Monthly Archives: November 2012

Malaysia_Perhentians

Pulau Perhentians, Malaysia

Malay_Perhentian_0005_Perhentians-Location-Map.jpg

 

IN BRIEF :

Pulau Perhentian / The Perhentian Islands is a pair of smallish islands 20 km off the North East coast of Peninsular Malaysia. The nearest mainland port is Kuala Besut.

The visitor season is about April to September. From November-March, most accommodation is closed and boats to/from the islands may not be running.

The Perhentians have long been a feature on the hippy/backpacker trail, but the main beach areas are now built-out with mid to high-end resorts. Typically, resort accommodation is low-rise AC concrete bungalows, starting at 30USD. There are a couple of cheaper dorms and campsites for those on a budget.

The two islands are named ‘Pulau Kecil’ (‘Small Island’) and ‘Pulau Besar’ (Big Island). They are actually pretty similar sizes. Kecil is generally regarded as the ‘backpackers’ Island. Besar is considered to be the ‘Honeymooners’ and ‘Family’ Island, although you can find dorms and campsites on both.

This report is based on a two week visit in early August, right before peak season. Accommodation was difficult (but not impossible) to find. Underwater visibility was 3-6 metres – much lower than I had expected. Weather-wise, there was the occasional windy/choppy day, but mostly it was tropical and idyllic.

The islands are mainly rocky, with a handful of sandy beaches. Often the corals are growing on clumps of rock, rather than as a discrete fringing reef. There is good diversity in the coral species.

In some of the busier tourist locations, the coral was in poor condition. However, generally, the coral in the Perhentians was in reasonable condition with a few pockets of brilliance, if you know where to look.

There were reasonable numbers of small to midsized reef fish around (but not in very large numbers). Also present were a few of the more attractive species e.g. Longbeaked Coralfish; Foxface Rabbitfish; Virgate Rabbitfish. There were quite a few (Blue-Spotted Ribbontail) Sting-Rays around.

Turtles (Hawksbill and Green) and harmless Black-tip Reef Sharks can be found at specific areas where they are known to hang-out. This usually requires a short boat trip. (Shared about sharks? Read this).

Fish fans might get to see some uncommon species such as Panther Grouper and Silver Trevally. I also bumped heads with a few huge Bumphead Parrotfish.

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As the best snorkelling in the Perhentians is scattered far and wide, I suggest you take a cheap (30MYR) snorkelling day-boat-trip when you arrive. This will show you the best spots – some of which you can’t reach by just swimming off-the-beach.

Boat trip:
Typically, the itinerary for a boat trip is:
27a or 24d – Turtles grazing
23a – Good coral and colourful reef-fish
21b – Small Blacktip reefsharks
17 – Lunch in the fishermans’ village
29 – Beachtime and a bit of OK coral
9 – Beachtime (this one is only included sometimes)
13 – Very good coral
(The numbers are the locations on the maps, below).

You can’t move without someone trying to sell you a snorkel boat trip, so you won’t have any trouble finding a boat operator.

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Off-the-beach snorkelling:
The traditional (=”easy”) areas for off-the-beach snorkelling are: 1a, 1b, 12c, 24c, 27a. Try those out, but I suggest you also take a look at these other areas: 12a, 14a-b, 16b, 23b, 27b.

I snorkelled the 10km around all of Kecil and up the West coast of Besar. Apart from those areas mentioned above, most other places mentioned (in the detailed text, down the page) are too far to reach by swimming, or aren’t worth the effort. But check out the pictures and the detailed text – you might think differently.

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This summary map just shows the snorkelling highlights – the daytrip boat sites (in green) and those better/easier Off-the-beach snorkelling spots (in yellow). Full descriptions of each spot are given in the long-version text, further down the page.
Malay_Perhentian_0015_Perhentians-Main-Snorkelsites-Map.jpg
All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions
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I didn’t encounter any currents anywhere. There were no jellyfish (in August – but this might vary at other times of year).

Several beaches have broken-up remnants of dead coral in the shallows. You might want to bring some hard-soled shoes to wear into the sea. See the detailed sections below for which areas this applies to.

There is quite a lot of daytrip/taxi-speedboat traffic about. Stay safe! Most touristed areas have ‘swim-lane’ demarcations to keep swimmers and boats apart. It is probably wise to stay inside those swim-zones. If you are straying outside, stay close to the shore and/or take a HUGE surface marker buoy to show boat drivers that you are there. Some speedboat drivers didn’t seem to be very attentive. I saw several dead and injured turtles in just a two week visit. Please encourage your driver to SLOW DOWN and look where he is going.

You can’t swim from one island to the other.

Water-taxi fares are typically 15MYR per person, depending on distance.

 

Best-ish seascape:
Malay_Perhentian_0168_1c_Diverse-Corals_P8071992.JPG
All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions.

Typical seascape:
There is too much variation to pick a ‘typical’ scene – have a flip through the detailed sections, below.
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IN NOT-SO-BRIEF:

Malay_Perhentian_0010_Perhentians-Main-Map.jpg
All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions.

Notes:

Pasir is ‘Beach’; Teluk is ‘Bay’; Tangung is ‘Headland/cape’; Pulau is ‘island’

The red line on the map shows the areas that I looked at. I daresay I will go back someday and try and get a look at that East side of Besar.

I have only mentioned a few resorts on my maps, for orientation purposes. In reality there are about three-times this number. Resort names change with the wind, so check up-to-date web sources for current resort info. I have posted maps showing lots of resort names in the ‘alternative maps’ section at the bottom of the page, but some of these are quite old.

My map references for the underwater world are pretty accurate, but the finer-details on the exact routing of walking-tracks might not be 100%.

If I mention the length of time it took to swim between two places, this is without using fins.

“MYR” is Malaysian Ringget. “USD” is US Dollars. Prices listed are in high season (August). I’m told that high season pricing lasts for a long time and it also includes weekends all year-round. Prices were correct in 2012.

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Pulau Kecil (Small Island)

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Pulau Kecil is traditionally regarded as the backpackers’ island, though with most accommodation costing 80MYR and up, backpackers must be richer than they were back in my day. (There are one-or-two cheaper options – see the ‘admin’ section at the end of this article).

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Malay_Perhentian_0101_Kecil-North-Map.jpg
North Kecil
Link to main map

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Let’s start the snorkelling at Long Beach on Pulau Kecil.

Long Beach (Malay: Pasir Panjang) is a ~1km stretch of white sand on Kecil’s East coast. It is where most of Kecil’s accommodation is and you could say it is the main focus for tourism. In season, the beach is heaving with sunbathers and day-trip kiosks.
Malay_Perhentian_0102_1a_Long-Beach_P8021009.JPG

The middle of Long Beach is no good for snorkelling. The whole bay is a mass of daytrip and taxi boats coming and going and it is simply not safe to snorkel here. You can swim in the shallows (where the boats move at a sedate speed), but there is nothing to see there snorkelling-wise – it is all flat, sandy bottom. The couple of times I found an out-of-hours moment to go into deeper waters, it was all flat-sand there, too.

I hear that there can be bad rip-tides here, especially in the wet season.

So forget snorkelling in the middle of Long Beach – head to the Northern end of it (left, as you stand on the beach).

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Area 1 – North of Long Beach (Pasir Panjang)

Area 1a – The shallows

Go to the far North End of Long Beach, near the concrete jetty and walk out through the shallow sandy water, crossing underneath the jetty and hugging the rocks on your left.

The shallows are sandy, with nothing to see except the occasional shore-diver or Small Spotted Dart:
Malay_Perhentian_0104_1a_Sandy-Shallows_P8082018.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0107_1a_Small-Spotted-Dart_P8072000.JPG

As you get further away from the beach, you start seeing some patchy coral growing on the rocks:
Malay_Perhentian_0109_1a_Patchy_P8061777.JPG

Generally this area (1a) is variable for coral quality – about half of it is grey and dead and half of it reasonably healthy. To get an idea of what to expect – see the background to these Parrotfish pics :
Malay_Perhentian_0111_1a_Parrotfish_P8061781.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0112_1a_Bluebarred-Parrotfish_P8061782.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0113_1a_Parrotfish_P8061784.JPG

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Following the rocks out, further away from the beach, the fish life starts to get more interesting:
Malay_Perhentian_0115_1a_Virgate-Rabbitfish_P8061773.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0116_1a_Foxface-Rabbitfish_P8061785.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0117_1a_Titan-Triggerfish_P8061791.JPG
(btw, you can ‘mouseover’ all fish pictures to see the name of the species. Also, checkout my Specieslist for more fish info.)

Here is a spot with some decent corals all together:
Malay_Perhentian_0119_1a_Decent-Coral_P8061789.JPG

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Area 1b – Near the point

Continuing out to the point at the corner of the bay, there is a more interesting range of fish and more good-then-bad-then-good, patchy coral:
Malay_Perhentian_0126_1b_Filefish_P8082007.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0128_1b_Coral-Rabbitfish_P8082005.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0129_1b_Parrotfish_P8061800.JPGMalay_Perhentian_0131_1b_Corals_P8061805.JPG

Close to the corner of the bay, I noticed one big rock (about 4 metres tall) which seemed to be hosting more than its fair share of diverse corals:
Malay_Perhentian_0133_1b_Rock_P8082010.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0134_1b_Rock-w-Bottlebrush-Staghorn-Corals_P8071955.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0135_1b_Staghorn-Coral_P8071952.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0136_1b_P8071956.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0139_1b_Clam_P8061801.JPG

Some of the more interesting fauna in the area included the Orange Banded Coralfish, some Nudibranchs and a Crown of Thorns Starfish:
Malay_Perhentian_0141_1b_Orange-banded-coralfish_P8061808.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0142_1b_Nudibranch_P8061885.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0143_1b_Nudibranch_P8061812.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0144_1b_Crown-of-Thorns-Starfish_P8071958.JPG

Here, I saw the first of many Sting Rays. This is the most common type here – the Blue Spotted Ribbontail Ray:
Malay_Perhentian_0147_1b_Blue-spotted-ribbontail-ray_P8082001.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0148_1b_Blue-spotted-ribbontail-ray_P8082004.JPG

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Signpost: This is a long article. If you are in a hurry and just want the main (easy-access/ touristy) bits, you could skip-forward to Area 3.
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Area 1c – Round the point

