It's the destination not the journey

Trip Start Apr 01, 2010
Trip End Aug 08, 2010

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Where I stayed
Rock Gardens

Flag of Malaysia  , Terengganu,
Sunday, May 16, 2010

After another long bus journey, although one mostly spent on a real coach (luxury) rather than a cramped minibus we had a short boat journey across to the small Perhentian island. The boat was tiny, about a dozen of us crammed in with all of our luggage. It seemed like a reasonably clear day but the waves tossed around the boat and I feared for my luggage (and my ability to sit down on the other side) but after half an hour we made it.

The island is beautiful and after the irritation of having to pay another 2RM's each for a boat taxi to the beach (with the extra government tax at the pier this made the boat trip 88RM rather than 70, annoying as we had already gone over budget to get here) Anyway the island is beautiful and long beach is still not that spoilt by development. We found a small chalet for 60RM and while it was a bit more than we had been paying we did get our own bathroom and a balcony, absolute luxuries at the moment. The balcony gave a great view of the ocean and the bay, unfortunately the place wasn't quite finished to the same degree the balcony doors had to be lifted to open and one of the handles fell off, the sink wasn't plumbed in properly, the front door didn't open properly etc. Not the end of the world, the site was still being built and when we watched the workers we started to understand why. Since we've been on the tourist route in Malaysia one thing we've noticed is how lazy people are regarding it, here the builders seem to work a schedule so that of the 10 or so of them 1 was always making some kind of noise to give the impression of work. So mixed feelings about the accommodation. It was however great to sit out on the balcony (when the builders weren't sat near by shouting at each other) enjoying the breeze, the bay and the huge Sea Eagle that was regularly circling outside.

We spent alot of our time on the island diving. The first full day we did a shallow (12metres) dive led by a Czech girl (Mirka I think) who had a great interest and eye for the smaller everyday fish, corals and sea creatures. Her only annoying habit was swimming with her hands out in front, clenched together but with one finger pointing out so we were constantly caught searching for what she was pointing at! This wasn't a great dive for me, my mask fogged up and I couldn't see much, even after I tried to clear it by taking it off which I never enjoy as you get the sting of salt water in your eyes and up your nose. It was Jo's first dive just for fun though and she had a great time spotting loads of exciting colourful fish and a few small Rays.

The second dive was much better for me, my mask was clear and although visibility was only about 5 meters there was lots to see. After swimming for about 20 minutes though the real highlight came, right on the edge of our visibility the sleek streamlined body of a reef shark darted into view and then off into the blue. It was only there for a couple of seconds but it was an amazing thing to see, about a metre and a half long I think it was a good size for a Black Tip Reef Shark. Later in the dive Jo and Mirka spotted it again, chasing a small fish, but I was looking the wrong way!

Our third dive was with a different Dive Master, Alan a South African (or at least a Southern African from the accent) A laid back guy who I liked until he admitted the things he missed most were the Apprentice and Pop Idol! This dive was the most interesting. A dive site called Temple based around a spiral that just breaks the surface. Mirka was the first into the water (she was leading the more experienced divers on a deeper route) she immediately started paddling furiously and called for a rope from the boat, situated 20 minutes from the island the Temple was at the mercy of the open ocean. When we got in we could instantly feel the current, luckily there was a line down to the site, usually you just empty your BCD (basically a lifejacket that lets you control the amount of air it contains) and you sink but here we had to drag ourselves down the rope.

