Imagine an island covered in rain forest with fine white sandy beaches at its edges. Squirrels play on palm trees hanging over the beaches, while monitor lizards roam the area. The ocean here is a world of its own, with its vast colorful marine life full of coral that makes you feel like you're in the 'Finding Nemo' cartoon. There are no cars here, no roads, the only means of transportation are taxi boats or a bumpy footpath around the island. There's no electricity so resorts and shops operate on generators only. The Internet is so limited here you'll feel cut off from the rest of the world.
This is a tropical paradise, the gem of Peninsular Malaysia, however you can still find some nuisances, so here are some tips for a great stay;
1) Shops are limited on the islands and are quite pricy (especially cigarettes) so shop at 7/11 at the pier before getting to the islands; you only get one chance!
2) As mentioned above resorts only work on generators so forget getting to your room for a warm shower! Water heaters are non existent, but if you are desperate for having a shower 3pm is your best shot, as that's the time the tanks are at their warmest.
3) Talking about generator operated resorts, get a room far away from it if you want a good nights sleep!
4) There are no ATMs on the islands so make sure you take enough cash. Some dive shops or high end resorts do accept credit cards and cash back, however at a commission.
5) Stay on Pulau Kecil (the small island), unless you want to end up on Pulau Besar which usually gets more of the older generation and loud package deal tourists.
6) There are some options with accommodation when staying on Pulau Kecil, depending on what you're looking for. If you want a beach that has options for dining out in restaurants, a great nightlife, wifi accessibility in some areas, but has a busy sandy beach full of parked boats and is the kind of beach that never never sleeps, then stay on long beach. It's the hub of the small island and staying here can help you save money on taxi boats.
If you are looking at somewhere quiet, where you can hear the waves crushing on the beach, can hear the palm trees dance in the wind, or snorkel on its own small reef, but has no choice for restaurants because there only 3 resorts. taxi boats to and from areas can get quite pricey especially after 7pm, then Petani beach is the one you should stay on.
Coral bay is midway, it's a smaller beach and busy but quiet at the same time. An advantage of staying here is that it's only 5-10 min walk to long beach if you want to go crazy and only short taxi boat rides to other beaches.
6) Network reception is not available in all areas, not even on busy Long beach! The same goes for Internet accessibility, none of the budget resorts have wifi and only a few restaurants offer a slow connection. An option, if desperate, is buying a 5 hour connection card for 10RM from the cafe and Internet shop from Long Beach, and you can get wifi reception only in their vicinity.
7) Snorkeling tours are usually cheaper if bought from Coral bay rather than Long Beach. As a general rule, be aware when snorkeling and other excursions say lunch at village; this only means they will stop you for lunch, it doesn't mean it is included and free.
8) Booking budget resorts is impossible from websites, can't blame them due to limited internet accessibly! Get to the beach you have chosen to stay at in the morning between 9am and 11am when check outs are normally done. You are most likely guaranteed a stay. Worst case, get a taxi boat to the next preferred beach.
9) The jungle track around the islands can take you to the beaches, it's a beautiful walk but long and hilly and can be quite an exercise. Just watch where you're waking you don't want to step on the insects that crawl out here or be bitten by the big ants that come out after the rain.
10) As discussed in tip 1, buying munchies from the main land is a wise move as choices here are limited, but not if you're going to find them eaten and full of ants, after leaving them for a few hours in your room. Then it won't be the best idea would it? Squirrels may be cute but not so much if they smell the food or the bars of soap or candles you left around! So ask the guest house for a plastic container which you can secure in, leaving squirrels or even rats at night out of your space!
11) Mosquitoes are the worst nuisance and they are seeking flesh all day not only during sunset. Even if your wearing long sleeves and pants they bite from over the clothes, so the best way to avoid them is by not only spraying on open skin but spray also over the clothes. Moon tigers help too. It's best to have anthisan or a similar cream that aids the itch if (or when) bitten.
12) Get to these islands to unwind, there isn't much to do here other than relaxing, snorkeling, diving, swimming, walking on the jungle path, kayaking and did I mention relax!
13) Every night at 10.30pm on long beach there is a fire show, make sure you secure your spot earliest as it's packed with spectators.
14) Last but not least, the islands are like a drug they get addictive! Never plan your trip when in the Perhentian, be flexible and take it day by day as most visitors plan a 2 to 3 day trip and end up staying for a week or more (so remember to take extra cash!).
If you have been to the Perhentian Islands and would like to add more tips, kindly leave a comment below.