As you get right to the edge of the bay, you can turn left and follow the rocky coastline Northwards. This area is several hundred metres from the beach and is outside the normal range of casual snorkelers. Most people probably wouldn’t come this far. But if you do, you will initially see rocks:
Malay_Perhentian_0157_1c_Rock_P8061855.JPG

…with patchy coral on the bottom 3-8 metres down:
Malay_Perhentian_0158_1c_Bottom_P8061856.JPG

Here are some cute Goldsaddle Rabbitfish feeding on the algae of the rocks:
Malay_Perhentian_0162_1c_Goldsaddle-Rabbitfish_P8061851.JPG

I also met a couple of big Groupers out here. These were about a metre long and a bit timid:
Malay_Perhentian_0164_1c_Grouper_P8061841.JPG

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Something I haven’t seen before is the Silver Trevally. I had a school of about 10 of them scoot by here:
Malay_Perhentian_0165_1c_Trevally_P8061833.JPG
…and there were often several beautiful Blue Ringed Angelfish out here, especially in the evenings:
Malay_Perhentian_0166_1c_Blue-Ringed-Angelfish_P8071964.JPG

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I enjoyed this area, which had the occasional patch of attractive corals:
Malay_Perhentian_0168_1c_Diverse-Corals_P8071992.JPG

..and some interesting fish like this Scrawled/Scribbled Filefish:
Malay_Perhentian_0169_1c_Scrawled-Filefish_P8071981.JPG

..and a range of different schooling fish:
Malay_Perhentian_0171_1c_Longfin-Pike_P8071987.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0173_1c_Silver-Batfish_P8061831.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0172_1c_Snapper_P8071990.JPG

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Area 1d – Far North

Masochists can press-on, past the rocky bay of 1c and further North, past this rocky headland:
Malay_Perhentian_0175_1d_Palm-Point_P8061886.JPG

There was a mass of schooling small Parrotfish, gobbling up whatever food they could find on the underwater rocks:
Malay_Perhentian_0177_1d_Schooling-Parrotfish_P8061907.JPG

And every now and again you might catch a fleeting glimpse of a pair of Golden Trevally:
Malay_Perhentian_0180_1d_Golden-Trevally_P8061893.JPG

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The waters here were 4-6 metres deep, so you have to peer down carefully to see if there’s anything interesting on the bottom so you can dive down and take a closer look:
Malay_Perhentian_0184_1d_Blue-Spotted-Ribbontail-Ray_P8061896.JPG

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Swimming around these quieter spots, you occasionally disturb a shark who has been snoozing between the rocks, close to the coast. They usually get startled and shoot-off into the deep water, but at least this one hung around for a picture:
Malay_Perhentian_0186_1d_Blacktip-Reef-Shark_P8061898.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0188_1d_Blacktip-Reef-Shark_P8061903.JPG
(Scared about sharks? Read this)

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Area 2 – Base of Windmills to D’Lagoon Resort

Area 2a is just a more Northerly extension of Area 1d:Malay_Perhentian_0200_2a_2a-From-Above_P8051508_.jpg

There are no spectacular features here. The shallows are all flat sandy bottom, with some scraps of sea-grass:
Malay_Perhentian_0201_2a_Sandy-Bottom_P8051523.JPG

Further from the shore, the sandy bottom just plunges down to 10+ metres depth with more sandy bottom.

I did have a visit here from a school of passing Mullet:
Malay_Perhentian_0202_2a_Schooling-Mullet_P8051525.JPG

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Rather than swim all the way round from Long Beach, it is easier to get to Area 2 by walking along the track from the North end of Long Beach; past the big windmills (well, technically they are wind-turbines – I don’t think they use them for grinding corn any more); past the Eastern viewpoint and down the long set of steps to the water:
Malay_Perhentian_0207_2b_Steps_P8051510.JPG
I say ‘to the water’, but the steps aren’t quite as connected to the water as they used to be:
Malay_Perhentian_0209_2b_Not-as-connected-as-they-used-to-be_P8051509_.jpg

You certainly can’t jump across to that last section of jetty, but it is possible (but difficult) to climb down from the (healthy) bit of the jetty onto the rocks to the right then hop down/across ~10m of rocks and jump the last 50cm into the water. But don’t reckon on getting out again – it looks like a real challenge to do it in reverse order (because of that tricky 50cm levitation out of the water and up the vertical rocks). Either find an exit route before getting in the water or plan to make the longish swim up to D’Lagoon Resort (Area C) to get out at the beach there.

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Area 2b – Windmill East Jetty:

You often find big schools of Mackerel or glassfish swarming around under jetties:
Malay_Perhentian_0211_2b_Schoolers_P8051516.JPG

I guess that, when you’re a fish, it doesn’t matter whether the jetty is above or below water!:
Malay_Perhentian_0213_2b_Under-Jetty_P8051520.JPG

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Area 2c to 2d – From the Windmill’s Eastern steps towards D’Lagoon Resort:

Looking left towards D’Lagoon Resort from the windmill viewpoint, you can see a rocky coastline and nothing underwater but a sandy seabed:
Malay_Perhentian_0225_2c_2cd-from-above_P8051506_.jpg

Starting the 400m swim from 2b to 2d, you, indeed, find more of the same sandy bottom that was at 2a and 2b:
Malay_Perhentian_0228_2c_Sandy-bottom-Beercan_P8051527.JPG

But, from here, you can see some interesting-looking crevices in the rocks:
Malay_Perhentian_0230_2c_Crevices_P8051526.JPG

I guess these were what gave Tezza so much trouble when he rock-hopped around this stretch!

Swimming into these caves was less appealing than you’d think, as they were mostly full of plastic garbage. The tiny sandy beach at the mouth also traps-in some pretty fetid seawater.
Malay_Perhentian_0232_2c_Birdsnest-Farming_P8051534.JPG
I wouldn’t want to fall off my swiftnest scaffolding into it.

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Underwater, close to the rocks – you have plain, boring rock:
Malay_Perhentian_0234_2c_Shallows_P8051538.JPG

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Further away from the coastline and moving North towards D’Lagoon, there is some patchy coral and some pretty fishies:
Malay_Perhentian_0236_2c_Parrotfish_P8051546.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0238_2c_Juvenile-Black-Damselfish_P8051558.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0239_2c_Goldsaddle-Rabbitfish_P8051563.JPG
(mouseover fish pictures for species names)

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As you get past Area 2c towards area 2d, the coral slowly improves, but is generally patchy in quality:
Malay_Perhentian_0241_2cd_Patchy-Coral_P8051539.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0243_2cd_Patchy-Coral_P8051564.JPG

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Area 3 – D’Lagoon Resort

D’Lagoon Resort is a quiet little traditional backpackers-style resort, tucked away all-by-itself in a bay near the North West Corner of Pulau Kecil.
Malay_Perhentian_0250_3_DLagoon_P8051571.JPG
It is pretty isolated and the main means of access would be water taxi. There is a track that leads there from Long Beach and the windmills, but it’s a long walk.

D’Lagoon is one of the few places with a dorm and they will also let you put up a tent. Prices are reasonable (for an island in Malaysia) and there is a restaurant on-site.

Rates (MYR, Prices correct at 2012): Tent (per person) 10; Dorm 20; Room without bathroom 50-60; Room with bathroom 80; Family Room (3-4px) 90-120; Treehouse 110; “The Rising Sun” 150

D’Lagoon has walking tracks over to remote bays/beaches to the North (Area 5- Turtle Bay) and West (Area 6 – Adam and Eve Beach).

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Area 3 snorkelling :
Malay_Perhentian_0254_3_Bay-from-Beach_P8112683_.jpg

Unfortunately, much of the coral out the front of D’Lagoon has seen better days. Old reports about the Perhentians list this area as one of the better spots for snorkelling. There are plenty of roped-off zones for swimmers and snorkellers, but only rather patchy coral inside them. If you like a quiet spot and are happy just scouting around for fish, this might be the spot for you. It is peaceful here with no-one to disturb you except the occasional private-hire boat tripper. This place isn’t on the itinerary for the mass-market snorkel boat tours.

Here are some shots of the coral:
Malay_Perhentian_0256_3_Patchy-Coral_P8051584.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0258_3_Patchy-Coral_P8051586.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0261_3_Coral-and-Silver-Batfish_P8051579.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0262_3_Coral-and-Silver-Batfish_P8051581.JPG

And some fauna:
Malay_Perhentian_0265_3_Nudibranch_P8051574.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0266_3_Parrotfish_P8051578.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0268_3_Blue-Ringed-Angelfish_P8051589.JPG

The best bit of coral seems to be near the rocks marked 3a on the map and photographs.
Malay_Perhentian_0270_3a_Best-bit_P8051576.JPG
But it’s not that  different from other parts of the bay.

Access to the water from the beach is easy. There is a bit of broken-up coral in the shallows, but nothing to worry about.
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Signpost: This is a long article. If you are in a hurry and just want the main (easy-access/ touristy) bits, you could skip-forward to Area 12.

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Area 4 – North East tip (D’Lagoon to Turtle Bay)

After a good look around D’Lagoon Bay and a bite to eat at the resort, I swam left out of the resort, through their left-side snorkel zone (Area 3b) and out the end of it, towards Area 4a and the bulbous, err, bulb that is the North end of Pulau Kecil.

Area 4a

Ironically, there was some rather decent coral past the end of the swim-zone:
Malay_Perhentian_0291_4a_Leaving-DLagoon_P8051592.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0292_4a_Table-Coral_P8051593.JPG

There was also a nasty Crown-of-Thorns Starfish eating it:
Malay_Perhentian_0294_4a_Crown-of-Thorns_P8051596.JPG
(that’s the dead ‘skeleton’ of the coral sticking out the right hand side)

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Heading around the corner onto the East face of the headland (Area 4b), the scene was mostly deep water and big rocks with the occasional pretty fish hanging around. And a little coral growth on the rocks:
Malay_Perhentian_0297_4b_Rocks_P8051597.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0299_4b_BRA_P8051599.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0301_4b_Parrotfish_P8051602.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0303_4b_Staghorn_P8051606.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0305_4b_BRA_P8051608.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0306_4b_Softcorals_P8051613.JPG
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I continued on, heading past rocky point 4c:
Malay_Perhentian_0311_4c_NE-Corner-Rocks_P8051614.JPG
..and on to the Northern Coast.

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I found this unusual angle on the Perhentians, taken from the North:
Malay_Perhentian_0308_4c_4c-to-5-Aerial_.jpg
All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions.

