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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
We caught a water taxi over to the Malay village on the small island so we could walk around the island.
We started off anti-clockwise, heading through the village and past the mosque and over the bridge – the same way we went last year.
Then we continued on in the direction of Long Beach.
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.
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 –
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.
We caught a water taxi back to our resort after, rather than brave the jungle track. It’s not hard, but, well…
After disembarking the boat we had brunch at the April Cafe, and left Kuala Besut around 9.45AM.
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.