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Finding Nemo at the Perhentian Islands

The Perhentian Islands are situated on the north-east of Malaysia and are part of the Pulau Redang National Marine Park. The bigger, more expensive and with a vast choices of accommodations is the Perhentian Besar, while the smaller and simpler one is the Perhentian Kecil, where we spent 5 incredibles days.

This tropical paradise is characterized by shallow crystal clear water, white sand and thick jungle. There are no streets on the island and the only way to get around is by boat.

To get to the islands you will have to get a, more or less reliable, boat from the Kuala Besut pier. The islands are closed during the monsoon that hits the east coast of Malaysia between November and February, but even when they are open there can be rough water, random rain and the boats sometimes are not able to run.

We went there in March and it was quite a journey. We arrived from Taman Negara where we booked the bus from there to Kuala Besut, plus the two-way boat ride with NKS. Not the best choice.

It takes about 8 hours drive from Taman Negara to Kuta Besut, our minivan was overloaded and the driver thought he was in a race. You better take a big bus, spend one extra hour and be more comfortable and safe.

The worst part is yet to come though; that boat ride was hell for me. After one hour waiting at the pier, we finally got into the boat (the smallest one) with way too many people on. It was more similar to a long boat than something else and we had to cross the ocean for 40 min in that thing. To get the balance right, the driver started throwing our bags around with no care, almost breaking one girls guitar. Once in the boat the driver told us that the water would be “a little bit choppy,” which would have been nice to know before and put some extra layers around my laptop and camera, but the water resistant bag should have been enough.

I’m not a nautic expert, but waves that completely cover the small useless boat and makes you jump from your little wooden bench and almost fall in the ocean, is not the definition of “little choppy” in my opinion. Anyway, despite my tragic visions, we made it! And just when the water was starting to get through the waterproof layers, so our technology was safe.

NKS, clear information about the water condition and bigger boat would be helpful, thank you very much.

Waves or no waves, as soon as I stepped on the island I realized that the hell journey was absolutely worth it!

On the side where the boats dock there is Coral Beach, where you can find the majority of accommodation and places to eat. Going on the left you will find the beach of Shari-la Island Resort where you can rent snorkel and go swimming with the fishes. There is a mix of coral and sand and the visibility is still excellent! As soon as you step in the water small fishes will come around your feet and legs and give you a spa treatment (eating your dead skin).

From Coral Beach there is a path that crosses the jungle and takes you to Long Beach on the other side of the island. Here you will find a few bars and accommodations and especially the whitest and softest sand that you can imagine! There are no corals and no snorkeling to do on this side and the water is often rough, be careful if you want to swim because the currents are strong and unexpected. The water is shallow for a long ways out and again is super clear! If you want the perfect tan just sit or even lie on the shore, it is a paradise! The island is small and the main activities are diving or snorkeling. You can book a tour that will take you to swim with sharks, with tortoise and Nemos!

The best spot is Romantic Beach. To get there from Coral Beach you can either Kayak, following the coast on your right, swim if you have flippers and you are a good swimmer or take a taxi boat. You might be able to get there following a track by land but I am not sure. Romantic Beach is perfect, you will find, maximum, another couple of people. The water is clear and within the corals and anemoni there are nemos playing peekabo. It is perfect! You will want to spend so much time in the water with your snorkel that you will feel your like a fish, and you will probably burn your back.

When you are tired of the fishes you can chill on the beach with good book. Alcohol is expensive and not available everywhere, so you better hydrate yourself with some fresh coconut.

There are no ATMs in the island so remember to take some cash out when you are in Kuala Besut. Few places have WiFi and the 3G works better on the Long Beach side, still not a connection with which you would be able to work, in case you are considering working from there.

I was so busy chasing Nemo that I didn’t take any pictures with my camera, but here there are two short underwater videos that Jarel made. Enjoy!

Snorkeling at the Pherentian Islands

Pulau Perhentian Kecil


Profile photo of Carlotta Rebonato

Italian on paper but world nomad in the heart. Traveling and photography are my biggest passions and I have recently decided to put all my energy into them. Always learning and always moving, my plans change quickly—seeing one cool shot or reading an article can make me choose my next destination.Random facts about me.I think monkeys are bipolar; that's why they freak me out a little bit. I love wild animals but I hate the idea of them in a cage; that's why I have never been to a zoo. In general, the wild fascinates and terrifies me at the same time.I love temples because no other place makes me feel that sort of peace. I love beaches, working on my tan and sipping on margaritas, which can sometimes be hard work. I love swimming with Nemo! But if you put what I love all together, I could have a heart attack; I need beauty in little doses to be able to cope with it because I get over excited too easily.

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