Malaysian nature is truly wonderful and the Perhentian Islands deserve a special mention. Where else can you snorkel a few metres from your hotel beach and bump into turtles? At the same time Malaysian islands are a promised land of wasted potential and mediocre food. Obviously there is no reason that should ruin your holiday, it certainly didn’t ruin ours.
The Perhentian Islands are only accessible by boat. With an (painfully) early morning Firefly flight to Kota Bharu we actually found ourselves on the beach only four hours after we locked our front door. And what a beach!
Our chalet at Coral View resort was nothing to write home about, but had a lovely sea-facing terrace with sun loungers and a fridge to deposit our white wine in (I strongly recommend bringing your own since most resorts are dry and the corner shop on the beach charges RM80 for an average-at-best bottle). Location of the resort is actually very strategic, it is half way between the best beach on the island (in front of the Perhentian Island Resort) and the beach side restaurants and shops.
The beaches in front of the resort are not ideal for swimming – one is rocky (read: at any given time one of the children was about to fall off a rock or on a quest to climb the highest mountain. Try reading your book in peace and quiet!) and the other one busy with boats.
Other than making sand castles and pointing out different sea creatures there is very little to do on the Perhentian Islands. Snorkelling trip that the more active members of our group did to a nearby island was apparently great, but they also encountered some vicious biting fish. Watch out for friendly looking green fish, they are not what they seem.
The beach in front of the Perhentian Island Resort is pretty much perfect. The bay is also home to turtles that seemed to hang out there most times of the day – judging from the amount of boats and snorkelers in the bay. The distance is easily swimmable for adults but with young kids we asked one of the boatmen to take us to the bay and managed to get all four under sixes off the boat with snorkels and life jackets for their first ever turtle sighting. Seeing their expressions when they spotted the turtles must be one of the highlights of my year.
I wonder why the turtles hang around? If I was them, I would move to some quiet place where boatloads of people don’t chase me and try to grab me when I come to the surface to breathe. Considering it is meant to be a protected marine area, there are no signs to tell people how to behave and if you look at the picture below you can figure out pretty quickly why there is no coral left. More on the Perhentian islands in our article here.