Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Perhentian Pitstop


I went to Pulau Perhentian for my end-of-housemanship holidays.

As an outdoor enthusiast, I sought basic services for the minimum price - to rekindle those mountain-climbing hardship days.. and because I'm a cheapskate too (saving money for a PS4). After searching on FB and jumping from one holiday blog to another, I decided on a fairly cheap snorkeling package to Pulau Perhentian for a group of three adults (me, wife and Bro #2) and one cherubic baby.

Why snorkeling? Because my wife has never snorkeled previously.

Why bring the baby? Because the breastfeeding lady has never snorkeled previously. 

Why bring Bro #2? Because he's the baby's caretaker while Daddy accompanies Mommy on her virgin snorkeling experience.

Why Pulau Perhentian? I've been to Pulau Redang; it's beautiful but very commercialized. Pulau Perhentian on the other hand is relatively untouched.

Why this package? I'd like to think it as giving the local entrepreneurs a fighting chance against those big resort companies. Sure, some things are substandard or relatively expensive but a little sacrifice is always needed to help the underdog. Think of it as sadaqah.

It was a 3-day, 2-night package (2 rooms, 1 snorkeling trip, 1 lunch) for RM800.


We started our trip from Kuala Besut jetty. A pretty standard 30-minute boat trip for me; but it was a whole new experience for the little lady. Initially, she was uncomfortable by the wind blowing in her face and the occasional sprinkle of seawater, but later she acclimatized. She even dozed off during the last leg of the boat trip!

So many chalets to choose from.
White sandy beaches, cool sea breeze, de-stress.

Upon arrival at Coral Bay at Pulau Perhentian Kecil, we were greeted by clear azure waters, cool white sand and a gentle breeze.. in the middle of the afternoon heat! We quickly registered at Amyn's chalet and stayed indoors until the sun forgot about us and began its descent into the west.

Happy nucleus family :-)

The rooms were basic - they each had a queen-size bed, a bathroom, a flimsy desk, a chair, a ceiling fan and standing fan. Why two fans? Because it almost sweltered in the rooms during daylight. To make it worse, there were no windows. That translates into poor ventilation. A sweating baby is an uncomfortable baby; a crying baby means unhappy parents. Did I also mention that there were occasional power outages due to depleted diesel for the generators? No electricity means no fans.

Anyway, that evening, we crossed over to Long Beach, the west side of the island - a 10-minute walk along a trek across some shrubbery - to view the sunset and let Princess Balqis have her first experience swimming in the sea.

"Sea water tastes funny, Ayah!"

 There were many orang puteh sunbathing at Long Beach. With a windmill in the distance, the scene was like being in a foreign country. Too bad it was not a nudist beach.


The main programme started on Day Two - a marathon snorkeling trip over five points, starting at 9am until 3pm.

I was eager to snap some underwater photography. In my unrestrained excitement, I foolishly dunked my Fujifilm X10 (wrapped in cheap sealer bag reinforced with cloth tape - don't laugh, it seemed plausible at that time) into the water to snap some pictures. I took two pictures before the screen fizzled out on me. %^&$!*

I was saddened by the loss but I didn't have time to wallow; I still wanted to snap some underwater pictures, so I rented an underwater camera for RM70 per day from an IT shop operated by some OA.

A waterproof camera in an waterproof casing.

The first snorkeling point was Turtle Point. When the boat came to a stop, the guide pointed to a flock of snorkelers following something underwater and said, "Turtles.". Honestly, that word was enough to get my attention. I immediately jumped into the sea and chased after the superstar. I unceremoniously left my wife on the boat with the baby - I was supposed to accompany her on her first snorkel!

I chased and chased after the turtle until I was able to stroke its shell. From a physiological POV, my fingers felt a mossy sensation from all the sea flora growing on the shell. From a psychological POV, I TOUCHED A TURTLE WOOHOO!!

Just like AC4: Black Flag.

The next point was Shark Point where we were supposed to see some sharks. We saw none. But at least, wifey gets to do some snorkeling.

After snorkeling for a few minutes, she forgot that I ditched her for a turtle.
The next point was Coral Point. There were some corals here; mostly dead ones. Some curious fishes. Standard snorkeling stuff.

Then, we took our lunch break at the fishermen village on Pulau Perhentian Besar. I saw a school, police station and a Klinik Desa on the island. Man, it must be cool to live and work on the island. Instead of rempit, you go island-hopping.

No, it's not a mamak stall.

We continued our adventure at the Diving Point. The guide stopped the boat at a mini lighthouse, stripped to his trunks and began climbing the lighthouse. Then, he jumped 15 metres into the sea. It looked fun! So, I thought, why not? 

Climbing up was uneventful but once at the top and looking down - and seeing how small the boat was - that was when I experienced a tinge of fear of heights. But before I had second thoughts, I jumped. 


I safely landed on my butt.

It was only when I was back on the boat that I realized that my knees were shaking with fear and adrenaline. Slightly tachycardic and nauseated, but otherwise conscious and enjoyed every moment of that leap of faith. Despite the excitement, I wasn't going to jump from anything for a long time.

The last point was Romantic Beach. A long strip of beach on Pulau Perhentian Kecil that has calm sea water, some corals and plenty of colourful fish. We snorkeled to our heart's content, knowing that this'll be the last snorkeling point for a long time.

The curious brown fish.


We went back to Kuala Besut in the morning. It was a very enjoyable holiday and I'd recommend Pulau Perhentian to anyone considering a nice relatively isolated place to de-stress. I didn't buy souvenirs because I don't really believe in them. It's like saying, "I've been to this place; here's something to remind that you haven't been here."

* BTW the camera repairs costed RM385.