(…and I scribbled my numbers all over it). Kudos to the rights holder.

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Here’s a shot of the little rocky bay at Area 4d:
Malay_Perhentian_0313_4d_Rocky-bay-at-4d_P8051616.JPG

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The main stretch of the North coast (4d to 4e) was variable, quality wise. The seascape continually flipped between bad:
Malay_Perhentian_0316_4de_N-Coast-Poor_P8051618.JPG

And good:
Malay_Perhentian_0318_4de_N-Coast-Good_P8051620.JPG

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The cape between Area 4e and Area 5 is called Tangung Butang  I swam out round the first chunk of it – partly to see what was there and partly because the tide was fairly low and the water in the strait looked a little shallow for swimming. Some people in a kayak got through it OK, though.

The seascape was similar to 4d to 4e – alternating good/bad/good/bad, etc.

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Area 5 – Turtle Bay

Turtle bay is a beautiful, deserted, fine white-sand beach on the North West corner of the island. You can see on the aerial picture that it looks pretty tasty.

There is a ten minute walking trail to it from D’Lagoon Resort. Or you can kayak there around route 3b-4-5.

Underwater, there was more of the alternating good/bad seascape thing going on. There was more bad than good.

An Orangespine Unicornfish and a Blue-Spotted-Ribbontail-Ray provided diversions during the boring bits of seabed:
Malay_Perhentian_0322_5_Orangespine-Unicornfish_P8051624.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0325_5_Blue-Spotted-Ribbontail-Ray_P8051626.JPG

I didn’t try getting out of the water at Turtle Bay, but it looked like there was quite a lot of broken-up coral in the shallows. I think that would you need decent footwear to enter the water here.

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Malay_Perhentian_0327_5_Turtle-Bay_P8051629.jpg
There’s no doubt that it is a beautiful looking spot from above the water. But it is not a top destination for the coral.

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Area 5 to 6 – Turtle Bay to Adam-and-Eve Beach

I saw a map that calls this cape “Tanjung Dutong”.

Adam and Eve beach is another isolated beach that has a walking track to it from D’Lagoon resort. The stretch from Area 5 (Turtle Bay) to Area 6 (A&E Beach) was a 40 minute swim around the big headland. Coral-wise, this stretch is more of the patchy good/bad stuff that we saw in the last two areas. There was more bad than good.
Malay_Perhentian_0332_56_Patchy-Coral_P8051637.JPG

But there’s more to snorkelling than just the coral and I was happy to come across a monster Bumphead Parrotfish here.
Malay_Perhentian_0334_56_Bumphead-Parrotfish_P8051642.JPG
These guys grow to 1.3 metres and every one I have seen, including this one, has been close to that size. It looks like the trailing Parrotfish are enjoying whatever debris the mothership has left behind.

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Other interesting life on this stretch included another Orange Spined Unicornfish, some Blue Ringed Angelfishes and a Crown of Thorns Starfish.
Malay_Perhentian_0330_56_Orange-Spined-Unicornfish_P8051636.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0336_56_Blue-Ringed-Angelfish_P8051653 PROBABLY BINME.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0338_56_Blue-Spotted-Ribbontail-Ray_P8051655.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0339_56_Crown-of-Thorns-Starfish_P8051658.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0340_56_Blue-Ringed-Angelfish_P8051660.JPG

Corals continued to flik-flak between good and bad:
Malay_Perhentian_0344_56_Staghorn_P8051664.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0346_56_Table-Coral_P8051665.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0348_56_Grotty_P8051666.JPG

All this continues until you get to Adam and Eve Beach, itself.

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Area 6 – Adam and Eve Beach

Presumably moslem Malaysia isn’t too hot on christian Bible stories. I have seen local maps calling ‘Adam and Eve Beach’, ‘Penghma Abu’ Beach.

Above the waterline, it is another naturalistic beauty:
Malay_Perhentian_0350_6_AnE-Beach-Composite_P8051667.jpg

On another day, I walked there via the track from D’Lagoon. The track tips-out here, on the South End of the beach:
Malay_Perhentian_0353_6_AnE-Beach_P8112679.JPG

 

 

However, I didn’t try to get in or out of the water here, so I’m not sure how easy it is. I got the impression that there were broken-up corals in the shallows, which could make access difficult. But, then again, you hear about people having possessions stolen from the beach while swimming there, so I guess access to the water must be possible.

 

Btw, I hear that a heavy police crack-down on petty theft in the Perhentians has been effective in stopping it. Even so, I think it would be unwise to leave any valuables unguarded on the beach.

 

In the deeper waters of A&E bay, there were some more good/bad coral patches – but there is enough coral and Nemos to keep swimmers amused:
Malay_Perhentian_0356_6_Table-Coral_P8051670.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0359_6_Anemones-and-Nemos_P8051671.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0361_6_Barrelsponge-and-Nemo_P8051672.JPG

 

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Area 6 to 7 – A&E Beach to Windmill Builders Beach

The next stretch of coastline is a short one. It is only a couple of hundred metres from the South end of Adam and Eve beach to the start of the next stretch of deserted sand.

On the seabed, there was a good-sized field of Bottlebrush Coral (probably Acropora longicythus), next to some dead-stuff in the shallows:
Malay_Perhentian_0365_67_Seabed-Bottlebrush-Coral_P8051674.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0367_67_Seabed-Maouri-Wrasse_P8051673.JPG

Hiding in the green Anemones, we have two different species of nemo – the traditional False-Clown Anemonefish in orange and the Clarkes Anemonefish in black.
Malay_Perhentian_0369_67_Starcoral-Black-Nemos_P8051675.JPG

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Area 7 – Windmill Builders’ Beach

I have no idea what this beach is really called. It doesn’t seem to have a name on any map. But if you go to the windmills, then follow the steep, wide track (Northwest), and ignore the signposted right-turn to D’Lagoon, you end up here:
Malay_Perhentian_0375_7_Windmill-Builders-Beach-Composite_P8051677.jpg
You can see where the wide track tips out in the middle of the beach.

I don’t know how long the wind-turbines have been on top of the hill, but I’d guess less than 15 years. And they had to get there somehow, right? It looks like the components were shipped-in via this bay and hauled up the very steep hill, then assembled into windmills at the top. So I’m calling this Windmill Builders’ Beach. That’s not the proper name – I just made it up. When I find out what the Malay is, I’ll be getting it put on all the maps!

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Swimming into this bay from the North, I startled a couple of small blacktip Sharks who had been basking in the shallows. They shot-past me into the deep water before I could even lift my camera.

A small school of Goldsaddle Rabbitfish were rushing southwards across some sandy bottom:
Malay_Perhentian_0387_7_Goldsaddle-Rabbitfish_P8051687.JPG

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In the deeper waters (2 to 3 metres deep), there is another field of Bottlebrush Coral playing host to several Peacock Groupers and some Virgate Rabbitfish:
Malay_Perhentian_0385_7_Virgate-Rabbitfish-Peacock-Grouper_P8051684.JPG

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At the South end of the bay, there were some decent corals:
Malay_Perhentian_0391_7_WBB-South-Diversity_P8051686.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0393_7_Table-Corals_P8051691.JPG

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I returned here overland one day, and enjoyed the sunset over the Rawi Islands:
Malay_Perhentian_0377_7_Windmill-Builders-Beach-_P8112691.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0381_7_Sunset_P8112694.JPG
But I never tried to get in or out of the water here. From what I saw from in the water – it looks like access might be difficult, due to broken-up corals in the shallows.

Oh, and the track leading down from the windmills is about the steepest thing you could ever tackle without a climb-rope. Check out the angle between the track and the trees. If it doesn’t look like much – just you try walking it, then see!

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Area 8 to Area 9 – Windmill Builders’ Beach to Romantic Beach

Windmill Builders’ Beach (WBB) to Coral Bay (Area 12) is a long stretch without any escape routes – so only come down here if you are up to a 1.5 km swim. This first part takes us as far as “Romantic Beach” (Area 9) – a beautiful beach about half-way down. Access to Romantic Beach is by boat (or swimming) only and is occasionally a stopping point on daytrip boat itineraries.

At the North end of this stretch – at 8a, (not far from WBB) were these funky-looking Barrel-sponges and their Sea-Cucumbers:
Malay_Perhentian_0400_8a_Barrel-Sponges_P8051695.JPG
You sometimes see small white Sea-Cucumbers (Synaptula lamperti)  living all over the surface of Barrel Sponges. The pairing is a symbiotic relationship. The cucumbers are protected from predators by the toxicity of the sponge and the sponge gets cleaned by the cucumbers’ feeding on the detritus that settles on it – keeping its pores unblocked.

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You usually find stingrays munching on flat sand. This one was slalom-ing it up between the finger corals:
Malay_Perhentian_0402_8a_Blue-spotted-Ribbontail-ray_P8051696.JPG

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Further South, at 8b, you can see where D’Lagoon’s mains waterpipe runs along the top of the rocks (to the right of the picture):
Malay_Perhentian_0409_8b_Waterpipe-Rock_P8051699.JPG

Area 8b was a hot-spot for Table Corals:
Malay_Perhentian_0411_8b_Table-Corals_P8051700.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0413_8b_Table-Corals_P8051701.JPG

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Generally, area 8 was patchy, coral-wise. This shot from 8c is representative of the typical seascape in Area 8.
Malay_Perhentian_0418_8c_Typical-area-8-Golden-Trevally_P8051702.JPG
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Did you see the two Golden Trevally? Don’t blink, or you’ll miss these things!

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About 100m North of Romantic Beach, there was a decent spot of coral:
Malay_Perhentian_0421_8c_Diverse-Corals_P8051706.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0423_8c_Good-Coral_P8051707.JPG

However, further South and closer into the sand, there was just a lot of broken-up dead Staghorn coral:
Malay_Perhentian_0427_8c_Poor-Corals_P8051713.JPG

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Area 9 – Romantic Beach

Romantic beach is a bit of a beauty:
Malay_Perhentian_0430_9_Romantic-Beach_P8051717.JPG

Complete with its romantic driftwood mobile:
Malay_Perhentian_0432_9_Romantic-Beach_P8051720.JPG

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Underwater, I didn’t record much worth seeing. It was mainly flat sandy bottom with broken-up dead coral in the deeper water.

I did see a couple of Long-Beaked-Coralfish sniffing around:
Malay_Perhentian_0425_8c_Long-Beaked-coralfish_P8051709.JPG

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Area 10 – Sub-Romantic Point

There is a little cape between Romantic Bay and Golden Beach. I don’t think it has a real name.

