The gorgeous Perhentian Islands are a taste of true tropical paradise with crystal-clear water and soft white sand. Although there’s not the greatest amount of cultural attractions to keep the literati occupied, the natural world is aching breathtaking with superb snorkelling and diving opportunities plus plenty of quite coves to explore. Of course, the main activity on both islands is simply to lie on the soft white sand with a good book and perfect that golden tan.
Diving on the Perhentians
The Perhentian Islands are a great place to do a spot of diving with extremely good value PADI Open Water courses available during the off-season. There are dive shops on both islands with most offering the same fun dives with wrecks and reefs. The water stays crystal clear for most of the year and you are virtually guaranteed to spot green turtles and reef sharks on outings, even if you just use a snorkel.
Some recommended dives include Temples of the Sea which is teeming with all manner of fish and coral but maintains near-perfect visibility all year around. Sugar Wreck – actually an American landing craft that sank in 1976 – attracts barracuda, snapper and is covered with soft coral plus is one of the few sunken ship dive sites suitable for beginners.
Tiger Rock is a group of of large boulders bejewelled with fan and whip coral plus nudibranch and diverse wildlife, while The Three Brothers allows divers to pass through extremely impressive underwater rock formations.
Dive schools on Perhentian Kecil
Quiver Diveschool: Longstanding favourite run by Englishman Mark and his band of merry instructors. Personal attention is guaranteed with a range of courses and fun dives. A top choice. website: www.quiver-perhentian.com.
Steffen’s Sea Sport: Large operation with friendly staff and good value Open Water courses. English well spoken by instructors and staff. website: www.steffen-sea-sports.com.
Dive schools on Perhentian Besar
Perhentian Island Divers: This longest-running Perhentian Islands dive school has staff fluent in Malay, English, Mandarin, Italian and French plus high speed canopied speed boats and air conditioned classrooms.
Universal Diver: With some of the cheapest PADI courses on either island, this Perhentian dive school is fast making a name for itself for quality service and an innovative pricing scheme. website: www.universaldiver.net.
Watercolours Dive Centre: Good operation attached to the Paradise Resort and decent accommodation discounts for sleep and dive packages. Free pick up for guests staying anywhere else. website: www.watercoloursworld.com.
Snorkelling on the Perhentian Islands
All resorts and even some restaurants or travel agents rent out snorkelling gear which will typically set you back no more than RM10 per day for a mask, snorkel and fins. On Perhentian Kecil there’s no real spots for snorkelling on Long Beach, but in Coral Bay there’s a fair bit of underwater activities in the roped-off area to the south which is used for teaching beginner divers. Most of the impressive dive sites are found off the coast of Perhentian Besar but can easily be reached through organised snorkelling trips from either island (around RM70 per person).
By Pulau Perhentian Besar there are many popular snorkelling spots such as Teluk Pauh, Shark Point and Tanjung Basi. Black tips sharks are extremely common visitors to the small beach between Shark Point and Teluk Dalam which is only accessible by boat.
If you arrange a snorkelling trip then there’s every chance you boatman will bring some ‘bait’ to attract sharks to your spot. Turtles are best found in the middle of the beach immediately in front of Perhentian Island Resort and it is possible to dive down to the depths and see them up close.
It is possible to arrange snorkelling and camping trips to nearby Rawa Island for a taste of the true castaway experience. This uninhabited island off Perhentian Kecil is as remote as one can get in the first world. Excursions are available from RM70 per person included boat transfer from Perhentian Island, Snorkeling gear, food and camping equipment with MD Travelers Holiday.
Boat trips from the Perhentian Islands
The ferry mafia situated on Long Beach in Pulau Perhentian Kecil offer trips a wide range of quite coves and secluded beaches with enticing names such as sunset beach, romantic beach or turtle beach. These are pretty expensive considering the short distances and menial work involved, but prices are fixed that way and haggling procures little benefit. Talk to your hotel or resort and perhaps a deal can be struck if you club together with a few friends.
Jungle trekking the Perhentian Islands
Both islands have rough tracks crisscrossing between the different beaches and bays which are good for seeing a variety of different flora and fauna. They remain extremely hot and humid all day long and the amount of bugs to battle grows exponentially as the shadows lengthen, so it pays to set off early.
Monitor lizards and huge spiders are a common site between Long Beach and Coral Bay with wild monkeys inhabiting the more isolated areas. On Pulau Perhentian Besar there is a wide trail between Watercolours Paradise and Arwana which takes around half-an-hour and is home to hosts of large termite mounds, fruit bats, monitor lizards and the occasional primate.