Not far off the east coast of the Malaysian peninsula are the beautiful Perhentian Islands. They are acknowledged as the showpiece islands of the country and with good reason. Warm, clear water here laps gently onto a rocky shoreline and some of the finest beaches in the country. After my sweaty jungle hiking in Taman Negara, I was excited about the opportunity for some beach time.
From the pier at Kuala Besut, there is a choice of two islands: Pulau Kecil or Pulau Besar. These are otherwise known as simply the small and large islands respectively. I was a little confused by the options but I decided on Kecil because it has a better range of cheaper accommodation and a younger crowd compared to the quieter resorts on the large island of Besar.
On Pulau Kecil I then had to choose between Long Beach and Coral Bay. In the end I settled on the latter more because it is smaller with a quieter, more relaxed ambience. Coral Bay was a good choice because it is on the ‘sunset’ side of the island but it's only a ten minute hike across the narrow waist of land between the two anyway.
To make it even better I found a couple of friends staying there who I'd met previously in Taman Negara. So I settled in for a wonderful few days spent swimming, reading my book under palm trees, playing beach volleyball and eating some lovely fresh seafood straight off the barbecue. My accommodation overlooked the main beach and was only a short walk to a much smaller, more secluded stretch of sand.
I hiked over to aptly named Long Beach a couple of times. This large curve of smooth sand stretches around a lovely bay but it lacks the intimacy of Coral Bay on the other side. Sailing and snorkelling are popular activities here and a sign on Long Beach encouraged everyone to do it. "Snorkelling like sex" the sign read, "The first time you try you are nervous - but it’s still the best thing you’ve ever tried".
I was intrigued and wanted to know more about this curious comparison. "The more you do it the better it gets" and "As you do it with more people you learn new techniques" the sign continued. It was sounding better all the time! "With experience you can do it longer and more fun" was then concluded with "If you enjoy sex you’ll love snorkelling". I went and booked my trip immediately.
My six-hour boat tour visited five different locations and lunch in a fishing village. The places we went to had alluring names such as Shark Point, Coral Garden, Turtle Bay, The Lighthouse and Romantic Beach. Along the way I spotted reef sharks, turtles, a variety of tropical fish and a couple of stingrays. In the end I wasn't entirely convinced about the bold claim on their colourful sign but it was a great day in the sun and sparkling blue water.