The Perhentian Islands are a small group of beautiful, coral-fringed islands off the coast of northeastern Malaysia in the state of Terengganu, not far from the Thai border.
The two main islands are Perhentian Besar ("Big Perhentian") and Perhentian Kecil ("Small Perhentian"). Kecil, the more popular of the two, has cheap accommodation and is a bit of a backpacker party scene, while Besar is slightly more expensive and caters more to families. The relative difficulty of access and the higher prices compared to Thailand mean that both are still relatively unexplored.
The small, uninhabited islands of Susu Dara, Seringgi and Rawa lie off Kecil. All the islands belong to a protected marine park, which means that fishing, collecting coral and littering are strictly prohibited.
Due to the eastern monsoon, the season in the Perhentians is effectively limited to the period between February and October. Outside this the seas can be very rough and most accommodation options are closed.
Things to see & do
Activities on the Perhentians are basically limited to scuba diving, snorkeling and sunbathing. Those with excess energy may attempt the jungle trails crisscrossing both islands.
• Scuba diving The Perhentians offer excellent diving and draw divers from far and wide. In addition to coral and fish, the Perhentians are home to sea turtles and many species of shark -- none of them dangerous unless provoked though. Visibility is often in the 20 meter range (although it will temporarily go down after storms) and no wet suit is required, although you may wish to use a dive skin for protection from coral and the occasional jellyfish. Popular dive sites include the Pinnacle (aka Tokong Laut, "Temple of the Sea"), a pinnacle jutting out from the sea bed, and the Sugar Wreck, an easily accessible 3500-ton sugar hauler. The (more expensive) single-day trip to Redang Island offers diving a notch above the local options, well worth every dime - but be prepared for a rough ride in a small speedboat.
Competition for divers is fierce and consequently diving is quite cheap, averaging out to RM60-80 per dive depending on how many dives you do and whether you bring your own gear. All dive shops also arrange introductory dives (no training required) and PADI training.
There are 5 dive centers on Kecil's Long Beach: Spice Divers, Coral Sky Divers, Seadragon Divers, Turtle Bay Divers and Sunlight Divers.
• Snorkeling. All resorts rent out snorkeling gear (typically RM30 a day for mask, snorkel and fins) and arrange snorkeling tours around the islands. You can get some cheaper equipment from some local restaurant. Popular snorkeling spots on Besar include Teluk Pauh, Shark Point and Tanjung Basi. The best place to see sharks (black tip) is in front of an extremely small "beach", only accessible by boat, between Shark Point and the Teluk Dalam large beach. They are usually seen cruising the bottom of the reef. For turtles, best place is the middle of the beach in front of Perhentian Island Resort, where the sandy bottom is covered with algae.
• Jungle trekking. The islands are crisscrossed by small paths connecting one beach to another, but be prepared to sweat and swat off bugs if you tackle any of these.