Between the countries of Southeast Asia lie countless small islands some of which are great places to visit.
There are those that have more facilities than others but almost all the ‘tourist destination’ islands offer interesting and unusual holiday experiences. One such island is called Perhentian Island and is situated 10 miles off the north-eastern cost of West Malaysia lying 40 miles south of Thai border.
For hundreds of years traders bringing food, jewellery and a host of other exotic merchandise sailed from the south coast of Malaysia to Bangkok and used the island as a stopping off point for rest and shelter. As the island became more popular among traders they called it Perhentian Island which translates as
“place to stop”.
Perhentian is in fact a group of islands consisting of Perhentian Besar, Perhentian Kecil, Serenggeh Island, Rawa Island, Susu Dara Besar Island and Susu Dara Kecil; the two main islands however are Perhentian Besar (“Big Perhentian”) and Perhentian Kecil (“Small Perhentian”).
Perhentian Besar Island is covered with virgin tropical jungle and has astounding under water scenery while Perhentian Kecil is claimed to be one of the best beaches in the world for travellers who simply like to enjoy life on a beach all day long. I started my journey from Kuala Lumpur flying 45 minutes to Kuala Terengganu where I took a 30 minute speedboat to reach this fascinating island and its laid-back atmosphere and natural beauty.
First arriving on the island you are immediately impressed by the scenery. The natural beauty of this captivating island stretches as far as the eye can see and remains as untouched as it was when the island first became a stopover for the traders all those years ago.There are only a few resorts on the island but all seem to be developed to live in harmony with nature. Of course you won’t find museums, monuments, malls or any other places of such interest on the islands, but who needs it with white sandy beaches, clear blue water and fringed by rolling, jungle covered hills make the views from the beaches stunning.
In this alluring island you won’t find any roads so to get around the island you walk on the beach, take a sea taxi or walk on the footpaths that cut through the jungle. If you are as lucky you will come across some of the island’s wildlife including mouse deer, monitor lizards, monkeys and fruits bats.
Being at one with nature continues underwater and only a few steps away from the beach you’ll find an astounding array of coral and fish. Perhentian Island is known as home for a number of different types of sea turtle including the leatherback, the largest turtle in the world, with a length of up to 2 meters and weighing as much as 900 kg. This is also home to numerous species of shark none of which are dangerous unless provoked. Lesson one: do not poke a shark in the eye.
You don’t need to know how to dive to be able to explore the underwater world of the island as the most interesting sea life live only a few meters away from the beach around the islands and some of the best snorkelling spots are Teluk Pauh, Shark Point and Tanjung Basi. If you are traveling with family, the best spot would be at the south-west of the island where the water is shallow and, not fronting any of the chalets, the coral is more abundant and colorful. The natural setting of Perhentian is probably amongst the finest in the world. It is easy to understand why thousands of tourist flock to the island every year to enjoy outdoor activities such as snorkeling, diving, fishing and jungle trekking. It should be noted that it is advisable to travel between early March or April until late October, outside this period the sea tends to be very rough, with poor visibility and with currents that make swimming hazardous. Most hotels are closed during this period.