Kuala Terengganu: Perhentian Island

 

“Are you a beach person?”

In one random conversation, someone had asked me this question which I quickly, without any further hesitation replied with a solid “YES.” This person then continued to ask me how many times a month do I go out to the beach since it’s in my genes. When I answered “Erm.. maybe three times a year?” He shook his head and asked me how is it that I only go to the beach three times a year when I’m a beach person? In other words “Are you really a beach person?” I was slightly offended only because I knew it was true and that I hardly go to the beaches that can be found in Malaysia let alone around the world for the sole reason that the good ones were located outside of Kuala Lumpur which was just too far to drive out.

That was an excuse really. Malaysia has abundance in beautiful beaches around its’ coastline from north, south to the east side of Peninsular as well as the far east of Borneo. These are all accessible via car, trains, buses, boats and airplanes. I had wanted to do a beach year a few years back but that was dampened with the busy work schedule. However one of the islands that I managed to go to for two years in a row was the Perhentian Islands in Terengganu, invited by my colleague who told me the place was so beautiful and so very blue I had to see it for myself.

Traveling across Malaysia to the far upper east side.

Since this was a budget trip we decided to take the bus out to the East Coast, a journey that took 6-7 hours at night from Kuala Lumpur Putra Bus Station. The price as I recalled was RM40 per person and we could sleep while the bus headed out to to Terengganu. As it was my first time to the island, I had packed too much and brought a difficult carry-on bag that I ditched for the second trip. Always carry a light travel bag pack or a bag that is water resistant or has a plastic cover as it’s easy to carry around the island when your arrive there.

After what seemed to be like hours, we finally arrived in Kuala Besut to wait for our boat out to the islands. Since it was still early, we had breakfast at one of the local stalls, eating nasi lemak and mee goreng at 5 am before the boat arrived. The cost of food in the east is way cheaper than in Kuala Lumpur. However the prices on the island were mostly tourists prices due to the popularity of it amongst foreigners.

We headed to the taxi counter where a man told us that a taxi fare to the jetty cost RM78 (1 way) + a boat to and from the island costs RM70 (for both ways). So we got those tickets and grabbed a taxi straight away since we have only 1 hour to get ourselves to the boat! The pakcik drove quite fast but we were too tired so we dozed off during the ride & when we woke up we arrived at Symphony Travel office which was recommended by Lonely Planet. We registered ourselves and another pakcik took us to the jetty where we had to pay another RM3 for conservatory work.. Phew after all that, we’re finally off in our life jackets!

1) Bus Options to Kuala Besut, Terengganu here.
2) Boat options from Kuala Besut Pier to Perhentian Island here.

Look out for this office to get your boat tickets to the island.

Look out for this office to get your boat tickets to the island.

 

Perhentian Besar or Perhentian Kecil?

Perhentian in English means ‘stopping point’ with two main islands, Pulau Perhentian Besar (Big Perhentian Island) and Pulau Perhentian Kecil (Small Perhentian Island). When the boat took us to the big island, we saw many families with children and resorts that catered to a bigger group. There didn’t seem to be many bars or young adults here and we realized that this was not our stop. The boat then took us to the small island where we saw bars, shacks and small boats parked away from the coastline. This looked more like our kind of beach.

The boatman stopped the boat a few meters out from the shore and we all stood there asking him “Turun dari sini?” (We go down from here?). He said yes and this was when I realized that anyone who decided to bring along their trolley bag was in for trouble. The water was only knee deep and if you brought a backpack it would definitely be easier as you would only need to jump off the boat and walk to the shore. If your bag was heavy then it will be a lot of trouble as from the shore you had to walk up the sandy beach in the sunny weather and by that time you would already feel tired.

Pulau Perhentian Besar stop (big island) with private chalets and quiet surrounding.

Pulau Perhentian Besar stop (big island) with private chalets and quiet surrounding.

Pulau Perhentian Kecil (small island) with plenty of bars and beach restaurants.

Pulau Perhentian Kecil (small island) with plenty of bars and beach restaurants.

 

Fancy sleeping on the beach?

For your information, the only hotel that we could book from Kuala Lumpur was Bubu Long Beach resort and the price was really expensive. When we called other hotels they said that they don’t do pre-booking and it’s better to show up on the island to ask for the rooms. We decided to give it a go but when we got there, most of the places were fully booked and we had no choice but to put up a night at the expensive hotel (RM350 a night) and changed to another cheaper hotel the next day. No doubt Bubu Long Beach resort has a nice beach front with deck chairs and gorgeous view even for that price. The rooms were clean had air conditioning, proper shower and came with breakfast. While the other hotel we stayed in didn’t really have a working air condition, was very far from the beach line and restaurants.

Besides Bubu Long Beach Resort, you could look into these hotels too:

The view from Bubu Long Beach Resort.

The view from Bubu Long Beach Resort.

 

Other perks of Perhentian Island.

This small Perhentian Island has plenty of activities for those who seek water adventures or relaxation (although I didn’t see any spa or massage services around while we were there). The days were spent on the beach either in the waters, getting tanned from the sun, hiking up the nature trail behind the chalets or strolling to the other beach front (Coral Bay) from Long Island. Coral Bay was much more quieter while Long Island is often buzzing with activities. Local and western food are available on the island, sometimes served by foreigners who take up this part time job while deciding on their next stop.

We also saw divers boat parked in the sea while divers from the chalet beside the hotel walk towards it, all wrapped up in their suits, carrying with them the oxygen tanks. We had also tried island hopping to smaller islands such as Rawa which belonged to a protected marine park. I remembered when our new friend from Germany dove into the waters to observe the happy swimming turtles. Getting a boat for island hopping could cost you quite a lot unless you negotiate with the boatman and get 5-10 people to share the cost with you.

Other activities we tried and which you can look forward to:

  • Snorkeling with the pretty fishes.
  • Visiting the turtle incubation area. No bringing them back though.
  • Taking a super cold shower from a spring mountain
  • Swimming with baby sharks.
A normal scene on the shores of Pulau Perhentian.

A normal scene on the shores of Pulau Perhentian.

Snorkeling off the boat during island hopping.

Snorkeling off the boat during island hopping.

The beautiful Pulau Lang Tengah.

The beautiful Pulau Lang Tengah.

Taking a quick super cold shower at Telaga Air Berani on Pulau Perhentian Besar.

Taking a quick super cold shower at Telaga Air Berani on Pulau Perhentian Besar.

 

When the sun sets and the dark night appears.

At night, tourists as well as locals would go out to the bars along the beach front where it’s dark except for the lights coming out from these places. We hung out at one of the stalls called “Sharky bar” and ordered drinks. Here we met other tourists, mostly backpackers who joined our group and together we watched the fire performance by one of the island guy. We exchanged stories as some of them were from UK, Australia, Italy and found Perhentian to be a nice and laid back beach before they went off to other parts of Malaysia. It’s good to know first hand positive feedback from our fellow tourists and I hope that this beach is able to maintain its natural surrounding for years to come.

A Sharky bar with small tables and mats for drinks at the beach side.

A Sharky bar with small tables and mats for drinks at the beach side.

Watch a fiery performance from the local island man.

Watch a fiery performance from the local island man.

About Yafieda Jamil

A Malaysian girl currently working abroad in Phnom Penh city. I love a good road trip, hot cappuccinos, spicy food and staring at old buildings. My mission is to inspire people to see the world differently before we all get any older. Oh and giraffes are the most beautiful creatures on earth.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *