A Brief Stop in the Perhentian Islands
The Perentians are a group of small islands located in the South China sea some twenty kilometres off the North Eastern coast of Malaysia.
There are two larger main inhabited islands which are quaintly named Perentian Kecil and Perhentian Besar which translate as small and large Perhentian. There are a number of smaller islands which can be visited by boat. All the islands are set within a protected Marine Park.
The islands with their white sandy beaches and tropical vegetation are truly beautiful and rated to be some of the best in the world. Providing you pick your accommodation with care they must also be amongst the most chilled out and relaxing locations too.
There is activity in the form of Scuba diving and the crystal clear waters around the many reefs teem with aquatic life.
Today I booked a bus and boat to the Perhentian Islands. So on the road back to the east coast again tomorrow. As I have no hard and fast plans it is hardly a deviation, but, until yesterday, I hadn't given the location any thought. The two Irish girls I met on the mountain in Langkawi yesterday said it was the best place they had ever been. So I thought I would give it a go too.
It rained heavily this afternoon so I went to the cinema again. This time I watched and enjoyed 'Poseidon'.
Sunday 14th May 2006
The music went on all night. Boom boom boom bloody base. Sustained sleep was impossible. Then at 6 a.m. there was a ten minute explosion of firecrackers but the music carried on. It was continuing as I packed.
Acting on my experiences on the boat and in the cinema I put on shoes and socks for the first time in an age and dug out my fleece. There was no way I was going to freeze on the bus and, true to form, it was like an icebox. Malaysia must have the most efficient air conditioners in the world.
It was another long journey though I am getting used to these now. Most of the time I was alone and this gave me two seats and the opportunity to look out of the window. For two hours we passed through jungle which stretched as far as the eye could see on both sides of the road. As it was mountainous I could see a very long way.
Points to ponder:
On the bus journey the girl in seat in front of me dropped a piece of bread. Within five minutes this was covered in ants. I wonder just how many ant colonies there are whizzing about the world in buses and other forms of transport? Antpackers!
Later I was chatting to Lawrence, a Chinese Malay. A very disillusioned young man. Aged around thirty he was convinced that all occupants of pubs were drug dealers, prostitutes and gangsters. Still, he was interesting to talk to and I may well have changed some of his opinions.
Because I had arrived late I had missed the last boat out to the islands so I stopped overnight in Kuala Besut. Not much there apart from the ferry and three or four guesthouses. I ate an excellent, and cheap, meal and was flirted with by the two pretty young waitresses. Good for the soul.
Monday 15th May 2006
At 7 a.m. I caught the fast boat to D'Lagoon on Perentian Kecil (Small Island). Although the journey was little over half an hour the bouncing up and down on the waves really shook my brain about and I had a headache before I arrived.
There were only five of us on the boat. I got chatting to Kirsty from Luton and she decided to join me at D'Lagoon. The fast boat held to about four hundred yards off shore and a small boat came out to pick us up. We jumped off this into the surf and waded ashore. We breakfasted together whilst our rooms were made ready.
This is a very quiet spot. There are no villages, let alone towns, on the island. It is possible to get from beach to beach by water taxi, or walk on jungle trails. That’s what I did first thing. Walked to 'Turtle beach' some twenty minutes away. A big female turtle had come up onto that beach last night to lay eggs. Maybe tonight, if I'm lucky.
Returning to D'Lagoon I hired snorkeling equipment and went out on the reef. The water is far clearer here than in Ko Phagnan in Thailand and the variety of fishes much wider. Sadly the coral damage is very much similar. One big thrill for me was to encounter a shark as big as myself. The last time I knowingly swam with sharks was long before Peter Benchley's contributions and subsequent frighteners and I had wondered how I would react. Happily it did not phase me one bit and I followed it till it got pissed off and swam away. I spent much of the morning in the water whilst Kirsty worked on her tan.
Later I took another Jungle walk to 'Long beach'. This took a little over an hour. I saw several squirrels, an eagle, a hornbill, two large skinks and fourteen monitor lizards. The monitors varied in size from around 20 cm to over two metres in length. These were whopping great bulky things, bigger than the Komodos I have worked with. The biggest animals were at the back of the chalets, scavenging for food. I noticed that the camps hereabouts put their rubbish in black plastic bags and then take it to rafts hundreds of yards off shore. I imagine this is varanus protection scheme because I have seen no other mammals than the squirrels.
