Our First Paradise Island

Trip Start Jun 19, 2009
Trip End Sep 17, 2009

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Flag of Malaysia  , Terengganu,
Friday, July 3, 2009

Our first taste of Paradise (albeit a paradise with litter).

Day 1: Another Night Visitor

The Arwana  hotel (the only actual hotel on the beach) was the first we came to and had a room for the night – more expensive than we wanted but it gave us a base and did have a swimming pool. As with all accommodation in the Perhentians it was located on the beach.

We were staying on big island, Perhentian Besar.

Getting into bed the first night we put the lights out …… only to be disturbed by strange noises form behind a cupboard which stopped when we switched the lights on and started again whenever they went out. In the darkness we could just make out something moving on the cupboard only for it to quickly disappear with the lights. To cut a long night short, Martyn eventually moved the cupboard and watched a small rat race from behind it, across the room and squeeze out under the door, obviously retracing its entrance route. The next day when reading a leaflet on the wildlife of the islands we laughed at the bit about ‘cheeky Asian house rats which would invade visitors rooms containing food’ – although why it would want our pot noodles we still don’t understand!

Much of the rest of our first day was spent by the pool on the sun beds – we’d already decided to move on so wanted to make the most of it.

Day 2: Flora Bay

We wandered down Flora beach looking for alternative accommodation and ended up in the Bayu Dive lodge as it was the cheapest with air-con (we wanted a treat) and had a nice vibe.

While walking the beaches here we were struck by the level of litter (especially plastic bottles) – litter is not specific to the Perhentians (it’s a general problem for Malaysia) but stands out there because of its otherwise idyllic appearance. While the beaches in front of the accommodations and bars are managed by the individual premises there does not seem to be any general care taken for the beaches – ironic really when these islands are promoted for their ecological management and you even have to pay an ecological tax for entry into the marine park.

Snorkelling in Flora bay was limited as the sand made the water as clear as milk. Obviously we were going to have to find alternative locations. While snorkelling here we met Catriona, originally of Ullapool (small world and all that) and now resident in NZ. She was on her way to the Rainforest music festival in Borneo and was great fun to chat with.

Day 3: Trekking Round the Island

Martyn’s birthday (he got a new toothbrush!) and we moved into the Bayu Dive lodge – simple wooden chalets with air-con and on-suite (cold water only), beautifully kept and mostly occupied by folks on dive courses at Alu-Alu Dive centre. Run by some really chilled out folk, we were very comfortable here especially playing with their unusual pet, a sea otter called Milo who liked to bite ankles.

Dumping our luggage we went for a circular trek around the island, no snakes but our first big millipede (about 30cm long). Coral Bay turned out to be absolutely beautiful and we cursed we’d not brought our swim kit as it just demanded to be snorkelled in. On the way, everywhere we asked about accommodation it was fully booked so we were glad we’d ended up in Flora Bay.

Day 4: A day at Coral Bay

Walked back over the island and spent the whole day on the beach at Coral Bay. It is true to its name having a large coral garden in the middle of the bay with lots of fish. We’d both been caught a bit by the sun lying on the beach even though we’d been in the shade of a palm most of the time.

Day 5: Chillin’ in the Shade

Sat and chilled and stayed out of the sun.

Day 6: Snorkelling with Turtles

Had a great trip out on Alu-Alu’s dive boat with 14 friendly Norwegians (3 families travelling together). 4.5 hrs on the boat with good snorkelling at 4 different locations.  Swam with our first giant leather back turtle, an amazing experience. Fortunately one of our swimming friends had a camera built into his goggles and generously brought them to dinner so we could copy the images to our laptop.
Connecting up a netbook to borrowed USB enabled goggles in the middle of a moonlit tropical island beach has to go down as one of those more unusual moments.

Day 7: Moving On Again

Leaving the Perhentians. Back on the speed boat taxi – they like their outboards BIG here and they don’t like to hang about.
20 minutes after leaving we were back on the mainland to find our way to the junction with the main road to Kuala Terengganu where we we’d been told to sit and wait for the bus which as far as we know should come anytime within a couple of hours (ish). Other travellers turned up at the same spot by the junction so we thought it was likely to be the right place; asking at a local café we’re told the bus is due at 1pm, while others waiting have been told 2pm – clear as mud, as usual.
AMAZINGLY, at 1:00 pm the bus to KT pulled in – we were stunned!

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