Nature Escapes

Perhentian Island (Pulau Perhentian)

"A Slice of Tropical Paradise"

Perhentian Island is known for harbouring several centuries worth of storm-avoiding fishermen, traders from India and China, and bands of wayward pirates. Today these islands protect you from stress and remain my favorite island destination recommendation for visitors coming to the tropics.

And as one travel guidebook puts it, these isles, just twenty kilometres off the mainland, are "textbook tropical paradises." Beautiful half-moon beaches and excellent diving mixed with a laidback equatorial atmosphere make these islands an instant favorite for most visitors.

There are two islands. The Big Island, covered with forests, retains a more low-key and family feel, while the Little Island swings with a younger beat of backpackers and cheap chalets nested along the gorgeous Long Beach (Pasir Panjang):

  • Pulau Perhentian Besar (Big Island)
  • Pulau Perhentian Kecil (Little Island)

Getting to either island is only a short taxi boat ride away, so stay where you want and explore the sister islands of Perhentian.

Bigger tropical isles like Tioman Island and Langkawi Island offer all the conveniences (ATMs, phones, Internet access) of tourist havens, but Perhentian maintains a slower pace and fewer facilities to keep stress away.

Natural Things To Do

Perhentian Island Map

Perhentian Island

Map Courtesy of Tuna Bay Resort

Perhentian Island: Nature Activities

Perhentian Island

Tropical Beaches

For a real beach holiday without the frills, nothing beats a rejuvenating trip to these gems of the South China Sea. Even the Lonely Planet guidebook boasts of "crystal-clear aquamarine water and white sand beaches" that are "among Malaysia's biggest tourist attractions."

Long Beach-Pasir Panjang (P.Kecil) - Chock-full of chalets fronting a lingering stretch of endless white sand, Long Beach continues to be the most popular destination. Enjoy more cafe style dining as restaurants are few and buy basic snack items at the shops. Snorkelling from the shoreline is easy on the north end of the beach.
Coral Bay-Teluk Aur (P.Kecil) - A smaller and less busy beach, Coral Bay is an nice alternative to enjoy good corals nearby and even better sunsets from the western side of the Perhentian Kecil. And it's only a 10 minute walk across to reach the action at Long Beach.
Western Beach-Teluk Puah (P.Besar) - As the main beachfront, chalets, resorts, restaurants and dive shops leapfrog each other from the jetties at the south tip to Teluk Puah at the north end. Only a few places have good coral viewing from the shore, but it's easy to join a snorkelling trip around the island from most chalets. Walk over to Teluk Puah for excellent marine life and corals in the isolated bay in front of Perhentian Island Resort.
Southern Beach-Teluk Dalam (P.Besar) - Away from the main strip, the Teluk Dalam offers basic accommodation and a more quiet atmosphere next to a crescent-shaped beach full of sunshine and powdery sand. Snorkelling off the beach is ok or you can join a diving trip to some outer islands and sites. And you can choose among a few restaurants within the bay. A one-hour jungle trek crosses the island to the west coast.

Diving & Snorkelling

One of the best features of Perhentian Island is that both beginners and veterans can enjoy the diverse marine biodiversity living amongst coral reefs, encrusted boulders and the open waters of the South China sea. triggerfish

For novices, the chance to wander off the beach into a magical underworld of striped reef fish, hard and soft coral species and even the occassional green turtle is not to be missed.

Or join a snorkelling boat tour and cruise around the island to several hot spots to view staghorn and table corals, sea anemones, sea clams and a canvas of parrotfish, damselfish, triggerfish, butterflyfish, clownfish and more.

For divers there are over two-dozen sites to explore and most dive shops offer introductory courses and PADI training. With visibility up to 20 meters, some popular sites include a pinnacle jutting from the sea floor, wreckage from cargo ships and ample coral reefs. At each dive encounter a stunning array of sea life from fan and whip corals, sharks and whale sharks, moray eels and barracudas, to nudibranches and sea cucumbers.

Jungle Trekking

Pristine rainforest largely untouched covers the interior of the Pulau Perhentian Besar for some good jungle trekking. With patience and persistence spotting wildlife living in the treetops, forest floor and other habitats delights each forest trekker. Perhentian Map
Photo: M. Jaroski Creative Commons

The hilly terrain, overgrown trails and tropic heat present a challenge but the rewards come in the form of monitor lizards cruising the jungle, flying lemurs clinging to tree trunks, resting flying foxes hanging like tropical fruit, spectacled leaf-monkeys staring back, and shamas, sunbirds and warblers flittering about the forest understory.

The best jungle trails start from behind Perhentian Island Resort and crosses the island to Teluk Dalam. Always ask about trail conditions and direction markers first or go with a nature guide.

Trail #1 - Spend an hour walking the trails behind the Perhentian Island Resort on a self-guide tour to view snakes, birds and insects.
Trail #2 - The cross island trail takes about 2 hours and provides a good introduction to rainforest ecology. A bit strenuous on hilly sections and scrambling over dense vegetation. Enter or exit from Teluk Dalam or Teluk Puah or continue to Trail #3 to return to the western beaches by foot or boat taxi. [For a review, read this trekking account]
Trail #3 - Crossing the island from Teluk Dalam to the western beaches, the trail rises over a forested hill, usually with dense underbrush. Be prepared to spend at least an hour to navigate the terrain and observe wildlife.

Forests on Pulau Perhentian Kecil were replaced by durians, mangoes and rubber trees to support the small fishing community on the island. This provides easy footpaths for walking across the island or along trails that parallel the coastline.

