Welcome to the final part of the Malaysia series! Incase you missed the first two parts, #1 was all about Kuala Lumpur, and you can catch it here, and #2 was all about Penang, and you can read it here.
Last summer I was able to spend a week and a half in Malaysia with my best friend just before graduation. We barely planned the trip, only knowing that we were going to start in Malaysia and end in Bali, so did all of our travelling based on recommendations from people we met out there. After Penang, we knew we wanted to visit one of the beautiful islands off the coast of Malaysia, as so far we had spent all of our time in cities. There were several options including the Tioman Islands, Redang Islands and others. However, on the recommendation of one of my old friends, we opted for the Perhentian Islands, as he was a diver and said it was one of the best places for marine life.
This post is a bit different from the last few, as there is not a huge amount to say about our time there as we were only there for 2 and half days. We opted to visit Perhentian Kecil, the smaller of the two islands and known for its idyllic white beaches. We, again, got a very long overnight bus to the north-east of the island, where we got a very early (very small) boat over to the islands.
Before arrival, there didn’t seem to be many options of cheap (backpacker price) places to stay. We knew that Long Beach was supposedly a good place to stay, so we reserved two beds in Seahorse Divers hostel. Luckily, we didn’t have to pay a deposit for this.
Having arrived very early, the beach was deserted upon arrival. We came to Seahorse Divers to find no one there to greet us, and the facilities very run down. Because of the strange atmosphere and the seemingly not-great accommodation, we decided to take a walk down the beach and see what else was available. There were plenty of different accommodation styles available along the beach: a 5-star hotel, other hostels, and lovely little hut-style rooms. We found a nice accommodation called the Matahari chalets just by walking in and asking what rooms they had. We ended up in a two person chalet, which was basic but served the purpose. It was it’s own little wooden bungalow, raised from the ground, with two mattresses on the floor surrounded by mosquito nets, and its own en-suite bathroom. There was nothing wrong with our accommodation, but it definitely wasn’t luxury.
One thing to note about the Perhentian Islands is that they only have electricity between 6pm and 7am. This is really not a problem, as it means you can charge your phones/cameras etc over night, and have light when it is most needed. The showers are also pretty much constantly cold, but it was so hot here that this really wasn’t an issue.
This section is kind of irrelevant when it comes to Perhentian. The island is teeny tiny, and you can walk from one side of the island to the other in less than 20 minutes. If you want to go over to Perhentian Besar, there are boat ferries that run regularly between the islands, and they are very cheap, however we felt no real need to do this, as we had limited time and treated our time here like more of a relaxation break. Long Beach itself is full of restaurants, cafes, bars and accommodation and therefore it was never really necessary to go very far!
What to Do
The Perhentian Islands are the perfect get away for relaxing, but there are some great things to do around the island apart from sunbathing on the beach and eating great seafood!
One of our favourite activities was the fire show. This takes place on Long Beach most nights, as long as the weather allows it! It takes place in the middle of the beach, next to the only dedicated bar, which consists of a hut in the middle of the sand, serving beers and make-shift cocktails. There were mats scattered around on the sand for you to sit on in preparation for the show, and people were sat with drinks getting ready and mingling. The show then starts with multiple people throwing fire in different ways. It’s a truly impressive show, with a lot of high stress moments, fearing for the fire throwers, or the audience, but truly wonderful and so much fun.
We had a very interesting experience the night we attended the fire show. Half way through the show it began to pour with rain, tropical storm style. Everyone ran for cover, but as it was an open beach there wasn’t much of it! The bar that had been blasting music for the show carried on playing music and all of a sudden one, very drunk, traveller ran into the middle of the sand and started eventually. It was then like a chain reaction; everyone on the beach one by one decided to run into the pouring rain and join him! We met loads of really great people this night just from talking and dancing in the rain, and it’s a night we will both never forget! Many Long Island ice teas were consumed, and we saw the most spectacular lightning that cracked across the full open sky, with the most amazing sounds. We retired to bed early in the morning and felt extremely content with our experience of the fire show, even if it had been slightly called off by the rain.
The other main activity we did in our two and a half days was a half day snorkelling trip. At this point, neither Lucy nor I had dived before and found we didn’t have time to do a full scuba diving experience, so opted for the more beginner option. We booked on with a random stall we found on the beach for the next day and turned up in the morning with our swimsuits and towels, ready to go. The boat was tiny, and there were 4 of us on it, which was a small squeeze, but fun experience. You were able to rent snorkels, so no problem if you don’t bring your own.
They took us to three different snorkelling spots around the island, with varying life, and there was definitely more to see, so we ended up wishing we’d opted for the full day trip! We did, however, see a turtle and some little baby reef sharks. They even took us to the turtle conservation beach, where they look after the eggs of turtles who come and lay them there, and look out for the baby turtles so they make it to the water. It was a really enjoyable day, the water temperature was beautiful and the conditions were so calm, so I would really recommend a snorkelling trip, if you’re not a diver!
Where to Eat and Drink
Again, there isn’t too much to say on this one. Most days we just walked up and down the beach and did a lucky dip of which restaurant we would pick that day. They were all open air, looking out on the water, with candles on the tables. The food wasn’t 5-star gourmet by any means, but the fresh fish was always caught that day and beautiful, and they had a wide range of food on offer. You should never be at a loss of where to eat. On the first day we arrived, we even found one of the guesthouses had a restaurant that served great breakfasts with eggs, toast, beans, tomato etc. I would suggest that it’s really a case of walking around and seeing what you fine, but you’ll never get stuck with a rumbling belly!
The Perhentian Islands are definitely an amazing place for rest and relaxation, especially if you have spent a lot of time in the big cities of Malaysia beforehand! We could’ve done a few days longer here (as is always the way), however, I feel after a while you would want a big of luxury and business again. If you’re a diver, it’s definitely a ‘must-visit’, but apart from relaxation and underwater life, there is not a huge amount more to do, so plan your time accordingly. That being said, if you want to lie on a bright white beach, with crystal clear waters, and read your book for a week, it would definitely be an amazing place to do it!
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed the run down of my time in Penang. This is my third (and final) post about Malaysia, you can check out the first part in the series, all about Kuala Lumpur, here, and the second part about Penang, here.
Keep your eyes peeled for what I write about next, as there are some exciting things in the pipeline about my travels during COVID-times and my scuba diving journey.
Amy @thisgingertravels x