Long beach was much more busy and there was a range of alcohol there unlike D'Lagoon. I ate lunch and then trekked back. I never saw a soul going either way. I saw lots of butterflies, some wonderful plants and creepers and heard the most beautiful bird songs. Lots of ants too. It seems that every time a vine drops across a jungle path the ants decide it is route 66.
In the evening I met up with Chris and Murray from Scotland. Chris had been travelling for several months but his friend, Murray, had just joined him for a few weeks. We were joined by Kirsty and we swapped yarns till late.
Chris had spent a couple of weeks on a meditation retreat in Sri Lanka. He had met all sorts of people there. Some had been there as long as twelve years.
Mind you there are people who have been in this 'resort' for six weeks.
It rained quite heavily so I didn't do a nocturnal hike through the jungle to the turtle nesting beach.
Textile Cone Shell
Tuesday 16th May 2006
If I had been arriving in D'Lagoon today I would have been quite disappointed . The sea was very rough. It made transfers from the taxi boats difficult. One elderly lady was thrown from one boat and rolled around like a pebble in the surf.
I managed to get three other people interested in a boat trip to go looking for turtles. Chris was keen as were a French couple, Max and Coralie. We were collected by a fisherman who took us about a mile from the island. We the hopped over the side into the water. In an hour we saw four different turtles feeding on the bottom. All were accompanied by remora. The turtles were feeding and took very little notice of us. They swam at speed with so little effort and were difficult to keep up with.
Point to ponder:
What do remora do when a turtle beaches itself to lay eggs? Do they think 'Aaaagh no, she's gone to commit suicide' or hide under a rock and wait or immediately go in search of another free ride?
We stopped at two other reefs on our return journey and swam for a while at both. Both were very beautiful. On the return journey Chris the Scot and Max the French guy were chatting. It turned out that a year previous they had been living on the same street in Edinburgh several doors apart. It's a small world.
Had lunch with a very pretty Scottish girl called K. She put me so much in mind of Moira M (whatever happened to her?). K was breaking her journey to Australia where she had a nursing job lined up. This was her second tour and she thought she would not return to Scotland other than on holiday. Though attractive she spoilt the overall picture by using the 'F' word in every second sentence.
Spent the afternoon lounging about chatting to people.
Then the rains came down and boy did it rain. Very quickly there were torrents and watercourses where previously there had been paths. Monitor lizards appeared from somewhere swimming along. Big ones, small ones, fighting when they met. Dogs, cats, chickens would have no chance of survival on this island.
I spent the evening drinking with Kirsty, Chris and Murray. We got to worrying about two English guys who had walked over to Long beach in the afternoon. If they had got caught in the downpour in the dark in the jungle there was no way they would find there way back. They had not returned by the time I retired.
Wednesday 17th May 2006
Had breakfast with Kirsty, Murray and Chris and then waved the latter two off. They are off to another resort because they need to watch a football game on TV. Impossible here, though there is video. There is no electricity here from nine in the morning till around six in the evening. Equally it is not possible to get a drink or anything to eat from three till seven. Mostly we sleep, chat or listen to the waves.
The waves were much reduced this morning but still rough enough to cloud the water. I walked over to Turtle beach. Still cloudy there. There were several big monitors on the beach scavenging for flotsam. I imagine they would dig up turtle eggs as well if they had the inclination. I watched them a while before moving along to 'Adam & Eve' beach. I spent a few hours snorkeling and laying on the beach. It was as though I was the only person on earth. No-one, no human sound or sign. Just me.
The water was cloudy here too but further out visibility improved. There were some really big fish out there.
The missing English guys returned late this morning. They were stranded but safe overnight. They checked out shortly after arrival. ......
Informed the manager that Kirsty and I would be leaving in the morning. Things to do, things to see.
Today has been a leaving day. Nobody has arrived but about twenty or so people have gone. Quite sad in way.
It has also been a mosquito day. There are loads more about, lots of people being bitten, including me. I was even bitten four times through the hammock and clothes I was wearing. Sitting is uncomfortable.
Just me and Kirsty tonight. Practically everybody has disappeared out to sea. No matter though it was nice chatting, she is very good company. Just before dark the 'slow boat' arrived and there were several new arrivals. They had already bonded and kept themselves to themselves. The slow boat was a bit of a surprise because none of us had really believed that it existed till now.
Thursday 18th May 2006
Up early to pack and await the fast boat back to the mainland. Sadly said goodbye to Kirsty at the bus station. I will miss her company. She is heading north into Thailand.
I had a six hour mini-bus journey. Changed vehicles halfway and only myself an American couple for the latter half of the journey. ........
A brilliant break and one which I would highly reccommend