Area 10a

At its Northern end (10a) was this Slingjaw Wrasse, flitting through a field of Bottlebrush coral:
Malay_Perhentian_0435_10a_Slingjaw-Wrasse_P8051723.JPG

The Slingjaw Wrasse can extend his lower jaw almost half his body length to strike out at a fast moving piece of food. It looks like a 3cm long, white battering-ram sticking out the front. Their Yellow Initial Phase variations do the same thing. Unfortunately, neither of them do it for long enough to get a picture of! Someone has captured it on slo-mo video in a laboratory <a title=”here” href=”http://australianmuseum.net.au/BlogPost/Science/Slingjaw-Wrasse-feeding”>here</a&gt;.

There was a bit of coral diversity here – with the green Acropora and the brown and blue Porites species all together:
Malay_Perhentian_0437_10a_Diverse-Corals_P8051724.JPG

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Area 10b

Continuing on to the Southern half of the cape (10b), there was a fair-bit of red Table Coral:
Malay_Perhentian_0442_10b_Table-and-Hump-coral_P8051730.JPG
You can see here how different species of coral fight for space. The table coral is much faster growing and has ‘crashed into’ the Hump coral. There will be a nightly battle on the frontline, with the the polyps of the two species fighting it out over the territory.

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I saw a turtle munching on the seabed about 3m deep.
Malay_Perhentian_0444_10b_Turtle_P8051743.JPG
It was early evening and the light was fading, so this one’s a bit blurry!

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Faster moving (and so even more blurry) was this Bird Wrasse.
Malay_Perhentian_0446_10b_Bird-Wrasse_P8051747.JPG
These beaky fellas are fairly uncommon. This one is an adult (“Terminal Phase”) specimen. OK, this is a rubbish picture, but is worth including as it was the only Bird Wrasse I saw in the Perhentians. There is a better picture in the specieslist.

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Area 11 – Golden Beach / Pantai Cenera Wasih

Continuing South there is one more naturalistic, deserted beach to pass before we return to the touristed area. Most maps don’t give this one a name, but one map calls it ‘Golden Beach’:
Malay_Perhentian_0450_11_Golden-Beach_P8031041.JPG
This shot is from the more Southerly half.

There is also a little sign up calling it ‘Pantai Cenera Wasih’: Malay_Perhentian_0451_11_Pantai-Cenderawasih-Sign_P8051766.JPG .

It is considered lucky to make a tower of stones, so lots of people have tried here:
Malay_Perhentian_0452_11_Golden-Beach-Lucky-Stones_P8051762.JPG

In this article, we are swimming-in from the North, but I think it is also possible to walk to this beach through the back of Shari-La Resort in Coral Bay (13). You can certainly reach the Southern half of it this way.

I swam out here a few times – it was a good spot to catch the sunset. However, it was always too dark for underwater photography, so I don’t have any pictures. The underwater scene was mostly plain sand and was unimpressive, snorkelling-wise. There were a few scraggy patches of unhealthy coral dotted about (similar to 12a), but generally this one shouldn’t be considered a snorkelling destination.

There is a swim-lane marker about 50m off the beach to keep the boats at bay.

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Area 12 – Coral bay (Aur Bay)

Coral Bay (Malay: Teluk Aur) is the location of the main ferry jetty. It is also the second biggest area for tourist development on Kecil. There is a sandy beach stretching about 700m along the bay.

The bay itself isn’t especially suited for snorkelling – there is lots of broken, dead coral and sharp rocks to get past in the shallows; and there is significant boat traffic coming to-and-from the beach.

But if you have got some hard soled shoes and can make it through the spiky shallows, there is some surprisingly good snorkelling (which no-one seems to mention) just around the headland to the right (North) of the bay. From the beach, start at the right hand end (near the jetty), walk out into the water, pass underneath the jetty and swim round the rocky headland to the right (where Shari-La Resort is). Note that, for the purposes of this article, we are approaching area 12a from Golden Beach in the North – so if you are approaching from Coral Bay (in the South) you should read these next few paragraphs backwards.

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Area 12a (North)

Moving away from the sands of Golden Beach and towards the (surface) rocks at the Northern end of Area 12a, the underwater terrain starts off sandy with patchy, unhealthy coral:
Malay_Perhentian_0471_12a_Patchy-Coral_P8031038.JPG

But as you move further South, there is some rugged 3-d underwater seascape – built around big bommies of Porites (Hump) coral:
Malay_Perhentian_0476_12a_Sweeper-fish-Hydroid_P8031036.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0478_12a_Staghorncoral-Moon-Wrasse_P8031037.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0480_12a_Map-Pufferfish_P8031033.JPG

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Area 12a (mid)

Continuing South – the middle section of Area 12a (where it says ‘12a’ on the map) is probably the best section around here – with more Porites-based action like this:
Malay_Perhentian_0489_12a_Porites-Coral-Parrotfish_P8031022.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0491_12a_Clams_P8031018.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0493_12a_Table-Coral-Staghorn-Coral_P8031020.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0495_12a_Corals_P8031045.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0497_12a_Thick-Bottlebrush-Coral_P8031046.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0499_12a_Corals_P8031048.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0500_12a_Hydroid_P8031026.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0501_12a_Clam_P8031029.JPG
Btw, those little frondy plant-like-things are hydroids and sting like hell – so make sure not to touch them.

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Area 12a (South)

Continuing South, the good stuff continues a little further:Malay_Perhentian_0506_12a_Corals_P8031049.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0508_12a_Corals_P8031050.JPG
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But as you approach the corner of Coral Bay and you get sight of the big jetty, the coral quality starts to go downhill:
Malay_Perhentian_0510_12a_Corals_P8031013.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0512_12a_Corals_P8031012.JPG

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Most of Area 12a has a swim-lane demarcation line to keep the speedboats at bay. This line is fixed to the seabed at each end. At the Southern end, schools of skinny Silver Batfish like the shelter that the anchor-line provides and can often be found hanging around this corner:
Malay_Perhentian_0514_12a_Silver-Batfish_P8031055.JPG

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Rounding the corner into Coral Bay itself, the coral turns to crap:
Malay_Perhentian_0516_12a_Broken-Up-Corals_P8031014.JPG

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As you pass under the jetty and towards the beach, the water starts to get shallow pretty quickly. Generally there is nothing to see here, although one day when I passed, the promenaders on the jetty were enjoying a small shark swimming around in the shallows.

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Area 12b – The middle of Coral Bay

Here’s a shot taken from the very Northern end of Coral Bay Beach (near Aur Beach Resort and the steps to the jetty), looking South across the middle of the bay:
Malay_Perhentian_0521_12b_Aur-Bay-From-the-North_P8102661.JPG

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The middle of Coral Bay itself isn’t conducive to snorkelling – there’s a fair bit of boat traffic passing; and what coral there is mostly unspectacular:
Malay_Perhentian_0527_12b_Corals_P8031070.JPG

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Although the area isn’t totally without interest:
Malay_Perhentian_0525_12b_Acropora-Bush-Coral_P8031068.JPG

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One highlight I did find here was a cute little Juvenile Yellow Boxfish – cowering between some rocks:
Malay_Perhentian_0523_12b_Juvi-Yellow-Boxfish_P8031060.JPG

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Continuing South, you get to a roped-off snorkelling area and a floating pontoon off Senja Resort. You can see it by the “12c” in this photo of Coral Bay (taken from the South):
Malay_Perhentian_0536_12c_Aur-Bay-from-the-South_P8021010_.jpg

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Area 12c – Near the Platform off Senja Resort

This area is your best bet for snorkelling in Coral Bay itself.

You have to hunt around a bit – the sights range from miserable looking Longfin Groupers looking like they want to be somewhere else:
Malay_Perhentian_0541_12c_Longfin-Grouper_P8031075.JPG

. . through to some pretty decent coral:
Malay_Perhentian_0538_12c_Corals-Near-Platform_P8031072.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0540_12c_Corals-Near-Platform_P8031073.JPG
That second one is directly under the platform.

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17 Area 13 – Lighthouse

Let’s take a quick diversion away from the coastline, out to the small lighthouse 1km South East of Coral Bay.
Malay_Perhentian_0550_13_Lighthouse_P8102663.JPG

The Lighthouse is easily the best area in the Perhentians for coral. Make sure you visit here!

You cannot swim out to the Lighthouse. It’s a pretty long way off the coast, but it is not the distance that’s the problem. Its the boats that are the problem.

This is probably the area with the heaviest fast-moving boat traffic in the Perhentians – you have the speedboat ferries coming and going from Kuala Perlis and on to Pulau Besar, you have the speedboat taxis taking people between the Kecil jetty and their resorts and you have daytrip boats taking snorkellers out to the lighthouse. Really – don’t try swimming out to the lighthouse unless you have suicidal tendencies.

Most of the daytrip snorkel tours come out here, so you can get here that way (but check with your operator that they will actually come here, as you don’t want to miss this bit). Alternatively, you can rent kayaks from some resorts in Coral Bay and hardier types should be fine kayaking out to the lighthouse. btw – check whether there is a mooring line attached to your kayak (you will have to tie it up at the lighthouse). And will you be able to climb back into a kayak when you can’t touch the seabed? You will need to. There are some tips on how to combine kayaking and snorkelling in my ‘snorkelling expeditions by kayak’ page. (Actually, most of that article doesn’t apply to our short trip here, but there might be some useful bits mixed-in).

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OK, practical considerations finished. I’ll say it again – the coral at the lighthouse is the best in the Perhentians. Look:

Malay_Perhentian_0552_13_Coral_P8102645.JPG

Malay_Perhentian_0553_13_Coral_P8102638.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0555_13_Coral_P8102619.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0557_13_Coral_P8102651.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0559_13_Coral_P8102644.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0560_13_Anemones-and-Softcoral_P8102624.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0561_13_Barrelsponge_P8102643.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0562_13_Coral_P8102639.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0564_13_Coral_P8102637.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0565_13_Black-Coral_P8102647.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0567_13_Barrelsponges-and-Coral_P8102623.JPG

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And the fishlife ain’t so bad, either:
Malay_Perhentian_0568_13_Schoolers_P8102630.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0569_13_Needlefish_P8102635.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0571_13_Titan-Triggerfish_P8102621.JPG

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What a lovely spot!

