Pulau Perhentian: Paradise in Malaysia

If this looks good above the water, imagine under

Getting to Pulau Perhentian Kecil was proving to be interesting already: it was the third time in the past 30 minutes that the taxi driver had pulled over on the busy road from Kota Bahru to Kuala Besut on our way there.

“Are you ok?” we asked.

“Yes, yes.” he replied, “ Me a little ..hmmm…sleepy. Yes , me sleepy”.

Oh boy.

We made it though, no scares at all (almost) and the speedboat to Perhentian Kecil was due on time. This was good news, after having endured a long trip the day before from Taman Negara to Kota Bahru in NE Malaysia. The 10 hour ride in the Jungle Railway had been smooth and comfortable in the air conditioned second class car- only 2 Ringit more expensive than the tourist car. Some travelers have said that the trip is quite annoying, but in my opinion as long as your seat has a clean window you are in for a nice ride.

The speedboat to Perhentian Kecil is fast- very fast. After 30 minutes of skimming and jumping over the waves we reached the southern tip of the island- and it is breathtaking. Crystal clear turquoise waters surround a jungle covered island where life is not what you and I are used to. We dropped our stuff in our quite basic bungalow at D’Lagoon (60 Ringit/ night, north side of the island), I jumped into my trunks and ran into the water. It felt SO good to be in what I considered what was one of the best beaches in Malaysia.

Smooth sea

A few minutes later I grabbed my snorkeling gear and went for a quick dive- but it’s impossible. Just a few seconds after dipping my head underwater I found out why this is one of the top 10 diving spots in the world; within 100 m of the beach you enter a different universe, one where colorful life surrounds you in every direction: schools of Napoleon fish half as big as myself mingle with all sorts of smaller rainbow colored cousins; clown fish leave the sea anemone behind not to welcome you but to defend their home, despite being no bigger than my index finger and looking rather friendly, and small reef sharks swim around pretending they are no threat to the smaller groupers that hide in the coral reef. It is worth mentioning that I have snorkeled in a few places around the world like the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Florida, Cancun, the Mediterranean or Indonesia, and none of them had as much life as the Perhentians.

D'Lagoon at Pulau Perhentian Kecil

We spent 3 days here doing little else other than eating, sleeping, snorkeling and sunbathing and left the island with a nice tan and even nicer underwater memories (pity we had no underwater camera-make sure you don’t make this mistake), but not as nice bed bug bites. As a final note I want to say that these islands are not very cheap, so do not expect good deals, but I highly recommend you stop by for 4 days or so if only for the snorkeling. We certainly enjoyed our stay and am sure you will too!

Cherating accomodation

The next stop was Cherating, a sleepy beach town about 300km south of the Perhentians. The small village is a good place to relax and do nothing, although monsoon season does make it a surf spot. Locals are very friendly and accommodation is good value, and I left with an easy but great recipe for my future hamburgers, courtesy of a charming street post vendor.

How familiar are you with these islands in Malaysia? What do the pictures inspire you? Of all the places, islands and beaches you have seen around the world, which would YOU call paradise? Share your thoughts below, and this post too if you liked it!

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