Turning in early the night before meant that we all woke up at 6am on the second day. We were scheduled to take the first boat out to Pulau Perhentian at 9:30am so we had quite some time to get ready. Once everyone was ready, we decided to go out to see what was available for breakfast in Kuala Besut. Unsurprisingly in this one street town, there was hardly anything opened at that early in the day. We ended up having breakfast at the hotel’s café which was located just a few meters from the hotel’s entrance after walking almost the whole length of the town.
After a simple breakfast of nasi lemak and coffee, we went back to our rooms to pick up our bags and check out of the hotel. Once everything was settled at the hotel, we walked down a few meters to the Kuala Besut Connection Tour office. Located just a stone’s throw away from the Kuala Besut bus stop, they organize trips not only to Pulau Perhentian but also to Pulau Redang, Cameron Highlands and Taman Negara. After signing in and parking our cars at their secure parking space aka in front of the owner’s house, we picked up our bags and walked down the street to the boat jetty. Before we boarded the fast boat to Pulau Perhentian, we had to pay the RM 5 per person entry fee to the marine park where Pulau Perhentian was located in.
(Kuala Besut Connection Tour office and the Kuala Besut bus stop)I didn’t really know what to expect with the boat ride. I have read accounts from some people that the ride could be both wet and wild. I even packed all my stuff in plastic bags before putting them into my bags just in case it got too wet. It turned out that my preparations and the Dramamine tab that I swallowed before the ride was all for nothing. The trip was not as bad as I thought it would be. The seas was calm and the ride was actually an enjoyable prelude to the vacation. With the exception of 3 other passengers who were headed for another resort on the island, we had the boat all to ourselves coming in. The trip took about ½ hour from Kuala Besut across the South China Sea before we saw the emerald green island of Perhentian Kecil growing bigger in our horizon.
We approached Pulau Perhentian from the west shore and saw the west beaches of Perhentian Kecil first. I could not see any resorts or chalets on this side of the island which made me think of the number of unspoilt beaches that they must have there. As we approached the narrow stretch of sea that separated the Kecil and Besar island, the boat veered westward towards the Senja beach resort to drop off our boat ride companions who had booked their accommodation there. Since we came in during low tide, the resorts had to send small boats out to pick up visitors coming in on the boat from the mainland. It was quite fortunate that the seas were calm that day or it would surely be a challenge to negotiate the boat transfer when one does not have their sea legs set up yet.
After saying good bye and wishing them a great vacation, we proceeded to Abdul’s Chalet where we had made reservation for 3 beach front chalet. As we made it closer to the shore, I was amazed by the turquoise green waters that surrounded Perhentian Besar. I have only seen sea as green as this in pictures and would never thought that I would see it myself. The sea was so clear that you could almost see all away to the bottom even when it was surely deeper than I could imagine. A short ride later, we reached the beach where Abdul’s Chalet was located. As before, the owners came up to the boat with their own boats to take us in the last few meters to the beach. Since there were 11 of us and a whole boatload of bags, we had to make 2 trips on the small boat before we had everything and everyone on Abdul’s Chalet, Perhentian Besar.
Abdul’s Chalet was exactly as I pictured it. A row of individual chalets each with their own verandah lined the beach amongst the tall coconut trees that acted as natural umbrellas that provided shade from the sun. Another row of chalets were located behind the first row which they called the garden facing chalets but I never even checked them out as it would be a waste to be there and not have a view of the sea as you open the chalet’s door. It turned out that we came in early that day and the current occupant of the units that we booked have not checked out yet since check out time was at 12pm. In fact, they were still having a last dip in the sea when we came ashore at about 10am. We checked in at the chalet’s reception area and left our bags there while we went down to the beach to bask in the sun.
The beach was as picturesque as I could hope for and much more. Powdery white sand bordered the greenish sea that was so clear that it was as if it was a your own private swimming pool. My nephew and niece quickly bugged us to help them change into their swimsuits so they can jump straight into the warm waters. Of course us older people had to wait for our rooms before we could change into our suits so I was left just rolling up my shorts before wading into the water to chaperone them. I have to admit at that particular time I was so envious of their exuberance and innocence while watching them frolic without a care in such a beautiful piece of beach.
We finally got to get settled into our chalets at around noon time and it was a pleasant surprise. Each room had 2 double beds, fans, a cupboard and an ensuite bathroom. The bathroom, which was actually bigger than my bathroom at home, had a shower, proper sitting toilet and a sink. Electricity in each chalet was only available between 7pm to 9am but it was not an inconvenience at all since no one in their right mind would want to stay indoors other than those hours. With the sunny skies, beautiful beach and warm waters, Pulau Perhentian was all I imagine it would be. After squaring off all our gear, we went out to the beach to sit under the shade of the conveniently located coconut tree to wait for them to call us for lunch. We were also lucky to get the only tree with a string hammock attached to relax in right in front of our doors.
Lunch was a simple affair of rice with chicken curry, stir fry vegetable and chili squid so fresh that I would not be surprised if it just came out of the water earlier that day. I took a nap after lunch to wait out the hot sun since us locals were not crazy enough to bake under the hot sun like the other foreigners on the beach. Around 3pm I woke up and it was cool enough for me finally to get into the water. After change into my broad shorts, I walked down past the reception area to the beach shop next to the chalet's sea side cafe to rent a few snorkel, mask and swim vest sets for us at RM 10 per set per day. Since I swim as well as a rock in the ocean, the swim vest was a required item before I would even go into the sea. After enjoying myself thoroughly the last time I went snorkeling in Sabah, I’ve already learned to ignore how dorky and goofy I must look like being the only one who had to have a life vest to swim in the sea.
While the waters was crystal clear, the corals near the beach was not as nice as the ones that I saw in Manukan Island off the coast of Sabah. I had to actually swim out quite far out before I could see any fish and somewhat interesting looking corals. Of course swimming that far out left me feeling quite anxious as I was the only one that far out from the beach. Hoping that the snorkeling trip that we had planned the following day would be much better, I decided to just flip on my back and just float on the warm waters on that sunny afternoon. As I floated peacefully while keeping an eye out to make sure that I didn’t floated away too far from the beach, I thought about the day and how I wished I could share that moment with a few special friends I wished was there with me.
We stayed in the water until about 6pm before we had enough waves and sun for the first day. Rested for a bit on the beach before going to get ready for dinner. I was hoping to see a picture perfect sunset to cap of the perfect day but unfortunately Abdul’s Chalet beach faced Perhentian Kecil and the sunset was hidden from view behind the island. A cloudy sky with what seems to be rain falling on the distant mainland did not help to frame a proper sunset. With the increasingly humid night, we went to our dinner of white rice with vegetables, stir-fry squid and sweet-sour fish. After dinner, we sat around the table to talk about the day and watch the flashes of lightning that occasionally lit up the night sky.
Feeling tired after the long and exciting day, we turned in from the night at about 10 pm. Even with the fans they provided in the room, the humid night caused me to sweat buckets so much so I had to get up in the middle of the night to have a shower to cool down. Regardless of that, the fact that I had the sounds of the sea to lull me back to bed was worth sleeping through the muggy night.