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Signpost: This is a long article. If you are in a hurry and just want the main (easy-access/ touristy) bits, you could skip-forward to Area 14e.
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Area 14 – Coral Bay South to Mira Beach

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, err, coast …

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South of Coral Bay is a 2km stretch of rocky coastline down the West side of the bottom half of Kecil. The rocks are interjected by a couple of sandy beaches.

There is a very good, brick footpath running all the way down this coast. The path is usually about 20m away from the water and at sea-level, so if you want to walk part-way down the path and enter the water from there, it is not too difficult to find a way from the footpath to the sea.

I swam round from Coral Bay. There are no swim-zone markers on most of this coast, but most of the snorkelling is close to the shore, so it is easy to keep away from passing boats.

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Malay_Perhentian_0573_Kecil-South-Map.jpg
Link to main map

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Area 14a to 14b – Butterfly Resort to 14b’s good bit

Past the rocky headland to the South of Coral Bay; past Butterfly Resort and continuing Southwards – the seascape typically looks like this:
Malay_Perhentian_0576_14a_Typical_P8031084.JPG

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There were a few attractive sights on the way:
Malay_Perhentian_0578_14a_Table-Coral_P8031089.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0580_14a_Nemos_P8031094.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0582_14a_Clams_P8031096.JPG

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Area 14b – Good Bit

About 500m South of Coral Bay there is a distinctive looking big rock:
Malay_Perhentian_0586_14b_Goodbit-Rock_P8031097_.jpg
Close to this rock (about 30m South of it) is an area with better-than-average corals:
Malay_Perhentian_0590_14b_Corals_P8031098.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0592_14b_Coral_P8031100.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0593_14b_Hydroid_P8031101.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0594_14b_Bracket-Coral_P8031105.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0596_14b_Corals_P8031106.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0598_14b_Table-coral_P8031108.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0599_14b_Coral_P8031109.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0601_14b_Tomato-Anemonefish_P8031120.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0602_14b_Softcoral_P8031122.JPG

There is an access track across the rocky beach near here:
Malay_Perhentian_0588_14b_Access_P8132776.JPG

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Area 14b to 14c- The Good Bit to D’Langir Resort

Here are some of the sights continuing South:

This Hermit Crab was wandering around on top of the coral:
Malay_Perhentian_0608_14bc_Hermit-Crab_P8031155.JPG

When I arrived, this little White Eyed Moral Eel was taking chunks out of the hapless Sea Cucumber:
Malay_Perhentian_0609_14bc_White-eyed-moray-eel-Sea-Cucumber_P8031157.JPG

There are some Five-Lined Cardinalfish lurking underneath the Table Corals:
Malay_Perhentian_0611_14bc_Table-coral-Cardinal-fish_P8031167.JPG

And there was some attractive purple Bracket Coral:
Malay_Perhentian_0613_14bc_Bracketcoral_P8031169.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0615_14bc_Eight-Banded-Butterflyfish_P8031178.JPG

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Area 14b – D’Langir Resort

Tangung Langir and/or D’Langir Resort are mentioned on some maps. The resort was derelict when I passed by:

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The snorkelling at Area 14b is no different from that 200 metres either side of it, but on a coastline which is short of landmarks, D’Langir does provide a useful reference-point.

From the land side, you can see these derelict frames of a jetty.
And when those eventually rust and fall into the sea, you might still be able to see “De Langir Resort” painted on the seaward side of the big rock next-door.

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Area 14c to 14d – D’Langir towards another good bit

Here are a few more sights continuing South:

Featherduster Worm and Clam:
Malay_Perhentian_0626_14cd_Mix_P8031190_.jpg

Titan Triggerfish:
Malay_Perhentian_0628_14cd_Titan-Triggerfish_P8031191.JPG

Blue-Spotted Ribbontail Ray
Malay_Perhentian_0629_14cd_Blue-Spotted-Ribbontail-Ray_P8031194.JPG
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Area 14d – Another Goodbit South of D’Langir

About a ten minute swim South of D’Langir resort, there was another disproportionately good spot for coral:
Malay_Perhentian_0633_14d_Cleaner-Wrasse_P8031200.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0635_14d_Table-Coral_P8031201.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0637_14d_Coral_P8031202.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0639_14d_Staghorn-Bush-Corals_P8031203.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0640_14d_Nemo-Anemone_P8031204.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0642_14d_Brain-coral_P8031208.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0643_14d_Bottlebrush-Coral_P8031215.JPG

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Between Area 14d and 14e – No-name Beach

There is a cute little 100m long beach here.
Malay_Perhentian_0649_14de_NoName-Beach_P8031226.JPG
It doesn’t have a name on any maps, and isn’t even shown on many:

The island track takes a break here and you walk across the beach itself, so you can’t miss it if you are walking down the track.

Access to the water here is easy, but there’s not much to see on the sandy bottom. I did find this Blue Spotted Sting Ray, which made a change from the more common Ribbontail version:
Malay_Perhentian_0653_14de_Blue-Spotted-Ray_P8031230.JPG

It’s about a ten minute swim North to 14d from here.

Continuing South there was more sandy bottom and not much coral.

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Area 14e – Mira Beach

There is a small beach here with a single laid-back resort on it.
Malay_Perhentian_0662_14e_Mira-Beach_P8031231.jpg

I assume that the resort used to be called “Mira”, but when I passed through, it had been recently changed to “Keranji”:
Malay_Perhentian_0660_14e_Mira-Beach_P8031231.JPG

They had a playful pet otter who will frolic in the surf with you at the end of the day.
Malay_Perhentian_0665_14e_Mira-Otter_P8031295.JPG

Otters! Who’da thought it? This one seemed domesticated. I would have thought it was a bit uncomfortable for the poor fella in the tropical heat, but I have subsequently seen otters in the wild a few hundred km away in Thailand:
Malay_Perhentian_0666_14e_Satun-Wild-Otters_P3184972.JPG

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I didn’t find much of interest underwater here. Holidaymakers like their sandy beaches, – precisely the areas where you find the least coral and sealife. Isn’t it ironic, don’t ya think?

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Signpost: This is a long article. If you are in a hurry and just want the main (easy-access/ touristy) bits, you could skip-forward to Area 16b.
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Area 14e to 14f – Mira Beach to the ‘at-end-of-the-day’ headland

Continuing South, the corals started-up again after only a few minutes swim:
Malay_Perhentian_0670_14ef_Coral_P8031234.JPG

The typical scene around here was this:
Malay_Perhentian_0674_14ef_Typical-Deep_P8031237.JPG

But there were also more interesting patches:
Malay_Perhentian_0672_14ef_Staghorn-and-Damsels_P8031236.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0673_14ef_Razorfish_P8132787.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0678_14ef_Feather-Dusterworm-Clam_P8031265.JPG

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I also found the friendliest-ever Blue Ringed Angelfish here. These guys are usually timid, but occasionally inquisitive. This one was strutting around like a catwalk model.

Blue Ringed Angelfish often come out from under their rocks in the early evenings – just when there’s not enough daylight to get a decent picture. It’s almost like they know. The camera-hogging Longfin Pike don’t help much, either!
Malay_Perhentian_0675_14ef_BRA-Longfin-Pike_P8031246.JPG

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Somewhere around here I saw this little fella disappearing off under some coral.
Malay_Perhentian_0679_14ef_Panther-Grouper-Cromileptes-altivelis_P8132789.JPG
I’m not certain, but I think he’s a Panther Grouper. If so, this is the only one I have seen in the wild. The specieslist has a decent picture of one in a public aquarium in Malaysia.

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It had been a two and a half hour swim from Coral Bay and it was starting to get dark, so I decided to call it a day near a little headland at Area 14f
Malay_Perhentian_0681_14f_Headland-at-14f_P8031268.JPG
and swam back to Mira Beach to take the footpath back home.

Here’s the last underwater shot of the day, near 14f:
Malay_Perhentian_0680_14ef_Staghorn-and-Maori-Wrasse_P8031266.JPG

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Area 15

The next day I returned by footpath to pick-up the underwater trail. Because I was planning a long swim that day, I walked on past Mira Beach thinking I would jump in the sea a little closer to 14f. However, the footpath takes a detour inland at this point and there were nowhere where I could get into the sea until I reached Area 16a, Petani Resort, about 1 km down the coast.

Consequently, I didn’t cover Area 15.

Satellite photos show a little beach down here, but I didn’t notice any access to it from the footpath.

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Area 16 – Petani and Impiani Beach

There is a pretty beach here – about 300m long. Petani Beach Resort is at the near end and Impiani Resort is at the far end.

The footpath skirting area 15 returns to sea-level at the North end of Petani Beach Resort. I say the North end, but the coastline turned a corner while you weren’t looking and this strip of beach runs West to East, so really, we’re starting at the West End, at 16a:
Malay_Perhentian_0712_16a_Petani-North_P8041308_.jpg
Above the peoples’ heads, you can see the black and white handrails of the island path descending onto the beach. The brown shack on the left is Petani’s restaurant.

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Area 16a

Underwater at the Western (“Northern”) end of the bay (16a), there is not much to get excited about:
Malay_Perhentian_0714_16a_Petani-North_P8041310.JPG

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Area 16b

The main point of interest in Area 16 is a single, large bommie of Porites coral near the centre of the bay at 16b. This is about 100m due South of Petani’s Restaurant. If you’ve forgotten your compass that day, go left out of the restaurant, walk to the rocks mid-beach (near the boat with the blue roof, in the picture) then swim straight out to sea about 100 metres.

You are looking for this:

Malay_Perhentian_0727_16b_Big-C_P8041312.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0730_16b_Middle_P8041315.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0735_16b_Nemo_P8041319.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0738_16b_Nemos-Table_P8041321_.jpg Malay_Perhentian_0741_16b_BRA_P8041322_.jpg Malay_Perhentian_0744_16b_Coral_P8041327.JPG

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It goes from the bottom at about 5 metres depth to about a metre short of the surface.

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Arera – 16c Impiani Resort

Continuing underwater towards the Impiani end of the beach didn’t reveal much of note – it was mostly plain sandy bottom to 2m depth; and patchy, unhealthy coral in the deeper waters.

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Here are the chalets of Impiani Resort:
Malay_Perhentian_0749_16c_Ticky-Tacky-Impiani_P8041329.JPG
When I passed by, Impiani had been in a state of upgrade-limbo for 2 years and the chalets were all standing empty.

