Perhentian

The fish are biting – unfortunately, it’s me they’re biting – a trip to the Perhentian Islands, May 2018 – (Countdown: 14 )

OK, this is my fifth annual trip to the Perhentian Islands.  I’ve got to say something different, or there’s no point.

So, what’s new?

heading east

Firstly, this time we drove.  If you have a car this is the easiest option. It’s good for the car to get a bit of a drive – usually I either catch Grab, or drive very short distances.  Leaving Saturday morning at 6.45AM from Pulau Tikus meant a lot of traffic once over the bridge.   Better to leave on a Sunday or say, 6AM.  It’ll be light once you reach the end of the motorway.  Thus it took an extra 30 minutes driving to get to Kuala Besut – the departure point for boats to Perhentian.  That is, this time it took six hours – with stop for coffee and a detour due to road blockage for an election parade at Machang.  Alternatively you could fly to Kota Baru and catch a taxi or bus, or catch a bus from Penang. All involve more baggage handling than simply driving, and take more or less the same amount of time.

360m kilometres – with diversion. 359 on the way back.

Before you enter the wharf you have to pay the marine park fee.  If you are over 55 you can pay the senior fee, which is half the regular fee. RM15.

speedboat to the island. RM35 one way – no set time for departures – just when there are enough people

For many resorts you catch a speedboat from the wharf.  Tuna Bay resort has its own larger boat – it’s much slower, but smoother.  This time it was the roughest I’ve ever experienced on the speedboat and the boat bounced so much I was injured.  We boarded last, which meant we were closest to the bow – where it was worst.  Try to stay near the stern if it’s rough, and find something soft to sit on – a backpack with clothes in it, a spare life jacket etc.

water taxi routes and prices from Mamas on the big island

While discussing transport, this time we used the water taxis a lot.  Walking through the jungle one way is OK, but by then you’re hot and sticky – it’s just easier – and far quicker – to catch a boat back.

boat to the village

We caught a water taxi over to the Malay village on the small island so we could walk around the island.

the village mosque in the distance, and to the left the wharf

the beach to the left of the village

We started off anti-clockwise, heading through the village and past the mosque and over the bridge – the same way we went last year.

the start of the walk

the start of the walk – so far the path is good

Then we continued on in the direction of Long Beach.

the path deteriorated

sometimes it was under water

mostly the path was overgrown

It was hot and sticky going.  A few mosquitoes. We kept moving to avoid bugs as much as possible.  As we approached Long Beach there was the option of continuing along the path, or scrambling over some rocks  – we tried the latter, but it was very tough and slow going, so we returned to the path.  Thus we wasted about 15 minutes.  It looked like the path would continue around the back of Long Beach so we took a shortcut through a resort.  Excluding our rock scrambling, the walk was about one hour.

Once near the beach we took a shortcut through a new resort

Long Beach

Long Beach

But by the time we’d reached Long Beach we abandoned our plans to walk around the island – we were hot, sticky, thirsty, and tired.  The paths were just not good enough or well maintained enough for our liking.  We drank, swam, and then caught a water taxi back to the big island.  Shoes were a better choice than flip-flops.  No need to take anything, as it’s only an hour.  But you do need flip-flops for boarding the water taxi, so you need a day pack to carry them when you’re walking.

Now, those biting fish –

lots of fish

some living coral

A couple of times I was bothered by fish nipping at my shoulder or ankles while snorkeling over the reef.  I just moved on.  I find it better to keep moving, too, rather than staying in one spot.

Still on the biting thing, we walked around to the Perhentian Island Resort. It’s got a beautiful beach and lovely soft sand.  But swimming there little biting things seemed to be annoying me in the water.  The same as last year. I have so many bites on my body after coming here – I counted at least 60 bites.  I don’t know what to do about that. UPDATE. Apparently these invisible biters are called jelly bugs. They are normally eaten by fish, but in this part there are few fish. And there are far more jelly bugs around the full moon – which was the day before.  If you have oil on your body you will be less affected.  But they also detox your body, so that is some consolation.

the beach at the Perhentian Island Resort

We caught a water taxi back to our resort after, rather than brave the jungle track.  It’s not hard, but, well…

Back at our resort

The boat back to the mainland.  8AM, 12 noon or 4PM departures, I think.

After disembarking the boat we had brunch at the April Cafe, and left Kuala Besut around 9.45AM.

