Pulau Perhentian is a destination with breathtaking beauty and superb underwater attractions. This marine park is divided into two islands, Pulau Perhentian Kecil and Pulau Perhentian Besar and situated in Terengganu.
This marine park is divided into two islands, Pulau Perhentian Kecil and Pulau Perhentian Besar and comprises of Pulau Rawa, Pulau Serenggeh, Pulau Susu Dara Besar and Pulau Susu Dara Kecil. These islands are located about 20km from the main land. ‘Perhentian’ when translated from Malay language means stop over and the word ‘Besar’ means big while ‘Kecil’ means small. This islands offers a various styles of accommodation to suit the visitor’s budget and dive packages. For visitors who like to spend a holidays here, are advice to make a reservation at least a month before arriving date because all of the islands of Terengganu is #1 island holiday destination in Malaysia. So, please make a reservation earlier (2 – 3 month before arrival date) or its fully book. Perhentian Kecil offers wider beaches and an even wider range of accommodation. Its vibrant nightlife is renowned. Along the famous Long beach, visitors can enjoy their evenings at the many rustic cafes and bars that open till early hours.
Of the two islands, Pulau Perhentian Kecil is the more secluded and isolated with only minimum facilities while Pulau Perhentian Besar has been carefully developed to cater to visitors. Dive sites here are at close proximity to one another with interesting sights at each. Tiger Reel Reef offers the chance to spot green turtles. At Gua Kambing, be prepared for an underwater manicure as cleaner shrimp at some coral bommies excitedly interact with divers.
Simply lay your hands down next to the coral and these shrimps will venture to your boldly. Pretty soon, they’ll be nibbling away gently as they attempt to get rid of so-called ‘parasites’ from your nails. To the north of Perhentian Kecil, you will drift dive past a rich bed of soft and hard corals, shaded by large angelfish, parrotfish and black-spotted snappers, green turtles and manta rays make occasional visits here.
April to September visibility Up to 20m in peak season, 3m otherwise.
28 to 30 0C
Between 1 to 3 knots
A naturalists’ dream. This little pinnacle offers multi-level diving as you encircle it, checking out the diversity of life. Common are blue-spotted stingrays, boxfish, angelfish and parrotfish. However, you’ll have plenty of time to marvel at the huge staghorn gardens, lettuce corals and table corals. Just off the west end of Perhentian Besar is another dive site for coral enthusiasts.
Iron Cape / Tanjung Besi
Known as Tanjung Besi, or Iron Cape, it is home to large tracts of staghorn corals. Making your way around this cape often yields encounters with oddball inhabitants of the reef. Giant groupers make their home here. Humphead parrotfish make many a meal-stop here in the evenings. Those with a keen eye should also study the crevices between corals: several large moray eels inhabit these.
For the ultimate, relaxing dive, a night-time shore dive from the north end of Perhentian Kecil’s, Long Beach or Pasir Panjang is recommended. You will encounter blue-spotted stingrays, cuttlefish and plenty of reef fish. As you surface for shore, fin gently on your back and gaze into the starry night. The sound of faint music beckoning from the seaside cafes is a magical welcome back to the island. Suffice to say, the relatively shallow depths here allow you to maximise your diving time. Perhentian Besar has ample accommodation and several dive centres. It has a more sedate lifestyle, with chalets only a few metres away from the shore.
Batu Tokong Laut – Temple Of The Sea
This rocky outcrop islet is situated on the northwest of Pulau Perhentian Kecil and is accessible by a 30 minutes speedboat ride. The boulder like terrain gradually slopes down to about 30 meters. Strong to mild currents usually sweep the boulders bringing plankton-rich nutrients and attract anything from pelagic to the whale shark. You can easily cover the entire dive site without getting lost around the somewhat triangular boulder terrain. Soft corals in all colours and sizes carpet the seascape offering refuge for numerous small reef fish and mollusks. The presence of smaller reef animal attracts larger predators up the food chain. jacks, barracudas, kingfish, black tip sharks and nurse sharks are usually sighted.
North of Pulau Susu Dara Besar and Kecil
Facing the open sea front, hard and soft coral communities thrive on the rich nutrients from the sea. Soft corals – are not as plentiful as Tokong Laut. However, the diving is interesting with good water clarity and abundant reef fish. Expect to see damselfishes, wrasses, trigger fishes and a moray eel peeping out from its lair. You can dive close to the island and let the current take you along the reefs. The fringing reef gives way to sandy terrain at about 18 meters.
‘Terumbu Tiga’ when translated from the Malay language means three coral blocks and is rated to be one of the top dive sites around Pulau Perhentian, together with Tokong Laut. Situated towards the east of Pulau Perhentian Besar, this dive site is usually washed by currents and makes an interesting drift dive. The boulder terrain slopes down to about 20 meters at the sandy bottom. Visibility fluctuates between 5 to 15 meters depending on the tidal changes. The granite boulders support various soft corals, sea fans and coral whips swaying with the current. Schools of fusiliers, rainbow runners, jacks and batfishes swim about searching for a feed. Black tip sharks can occasionally be observed at the outer reaches of the reef.
You can either travel by road along the scenic coast to Kuala Besut or catch a domestic flight to either Kota Bharu (the capital of Kelantan) or Kuala Terengganu (the capital of Terengganu) or train at Kelantan and then by taxi or bus to Kuala Besut.
Malaysian Airlines (MAS) operates daily flights between Kuala Lumpur and Terengganu with a flight time of around 45 minutes. There are also flights to Pulau Redang via Berjaya Air (Tel: +603-1846 8228) from Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
Within Malaysia, there are many buses to Terengganu. From Singapore, take the Pan Malaysian Express (Tel: +(65) 2947 034) from the Kallang Bahru bus depot (off Lavender Street). The journey takes about 9 hours and costs S$26 one way via deluxe coach and S$33 one way via VIP coach.
FROM KUALA TERENGGANU
The Kuala Besut jetty is about 90 minutes by coach from Kuala Terengganu, where you will catch your 35 minute boat ride to Perhentian.