While Koh Tao has been the leading hub for travellers to pick up on a dive license or two in South East Asia, Perhentian has now caught up to a close second. Here are the 10 reasons why you should dive in Perhentian Island in Malaysia!
1. AMAZING CLEAR WATERS AND BEAUTIFUL BEACHES
The photo above was taken straight from an iPhone 5 – no filters involved and this was on our way out to get back to the mainland. If that alone doesn’t convince you to visit, check out the Long Beach in Perhentian Kecil, and the view from top of the hills overlooking the sea. I wrote about Perhentian before, so feel free to read more on my experience here!
2. CHEAP ACCOMODATION
While Perhentian boasts two main islands, the smaller island however is the better choice among the two. Perhentian Kecil caters more to the laidback backpackers style, with Long Beach being the hotspot for cheap accommodations and dive centres. Coral Bay, just a few minutes walk from Long Beach is perfect for sunset views and mid range restaurants and accommodation.
You can easily get dorm beds for as low as RM20 – RM30 (less than USD 10!) or a nice double or a triple fan room for RM65-RM90 (less than USD 20!). There are wide ranges of accommodation available in Perhentian Kecil – Tropicana Backpackers, Matahari Chalet, Mohsin, Ombak (located in Coral Bay), Fatimah’s and Ewan’s to name a few. If you’re looking for a more posh option – the BuBu Long Beach Resort and Shari-La Island Resort are something to consider.
Alternatively you can ask dive shops for rooms, which is what I did during my last trip to Perhentian. I shared a triple fan room in Oh La La with two other divers (whom I coincidentally met on the boat and went hunting for rooms with the earlier morning).
However do note that most of the lodgings do not offer any online booking whatsoever, so be sure to catch the earliest boat to the island and start hunting before mid morning in order to get yourself a place to stay.
3. AFFORDABLE DIVING COURSES
Both Perhentian and Koh Tao came to a close tie for diving courses, with Koh Tao leading the pole for being slightly cheaper. An average fun dive in Perhentian would set you back RM75, while wreck dives would cost you higher at RM85.
I did my Open Water qualifications in 2014 back in Kota Kinabalu, which was slightly more expensive – but I can safely tell you that Perhentian is one of the cheapest place for you to get your diving qualifications!
4. SMALLER DIVE CLASSES
I personally dislike big groups when I dive. I hate it when you’re shoved into a group of ten in certain dive schools, and it was one of the main reason why I didn’t take my qualifications in Thailand. A large dive group deters you from having the attention you need from your dive master/instructors. In Perhentian most of the classes are done in smaller groups, which I really like.
There are wide ranges of dive centres in Perhentian Kecil, with Turtle Bay Divers, Panorama, and Quiver Dive Team being the top ones just to name a few. I was already staying with Oh La La at that time and decided to dive with them, and had the best of time.
5. IT’S BETTER UNDER THE SEA
Perhentian feels like an entire wonderland down under (for a newbie at least). There are higher chances of you encountering a turtle on your first dive – in fact Perhentian was where I first saw a massive Humphead Parrotfish (which had us shouting in glee underwater) and a Jenkins Whip Ray.
There were also sightings of whale sharks, although it depends on the different season of the year. A mutual friend once caught a glimpse of a Whale Shark during his Open Water dives back in 2014 – and that was one of his first few dives mind you, talk about being lucky!
Notable dive spots in Perhentian are Temple of the Sea, D’Lagoon, T3, Sugar Wreck and Batu Nisan, with Temple of the Sea being my personal favorite.
6. CHILL NIGHTLIFE
While I have nothing against beach parties (in fact I welcomed them with arms wide open!) Perhentian Island is amazing for a chill night out. I had the best of time in Perhentian just by lying on top of the beach front, and spent the night stargazing while filling my lungs with flavoured hookah.
While beach parties in Perhentian are nothing like the ones in Thailand, there is always something going on almost every night. Little bars would popped by the beach at night, bringing forth the fire twirlers and club/reggae music.
7. AFFORDABLE FOOD AND BARS
Food in Perhentian is very subjective – you’ll be surprise at how a plate of nasi goreng can cost you RM9 (USD 3) onwards. Most of the ingredients are brought over from the mainland, hence there’s the external cost of transportation to consider.
I mainly survive on small beachfront stalls where it’s notably cheaper compared to other eateries and restaurants. But if you search hard enough, good food are not hard to find in Perhentian. In fact you can easily get BBQ seafood buffet for as low as RM15 (USD 5)!
Cheap liquors on the other hand are widely available, with a bottle of Monkey Juice (local rhum) selling for RM25 (USD 8) at most bars. Beers would start at RM9 (USD 3) and cocktails at RM15 (USD 5) – nothing cheap like Thailand but cheap enough for the Malaysian standard.
8. PRIVATE HIDDEN BEACHES
Don’t you hate it when you’re in search of a beach getaway only to find thousands of tourists on the same spot?
Well here you can get all the beach privacy in the world! In fact, go ahead and explore! Feel free to pick up a kayak or two, and who knows you’ll find yourself a secluded beach on your own. Romantic Beach is my favorite, but there’s Mira Beach and D’Lagoon as well. Just be sure to pick up the island map before setting out on an adventure 🙂
9. PERHENTIAN IS EASILY ACCESSIBLE!
With just 8 hours bus ride away from Kuala Lumpur and a 45 minutes boat ride from Kuala Besut, Perhentian is indeed fairly accessible.
From Kuala Lumpur you can either take the bus from Bandar Tasik Selatan Terminal (also accessible by train from KL Central) with 5 star coaches pricing at RM45 (USD 15). Boat ride from Kuala Besut to Perhentian Island are RM70 (USD 23) for a return trip.
Night buses are popular because this allows you to sleep on the road, yet enables you to catch the earliest boat to the island in the morning. Alternatively you can fly to Kuala Terengganu and take a connecting bus to Kuala Besut.
10. A paradise in its own right
One of my favourite places in South East Asia, the Perhentian Island is definitely one of the best kept secret of Malaysia. Despite the ongoing dive industry, Perhentian is still untouched, and the chill laid back vibes always kept me coming back for more.
Twice I’ve visited Perhentian, and twice it doesn’t disappoint (you can read up on my previous Perhentian experience here!). If you’re feeling like breaking out of the normal backpacking route, feel free to make a quick detour to Malaysia and visit Perhentian Island. And while you’re at it, do come and visit Borneo as well!