Once we got to the bottom of the rope it was a jump of faith to let go and start paddling, expecting to be swept away we managed to stay together next to the coral. It was slightly calmer down here, protected by the coral but the current would regularly grab you and drag you in a new direction. As we swam round the edge the current became stronger, Alan had to grab at a outcrop of rock and we did the same, on the rock was an anemone containing a very annoyed family of Clownfish (usually referred to as Nemo's) The part of the rock Jo grabbed was sharp and it cut through her finger, she let go of the rock and the current started to drag her out into the open ocean, I let go and grabbed her and Alan slid along the rock and grabbed my hand while holding the rock with 2 fingers. He pulled me back on and I did the same for Jo, it was an exciting moment, the current was pretty strong away from the rocks and I wouldn't have fancied fighting against it. Once we got to the surface it was summed up best by Alan who described it as "A real McGiver moment, aye" After that we managed to stay together, Jo didn't get attacked by sharks but we did get to see a resting Bamboo Shark (about a metre long), a good spot by Jo and a massive Parrotfish about a metre long and high slowly gliding through the water tearing chunks out of the coral with its massive beak.

After about half an hour we were out of air with the effort, we surfaced and climbed back onto the boat to wait for the others. Above the waves you'd hardly know the conditions underneath, beautiful warm day, slight swells under the boat. Things weren't quite done though, the boats skipper gave a shout and we turned round just in time to see the Sea Eagle skim the water about 10 metres away trying to catch fish near the surface, it missed but circled round for several more tries, pretty impressive sight to see. As if that wasn't enough the final part of the show was a large Barracuda (more than a metre long) jumping out of and then skimming along the water. The only disappointment was that we missed a turtle at the bottom of the line, the leader had been unable to point it out during the dive due to the current. Hopefully will get another chance for Turtle spotting on this trip though!

Overall I would highly recommend the dive school Quiver, our two Dive Masters were great and thanks to Louise for acting as our Tourist Information for the island! We had some good meals thanks to her, including Steak and Chips followed by Apple Pie and custard which helped with some of the things I'd been missing.

On our last day we walked around the island. This was nice but exhausting. The island is really nice and we found some secluded bays which were nice to hangout in. Most excitingly we, sort of, made our own lunch, well we found a shop that sold bread and tuna so we made tuna sandwiches, this was quite an event for us! The island has no vehicles (apart from a couple of JCB's) so it's relaxing wandering around.

On our last morning we had an early boat to catch back to the main land, we crawled out of bed at 6am to the sound of rain. Managed to clamber down to the beach by 7 where the waves were coming in. About 7.45 we got a taxi boat out to out, slightly larger, bus boat - this was quite a challenge in itself manhandling our luggage into the small boat and then the bus boat. There was a gasp from one of the other boats as someones luggage was narrowly saved from a watery end. The adventure really started when we set out to sea, I was sat next to an English girl who we had got the boat with on the way over, she had obviously spent most of her time in the sun but her good tan was slightly undone by the giant white marks around her eyes from her giant sunglasses. She told me in Samoa the boat rides were horrific, the waves were giant and the boats were tossed around, within 5 minutes of hitting the open ocean she admitted this was the worse boat ride she'd ever been on. The boat was the same as the one we'd got over, but this time the waves were bigger, this didn't slow down the driver though. Pretty quickly you got used to hitting the waves, the boat lurched and you covered your eyes to try and avoid the stinging salt water spray, at times the boat would climb waves sideways tilting and forcing you to hold on, but things really got exciting when you hit a angled wave at full speed. When this happened the boat would slam almost to a stop from impact, tilt sideways in the wave and veer widely off course. It's hard to know how close we were to going over but it felt pretty close and although we didn't end up at the bottom of the sea our stomachs did. Hitting a particularly vicious wave towards the end of the journey the guy sat next to the driver almost fell out, being dragged back in by the people either side.

We arrived at the peer, soaked, exhausted and with a 8 hour bus journey ahead of us if we could find the bus station. This was not a great start to the day, but we did reach the bus, it was comfy, we did make it to Kuala Lumpar and we don't seem to have trench foot!

Overall I'm not sure if I would recommend the Perhentian Islands. I would probably say only if you love diving or the idea of an island without vehicles. It is expensive, both to reach and to live in, it can be difficult and risky (especially for your baggage) and stressful to reach but if you can face these it's a good spot, Quiver have a good diving setup and Bintong do great apple pie.

Still no photo's. Unfortunately they take ages to upload but I will try to do a load today or tomorrow!

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