Absolutely the last in the series of photos after my recent trip around the middle east.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Going clockwise from the village by boat
You can circle around the south-western part of Perhentian Besar (the big island) on foot.
The best blog I have found on the islands is this:
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.
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.
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.
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.
There were also a few fallen trees to clamber over or climb under along the route.
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.
The path arrives behind the Arwana Resort and you can walk through it to the beach.
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.
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.
A sign indicates jungle trekking to the left.
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.
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.
For me, I will do the first two walks again. As for the third, I think I’d use a water taxi instead.
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.
- 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
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.
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.
The plane is small – two seats, aisle and two seats, and the flight wasn’t full.
Just after take-off there is a good view from the right hand side of the aircraft of the new Penang 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.
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.
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.
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.
By 8.10AM we were loading our luggage in the taxi. The airport seems to be surrounded by kampongs.
For much of the drive the air is smokey – somewhere they are burning.
We arrive at the resort office at 9.02.
At the office we fill out a form, and leave our luggage.
We need to be back about 10.20 to go to the nearby jetty.
There are places to eat at the jetty, but we go to the bus terminal square and eat at the Lucky Seafood 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.
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 jetty we pay a RM5 Marine park Conservation tax, and then board the launch.
It departed at 10.35 for a smooth crossing…
and we disembarked around 11.27.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Then we boarded the boat…
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,
and takes about 35 – 40 minutes to the jetty near the resort.
At the jetty a hotel representative greets you…
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.
The representative then explains about the resort and the activity schedule, and lets you know when your room is ready.
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.
We had requested the top floor as mosquitoes would likely be less of a problem.
The room had a nice view of the resort and beach…
And what do you know? Lunch was being served, so we wandered down for that.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And we viewed the sunset from in front of the Shari-la resort.
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.
And this is the restaurant and bar on the beach.
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…
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.
And then a nice swim. I discovered that breakfast is probably the best meal – if you like western breakfasts.
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.
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.
Then afternoon tea.
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.
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.
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.