Off the Northern East coast of Malaysias’ peninsula are two islands dotted with resorts, restaurants, and dive shops. Known as the Perhentian Islands they provide a wonderful place to swim in the warm clear waters, dive the surrounding reefs, and bask in the scorching sun. While visiting the smaller of the two islands, Pulau Kecil, we snorkeled with a shark, dove on a shipwreck, and relaxed in the hammock.
Kecil Island is the least expensive of the two and so naturally our island of choice. The island is rich with jungle greens and has two main beaches on opposite sides of the island. Long Beach is the backpackers party haven that hosts bars along the long sandy beach, and on the other side is Coral Bay which is a little quieter and has a shorter beach covered in dead coral bits. Both beaches have bungalows and dive shops so we picked a cheap place in Coral Bay and sought out a friendly dive shop to book our diving. After sorting everything out we spent the afternoon snorkeling the far end of the beach where we encountered a small reef shark. Unfortunately our excited motions were too frantic for its liking and it quickly darted away.
We did two dives near the Perhentians and they both topped my list for favourite dives in Southeast Asia (so far). The first site was called the Temple and resembled, well, a temple – the base was around 60ft deep and the slowly narrowing rock structure poked out a few feet at the surface of the water. We descended to the base and slowly circled our way to the top. The area around the temple was busy and packed with hundreds of small fish suspended in the water column and I remember thinking that it was like a fish hail storm. Throughout the dive we saw bamboo sharks nestled under a rock and blue spotted sting rays. A slight current made one side of the temple more effort, but we were rewarded for the effort as we came around the other side and were gently pushed along the scenery without even having to kick.
Our second dive was to Sugar Wreck which is a 300ft freighter that was sunk in a monsoon in 1999. This was Alistairs first wreck dive and my first warm water wreck so we were both very excited. The visibility was not the best but it was clear enough that as we descended the large ship was slowly revealed. Sugar Wreck lays on its side and we began our circle of the wreck maneuvering under or around poles and the mast. We swam along the top deck of the ship (which was vertical beside us) and into a large swimthrough. My imagination ran wild as I imagined that less than twenty years ago sailors were walking along this deck that now lays vertically on the bottom of the oceans and covered in marine life.
The Perhentians was our last island paradise on the east coast of the peninsula before heading over to the west coast to visit Georgetown. Even though we were sad to leave our relaxing bungalow and the great diving we were making our way to the ultimate island paradise, Borneo, and so were also happy to move along.