Perhentian Islands – Malaysian tropical paradise

The Perhentian Islands are lovely. From Penang you can drive to Kuala Besut and take a 40 minute ride on a speedboat; or take a bus to Kuala Besut; or fly to Kota Baru on Firefly and make your way to Kuala Besut by bus or taxi.

Location of Perhentian Islands

Perhentian Islands

We chose to drive, as detailed in my previous blog – “Road Trip – Penang to the east coast of Malaysia by car” There is a secure parking lot to the left of the Samudera Hotel, and this costs RM7 per day (not per 24 hours or night) – so RM 20 for Monday – Wednesday for us – with RM1 discount.

The story starts on our first morning in Kuala Besut, having endured the night at a local hotel. We had booked a three-day / two-night all-inclusive package at the Bubu Resort. This includes the boat ride to and from the island. Bubu has many packages, which can include a bus from the airport, then the boat, too. Another resort is Shari-la, which we walked past but didn’t enter. However friends of ours stay there and like it. There are many boat companies at the new jetty – which you can’t miss because it is all sparkling new and very orange.

very orange jetty

If you want to go to the islands and have no booking, it is easy enough to book a ride as there are so many agents at the jetty – but you may have to wait until the boat is full until it departs. Bubu has an office at the jetty, and we left our luggage there and it was taken care of until they delivered it to our room at the resort. A few minutes before departure we were ushered to the tax window where we had to pay an “environmental” tax of RM5 per person for up to three days – RM2 for pensioners – which we didn’t bother asking for.

tax details

Then we boarded the boat…

speed boat to island

There were only eight people on our boat, and we were asked to wear life jackets. It wasn’t scary, but the boat ride can be bumpy as they drive quickly,

a bit bumpy

and takes about 35 – 40 minutes to the jetty near the resort.

Bubu Resort from the boat, just before arrival

At the jetty a hotel representative greets you…

view of resort from jetty

and accompanies you to the hotel cafe/restaurant where you are immediately served a welcome drink – non-alcoholic, but nice and not sickly sweet as you often receive in Malaysia and Thailand.

you are presented with a welcome drink

welcome drink and view from cafe / restaurant

The representative then explains about the resort and the activity schedule, and lets you know when your room is ready.

Itinerary for 3 days / 2 nights

As it was about 12:00 noon, we had to wait about an hour before we could take our room, but we just wandered down to the beach.


And then a little later were invited to take possession of our room.

The accommodation block

we were on the third (top) floor

We had requested the top floor as mosquitoes would likely be less of a problem.

room view

The room had a nice view of the resort and beach…

view from room

And what do you know? Lunch was being served, so we wandered down for that.

buffet dinner

You may notice from the time stamp that this photo is actually dinner, and this is because the buffet lunch and buffet dinner on the first day were more or less the same. This is simply what I chose, but of course it is all you wish to eat.  Thereafter we spent some time under the beach umbrellas, and swimming.

beach view

Then it was time for our snorkelling practice near the hotel.  We rented a life jacket, snorkel and mask for RM40 per person (for the duration of our stay), and just wandered down near the jetty to water about neck-deep, and snorkelled with the guide watching over us.

snorkelling near the resort

I found it was not necessary to wear the life jacket – if you just lay in the water you floated anyway, and you could watch the lovely tropical fish on the coral to your heart’s content, just peacefully breathing through the snorkel – you not the fish.  After about 45 minutes we wandered back for afternoon tea – although I was still full from lunch.

Afternoon tea – chocolate pastry, butter biscuits, and some strange fish thing you eat with chilli sauce.

view from restaurant to beach

Then it was back to the deck chairs.  And before you know it is happy hour – cocktails 20% off.  They were pretty popular with the guests.

happy hour cocktails

Some time after this we were escorted to the other side of the island to view the sunset. This was about a 15 minute walk.

walkway across the island

And we viewed the sunset from in front of the Shari-la resort.

sunset walk

almost sunset

The path there is very simple – you’d have to try really hard to get lost. So we walked back before it got dark as there was no lighting.  It was almost dinner time – not that we were really hungry.  As I mentioned, it was pretty much the same as lunch, so see the lunch photo. In case you didn’t buy an all-inclusive deal, there are plenty of eating places in shacks along the beach, and also near Shari-la.  But Bubu was the most upmarket (although Shari-la is similar), and the rest various stages of down-market.  If you eat a-la-carte at Bubu, here is one page of the menu as an idea.

One page of Bubu’s a la carte menu – there are more pages

And this is the restaurant and bar on the beach.

Same place we had welcome drinks, so you can see that photo for the beach view.

Speaking of the bar, the price of drinks  at Bubu was very similar to any other place along the beach, but the atmosphere at Bubu is much nicer.  I saw one kiosk selling beer for RM7, but it had no seating – just the beach. Here is Bubu’s drinks menu…

drinks menu page 1

drinks menu page 2

There is no refrigerator in the room, by the way.

So, that was Day One. Pretty busy, but still plenty of time on the beach and  in the water.

Day Two, I was up before dawn to greet the sun as I usually do anyway.  And to grab the best deck chairs.

sunrise from Bubu’s beach

And then a nice swim.  I discovered that breakfast is probably the best meal – if you like western breakfasts.

my breakfast choice to start – then I went back for more

There were really nice croissants freshly baked, chicken, sausages, bread, jam, fruit and others.  This is the restaurant where all-inclusive patrons eat their meals.

Part of the breakfast buffet, with the egg chef to the left.

Next came the highlight of the holiday – and I have no photos because I was afraid of getting my camera wet, and because I couldn’t photograph underwater anyway. This was a three-hour boat trip to three different points to snorkel and see the sea life. First we were taken near the shore of the other island and snorkelled, and saw many tropical fish – but much of the coral had died.  No currents here, so no life jacket really necessary if you can swim OK, unless you want to play it safe.  Then we were taken to another spot on the coast of the same island, where again we saw fish, and also a shark about four or five feet long. Again no life jacket really necessary for swimmers.  Finally we were taken to a spot between the two islands to see turtles.  Here the current was strong, so wearing a life jacket was advisable. Those turtles sure move fast, but I saw one for a little while.

Back on land, and I was tired, but satisfied. And, it was lunch time.  Lunch was similar to the day before – watermelon, pineapple, chicken, rice, cooked vegetables, salad…  Then back to the deck chairs to relax.

deck chairs and beach umbrellas

Then afternoon tea.

afternoon tea – today cake, samosa and sausage roll

There was another walk to a high spot on the island, but we skipped it in favour of lying on the deck chairs, a bit more snorkelling nearby, and going for a slow walk along the beach and back. Dinner this night was a BBQ, and it was delicious. Fish, prawns, clams, lamb, potato, corn, and skewered vegetables.

delicious BBQ dinner

We opted for a 4PM boat back to the mainland, so as to get an almost full day on the beach, and spent the day swimming, lying on the deck chairs and doing some more snorkelling.

last chance to snorkel

The boat trip back was part of the package, but was a shared boat – which meant the captain picked up people from other places – and involved doing one circuit of the island – which was a bonus. And then back to Kuala Besut and the final adventure – we decided to drive to Kuala Lumpur from there – so took a route we’d never done before from north-east to south-west.

Bubu was great, and the minor complaints patrons had made in the past, such as no soap provided, had been addressed, so management is doing its best to satisfy customers, it seems. Mosquitoes were not much of a problem. The staff were helpful and very friendly. Some of the food was really good. Some was between OK and good. Drink prices were reasonable for Malaysia. Activities were relaxed and fun. We really enjoyed ourselves.


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