April Cafe in Kuala Besut – a nice place to eat

April Cafe in Kuala Besut – a nice place to eat

The return trip on a weekday took five and a half hours, with a stop for petrol and another for lunch included. So, driving time, around five hours.  The traffic was much lighter than the trip out.

So, the infrastructure on Perhentian hasn’t changed much, but staffs’ service level has improved, and some resorts have been refurbished, and some new ones built.

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​Perhentian Islands – the fish are biting

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water. Yes. A particular black fish was biting our ankles while we snorkelled over the coral. Not just at one of the beaches, but at several of the beaches we snorkelled at.

this black fish bites

This is our fourth visit to the Perhentian Islands. I won’t repeat what I wrote in previous blogs. But since our last visit two years ago it has changed a little.

  • The marine park tax has gone up a lot. You pay this just before you enter the jetty to board your boat to the islands. For foreign adults it’s RM 30, for foreign seniors (over 56) RM 15. Soak the foreigners (pun intended).

  • On the stretch of beach where we stayed on the larger island, Perhentian Besar, comprising Abduhls, Tuna Bay, Coconut Cosy etc. it was only at the latter you could buy (Tiger) beer, which was RM 11. Tonic water costs 5, and 1.5 litre bottles of water are RM 4. At Kuala Besut beer costs RM10. In Tesco, aboutRM8.
  • Some construction is going on at Ayumi, and with Tuna Bay having a larger deck.
  • While we were there it rained a little during the day, in the afternoon, but most rain was at night. Mostly it was cloudy, with occasional sunshine. At first we were disappointed, but actually it was very comfortable. We didn’t have to worry about sunburn, it wasn’t too hot outside, and yet the sea was just as warm, and snorkelling just as good. The only downside with the weather was that photos don’t look as bright. Oh, and we got drenched on the boat on the way over as we were closest to the bow because we got on last.
  • You can take a water taxi to the other island.
  • If you want to have fruit or vegetables you can go to the local village, which is almost on the tip of the smaller island, Perhentian Kecil. The village is also the start, or end, of a 3.2 Km walk between the village and Long Beach. See this blog.

Perhentian Kecil, the small island – fisherman village and an easy walk along the coast

There are small convenience stores at the resorts, but if you want fruit and vegetables a visit to the fisherman village could be worthwhile for you.  Best done at the beginning of your stay.

 

map of the walk

There is an easy 3.2 KM walk along a paved path from there, on Perhentian Kecil, the small island, to Long Beach.
If you are staying on the big island you can get a water taxi across.  The minimum number of persons is two.

water taxi prices

The path is a bit undulating, and hasn’t been maintained, but mostly it’s in good condition. There’s even a toilet block along the way.

Fisherman village

five minutes by boat

mosque

the village

the village

hawker centre on the beach

hawker centre on the beach

a bit different from the resorts

a plaza with a police station

entry to the village from plaza

hawker centre right on the sea

shops and cafes

if you order a fruit drink it’s better to ensure they are using fruit and not powder

you can buy fruit and veges here

continue along this street towards the mosque for the walk

continue along the street to the left of the mosque

The walk

behind the mosque is a bridge where the path starts

the path

a monument

some of the path is covered

and it continues on towards Long Beach

but is not really maintained

You can see a path on the map in the other direction from the village, too

Going clockwise from the village by boat

seen from a boat: the path clockwise will go through these beaches

seen from a boat: the path clockwise will go through these beaches

seen from a boat: the path clockwise will go through these beaches

seen from a boat: the path clockwise will go through these beaches

seen from a boat: the path clockwise will go through these beaches

seen from a boat: the path clockwise will go through these beaches

seen from a boat: the path clockwise will go through these beaches

seen from a boat: /Shari La and other resorts are served by this jetty

Perhentian Jungle Trek

You can circle around the south-western part of Perhentian Besar (the big island) on foot.

A very rough map of tracks I modified - you can find better on the island

A very rough map of tracks I modified – you can find better on the island

The best blog I have found on the islands is this:

http://tezza-thailandbeachesandislands.blogspot.com/2011/07/perhentian-islands.html

But I will give my account.  There are three tracks, and I will deal with them clockwise from Tuna Bay Resort. Here it is called jungle trekking.

