After my trip to beautiful Perhentian I thought I would do a quick write up on my experience. If you have never been I have one word for you: GO!
How to get there: There are three ways I know of. Take the bus, drive, or fly. I have heard the bus trip is 9 hours, driving all the way is likely only an option if you have two drivers (please do not be the sleepy dead hero and do it solo in one go), or fly. I decided to fly with my preferred airline, Firefly. I like their aircraft and as a corporate account holder I get some small perks if I need to change flights/passengers. The fact you leave from nearby Subang instead of the horrible cattle shed waaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyy out at the KLIA and dont have to worry about buying luggage allowance or food are also factors worth consideration. Also it was the cheapest!
One thing you have to watch out for on the firefly aircraft is that the over head compartments are very small. If you are a photographer a smaller Lowepro back pack will work. Into this I was able to fit the following: Canon 5DMk3, Canon 650D (backup), 135mm F2.0L, 85mm f1.2L, 24-70 F2.8, 16-35mm F2.8L, Speedlight 600EX. I could probably have gotten by with my Nikon D3, however it is a taller and noticeably heavier camera, all part of the price for being more rugged.
If you check in to the same hotel I used then you will get picked up from the Kota Bahru airport and driven south for about an hour to the jetty. You will be asked to pay an RM5 tax by a customs officer before boarding your boat. This is supposed to be put into a fund for the protection the marine environment. I have no idea where you can find updated information on what these efforts may be.
The fast boats takes 30 minutes to get to the island. Make sure you know which island you are going to as there are two of them.
Where to Stay: If you are on a tight budget or want to “slum it” you have lots of options. Most places have fans and likely have hot water for limited times during the day. My own criteria was:
- Must have an in room safe so I can secure my camera equipment.
- Must be a place I want to come back to at the end of the day
- Have decent food.
- Accept credit cards (just in case)
My back packing days are more or less over and with over 25 countries under my belt by the time I was 25 I think its time to have some comfort now and again. With these as my criteria there was only one location that would foot the bill: Bubu Long Beach Resort on the small island of Perhentian Kecil.
Boat times do not sync very well with check in and check out times however that will give you time to chill out and take in the venue.Â Below you can see the general layout. The ground floor rooms open out towards the beach front while the middle and top rooms open towards the rear. They are accessible via staircases either end and an open walk way facing the hill side jungle, and if you are over towards the right of the photo you will see the power generators. My room was the one in the top right of this photo and despite being the closest to the generators I didn’t find the noise disturbing.
The beach bar offers two free cocktails every evening if you are staying there. Either alcoholic or non-alcoholic, so the kids can join you too. Be warned that a long day on the beach will make that second Maitai a wee bit more relaxing than you were prepared for Â 🙂
My room view was simply awesome. I could wake up to this every day and reminded me of my childhood home. The breakfast area is in the thatched building to the left. They have a proper coffee machine and barista which translates into: Best coffee at any resort I have been to up to this time.
Here’s a look at my room interior. Good air conditioning. Clean interior. No phone. No TV. Comfortable bed. Perfect.
Bathroom was clean, has hot water all day and good pressure in the showers. I did find the shower floor slightly slippery and it nearly caused me a problem. There is a compound available in hardware shops that can alleviate the slipperiness. I hope they apply it soon…hint…hint
The in room safe was perfect. Easily big enough to accommodate all of my camera gear and then some. It provides peace of mind when you are out and about. While crime is certainly not in your face like in a big city, I heard petty theft is an issue and a friend who goes there regularly knows of someone having their camera stolen. Better safe than sorry.
The primary purpose of going to the island is the beach and sea. The beach is very nice powdered coral and the water is very clear compared to the Klang river and Port Dickson, so you will find it an amazing experience. Right next to the Bubu there is a dive shop which takes out several boats in the morning so you can snorkel. It costs RM60 for the full morning with gear rental additional. The gear rental covers mask, snorkel, flippers and life vest. Most people wear the life vest while snorkelling for safety sake however if you are an experienced free diver you don’t need to wear it when in the water. There are 4 locations they take you to see. The first is usually turtle bay. This is a sandy bay with a sea grass growing on the sea bed. It is about 4m deep and we saw two good sized turtles I would estimate were 1m across and 1.5m long. If you are a good free diver then you will love diving down to the sea floor to get a closer look at the turtles. Just be careful coming up as there are a LOT of boats and other divers. Someone mentioned there had been someone hit by a boat a few weeks earlier so please stick with the crowd.
The second location was above a reef which had myriads of fish. They were very friendly and delighted many of the snorkelers as they swam up to have a closer look at us.
The next location was Shark Bay. Hopefully you will be able to see black tipped reef sharks here. They are harmless but most people feel a tinge of trepidation about going in. That’s normal so don’t worry. Swallow your worries and head on in. I was fortunate enough to see one on our trip. It’s not guaranteed. Water is about 5m-6m here.
The last location was a sandy bay had completely different fish, made for speed and agility.
I was keen to get some photos under the water. I rented a Canon G9 from a diving instructor (RM100 per day) along with Canon’s underwater casing for it. It was a good job I did as I found the Dicapac DCP-WPS10 totally unacceptable due to its buoyancy, poor focusing and near impossible control system. The G9 was marginally better. After shooting with a DSLR the response speed of the G9 when in its underwater case the control system was soft and sluggish. Under water it was pretty much spray and pray. All of these photos were taken in water easily accessible and only waist to shoulder deep.