The last time I did a proper dive was 8 years ago, when I did my Advanced Open Water course. For some reason, I never went diving again after that. Perhaps it’s because it’s a rather expensive hobby for a student, and also perhaps it’s because it was difficult to find a diving buddy. In any case, it just fell out of the radar.
(Scroll down for itinerary.)
In any case, I’ve always wanted to go to Perhentian Islands, since like.. 10 years ago, after I visited Redang and heard of the elusive Perhentian Islands that was supposed to be more awesome than Redang. I was contemplating to go alone, until E agreed to go with me. So the tickets and arrangements were hastily done one week before we went.
It was a short weekend trip. And to maximise our diving time, we decided to take the bus back. (We’d have to stop diving 24 hours before the flight if we were to fly…)
I had some apprehensions about diving again. After all, it’s been 8 years and I can’t remember shit, except roughly how to set up (since I’ve done it for J’s students a couple times). So I decided to go through the refresher course at Turtle Bay Divers and it was a good choice. I had a 1-1 with a instructor who did a bit of theory recap and took me to the shallow waters for the usual drills. There must be some muscle / behavioral memory still stored in my brain because apparently I don’t need much “refreshing” according to the DM.
Instead, we went for a dive and ll my worries just went away almost instantaneously the moment I saw the corals and marine life. Just for my first dive, I saw cool things like blue-spotted ray (after a few more dives, I realised they’re really common although I was super excited when I first saw it…), porcupine fish, moray eel, trigger fish (yes!! I was lucky enough to be able to see one on my first dive), and the most amazing, like 12 giant humphead parrotfish swimming right in front of us. OMG.
By the fourth dive, I was such a happy little diver that i was swimming off on my own, spinning about in the water, looking at things 360-degrees, and just enjoying my time underwater. We continued to spot cool stuff throughout our dives – family of 3 huge porcupines (so cute with their googly eyes), huge barracuda, a huge-ass jenkin’s whipray chilling with its evil eyes under the wreck, emperor angelfish, uber cute boxfish, and even the tiny stuff, like the small transparent shrimps and the colourful nudis were awesome!
As for Perhentian, I can say that it is an excellent weekend getaway destination from Singapore. In fact, I was a little hesitant about sharing and raving all about it, for fear it will be crowded with Singaporeans like Tioman or even Redang. I like how there’s nothing much on the island, except the guesthouses (the one we stayed in didn’t have electricity except at night!) and dive shops. In the day, it gets so blistering hot and you don’t see many people around (all diving, I guess). At nightfall, the makeshift bars and dancefloors start to appear on the beach, drawing crowds of happy tourists. I kinda hope it will stay that way – simple and laid back, without being tarnished by the commercialism of mass tourism with its big resorts, overpriced commodities and hordes of people. (That said, I can see how Long Beach has slightly taken on the hippy beach vibe you get in many of the beach destinations…) Either way, I hope it won’t be too long before I’m back to dive again!
Itinerary: 3 days in Pulau Perhentian
Thurs night – 9pm night bus from Larkin, JB to Jerteh (asked to be dropped off)
Fri – Taxi from bus drop-off point to Kuala Besut ferry terminal (20 mins, 20-30 MYR), Ferry to island (Round trip 70MYR, first ferry at 8am).
Dive Dive Dive (70-80MYR per dive)
Sat – More dive dive dive
Sun – Morning Dive, 4pm ferry to Kuala Besut, 45min bus to Kota Bahru (local bus CityLiner 693 for 6MYR), 8pm night bus back to JB
Where to stay? Long beach, Small Island is the usual backpackers / hippy paradise – lots of dive shops and snorkelling in the day, and makeshift bars, fireshows and music at night. We stayed at Lemongrass – for 60MYR / night, you get a wooden hut, double bed, a fan, hammock on your porch, and shared bath. Coral bay on the other side of the island (15 mins walk across the island) seems a lot quieter and smaller.