After snorkeling in the Maldives and witnessing aquatic life up close and personal, I decided that I need a PADI license so that I can continue exploring the vast world we live in, not only above land but also below land. Fast forward a month or two and I’m en route to Pulau Perhentian Kecil, eagerly waiting to start training for the PADI Open Water certificate – in honour of my birthday as I turned 21 at the beginning of May so decided to treat myself. Perhentian Islands consist of Pulau Perhentian Kecil and Pulau Perhentian Besar which literally translates to Small Island and Big Island, respectively. Pulau Perhentian Besar is frequented by families whereas Pulau Perhentian Kecil is frequented by backpackers but regardless, both islands offer a magnificent marine park housed below the pristine ocean – which, in my opinion, resembles the Maldives slightly. That being said, here’s more information on:
Pulau Perhentian Kecil
How To Get There: You can either fly to Kota Bharu Airport then hire transport to the Kuala Besut Jetty (the drive is around an hour or so) or you can immediately go to the Kuala Besut Jetty via car or bus (the drive is approximately six hours).
Currency: Malaysian Ringgit
What To Expect: Pulau Perhentian Kecil (I know, such a mouthful) offers several beaches but the main stretch of beach is known as Long Beach – this is where you can find a plethora of guesthouses, restaurants, dive centres, and water-related activities. The photo above is of that main stretch so as you can see, even though Long Beach is the most populated beach on the Small Island, it’s still fairly remote and the entire stretch can be walked within half an hour. Speaking of remote, if you’re constantly on your phone then prepare to disconnect as the wifi (and even mobile data) is notoriously horrible. However, the surrounding view(s) is worth the disconnection and the fact that food is more affordable than in Kuala Lumpur is also an added bonus – you definitely can’t find fresh seafood for RM 25 in the city and mind you, the barbecue set includes a drink, baked potato wedges, coleslaw, a portion of rice with your seafood of choice, and dessert (banana cake served with fresh fruits); the only down side to this amazing deal is that the restaurants also serve shark. Once you arrive, you’ll know which restaurants I’m referring to as there is only one area littered with local restaurants and although the dinner experience is enjoyable, during the day, the restaurants don’t perform – most food is mediocre and the service takes forever… If you’re more into Western food then visit Oh La La Restaurant in the evening for delicious food that is still affordable – I devoured their baked potato wedges served with four different sauces and have to say that those wedges were the best I’ve eaten in aeons!
Additional Information: The island is without an ATM or clinic so bring a sufficient amount of money and, just in case, bring medicine. Besides that, if you have the time and energy, I’d suggest hiking to the other side of the Small Island – the entrance is the pathway before Bubu Villa, literally, and if you’re unsure, do ask as that’s what I did. Once you’re along the path, there is a faded brick road that will lead you to the starting point of the hike but although the beginning of the trail is well maintained, the pathway does disappear at certain points due to damage. Sadly, we didn’t complete the hike due to time constraints but nonetheless, the experience was beautiful.
Price: Accommodation ranges from budget backpacker to luxurious traveler whereas food can be found for less than RM 50 per meal, inclusive of drinks, (and even then, the cost of a large pizza at Oh La La is RM 30) unless you decide to eat at the high-end hotels. As for activities, most snorkeling or island-hopping trips cost RM 50 to RM 75, with the most expensive being RM 100 per person but don’t choose those packages as you’re being ripped off.
Other Recommendations: If you’re interested in diving then I’d recommend getting PADI certified in Pulau Perhentian (either Kecil or Besar) as the marine park is a vibrant underwater haven; for those who are PADI certified, there are three shipwrecks to explore, with one ship originating from the Vietnam war era. There are numerous dive centres scattered along the beach but as I chose Angel Diver, I’d naturally recommend Angel Diver – the centre caters to foreigners, offering instructors fluent in French, Spanish, German, and more; most dive centres also offer packages inclusive of accommodation so you’ll definitely find a price suitable for your budget (or lack thereof). Besides that, snorkeling is highly recommended as when else can you swim with turtles and sharks for less than RM 100 in crystal clear waters?