Still, it did give me a chance to go up and get a shot of the bay:
Malay_Perhentian_0751_16c_Impiani-beach-view_P8132761.JPG
You can see the broken and dead corals in the shallows; and the floating platform further out in the bay.

I had a look around underwater near the platform area (16c), but I don’t remember anything noteworthy there and I didn’t take any pictures.

I hear that the resort has since re-opened.

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Here’s a shot of the beach, looking from the Impiani end, West towards Petani:
Malay_Perhentian_0753_16c_Impiani-Petani-beach_P8132760.JPG

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Signpost: This is a long article. If you are in a hurry and just want the main (easy-access/ touristy) bits, you could skip-forward to Area 21.

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Area 17 – Impiani to the Fishermans’ Village

Area 17a – Rocks to the left of Impiani

Heading Left (East) out of Impiani Resort, there is some reasonable coral on the rocks at the end of the bay:
Malay_Perhentian_0760_17a_Porites_P8041334.JPG

This continued out into deeper waters:
Malay_Perhentian_0762_17a_Deepwater_P8041337.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0764_17a_Sponges-and-deep_P8041340.JPG

Further on, round the coast, the fish seemed rather chilled-out. This Monocle Bream was happy to pose for pictures:
Malay_Perhentian_0766_17a_Monocle-Bream_P8041348.JPG

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Area 17a to 17b – Towards the Southern tip of the island

The 500m stretch round to the Southernmost tip of Kecil had some patches of interesting branching corals:
Malay_Perhentian_0768_17ab_Coral_P8041353.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0783_17ab_Coral_P8041372.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0781_17ab_Nemo_P8041369.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0779_17ab_Coral_P8041362.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0777_17ab_Coral_P8041360.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0773_17ab_Coral_P8041357.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0772_17ab_Coral_P8041356.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0770_17ab_Moon-Wrasse_P8041355.JPG

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At the Southern point itself (17b), you have sight of the school and the fancy new houses on the West side of the Village:
Malay_Perhentian_0784_17ab_Point_P8041375.JPG

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Area 17c – Anemone fields

Just to the East of the point, there are a couple of surprise anemone fields, in purple and green:
Malay_Perhentian_0793_17c_Anemone-Rock_P8041378.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0791_17c_Anemone-Rock_P8041377.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0790_17c_Anemone-Rock_P8041383.JPG

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Area 17d – Interesting Patches

The final stretch of swimming towards the fishing village was mostly shallow with craggy grey rocks. However, there were some interesting coral growths along the way:
Malay_Perhentian_0799_17d_Coral_P8041384.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0801_17d_Coral_P8041386.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0803_17d_Coral_P8041399.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0805_17d_Coral_P8041401.JPG

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Here is a shot taken from the Village Beach at 17e, looking back towards the Southern point at 17b:
Malay_Perhentian_0811_17e_Village-Beach_P8041415.JPG

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There are no resorts in this area. Daytrip boats drop people at this beach so they can go and buy lunch at a restaurant in the village.

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The Fisherman’s Village

The fishermans’ village is a typical rural Malaysian affair.
Malay_Perhentian_0813_17e_Village_P8041407.JPG

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I’m intrigued by what they are planning on doing with those dried gills:

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Most tourists’ involvement with the village will be eating lunch at a restaurant here during a snorkel day-trip. Food is cheaper than at the resorts, but not so much cheaper that it is worth walking all the way to get it.

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There is a big jetty in the village. Locals take public boats from here over to Pulau Besar. The jetty attracts the usual schools of jetty-loving fishies:
Malay_Perhentian_0815_17e_Under-Jetty_P8041422.JPG

The jetty has a good view of the West coast of Besar. This is what is coming-up-soon in the Pulau Besar section:
Malay_Perhentian_0817_17e_All-Besar-Coast-Panorama_.jpg

But not that soon – we still have to look at the South East corner of Kecil.

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Area 18 – Kecil’s South East Coast

The stretch of coastline from the village up the East side of Kecil to Long Beach is a two and a half hour swim, without any exit points, so I don’t recommend that you do it.

Furthermore, it is generally unspectacular – with a typical underwater scene looking like this:
Malay_Perhentian_0828_18_Typical-SE-Kecil_P8041446.JPG

But I wanted to take a look, so I did.

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The 200m stretch of coast running next to the village (17e to 18a), looked unappealing, so I walked to the East end of the village before getting back in the water – here at the little beach at 18a:
Malay_Perhentian_0830_18ab_Entry_P8132759.JPG
There was some major building works going on, so no doubt it all looks very different now.

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Here are some of the better scenes on the stretch from 18a to 18b:
Malay_Perhentian_0831_18ab_Corals_P8041424.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0833_18ab_Corals_P8041428.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0835_18ab_Corals_P8041429.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0836_18ab_Corals_P8041430.JPG

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And from 18b to 18c:
Malay_Perhentian_0844_18bc_Corals_P8041431.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0848_18bc_Parrotfish_P8041439.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0846_18bc_Foxface-Rabbitfish_P8041435.JPG
That’s a Foxface Rabbitfish at the bottom there.

 

From 18c to 18d:
Malay_Perhentian_0856_18cd_Corals_P8041444.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0858_18cd_Corals_P8041445.JPG

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I scared a few sharks as I passed them on this remote stretch of coastline. Mostly they fled off into the blue, but this one hung-around long enough for a couple of pictures:
Malay_Perhentian_0860_18cd_Shark_P8041453.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0861_18cd_Shark_P8041457.JPG

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There was a spot with some decent corals at Area 18d:
Malay_Perhentian_0866_18d_Corals_P8041469.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0868_18d_Corals_P8041470.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0870_18d_Corals_P8041471.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0874_18d_Corals_P8041473.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0876_18d_Corals_P8041482.JPG
That’s a pair of Eight Banded Butterflyfish in the last one.

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Here is the scene near to Area 18e:
Malay_Perhentian_0881_18e_Corals_P8041483.JPG

There was a gruesome looking Sea Cucumber hanging around here, too:
Malay_Perhentian_0883_18e_Sea-Cucumber_P8041487.JPG

A lone Virgate Rabbitfish escapes off into the rocky depths:
Malay_Perhentian_0887_18ef_Virgate-Rabbitfish_P8041491.JPG

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Approaching 18f and heading back into the Southern end of Long Beach, the seabed was plain boring sand:
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Here’s the cute little beachlets underneath the D’Rock Garden Resort that Tezza mentions:
Malay_Perhentian_0891_18f_Little-bays-South-of-Long-Beach_P8041498.JPG
I guess they are good to wade out to if you want to get away from the crowds, but I couldn’t see much interesting there, snorkelling-wise.

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Just before we leave Pulau Kecil and head over to Pulau Besar – let me mention the walking track(s) that go up that South East route (near 18a,b,c,d,e).

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Kecil’s South East walking tracks

There are two ‘paths’ along the East coast of the bottom half of Kecil. The lower one (a few metres above sea level) follows a 30cm wide water pipe. This path is impassable due to landslips wiping out any trace of a track/path for two thirds of the journey.

The upper one (about 15 metres further up the hillside) is above the landslide zone and runs along with the overhead power cables. This one is a fairly easy 45 minute walk through knee-length grass. The track is about bulldozer width. I assume that this strip was bulldozed through the forest to install the power cables. Actually, this path is so easy (and forest-free) that it is kinda boring, although you will see some massive monitor lizards basking in the sun.

To find the upper walking path (the electricity cables one) from the Long Beach end you can either pick up the trail where the electricity cables cross the cross-island path, about 100m West of Long Beach.
Malay_Perhentian_0830_Track_X-Island-Track-Startpoint_P8051501.JPG
(I didn’t see any snakes on Kecil, but if there are any, this is where they will be. Wearing closed top shoes is probably a good idea).

…or, if you want an easier life – go down the cross-island track to Long Beach; turn right on the beach; walk to the last resort – D’Rock Garden; climb up the steep path at the right of the reception; then follow signs for chalet numbers 29-34; and go round the back of the generator hut and pick up the power-line track here.

Continuing South, you will soon come to a Y-junction in the track. It doesn’t matter which branch you take, as they join-up again after about 200m. The downhill (left) one has the power cables on it and definitely works.

Malay_Perhentian_0831_Track_Electricity-cables-track_P8122737.JPG

This path is just a walk in the (overgrown) park for about 45 minutes. When you reach the sea and a T-junction with a paved path at the far end, turn right and walk another 5 minutes to the village.

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Starting from the Southern end: leave the East end of the village and head for the little bay at 18a. Continue along that narrow walking track towards 18b, but keep watching the power lines above your head. When they take a sharp left up a hill – follow them. Just stay on that trail for 40 minutes. At the other end, you can bail-out at the back of D’Rock Resort, or continue to the cross-island track, as above.

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O o o

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The waterpipe route is for masochists only. I absolutely recommend not trying it. Technically, it can be done, but allow six hours and expect to do some serious bush-bashing and rock-climbing to find alternatives to the non-existent ‘path’.
Xxx PIC path

To find it:  Start at the South (village) end and follow the same directions as for the electricity cable walk. Except, when the cables turn left up the hill, you carry straight-on on the path at sea level. Eventually you will meet-up with the water pipe:

…and later-on the path will cease to exist:
Malay_Perhentian_0833_Track_NoTrack_P8122723.JPG
..then it’s just you and the mosquitoes, head-to-head. Good luck with that. As you cling to a cliff being bitten by mozzies and stung by wasps; every five minutes you will be reminded of your stupidity by the sight of Armani-clad honeymooners zipping past you in their cheap water taxis. Not recommended.

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O o o

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Pulau Besar (Big Island)
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Pulau Besar is considered to be the more sophisticated (and expensive) ‘Honeymooners’ / ‘Family’ island. Most of the tourist accommodation is concentrated on the West coast, with more in a bay on the South side. There are a couple of walking tracks connecting those two areas. For people on a budget, there is one camp-site on the island.

You can’t swim from Pulau Kecil to Pulau Besar. It is quite a long distance, but your main problem would be the speedboat traffic shooting up and down the strait.

It costs about 10MYR for a water taxi between the islands. I imagine that the public boat from the village on Kecil (17) to the jetty on Besar (24b/24c) is cheaper still.
I didn’t sleep on Pulau Besar. The following observations are from a single seven-hour swim up the coast from West Flora bay (21a) to Perhentian Island Resort (27b); plus a few repeat visits to the more popular spots on day-trip snorkel boats. Next time I come to the islands, I will probably get accommodation on this side and do some more extensive investigations.

