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Introducing Pulau Perhentian

The Perhentians are a tropical paradise, boasting waters simultaneously electric teal and crystal clear; jungles thick and fecund, and beaches with sand so white from a distance it might pass for snow. At night bonfires and kerosene lamps on the beach and phosphorescence in the water make pin holes in the velvety black, the stars soar above you and the real world becomes something like a bad dream. Most people come to snorkel, dive or do nothing at all.

There are two main islands, Kecil (‘Small’), popular with the younger backpacker crowd, and Besar (‘Large’), with higher standards of accommodation and a quieter, more relaxed ambience. The quick hop between the two costs around RM20.

While you can usually find a beach party, the Perhentians are a long way from having a Thai-style party atmosphere. Alcohol is available at many restaurants.

Even paradise has its problems, though. The Perhentians are finding it increasingly difficult to deal with the by-product of increasing tourist traffic, and the sight (and smell) of burning piles of rubbish, especially plastic bottles, is unfortunately common.

The islands basically shut down during the monsoon (usually from mid-November to mid-February), although some hotels – especially in Coral Bay – remain open for hardier travellers. There are no banks or ATMs on the islands, so bring cash. Prices quoted here are for high season.