Snorkeling on the Perhentian Islands

I’m the first to admit that I tend to be a little critical when it comes to what defines the perfect tropical island. I’ve been to some which have just disappointed me beyond measure, and I’ve come across others I thought would be impossible to beat. Here I am writing this from the Perhentians, and I just don’t think it’s possible to top this.

Getting to Perhentian Kecil (the smaller of the 2 Perhentian Islands) wasn’t an enjoyable experience, however. It involved 2 buses – the first from Melaka to KL, and then KL to Kuala Besut (the home of the jetty, from which you’ll board a ferry to the island). Both bus trips went according to schedule, but sleep was lost on me thanks to a delightful Malaysian woman who could burp (yes, burp) on demand, every 10 minutes. Just when you thought you’d be able to sleep, she let loose this sound from her stomach that would quite honestly, wake the dead.


The monsoon season has just ended on the east coast of Malaysia (during the monsoon, the Perhentians are closed). As a result of this, the seas are incredibly rough. It was touch and go to catch a ferry here in the first place as there was talk about the authorities shutting the jetty as the sea was too rough. Somehow, my boat company (Mr Zaha – that’s literally all I know of him and his business – just his name) somehow got a boat out. What a ride! I’ll be serious – I can take airplane turbulence any day of the week, I actually enjoy it, but I can’t do rough seas. Every time the hull of the boat smacked the ocean surface after a particularly violent wave, I had visions of said hull splitting in half, thus requiring me to swim to shore (which, let’s be serious, I’ve missed way too many arm days at gym to ensure a safe arrival).


Nonetheless, we made it safely to the island. I had booked to stay in an awesome bungalow on its own beach, which meant I had to disembark the ferry and climb onto another effing boat, whilst at sea (I can’t make this shit up). Despite all that could have gone wrong, I made it there safely, with dry luggage!

I stayed in 3 different places whilst on the island as I’d initially only planned on spending 2 nights here, but fell in love with the place so I decided to extend my stay. This necessitated me booking different accommodation, as surprisingly, being just the start of the season, many places were already fully booked. Generally, accommodation is accommodation and so long as it’s clean, safe, cheap and in a good location, I am not too concerned about anything else. Two of the three places I stayed in were, however, an excellent experience and I feel compelled to tell you about them should you ever book a trip here.


The first was called Keranji Beach. It offers bungalow style accommodation on its own private beach. The beach is a 30 minute walk from one of the 2 main beaches (Coral Beach) and you can’t help but get the feeling your bungalow was carved out of the jungle. The one I stayed in was literally built into the sea sand and during high tide, you can hear the water below the bungalow – made for the best sleep I have ever had! There’s no need to leave the beach as there’s a small restaurant on the property the provides great food at good prices. I was really blown away by Keranji.


My bungalow on Keranji Beach.


The second place worthy of a mention is called Butterfly. It’s a DIY hostel, which means you pretty much do everything yourself. They aren’t online or registered through any booking website. You just go up to a whiteboard at the entrance to the property and see when the next bungalow is available and write your name down. Then when check in comes around, you literally go up to the bungalow and find the key in the door, waiting for you. How cool is that? Payment is just as relaxed.


The reservation syatem at Butterfly.


My view from my bungalow at Butterfly. This is what R150 a night buys you!

How did I spend 6 days here? 

A lot of snorkeling. I can’t believe that one of my biggest expenses these days is sun cream!  I’ve never snorkeled before so this blew my mind! I know Malaysia is popular for its marine life and I can see why – such massive, colorful varieties of fish. It was incredible. I saw a turtle and a shark (the safe kind) – apparently that’s a big thing in the world of snorkeling? I had good reasons for leaving my GoPro behind, but I wished I had it with me the entire time!


When I wasn’t being roasted to a crisp, the island has a great jungle walk around a fair chunk of it and I found myself exploring a lot of that. It feels to me that there are isolated pockets of human life on the Perhentians but the vast majority of it is untamed jungle, which looks so cool! The number of times I’ve stumbled upon Iguanas and a host of other reptiles on the paths around here is huge.


The Perhentians are still very much a jungle.

There was a mini crisis one day when I couldn’t find beer – the rough seas seemed to have disrupted supplies from the mainland and that thought terrified me. Fortunately, I made mates with a shop owner who had a secret stash and we negotiated a deal!


Crisis averted!

A lot of people seem to overlook Malaysia as a holiday destination, or decide not to include it in their backpacking itinerary and for the life of me, I don’t understand why? This country is easily one of the most diverse I’ve come across and up until now, has some of the best islands I’ve seen (I am guarded saying this as Indonesia is next on my list, along with the Philippines). I’d go so far as to say this island may be one of the more affordable ones I’ve been to too. Hell, a 5 and a half hour snorkeling trip cost ZAR120!


The view from my walk from Coral Beach to Long Beach.

OK folks, that’s enough from me sounding like an excited school boy about the islands. Sadly, I have to leave tomorrow and start making my way to Malaysian Borneo.


7 thoughts on “Snorkeling on the Perhentian Islands

  1. We love the beer crisis, as you can imagine. We wish you had your Go Pro to see the snorkeling and compare to Pandan Island, Philippines… But you definitely convinced us on Malaysia !!!

  2. Plotting early retirement,no doubt.Keranji Beach-internet tucked behind beach-slops and a red towel. Have just noted what appears to be more than ample space for the wayfarer!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s