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Malay_Perhentian_0951_Besar-West-Map.jpg
West Besar Map
Link to main map

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25 Area 19 – Bubble Bills

I didn’t go here – maybe next time.

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26 Area 20 – Flora Bay (Centre)

This bay is also known as Teluk Dalam – Deep Bay.

I didn’t go here either, well not to the main part of the bay. I started my sweep of Besar at the very far West end of Flora Bay (at 21a), – just short of Shark Bay.

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27 Area 21 – Shark Bay

Shark bay is the famous area for spotting (harmless) Black-tip Reef Sharks. (Scared about sharks? Read this). This place is a surefire stop on any snorkel-tour trip.

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Area 21a – West Flora Bay

The famous ‘Shark Bay’ is at Area 21b, but I started a little further East at 21a.

The coral in the shallows at 21a is mostly broken-up and unimpressive:
Malay_Perhentian_0953_21a_Seabed_P8092184.JPG  Malay_Perhentian_0956_21a_Dead-Staghorn_P8092186.JPG

However, a little further out into the bay, there is some pretty tasty stuff:
Malay_Perhentian_0957_21a_Acropora-Corals-Coral-Rabbitfish_P8092189.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0959_21a_Christmas-Tree-Worms_P8092190.JPG
Those colourful dots on the white Hump Coral are Christmas Tree Worms. They are literally members of the worm family. They burrow their way into the core of the coral and stick out their colourful, frondy heads to collect nutrients from the water. If anything outside passes too close, they quickly snap their dangly bits back into the safe custody of their burrows then wait ten minutes until it is safe to come out again.

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More healthy coral at 21a:
Malay_Perhentian_0961_21a_Healthy-Staghorn-Coral_P8092193.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0963_21a_Blade-Blue-Coral_P8092194.JPG

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Area 21b – Shark Bay proper

OK, on to the main course – the sharks.

I came here twice – once on a day-trip tour boat and once on my own timescales.

Firstly, understand that the sharks here aren’t going to hurt you. If you are worried about being near sharks, read this.

The boatman on my daytrip slyly had a plastic bottle full of fishheads with him. Sharks aren’t dumb and even with the smell of food in the water, they would only come as close as their vision will allow them to see us. This is about the same distance as our vision would allow us to see them – i.e. you will probably only be able to spot the sharks as murky outlines in the distance. The boat-trip guys were pretty tuned-in at spotting the sharks’ hazy shadows and their favoured approach once they had found one was to shout at you to CHASE-THE-HELL-AFTER-IT until you got a little bit closer.

This methodology was kinda exhilarating, but it did mean that only the fastest swimmers got to see anything and even then, it was generally just a murky fishbutt in the middle-distance.

If you are a shark aficionado and can remove yourself from the constraints of a thirty minute stop on a daytrip boat (e.g. take a private boat tour, or a water-taxi ride over to Flora Bay; or stay at a Flora Bay resort), you can probably see the sharks in a more relaxed mood.

Whatever. Here are some shots of the sharks swimming over the broken-up corals in the shallows of Shark Bay. These were taken on a day-trip boat visit:
Malay_Perhentian_0971_21b_Blacktip-Shark_P8020870.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0973_21b_Blacktip-Shark_P8020871.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0977_21b_Blacktip-Shark_P8020882.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0979_21b_2Sharks_P8020881.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0981_21b_Blacktip-Shark_P8092127.JPG
Note that I have had some help from Dr Photoshop in removing the haze from the water – they were not that clear in reality. Probably more like this.

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If you have some more time to spend, you can see that Shark Bay isn’t only about the sharks. There are some patches of good coral there, too:
Malay_Perhentian_0987_21b_Table-Coral_P8092203.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0985_21b_Lettuce-Coral_P8092113.JPG

 

And some non-Shark piscine action:
Malay_Perhentian_0990_21b_Maouri-Wrasse_P8092130_ copy.jpg Malay_Perhentian_0992_21b_Maouri-Wrasse-Coral-Rabbitfish_P8092165.JPG Malay_Perhentian_0994_21b_Blue-Ringed-Angelfish_P8092205.JPG  Malay_Perhentian_0999_21b_Titan-Triggerfish_P8092220.JPG
(mouseover for species names)

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This little fella is the juvenile version of the Slingjaw Wrasse that we saw back in Area 10:
Malay_Perhentian_0996_21b_Juvenile-Slingjaw-Wrasse_P8092215.JPG
He can shoot out his lower jaw to catch unsuspecting prey.

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The coral to the South end of Shark bay is in better condition. If you can find a way, it is worth taking the time to explore this area. These shots are taken on my independent visit over here, which was an altogether more relaxed and fulfilling experience:
Malay_Perhentian_1004_21b_Blacktip-Shark_P8092174.jpg
Malay_Perhentian_1002_21b_Blacktip-Shark_P8092143.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1006_21b_Blacktip-Shark_P8092212.JPG

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Area 21c

Coming out of the Shark bay that the boats visit, past a couple of big rocks
Malay_Perhentian_1021_21c_Rocks_P8092239.JPG

…there was some decent table coral and a big school of passing Rabbitfish:
Malay_Perhentian_1026_21c_Schooling-Rabbitfish_P8092234.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1024_21c_Table-Coral_P8092235.JPG

I found that these rocks were a good place to sit-and-wait around. Some of the bigger sharks were constantly moving between Shark Bay and this next bay South.
MMalay_Perhentian_1027_21c_Blacktip-Shark_P8092242.JPG

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28 Area 22 – The Southern Point of Besar

Area 22a

Continuing South, now well-and-truly out of sharksville, and into Area 22 – there was a tiny beach at 22a.

In the shallows, the coral was dead and broken-up:
Malay_Perhentian_1031_22a_Seabed_P8092245.JPG

But further away from the coast there was some lovely stuff a couple of metres down:
Malay_Perhentian_1033_22a_Acropora-Foliose-Corals_P8092248.JPG

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Area 22b – Getting to the point

Slightly further South, closer to the point itself, there was some attractive coral, especially table corals:
Malay_Perhentian_1038_22b_Staghorn-Table-Carrier_P8092251.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1040_22b_Table-Corals_P8092252.JPG

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Area 22c – At the point

The Southern point of Besar Island has a very distinctive pointy pinnacle at the end of it:
Malay_Perhentian_1046_22c_Point_P8092258.JPG

The gap between this little pinnacle and the main island is a good spot for creatures that thrive on currents. Like these seafans, sponges and softcorals:
Malay_Perhentian_1050_22c_Softcoral_P8092271.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1052_22c_Fan-Coral_P8092263.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1054_22c_Blue-Sponge_P8092264.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1055_22c_Scleronephthya-species-Softcoral_P8092272.JPG

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These Barrelsponges managed to turn a corner and grow in an upwards direction:
Malay_Perhentian_1048_22c_Gap_P8092268.JPG

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Fish-wise – there were plenty of small schoolers, all being chased by a Needlefish.
Malay_Perhentian_1057_22c_Schoolers-and-Needlefish_P8092275.JPG

And a Blue-Ringed Angelfish, flitting around in the depths:
Malay_Perhentian_1059_22c_Blue-Ringed-Angelfish_P8092267.JPG

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Area 22d – The West side of the point

Moving through the gap and onto the West Coast of Besar, there was some healthy, but unglamorous coral:
Malay_Perhentian_1064_22d_Seabed_P8092287.JPG

And a Long Beaked Coralfish was making the best of some green Staghorn coral.
Malay_Perhentian_1066_22d_Beaked-Coralfish_P8092285.JPG

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Area 22e
At Area 22e, a chilled-out Hawksbill Turtle was chowing down on some coral at a few metres depth.

Malay_Perhentian_1072_22e_Hawksbill-Turtle_P8092307.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1073_22e_Hawksbill-Turtle_P8092310.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1075_22e_Hawksbill-Turtle_P8092315_.jpg

We hung out for a while : )

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29 Area 23 – Fish Bay

Starting on the West side proper, at 23a, there is a big area of good coral and a sprinkling of colourful reef fish hanging around it. This is a stop on the snorkel day trip boats. I would say that this is the best area on the Perhentians to see coral and reef-fish together in a classic ‘picture postcard’ setting.

Most maps don’t give this area a name, but I saw one that called it ‘Fish Bay’, so let’s go with that.

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Area 23a – Tourboat Area

Mostly the daytrip boats stop at the Southern end of this bay:
Malay_Perhentian_1079_23a_Boat-trip-area_P8092101.jpg
And drop their trippers off in the roped-off area.

There is a lot of decent coral there:
Malay_Perhentian_1084_23a_Corals_P8020854.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1086_23a_Peacock-Grouper_P8020827.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1087_23a_Coral_P8020846.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1088_23a_Coral_P8020840.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1090_23a_Corals_P8020841.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1091_23a_Corals_P8020849.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1092_23a_Mushroom-Corals_P8020836.JPG
And some interesting and or/pretty fish:

Parrotfish:
Malay_Perhentian_1094_23a_Parrotfish_P8020831.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1095_23a_Parrotfish_P8020832.JPG

Pink Skunk Anemonefish:
Malay_Perhentian_1097_23a_Pink-Skunk_P8020845.JPG

Needlefish:
Malay_Perhentian_1096_23a_Needlefish_P8020835.JPG

And the fairly uncommon Lined Butterflyfish:
Malay_Perhentian_1083_23a_Lined-Butterflyfish_P8020824.JPG

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This area has a rocky coastline. If you were coming here without the aid of a boat, it would be a couple of hundred metres swim down from the South end of the beach.

I thought that the area slightly further to the North (23b), nearer to the beach was actually a little better.

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Area 23b –Further North

Area 23b (roughly level with Southern end of the beach) seemed to have more fish:
Malay_Perhentian_1105_23b_Fishy-Reef_P8092328.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1107_23b_Fishy-Reef_P8092320.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1108_23b_Fishy-Reef_P8092323.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1110_23b_Virgate-Rabbitfish_P8092318.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1113_23b_Titan-Triggerfish_P8092332.JPG

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Area – 23c Near the big rocks

At Area 23c, there is a big pile of rocks in the sea. If you squint hard you can see it through the gap here (near at the base of the pointy pinnacle).

