Thursday, October 8, 2009
After less than an hour on a boat from the east coast of Malaysia, the laid-back atmosphere and the natural beauty of the Perhentian islands immediately transport you to a different world. The white sand is dotted with sun-worshipping holiday makers, some retreating to the shade for a glass of freshly squeezed juice. A group of scuba divers are boarding a boat to venture out into the turquoise waters and submerge themselves in the underwater wonderland. Later, as the sun sets, a quiet buzz of music and chatter fills the air, together with the thin wisp of smoke from the barbeque fire.
The Perhentian Islands are two islands named Pulau Perhentian Kecil (Small Perhentian Island) and Pulau Perhentian Besar (Large Perhentian Island). The Malay name Perhentian is translated as “place to stop” and this is exactly what these two islands were for traders travelling between Malaysia and Bangkok in years gone by. These islands are still a gorgeous place to stop and rest today, albeit for tourists disconnecting from the stress and routine of everyday life and not for weary seafaring traders.
The islands remain relatively untouched and the only permanent inhabitants live in a small fishing village on Perhentian Kecil. Apart from footpaths that cut through the jungle, there are no roads on the islands. The only way to get around is by walking through the jungle or taking a sea taxi. If you tread carefully, you may even encounter some of the islands’ shy wildlife on the way, such as monitor lizards, fruit bats, squirrels or even the elusive mouse deer. Simple chalets and some moderately luxurious resorts line the picturesque beaches along with restaurants, dive centres and boat operators advertising their services with hand-painted signs.
Perhaps it is the stretches of white beach or the crystal clear water and the superior scuba diving. Perhaps it is the untouched forests or the relaxed atmosphere and unspoiled charm. We like to think that is a little bit of all of this that makes the Perhentian Islands the perfect place to stop and take some time out.