Malaysia’s Perhentian Islands in the South China Sea, around ten miles off the northeastern coast of western Malaysia and just forty miles south of the border with neighbouring Thailand, offer that picture perfect image of paradise you may have dreamt about – endless stretches of fine white sand, clear blue sea and an equally blue sky overhead. Coral, sea turtles, jellyfish and small sharks all call the reef around the islands home, and it is easy to see why so many people – both foreign tourists and Malays alike – come here to relax.
Between the two main islands, Perhentian Besar meaning ‘big Perhentian’ and Perhentian Kecil meaning ‘small Perhentian, and the even smaller, uninhabited islands Susu Dara, Serenggeh and Rawa, this is an area of indisputably outstanding natural beauty that in the most part is well protected thanks to being designed part of the Pulau Redang National Marine Park. This makes littering, fishing and coral collection all illegal. Other than a communications tower on each island, there are no structures with more than two floors, only further adding to the natural beauty of the islands.
So where to stay? Accommodation is generally aimed at budget travellers which is good news for those wanting to keep costs down. There are, though, more and more top end options springing up should you wish to splash out for a more indulgent experience.
Flora Bay Resort, on the larger Perhentian Besar island, is set in the middle of the unspoilt white sand beach at Teluk Dalam, with a southern facing position that affords views of Lang Tengah, Redang and other nearby islands – there are certainly worse views to wake up to! Rooms are just a few steps from the lapping waves and, like the majority of resorts on the Perhentian Islands in high season, enjoy a twenty four hour electricity supply.
Tuna Bay Resort offers beachfront wooden cabins shaded by coconut palms, some practically within touching distance of the sea and others further back with an equally stunning jungle backdrop. Air conditioning, covered terraces and tasteful bamboo furniture offer additional comfort.
Bubu Resort on Long Beach, on the smaller Perhentian Kecil island, boasts the luxurious Grape Tree Spa, where you can really make the most of your time away on the Perhentians and enjoy indulgent spa treatments from Thai and Swedish massages through to aromatherapy, foot reflexology, cucumber aloe vera face and body wraps and waxing treatments – all to the backdrop of the soothing lap of waves on the white coral sand on the beach beside your spa bed. How much bliss can you ask for?
At Bubu Resort, accommodation ranges from the luxurious honeymoon room with its romantic ambience, exotic style furniture and unobstructed views of the beach and sea, through to deluxe rooms boasting either garden views, head on sea views or side views of the sea and beach.
The Perhentians are well known as a scuba diving destination, and all of these resorts can set you up for a good day or more of diving, as well as snorkelling and other activities. The coral reefs off of the Perhentian islands boast a blend of hard coral species with patches of soft coral and boulder sponges; the whole area teems with colourful underwater life, and the crystal clear waters offer amazing underwater scenes and excellent visibility. Dive sites are accessible and it is easy to get out and witness them yourself.
Though fishing is not allowed on the Perhentian islands themselves, deep sea fishing trips to go further afield can be arranged from the islands. In addition, there are plenty of secluded islands and quiet coves to explore, entirely untouched to date, and Turtle Beach is also worth a visit to see the hawksbill turtles that come to nest here. The work of the conservationists on this beach is invaluable in helping to incubate the delicate eggs of these turtles, before releasing them several days later with far more of a chance of survival – and replenishment of the ever dwindling turtle population in this area – than they would have had otherwise.
On land, if you can tear yourself away from the beach then you shouldn’t miss the chance to head off on a trek of the jungle interior – the scenery is beyond rewarding and worth a visit to the Perhentians in itself.
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