What you need – Part 1 & 2: Flip flops, although shoes would make walking easier.  And trousers rather than shorts would protect you better from insects and scratches.  I just wore a swimming costume and flip flops. Something to drink unless you have a drink before setting off on each stage.  Hat, swimming costume, sunglasses for the beaches, insect repellent, camera, money for drinks before each stage.

Part 1 – Tuna Bay to PIR – see last year’s blog.

Part 2 – PIR to Arwana Beach Resort. 12.09 start, 12.59 arrived at Arwana Resort.

The walk starts a bit behind the resort near the jetty and is signposted – it’s easy to ask at reception, too.

the start of the second stage - behind PIR

the start of the second stage – behind PIR

Walk up the path up the hill and you find an electrical substation and Maxis mobile mast next to the path after about five minutes.  These first few minutes the path is a little rough.

the first part was easy

the first part was easy

Soon after you come to a T intersection.  I don’t know where the path on the right leads, but probably to Mamas – we took the left hand path.

a lot of the track was quite smooth

a lot of the track was quite smooth

the purpose of the path was to access infrastructure, I suppose

the purpose of the path was to access infrastructure, I suppose

Mostly the walk is quite easy, but there are a few rocky spots where you have to be careful with your footing and balance negotiating a slope.  A couple of paths led on to the path we were on, but I also don’t know from where they came.

sometimes you saw the water pipes

sometimes you saw the water pipes

there was mud in places

there was mud in places

and on

and on

and on

and on

There were also a few fallen trees to clamber over or climb under along the route.

there were some fallen trees

there were some fallen trees

climb over or under

climb over or under

mostly descended towards sea level again

mostly descended towards sea level again

10 minutes before the end, the vegetation becomes bushier and can scratch your legs and the path was a little wet or swampy in places.

more level now

more level now

will arrive soon

will arrive soon

some flowers

some flowers

almost there

almost there

saw a couple of monitor lizards - they are shy

saw a couple of monitor lizards – they are shy

The path arrives behind the Arwana Resort and you can walk through it to the beach.

the back of Arwana Resort

the back of Arwana Resort

cross the bridge

cross the bridge

and now you've arrived at Flora Bay

and now you’ve arrived at Flora Bay

There are a lot of low key resorts here, and it seems very quiet. Turn right and walk along the beach to the end if you want to take the path back to Tuna Bay.

turn right onto the beach

turn right onto the beach

Part 3 – Arwana – Tuna Bay. 13.44 start, 14.21 arrived at the beach – then another 10 – 15 minutes easy walk along the beach and around a couple of headlands to Tuna Bay.

Just skip this and catch a water taxi to Abdul’s for RM 12 each. However, if you are determined, then… (By the way, a water taxi in the reverse direction is RM15!?)

This track involves a lot of clambering over and between rocks ascending or descending.  Great for kids. As previously stated I wore just a swimming costume and flip flops, and survived.  But shoes are recommended, and I would wear them should I wish to walk / clamber this track again.  And I would wear trousers too, as the mosquitoes are ferocious – with shorts on if you stop for a break you provide a quick snack for marauding insects.

After arriving at Arwana’s beach, turn right / north and walk to the end of the beach, and then turn inland, with the last building on your right and follow the path for about 20 metres.

take the path to the left

take the path to the left of the last building

A sign indicates jungle trekking to the left.

a few metres down the path you see the sign

a few metres down the path you see the sign

the next left into the jungle

the next left into the jungle

Then clamber away.  About 70% of the path is clambering over rocks, and the rest is reasonably easy.  If you stop the mosquitos come.  So it’s better not to.

a lot of the path is rough

a lot of the path is rough

much of the path is climbing through rocks

much of the path is climbing through rocks

it's slow going

it’s slow going

As you approach the end of the track the walk becomes very easy – the track splits off in different directions – I kept right, but the other tracks possibly take you further towards the southern end of the beach, or even to the next beach south.  All within a few minutes walk of each other.  There are no shops until you get to Abdul’s in another 10 minutes or so.

having descended the going is easy

having descended the going is easy

and now almost at the beach

and now almost at the beach

the sign pointing back to Flora Bay

the sign pointing back to Flora Bay

arriving at the beach

arriving at the beach

then an easy walk

then an easy walk

around one of the headlands

around one of the headlands

back at Abdul's, a few minutes walk to Tuna Bay

back at Abdul’s, a few minutes walk to Tuna Bay

For me, I will do the first two walks again.  As for the third, I think I’d use a water taxi instead.

