As the bus pulled to a stop it was still dark outside. The two of us, along with the three girls we met on the bus were approached by a guy telling us to follow him as he had the first boat leaving that morning. We were a bit unsure if he actually had the first boat leaving or not; but, he had made the effort to be waiting at the bus stop at 6am so we figured we would give him a chance. He took us to his ‘tour office’ where we all purchased a return fast boat transfer ticket. Turns out he was being honest and we were on the first boat of the morning and the boat was in rather good nick surprisingly! Maybe we need to have a little more faith.
We had another family on the boat with us who had the cutest 3-year-old son who was loving the adventure of the fast boat. As we pulled into the jetty at Perhentian Kecil you realise the beauty of this place – soft white sand, beachfront bungalows and not much more. We decided to go with the other 3 girls and make the 15 minute walk to ‘the other side’ of the island to Long Beach where we had been told accommodation is much cheaper. Too bad most accommodation was closed due to it being low season. After hiking the 15 minutes with our packs on we had the option of a very expensive resort or one other place that looked terrible! The girls headed to the terrible looking shack like bungalows. We wished them luck and decided to walk back to Coral Bay where we had initially been dropped off and see if anywhere had availability at a reasonable price. After the 15 minute hike back we found that our preferred option Maya guesthouse had no availability. Exhausted from the overnight bus, early morning boat ride and hiking with our pack on we walked up the beach to Sanja Resort thinking their prices would completely kill our budget. The room they showed us was beachfront and lets say ‘rustic’ but the price was only a little over what we had budgeted and it didn’t seem like we had many other options. We managed to get the price down to RM60 which was what we had budgeted for and it even included breakfast, so we took the room with a smile. Beachfront bungalow in paradise, don’t mind if we do.
To top off arriving in paradise it was Duane’s 27th birthday. We went straight for our free breakfast as we were starving by this point. We were served toast which we covered in Vegemite from or backpack as we couldn’t leave home without it. We spent the afternoon lazing on the beach and we celebrated the evening by splurging on a fresh BBQ Seafood dinner and a few beers. At RM10 a beer let’s just say we didn’t go overboard. This was no party island that’s for sure as beer was so damn expensive, especially on a backpacker budget. Instead, we topped off the evening with the most delicious Snickers shake in place of a birthday cake and drifted off to sleep listening to the waves crash on our doorstep. Bliss.
The next morning we woke to find a huge hole in the wall … yep we discovered why our beautiful ‘rustic’ bungalow was going so cheap. We had rats! They had chewed right through the wall. I mean are you kidding me, through the wall?! We had some muesli bars in our backpacks that they had gotten into and a fresh coconut in a plastic bag that they had a go at too. We alerted reception who had maintenance patch it up during the day to avoid a repeat occurrence the next night.
We hired some snorkelling gear and spent the day snorkelling coral bay and lying on the beach – it really was like living in paradise.
The next morning we decided to give the 5 hour snorkelling trip on offer a go. It was RM30 per person which equates to approximately AUD$12 per person. We left at 10:30am and headed to Fish Point where our flippers went on and masks down, then without further ado into the water we went …
No words can express the first 30 seconds of being in the water! Fish surrounded your entire body – they were so close, centimetres from your face. They did not get a fright and scatter either, they just swam along with you in the water. It was absolutely amazing! We had value for money within the first minute of being in the water. It was an experience like no other. Our guide was throwing bread into the water by us so the fish would come and feed, it was amazing. The visibility was fantastic and it really felt like we were swimming in a fish tank.
A quick boat trip to the next spot Kim thought the guide said ‘South Point’ but he went on to mention that there may be a shark in the area but ‘not dangerous’. Hmmmmm – into the water we went and were swimming away looking at the beautiful coral and fish and Duane swam up and grabbed Kim’s arm and was swimming like a mad-man with her. Kim stopped Duane and asked what was up. He pulled his snorkel out of his mouth and said ‘Back to the boat – now! Shark’. That’s all I needed to hear, I was outta there! We were in the boat so damn quick and told the guide about the sighting … it was then Kim realised she misunderstood. We were at ‘Shark Point’ not ‘South Point’. Duane had seen a 1.5meter black tip reef shark swimming within meters of us. Kim and the guide couldn’t help but laugh at how quickly Duane had us both back in the boat! Duane went on to passionately explain to the guide that we do not want to swim with sharks so not to take us anywhere else that sharks ‘hang-out’! We did also see many Nemo fish which on the positive side was awesome!
Next stop was the fishing village for lunch. Damn, we didn’t know about this stop and Duane had his wallet with him but it didn’t hold much cash. We went to the restaurant where we were expected to buy lunch to find with only RM6 in cash with us there was very little we could afford. Duane decided on a Curry Noodle dish. We were very embarrassed not to be able to offer to buy our guide a meal but with not knowing we would need cash we could hardly afford to feed ourselves. The curry noodle came out and Kim had a couple of small mouthfuls and told Duane to eat the rest. With not much food to go round and Duane starving it was the right thing to do …. right? This would turn out to be a very lucky decision for Kim and a very unlucky one for Duane.
Next stop was the Lighthouse where we snorkelled with many Nemo fish! There were some bigger fish here and the viability was fantastic.
Last stop was Romantic Beach. A picturesque white sand deserted beach with fantastic snorkelling just 2 metres from shore. It was here however, that the curry first made itself known. An emergency number two in the bushes of Romantic Beach for Duane, nice one honey!
We snorkelled around for a while longer then decided to call it a day, and what a fantastic day it had been. We headed to the restaurant of our ‘resort’ for some free Wi-Fi so Kim could Skype her mum and this was when we experienced our first Lassi. The banana Lassi placed on our table was the best thing since sliced bread. It was icy cold, creamy, and absolutely delicious. Kim will be enjoying many more of these icy, yoghurt delights in the coming months!
In the afternoon the resort staff decided it was time to clear the coconuts from the trees. They had a local climb the tallest palm and hook up the rope to lower bunches of coconuts to the ground where the resort staff opened them for us – mmmMMMmmm so fresh. It so happened we had a coconut a day whilst on Perhentian Kecil – free and delicious!
The next morning it was up early to inspect the rat damage. This had become a morning routine since we were staying in what we had decided was the ‘Rat Den’. During our 3 nights the Rat ate 2 muesli bars, one coconut, our soap, chewed through our plastic drink bottle and chewed through the wall. This was one ferocious rat! One we would not miss.
The final morning we had a fantastic breakfast of eggs on toast and a fresh fruit platter before checking-out and making our way to the jetty for our return to Kuala Besut where we would meet the mini-van taking us to our next stop in the Cameron Highlands.
Goodbye Perhentian Kecil – we will miss the walks along the beach, the soft white sand, the Banana Lassi, the Snickers Shakes, the Snorkelling and friendly staff but we will not miss the Rats!
Jungle of Cameron Highlands here we come!