7-8), the night life / What you may not like ? The rubbish, the dead corals, the generator noises, the obligation to buy food vouchers with some rooms, the drug problems and the high robbery risks / Cheapest places (official prices subject to change) from North to South : Moon light Chalet (R45 w. 2 meals for mattress on floor), Simponi (20), Matahari (20), Chempaka (18-25) and Rock Garden (15-18) / Thks to Matthieu Delbo (France) for add. info

- Coral Bay (west) : Why ? Some corals life, more relaxed than the above but conveniently connected by a path to it, possible to refill your bottle of water for R1-1.5, best sunset point / What you may not like ? This is were most backpackers are now heading, making it tricky to find accommodations in HS, probably spoiled soon, fair risk of robbery as well / Cheapest places (official prices subject to change) from North to South : Rajawali (20), DJ Chalet (20), Aur Beach (dorm 15, room 25)

- Mira Beach (South-West) : Why ? Well Isolated and very scenic / What you may not like : Being isolated, limited snorkeling

- D'Lagoon (north) : Why ? One resort only with tel to reserve in advance, the best snorkeling on the island, the access to three beaches on both side via small jungle paths (if one gets jellyfish, go to the other side), the visit of turtles (April to Sept), the isolation which makes it a safer place / What you may not like : being cut from the rest of the island, having no choice but to eat there (set dinner at R10 or fried rice, noodles & sandwiches at R5-6, reported not very good nor well served) / Where to stay ? D'Lagoon Chalet (Tel island : 019 or 010 plus 9857089, Tel KL : 010 2129943) : camping R5, dorm R10, tree house R20, fan bungalows R25, w. shower R50 / Thks to Matthieu Delbo (France) for add. info


Snorkeling & Diving ?
This is an excellent reason to come here. Mask, tuba and palms are on location at around R10-15 per day (possible to rent half a day). A snorkeling trip to a few spots should cost R20-25 with or without the equipment and last from 10:30 to 17:30 or so. A scuba trip (two dives + equipment) should cost around R100. A Open Water PADI Certificate cost as little as R550 for a 4 days training.

The total cost ? According to my calculations, a 3 days trip on Kecil during the HS would have cost me R200 minimum : boat trip (R40), accomodation (R30 per day if available...), snorkeling trip (R25) and food (R15 per day). Dorm are in theory available for as little as R10 (D'Lagoon) or R15 (Aur Beach Chalet) and fan rooms cost from R15 (Seahorse Chalet and Sea Shell on Besar or East Wet/Rock Garden on Kecil) but getting such rates during the HS could be problematic. Traveling with someone would help to slip the cost. Bringing your own tent, snorkeling gears and some water & food would be other good tactics. 

When to visit ? The best time is definitively at the end of the monsoon before the tourists invasion : March to the beginning of May. End of May to September is crowded. Mid-November to March is usually closed.

How to reach the islands ? Boats leave from Kuala Besut all day long from 9am to 4-5pm. The slow boat (first at 10am, then at 12:00, 14:00, 16:00 and possibly 17:00 if people) is cheaper at R40 return but it takes a leisurely 2-2.5 hours to reach the island. In HS, it may be worth paying R20 more for the first speed boat (at 8:30-9am, 30mn) to get better chances of finding an empty room... Whatever the option, the boat will stop 100m away from the beach : if you do not wish to swim with your backpack, you need to take a small boat for an additional R2. For more infos, Pelangi Ferry & boat Services (09 6918353)

A safety issue ? Perhentian Islands are probably the most dangerous places in Peninsular Malaysia in terms of robbery and there is no sign of the government tackling the problem. The risk is particularly high if staying on developed beaches and precautions should be taken : avoid bringing too much cash or valuables to the islands and whenever out of the room or bungalow, deposit passport, money and camera at the reception of your GH. Physical aggressions fortunately remains a rarity but at least one case came to my ears. Drug is indeed a problem around here and, as everyone knows, this kind of hobby is costly... Sexual harassment is more common...

 

Backpacker's Tips : Kimberly, USA (July 06)

  I have been living on Perhentian Kecil for the past month, and I'm going to stay another month. It's good. :-)

Lodging:
Prices have gone up, of course. As a general rule, one can expect to pay RM 35 for a basic A-frame chalet with a (grotty) shared bathroom, and around RM 55-85 for one with an ensuite bathroom. Cold showers! All the places are pretty much the same, with the exception of Symphony which reminds me of why buildings get condemned.

Food:
I would recommend Panorama for pizza, french bread pizza, barbecue and just about anything. Mohsin Chalets has an outstanding Indian set meal for RM 20. At Mata Hari there is a beef dish, the Beef Redang Kampung, that is probably the best beef I've had in Asia. Lily's is good for the "claypot" dishes (curries with or without noodles, mostly)

Nightlife:
There are basically two bars on Perhentian Kecil -- the Palm Tree and the Jungle Bar. The Palm Tree is more crowded and popular due to its beachfront location, but the music sucks and they play the same CD every night. No, really!  I love the Jungle Bar. It's up the hill and secluded,and the owners, Finola and Joe, are awesome. She's even got quite a good rock n' roll collection. Depending on the night you could hear rock, house/trance if a DJ is visiting, or the sounds of singing and acoustic guitars.

Dangers and annoyances:
BEWARE THE THEFTS. The stories are true. One night,really late (like around 3?) I awoke to the sound of my side window being pulled further open from its cracked position. There was a man's face peeking in!  He split as soon as I yelled "get the fuck out of here!" Another person I met was lying in bed sleeping, alone while her boyfriend was out watching the World Cup. She awoke to the sight of a man's arm coming in through the window above her head. PLEASE TAKE CARE! The thieves know that there are no ATMS on the island and, as such, tourists are likely to have large amounts of cash in their bungalows. NEVER leave the windows open or the door unlocked if you're not in the room, and if you're a woman traveling alone I'd take care with the open windows at night, too. Unfortunately, there is a lot of drug use among the local population. People don't talk about it, of course, but it's there and it's hard core. I think that adds to the theft factor. Beware of anyone who is awake very early in the morning (i.e. before sunrise) because chances are they're whacked out of their head. Other petty annoyances: Smells (burning trash, sewage odors, diesel fuel and exhaust from the boats), litter everywhere. It's possible to get a worm in your foot from walking barefoot (the worms come from the overpopulation of cats!) but it's not that big a deal, apparently, and you can take a tablet and the worm goes away.

Diving:
The diving is EXCELLENT here. Small groups, short boat rides, loads of turtles and little (non-dangerous) sharks. Go diving! Spice Divers, located at the southern end of Long Beach, is the only dive center owned by a local (as far as I know). The instructors are international but all the drivers and some of the divemasters are locals. Spice is nice! I've been diving with them and having a blast.
The ocean is the real treasure of the island. I've sat there during boat rides, mesmerized as the color of the water changes back and forth between every imaginable green, blue and even purple jewel tone. Jade, tanzanite, sapphire, turquoise, emerald -- this place has them all, and often on the same day. Dazzling.


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