Turtle Conservation

The annual arrival of sea turtles emerging on Malaysian beaches is a marvellous spectacle of nature. Hundreds of green and hawksbill turtles that once nested on Perhentian Island are now dwindling to levels that cause concern among conservationists. Hawksbill Turtle
Photo: Aquaimages Creative Commons

To aid sea turtle populations, the Department of Fisheries sets up turtle hatcheries on selected beaches to protect traditional nesting habitats and increase survival rates for hatchlings.

Check with Marine Park officials and chalet operators to join in on watching turtle nesting activities or volunteering for special conservation programs during the nesting season from April to September.

Each visitor to Perhentian pays a "conservation fee" of RM5 that goes toward saving endangered species. So take the opportunity to become aware about the plight of sea turtles, the impact of eating turtle eggs and how buying souvenirs made from turtle shells contributes to their decline.

Perhentian Island: Hotels & Accommodations

Resorts and chalets are available on nearly all the main bays and beaches. It really depends on what kind of creature comforts you desire versus sticking to a budget. Choose either the Big Island or Small Island, depending on which atmosphere you prefer, and enjoy living in a tropical paradise for a few days.

Perhentian Island Resort (Perhentian Besar)

Fronted by white sandy beaches and turquoise waters filled with coral gardens and reef fish, Perhentian Island Resort is the perfect island vacation. Perhentian

With picturesque rainforest scenery and jungle trails, the resort offers a relaxing time for couples and families.

Try out activities such as diving, snorkelling and kayaking for a great way to spend time together. Discover beautiful coral reefs with an amazing display of marine life and even sea turtles to give kids and adults a unique nature experience.

Hike the adjacent jungle trails to view rainforest animals or just hang out on the bay and soak up the sunshine.

Check prices and book your holiday at Perhentian Island Resort

Mohsin Chalets (Perhentian Kecil)

On a hillside overlooking the fantastic bay of Long Beach, the Mohsin Chalets are a cozy combination of 25 basic chalets and one dormitory. Perhentian Island

A prime location to enjoy a sea breeze and the panoramic sunrises that greet guests each morning, the Long Beach lagoon is only a 5 minute walk away.

Located in the hub of diving in Perhentian Island, look for its well known blue roofs from the seaside below and enjoy a choice of standard rooms with fans or air-conditioning.

Chalets are designed in typical kampung style with a different flavor to every room and its own panoramic view from all angles.

Internet access at the Tummy Rumbles Restaurant keeps you in touch with the world, if you really have to check in.

Check prices and book your holiday at Mohsin Chalets

Senja Bay Resort (Perhentian Kecil)

Traditional wooden buildings nestled on the hillslope between the blue sea of Coral Bay and the green jungle, Senja Bay is built on three distinct levels connected by wooden walkway, bridges and staircases. Perhentian hotel

Overlooking a peaceful and quiet beach, the resort is perfect for couples, honeymooners and families looking for a holiday away from the hustle and bustle of popular hangouts.

Lush tropical rainforest and landscaped grounds adjacent to the beach create a romantic, peaceful and exotic atmosphere for total relaxation and calm and tranquility with spectacular sunsets.

For nature loves, the virgin jungle harbors reticulated phythons, pit vipers, tokay gheckos and red tailed squirrels. And for water lovers, the dive shop offers divers and snorkellers to experience the thrill of seeing manta rays, reef tip sharks, green turtles, colourful fishes and coral gardens at the island.

Check prices and book your holiday at Senja Bay Resort

Perhentian Island: Getting There

The Perhentian Islands are located 25km away from the jetty at Kuala Besut (Terengganu) or Tok Bali (Kelantan) on the east coast of Peninsula Malaysia. The advantages of using Kuala Besut relate to more boats, better facilities and easier access by taxi.

Speedboats and Ferries

If the sea is rough you can be assured of a bumpy ride and you may even get wet. You may need to disembark in shallow water if there is no jetty at your beach, so dress (and pack) accordingly.

  • Speedboats cost RM 70 return (RM 40 one way) and depart usually three to five times per day. (Kuala Besut 9:00am to 2:00pm; Tok Bali 7:00 am to 2:00pm)
  • Boats will drop you off at the resort or beach of your choice and the trip takes 30-45 minutes.
  • Be prepared if rough seas make it difficult to dock and passengers may need to walk in shallow water to beachhead.

Train and Taxi

Take the Wau Express train from Kuala Lumpur that terminates at Tumpat. This overnight ride combines easy travelling with a glimpse of the Malaysian countryside. Be sure to purchase a ticket only to Pasir Mas or Tanah Merah where taxis are easily available to reach Kuala Besut.

By Road

Travel by overnight bus departing from Kuala Lumpur to reach Kuala Besut the next morning (8-9 hours). Be sure to use companies that arrive only 10 minutes walk from the jetty.

Other buses going to Kota Bharu allow passengers to get off in Jerteh, only 15km from Kuala Besut. Grab a taxi to the jetty.

Self-drive from Kuala Lumpur:

  • Take the East Coast Expressway towards Kuantan and go north on the coastal road to Kuala Terengganu.
  • From Kuala Terengganu, take the highway to Jerteh and Kuala Besut.
  • Travelling time should be 7-9 hours.

By Flight

Fly with Malaysia Airline, Air Asia or Firefly from Kuala Lumpur to either Kuala Terengganu or Kota Bharu (45minutes). Take a bus or taxi to Kuala Besut jetty with the journey to reach in about 1.5 hours from either airport.

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