It was the onset of summer in the Philippines and I was yearning for the beach! “But why go Malaysia? You have plenty of great beaches there in the Philippines!” an American backpacker asked me. That’s true but somehow this was different and unexpected. It felt like cheating, I know I love the Philippines and its beaches but somehow, Perhentian Islands in Malaysia is so homey and relaxing I quickly fell in love with it and yes even if some Travel Magazine dubbed our very own Boracay Island as the best in the world, this one is a lot closer to me as a perfect beach island getaway. And it all started when I was looking for an offbeat place to visit in Malaysia and this picture of a beautiful island with torquiest water and a promise of unspoiled underwater haven sold me to fly to Kuala Lumpur.
Perhentian Islands is a group of small islands found at the Northeastern coast of Malaysia under the Terengganu State. It’s a lot closer to the Thai Border. Going there, people can fly Kota Bahru to its jump-off point of Kuala Besut. If you have no problems with long rides, an 8-9 hour bus ride from Kuala Lumpur via Kuala Terengganu city proper or direct buses to Kuala Besut Jetty.
The Bus Rides
From Kuala Lumpur LCCT airport, I made my way to KL Sentral first and took the MRT to PWTC station which is near the Hentian Putra Bus Station where most of the buses going the northeastern region originates. It’s a small bus station but I do like the idea that all the bus companies have one central station like this.
I could opt to take a bus straight to Kuala Besut which leaves at 9pm and 9pm daily via Mutiara, Perdana, Sani and Mahligai bus companies but I have to meet my friend coming from Singapore in Kuala Terengganu. I bought a ticket for Terengganu on a Transnasional Bus for MYR 40.20. Since the bus leaves at 10:30pm, I killed time at the nearby Sunway Mall.
The bus station got really busy when I got back at 9:30pm. The numerous buses rolled on to their respective bay one after another and passengers hurriedly proceeded to their rides. I waited in attention by the announcement board to see if my bus is already at the bay since the announcements are spoken in their local language.
It was easy to spot my brown Transnasional Bus when it got into the bay. The bus wasn’t even half full when it rolled out by 10:40pm. At the back of the bus are single seats which were very comfortable. It only has two stops at midnight and around 3am. My bus arrived at Kuala Terengganu, Majlis Bandaraya Bus Station by 5:30am.
From Kuala Terengganu to Kuala Besut
It was still dark and it was hard to tell whether the huge number of birds chirping was real or originating from a loudspeaker. It was cool an chilly until the sun went up, the cold dissipating like the number of people at the station. There are buses to Kuala Besut that leaves at around 7am but I waited for my friend who arrived shortly past 8am.
We were second guessing whether which bus if any would be going to Kuala Besut. By 11am, a non-aircon SP Bumi Bus pulled by the bay and we boarded as it’s the one headed to Kuala Besut (MYR 10.80). The ride took a couple of hours passing by the beautiful coastal road. It’s amazing they have long stretches of nice beaches with grounds turned into public parks where locals can enjoy the beaches for free. We arrived at the Perhentian Islands Terminal Jetty by 1pm
Speed Boat to Perhentian Islands
There are several Travel Agencies in the area but the standard rates for a Roundtrip Speedboat ticket to the islands is MYR 70. Each agencies have their boats so its better to stick with their dispatchers at the terminal. There’s also a MYR 5 Conservation Charge which people are required to pay at the jetty.
The boat ride to different parts of the islands can take 30-45minutes. Make sure to hold on to your horses at the fast boat ride on these waters is most of the time bumpy. Before boarding the boat, do tell where you are going. The Perhentian Kecil is the smaller island where most backpackers go to because of the cheaper food and accommodations. Two popular beaches there are the Long Beach and Coral Bay. Perhentian Besar is the bigger island with a lot high end resorts. We were one of the first few few who got out of the boat. We decided to stay at Coral Bay and boy from the jetty, I was already impressed with the crystal clear turquoise water. Boy this is gonna be fun.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.