Penang-Perhentian Peregrination – a few tips on driving to the Perhentian Islands

at the beach

at the beach

Kuala Besut, the harbour from which you catch a boat to the Perhentian islands, is about 350  KM by road from Penang.  That’s a little over five hours drive, plus whatever time you stop for breaks – so I allowed six hours total.  You can also go by bus, organised by talking to a travel agent or to bus companies at Butterworth or Sungai Nibong terminals.  Finally, you can fly.

On our first trip to the Perhentians we drove: https://tropicalexpat.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/road-trip-penang-to-the-east-coast-of-malaysia-by-car-2/

For last year’s trip we flew: https://tropicalexpat.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/penang-to-perhentian-islands-on-firefly-planes-automobiles-and-boats/

This year we decided to drive again.  The time taken is only slightly more than flying, but we can align our schedule to the hotel check-in time, and luggage handling is simply loading it into the car, and then dropping it off at the jetty.  With a flight you load the luggage into the taxi at home, unload at the airport, load onto a trolley, load onto the airline conveyor belt, offload the luggage on arrival, load into the taxi, and then unload at the jetty. Three or four times more handling.

Boats to the islands leave quite frequently, although the return trips have a more restricted set schedule – 8AM, 12 noon, 4PM in the case of our resort.

Check in time at our resort was 2PM, so we aimed to be at the Kuala Besut jetty around 1PM at the latest, which would have us leaving home about 7AM at the latest.

Another parameter to bear in mind is that it gets light around 7.05 (on the equinox), and I believe it is better to either drive when it is light, or at least not hit the end of the dual carriageway until it is light. As it is about 35 minutes drive (45KM) to the end of the dual carriageway, then the earliest to leave home would be about 6.30AM. The reason for not driving in the dark is that some vehicles have no working rear lights, and it is possible to drive almost into their rear before you see them – especially if they are driving very slowly. So, the earliest to leave is 6.30AM, and the latest 7AM.

just after sunrise

just after sunrise

  • I worked out all these timings as a result of the trip, and we actually left slightly earlier, at 6.10AM.
  •  But actually on Sunday there is quite a lot of traffic.  Any other day would be better, but these were the only days we could get the hotel booking.
  • We reached the bridge at 6.20, and were across it at 6.30.
  • At about 6.45 we reached the end of the dual carriageway.
  • At about 7.05 it became light, and we stopped a little later for coffee by the side of the road – from our thermos – our coffee is better than anything you can buy on the way
  • We later stopped at a petrol station for a break
  • And then we stopped at the summit hawker centre for more coffee and sandwiches.
  • We arrived at Kuala Besut at 12.05PM – 360 KM later
  • We parked at back of the hotel and walked to agent, who gave us boat tickets
  • Their agent rode his bike to our car
  • We drove to the jetty and unloaded luggage
  • We left luggage with Mrs Tropical Expat and I followed the bike to parking and parked
  • Then I rode on the back of the bike to the jetty and we boarded the boat

And a few other comments:

  • Some bad drivers will not wait their turn. You wait until it is safe to overtake the slower vehicle in front, and just when you judge it is safe, one or more vehicles from behind overtake you and cut you off  – in the end you miss the chance to overtake
  • At traffic lights many cars will take the right turn lane and overtake you.  If they are driving faster than you this isn’t a problem, but if it’s a slow car you have already overtaken once you might want to ensure they don’t succeed.
  • The road marking engineers largely have little idea of their craft.
  • Local traffic in the east may drive very slowly – about half the speed of through traffic.
  • At least once every trip an oncoming car overtakes despite the fact there isn’t space, and forces you off the road
  • Still, driving is easier and more relaxing  than flying

Penang to Perhentian Islands on Firefly – planes, automobiles and boats

The idea is to catch the flight to Kota Baru and get the morning boat from Kuala Besut to the resort on Perhentian Besar.  From Kota Baru Airport onwards it was all organised with Tuna Bay Resort.

The flight is scheduled to leave at 0700, arrive at 0755 at Kota Baru.

The taxi should take about an hour to take us from the airport to the resort office near the ferry terminal at Kuala Besut. Thus we should arrive around 9:15AM

And the boat for the island is scheduled to leave at 10:30, and take 45 minutes – it’s a launch rather than a speedboat, so slower, but much more comfortable.

So that’s the plan. And it pretty much goes according to that plan.

