Perhentian Islands

An easy walk on Perhentian Kecil, idyllic eastern Malaysia

the beach at the end of the walk

When we were last on the islands, earlier this year, we did a walk in an anti-clockwise direction from fisherman village on Perhentian Kecil – the small island. Here is another blog on the village from last year.

This time we did a walk clockwise from the fisherman village.

I took a small backpack with shoes;  camera, phone, money in  a waterproof bag and a small bottle of water.  And I wore a hat and flip-flops.

It was a RM5 ride each in a water taxi from Abduhls or Tuna Bay Resort to the village. We embarked on the beach, and disembarked on the beach. Thus shoes weren’t an option, and we wore flip-flops.  Curiously the return fare was RM6 each, and we embarked and disembarked from the jetties on either side.

In May the anti-clockwise walk path was is poor condition, so we decided this time just to do a short walk clockwise, and if it was also in poor condition, just turn around and abandon the walk.  However, the path was in good condition, and will probably be well maintained as it leads to Alunan resort, and it would be in their interests to keep the path maintained, I imagine.  It was only a 10 minute walk, it turned out.

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.

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


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

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:

For last year’s trip we flew:

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

Tuna Bay Resort, Perhentian Islands, Malaysia 3/3 – tropical fish

There is some coral just a few feet from the shore on some parts of the beach. If you snorkel here you can see fish. But also one or more fish peck your legs – you are invading their territory perhaps. One girl had actual bites on her leg. Trigger fish.  It must be their nesting season. Later on a different beach I was attacked, too, on a leg.

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Other fish peck at you occasionally – maybe they think you are food. But I found that if you keep on moving, even if slowly, the fish leave you alone.

dangerous fish

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I have never found a place where it is so easy to snorkel and see fish. If you walk around the island – as in my previous blog too, you see coral here and there, so it is really easy to find places to snorkel.