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Perhentian Islands are another 2 gems in east coast of Malaysia. Perhentians are a cluster of islands off Terengganu but because it is located at far northern of Terengganu and is bordering with the neighbouring state, Kelantan, further more, the accessible point is through the jetty in Kuala Besut, a small Terengganu fishing village but with Kelantanese culture, therefore many people actually misunderstand that these islands fall within the governance of Kelantan...
According to the folks, it is named Perhentian due to the role they played as a post for traders and fisherman from Siam (Perhentian mean post) in those days. Then besar and kecil are the size of the island (Besar means big while Kecil means small).
Both islands are separated by a very narrow sound but with strong current. The significant different between the two islands is, Perhentian Besar is more for a vocational island while the small one is an island with the mixture of vacation mood and reality life due to the fishing village, Kampung Pasir Hantu which is resided with more than 2000 villagers and completed with basic facilities apart from resorts and guesthouses.
Houses are randomly distributed in Kampungn Pasir Hantu. No other buildings are painted with colourful weather proof paint instead remain in the original plain wooden colour except police station, assembly hall and school. However, they do not need more colour, the clear blue sea and sky and also the palm trees are the best contrast and complementary. There are convenience shops, local coffee shops also souvenir shops etc. in the village. T-shirt, caps, batiks hanging outside the shop, coconut trees waving in the wind and tourists who do not go out for snorkeling or diving will hang around the village or lay in their hummock.
It will be a waste if you come to Perhentians without paying a visit or have a glimpse to its marine life. There is several good diving or snorkeling points around Perhentian Kecil: Gua Kambing, Batu Nisan, D’Lagoon, Tanjung Butung,, Panglima Abu etc. Colourful crown fish, angle fish, shark, christmas tree, deer horn coral, sea cucumber, sea urchin, squib, turtle etc…..colourful marine life in all shapes and size fascinating the underwater world.
The interior of Perhentian Kecil is covered by lush tropical rainforest with a wide variety of wild life. You can choose to do a long trekking or a short and simple one. Trails break into several parts. Try to do it in a relaxing way. There are flora and fauna and also wild animals in the jungle that might impress or bring you surprises. Start from Pasir Panjang and head to Aur Bay at the west side. This is a real short one, only about 15 minutes. Then if your are not satisfy, go further from Aur Bay heading down to beaches in front of a local run chalet, Mira Chalet. This will take you about 1 hour, but it is worth as your tiredness will be rewarded with sandy beach. Have a cup of drink before you go on (if you wish to) to a trail connecting Mira Chalet with the fishing village. This part of trekking involves some climbing up and takes nearly 1 hour for you to reach Kampung Pasir Hantu.. You can choose to end the journey here by taking the same way back or look for a boat to give you a lift.
There are rocky hills in the jungle. The rock formation of these hills has created caves which attract birds to build their nest, especially during winter season in the northern regions. These birds are not only adding up to the variety of wildlife in this area but also bring some side income to the villagers by collecting the precious bird nest from the caves. However, quantity of bird nest collected is just enough to serve the local market.
Resorts and guesthouses stretching along the beach. Most of the operators are local Malay, therefore other than several recently built resorts, the rest of the guesthouses are in small scale and basic facilities.
On the other hand, Perhentian Besar is a more laid back island. Unlike Perhentian Kecil, there is no village on Perhentian Besar. Most of the residents on Perhentian Besar come from Perhentian Kecil to run the guesthouse and resorts.
Perhentian Besar has longer and wider beaches and finer sand than its sibling, Perhentian Kecil. Most of the beaches are distributed to its western and southeastern side, among these, Teluk Pauh, Pasir Panjang, and Teluk Dalam are the most famous and popular.
Though accommodation is distributed over the beaches, Perhentian Besar is still covered by a lush rainforest. To the end of the beaches, there are always palm trees setting off the white fine sandy beach and the crystal blue sea.
The island is gifted with turquoise water, at many you can gaze down at fish swimming around your legs. To the south of the island, beaches are always separated by rocky edges. There is always fantastic coral near the rock. Always pay more attention when you swim near to the rock, waves hit to the rocks are always strong.
There are a number of trails leading from one beach to the next overland. The most common one starts from behind Pelangi Resort at Teluk Dalam. The first part of the trek is a bit of ‘breath shorting’ with many climbing up. However it takes only few minutes before you can sooth your breath. It is an exhilarating experience clambering through the rainforest. Then you will exit at Perhentian Island Resort, a beautiful and exclusive resort stands behind a long sandy beach at Teluk Puah. Take a rest here, or if you are prepared, go for a swim in the sea. Lovely coral and white fine sand is an irresistible temptation. To go back to Teluk Dalam, you can cross the wooden bridge at the entrance of Perhentian Island Resort to Coral View Resort then continue till Abdul Chalet. Take the trail beside the Abduls. A few minutes climb before you are back to the beach again. Then from here you can choose to take the jungle trail or to climb over the big rocks by the sea which is bit treacherous. Anyway, all the treks are clearly marked.
There is a proper and well maintained jetty at Teluk Puah, near the entrance of Perhentian Island Resort. During evening time, there are people jigging squib here. Sometime there are small cages in the water with crabs inside. This is a simple trap set by the island people to catch crab. The jetty is an ideal place to go if you want something different than to lay on the lazy chair listen to waves and watching the stars in evening.
Getting there :
Alternately you can choose to start from Kota Bharu. You can either take a taxi ride or take a bus (leaves every 30 minutes) to Pasir Puteh and then another bus to Besut. On the whole, the journey by taxi will take about one hour from Kota Bahru to Besut.
There are direct buses from Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Besut which take about 9 hours.
Journey to the islands takes about 30 to 45 minutes by speed boat and one and half hours by slow boat. There are a number of boat operators in Kuala Besut offering boat services to Perhentian Island. The return boat ticket cost RM60.00 per person for speed boat and RM40.00 per person for slow boat.