We get to Penang Airport, having already checked in online. Baggage Drop and check in line is the same, so you have to wait. Hmm, was it worth bothering to check in online? So this takes about 10 minutes. It’s quick through security to the domestic terminal. Yay, Starbucks is open at this hour – but there is only a branch in the domestic terminal. Not at the International.

about to board the plane

about to board the plane

Departure on FY 1002 was from Gate B2, so once your boarding pass and ID are checked you go downstairs to the lounge. But the door to outside is open and plane engines are running, so it is very noisy. You can hardly hear someone speak. We wait until we can board at 0655, and depart about 0702.

2 + 2 configuation

2 + 2 configuration

The plane is small – two seats, aisle and two seats, and the flight wasn’t full.

wow - a propeller

wow – a propeller

PIA

PIA

Just after take-off there is a good view from the right hand side of the aircraft of the new Penang Bridge.

Penang's second bridge

Penang’s second bridge

In-flight catering is a choice of a small packet of peanuts or a muffin, and a choice of orange cordial or soy drink.

in-flight snack

in-flight snack

When the pilot made his announcement it was not loud enough to hear over the noise of the engines. But the flight attendant’s announcement was comprehensible. She basically said hello and goodbye in the one announcement.

approaching Kota Bharu

approaching Kota Bharu

Arrival was on time at 0755. The pilot emerged from the cockpit just before we disembarked – a friendly Australian. Outside the air was fresh and cool – nicer than Penang at that hour.

the runway

the runway at KBR

plane on arrival

plane on arrival

KBR airport is small. In the arrivals area there are no toilets – so you have to wait until you have collected your luggage and gone out to landside. But it was only a five-minute wait for the luggage.

taxi stand at the airport

taxi stand at the airport

By 8.10AM we were loading our luggage in the taxi. The airport seems to be surrounded by kampongs.

a view of the airport from outside

a view of the airport from outside

kampong houses near the airport

kampong houses near the airport

For much of the drive the air is smokey – somewhere they are burning.

a bridge on the drive to Kuala Besut

a bridge on the drive to Kuala Besut

getting closer

getting closer

We arrive at the resort office at 9.02.

Tuna Bay office in Kuala Besut

Tuna Bay office in Kuala Besut

At the office we fill out a form, and leave our luggage.

ah - we're here

ah – we’re here

We need to be back about 10.20 to go to the nearby jetty.

stalls near the harbour

stalls near the harbour

There are places to eat at the jetty, but we go to the bus terminal square and eat at the Lucky Seafood Restaurant.

Chinese restaurant

Chinese restaurant

On the east coast of Malaysia it can be hard to get alcohol, but I noticed that this restaurant sells beer. Good for future reference. But no, I didn’t have beer for breakfast.

part of the jetty building in Kuala Besut

part of the jetty building in Kuala Besut

Back at the office around 10.15 we wait for a bit, and just before 10.30 make the two-minute walk with around another 10 passengers to the jetty. Our luggage is transported by staff.

at the ferry terminal

at the ferry terminal

At the jetty we pay a RM5 Marine park Conservation tax, and then board the launch.

on the peir and about to board

on the pier and about to board

Tuna Bay's launch - very comfortable - and you don't get wet either

Tuna Bay’s launch – very comfortable – and you don’t get wet either

boarding the launch

boarding the launch

It departed at 10.35 for a smooth crossing…

leaving the jetty

leaving the jetty

leaving Kuala Besut

leaving Kuala Besut

and we disembarked around 11.27.

arriving at Tuna Bay

arriving at Tuna Bay

So this is what you can expect. For us all went smoothly and easily. Our luggage was delivered to our room.

There are two Perhentian Islands – Perhentian Besar (the big island), which we went to this time, and Perhentian Kecil (the smaller island).  Perhentian Kecil has more budget accommodation and more eating establishments.

Google tells me that if I drive to Kuala Besut this will take 5 ½ hours. Because it is too dangerous to drive while dark, the earliest I could leave home would be about 6.30. So perhaps a night on the east coast, and then a boat the next morning, or a later boat to the islands, as arrival would be about 12.00.

Returning one could take the 8AM boat to the mainland and comfortably drive home during daylight hours.

Another alternative is a bus to Kuala Besut, but these travel at night, and I think this is too dangerous.

So good marks to Tuna Bay Resort for their travel and transfer arrangements.