 

I did a circuit of the 23c rocks. There was some reasonable stuff underwater:
Malay_Perhentian_1046_22c_Point_P8092258.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1121_23c_Porites_P8092343.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1123_23c_Featherduster-Worm_P8092346.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1124_23c_Mushroom-Coral_P8092351.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1126_23c_Nemos_P8092352.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1129_23c_Corals_P8092354.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1131_23c_Brain-Coral_P8092356.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1134_23c_Staghorn_P8092360.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1136_23c_Corals_P8092361.JPG

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Btw, I’m not sure if it helps any, but there is wide panorama shot of West Besar here, marked up with my map references. It might help with orientation.

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Area 24 – Besar Mid South (Teluk KK, Tents, Abdul, Tuna, Abc, Coco, Cozy)

Area 24a

Area 24a is the where the camp site is. I didn’t check it out, but, from the sea, it looked pretty chilled-out and appealing. I might try it out on my next visit. (edit – I did it on my next visit – bring your own tent and basic facilities, but the cheapest place on Besar at 10MYR per person)

Most maps call Area 24a, “Teluk Keke” or “KK Bay”. One map called both 23b and 24a “KK Bay”, so maybe it is not an exact science!

Underwater, Area 24a saw the start of a long, boring run of sandy bottom. There was only a departing Feathertail Ray to spice things up:
Malay_Perhentian_1140_24a_Feathertail-Ray_P8092365.JPG

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Passing the Southernmost of the 3 jetties, it was still all plain, sandy bottom.

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Area 24b – Second jetty and Abdul’s

Continuing North, past the second jetty still didn’t yield too much of interest.

A little further on, someone was trying to seed new coral on plastic A-Frames:
Malay_Perhentian_1143_24b_A-Frames_P8092368.JPG

A couple of hundred metres North (between jetty 2 and jetty 3), you have Abdul’s resort and his grey plastic floating pontoon. Some folks report this area as being suitable for snorkelling, but I didn’t find much of interest on my pass-by.

 

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Area 24c

The next stretch, starting just North of the 3rd (Main) jetty and outside the Marine Park Centre sees an improvement in the sightseeing.

This shot is from outside (and slightly North of) the Marine Park Centre building.
Malay_Perhentian_1152_24c_Columnar-Porites-Coral-Just_N-of-Jetty3_P8092371.JPG

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This one is slightly further North, at the South End of Tuna Bay Resort’s beach umbrellas:
Malay_Perhentian_1153_24c_Staghorn-N-Jetty3-Platform_P8092372.JPG

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This one in the middle of Tuna’s umbrellas:
Malay_Perhentian_1156_24c_Green-Staghorn-Mid-Tuna-Umbrellas_P8092373.JPG

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This one is near Tuna Bay Resort’s floating pontoon:
Malay_Perhentian_1160_24c_Brown-Staghorn-Mid-Tuna-Umbrellas_P8092374.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1160_24c_Tuna-Platforms_P8102602.JPG
I thought that the spot around Tuna Bay Resort’s platform (24c) was about the best snorkelling in Area 24.

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This one is further North, outside Tuna Bay Resort’s Restaurant:
Malay_Perhentian_1161_24c_Brown-Staghorn-at-Tuna-Restaurant_P8092376.JPG
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Area 24d – Coco, Abc, Cozy

I didn’t record much of interest outside those resorts immediately North of Tuna Bay Resort.

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One of my day-trip snorkel boats used the deeper water at 24d as its ‘Turtle’ stop, rather than the usual PIR bay (27a).

We followed this old lady around for a while:
Malay_Perhentian_1172_24e_Turtle_P8102608.JPG
She was lame in her forward left fin, presumably due to a boat strike that also left the hole in her shell.

Actually, thinking about it, maybe it is not so smart to go swimming around in the deep water here with all that boat-traffic around.

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By the way – access to the water seemed pretty easy on that whole stretch 23b to 24d. I was surprised that there weren’t more fish around there.

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Area 25 – Rocks

At the Northern end of the beach and just past Cozy Chalets is a long (~400m) run of rocky coastline:
Malay_Perhentian_1169_24d_Cozy-Chalet-n-Rocks-North_P8102604.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1183_25_Rocks_P8092380.JPG

There was nothing of interest underwater on this stretch:
Malay_Perhentian_1181_25_By-the-Rocks_P8092379.JPG

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Area 26 – Besar Mid North – Mama To PIR

Area 26a

Coming out the North side of the boring rocky section, I found a nice expanse of finger coral far-offshore, somewhere North of Mama Resort (Area 26a):
Malay_Perhentian_1184_26a_Fingercoral_P8092381.JPG

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Area 26b – Tropical Reef’s Coral Garden

I like a nice bit of coral. One highlight of my Besar excursion was bumping into a huuuge coral garden, about 100m offshore from the Tropical Reef (aka The Reef Resort) and Coral View Resort.

I was trying to conserve my camera battery at this stage, so I only took a couple of snaps, but isn’t this isn’t a lovely spot?:
Malay_Perhentian_1186_26b_Coral-garden_P8092382.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1188_26b_Coral_P8092383.JPG
Highly recommended.

The area was way out, about 120m from the shoreline. It was fenced-in by a square of swimlane marker buoys/lines. It was about 80m by 50m so shouldn’t be too difficult to find. I’m not sure what the walking access to Tropical Reef resort is like, but this spot was a 15 minute swim from Coco Hut/Cozy Chalets in the South (~26d) and five minutes swim from the Southern cape at Perhentian Island Resort to the North (26c).

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Just a hundred metres North of the coral garden I took this shot of some passing wrasse:
Malay_Perhentian_1189_26b_Scrappy-Wrasse_P8092384.JPG
It is safe to say that the quality of the corals had dropped a little in that time.

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Area 26c – PIR Rocky Point

At Area 26c, there is a rocky cape sticking out into the strait. It has a rocky island at the end of it. Here’s a shot from Kecil:
Malay_Perhentian_1193_26c_PIR-Rocky-point-viewed-from-Kecil_P8122713.JPG

I found the corals at the cape to be a little scrappy, with small patches of OK stuff:
Malay_Perhentian_1194_26c_Table-Corals_P8092385.JPG

Edit: On a return visit (when I had a little more time), I found a small coral garden on the South (East) side of the rock which was Goorgeous. Pics to follow.

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This clam was freshly injured and couldn’t close, so all the wrasse were having a free feed.
Malay_Perhentian_1196_26c_Wrasse-feeding_P8092388.JPG

And another Ribbontail Ray was hanging around here:
Malay_Perhentian_1198_26c_Bluespot-Ribbontail_P8092390.JPG

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Area 26d – South PIR

I continued North around the cape and into the big bay that holds the Perhentian Island Resort (PIR). Apparently, the South side of this bay (Area 26d)
Malay_Perhentian_1205_26d_S-PIR-Bay_P8020816.JPG

…used to be one of the top locations for snorkelling on Perhentian Besar.

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Not any more:

Malay_Perhentian_1206_26d_Dead-Staghorn_P8092392.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1208_26d_Blackedge-Thicklip-Wrasse_P8092393.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1210_26d_Coral_P8092394.JPG

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Area 27 – PIR

Perhentian Island Resort is the top location in the Perhentians for turtle sightings. All the daytrip boats come here.

Area 27a

Around Area 27a, gentle Green Turtles sit on the grassy bottom of the bay, about 4 metres deep, slowly munching away to their hearts’ content.

That’s all that happens here – munch, munch, munch, munch. Munch, munch, munch.

Malay_Perhentian_1244_27a_Turtle_P8020811.JPG
Malay_Perhentian_1242_27a_Turtle_P8092085.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1245_27a_Turtle_P8092046.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1247_27a_Turtle_P8092048.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1248_27a_Turtle_P8092068.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1249_27a_Turtle_P8092065.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1251_27a_Turtle_P8092041_.jpg

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If you’re stuck in your lifejacket on the surface,
Malay_Perhentian_1254_27a_Surface_P8092060.JPG
you might not see too much, as the turtles tend to graze 4-5 metres deep. Of course, you might be lucky enough to have a day with good underwater visibility.

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When the turtles come up to breathe, please don’t do this:
Malay_Perhentian_1255_27a_Touchers_P8020815.JPG
Turtles can’t breathe underwater like fish do – they have to come up to the surface to take a breath. There are cases where turtles have drowned or died of heart attacks while avoiding threatening scenes at the surface when trying to breathe.

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Area 27a is a reliable spot to find turtles – I came here a couple of times on boat-trips and once on my independent trip and always found one or two turtles.

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Sting-rays are also fans of flat seabeds and I saw this Feathertail Ray at 27a:
Malay_Perhentian_1257_27a_Feathertail-ray_P8092398.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1258_27a_Feathertail-ray_P8092405.JPG

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Area 27b – North PIR bay

At the Northern edge of Perhentian Island Resort bay, there is some reasonable coral in a roped-off zone:

Close to the rocky North jaw of the bay, it was typically like this:
Malay_Perhentian_1262_27b_Coral_P8092410.JPG

With fishy interest brought by this Porcupine fish:
Malay_Perhentian_1263_27b_Porcupinefish_P8092406.JPG

And nemo’s cousin – the Clarke’s Anemonefish:
Malay_Perhentian_1264_27b_Clarkes-Anemonefish_P8092408.JPG

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But the show-stopper was this massive Bumphead Parrotfish – about a metre long:
Malay_Perhentian_1267_27b_Bumphead-Parrotfish_P8092426.JPG
Nice.

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This Northern end of the bay is nice and quiet – the speedboats have no reason to come here. 50 metres South, in the open water of the bay, the coral was pretty nice:
Malay_Perhentian_1270_27b_Coral_P8092437.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1272_27b_Chequered-Snapper-Nemos_P8092436.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1274_27b_Porites_P8092439.JPG
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Area 28

I didn’t visit this stretch between Areas 27 and 29. I’m just keeping the number free in case I come back sometime to explore it.

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Link to main map
Area 29 – Turtle Beach

I came to Area 29 as a stop on a day-trip boat. I think that most of the appeal is the beach itself (which is lovely), rather than the snorkelling.
Malay_Perhentian_1300_29_Turtle-Beach_P8020937.JPG

I did a scan of the underwater scene along the whole length of the beach. The only area that had any life was the North East end, which had some coral.

The typical scene up this end was:
Malay_Perhentian_1303_29_Typical_P8020948.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1301_29_Coral_P8020977.JPG

The main highlights were these corals:
Malay_Perhentian_1305_29_Table-Coral_P8020974.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1306_29_Bush-Coral_P8020945.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1308_29_Barrelsponge_P8020978.JPG

And a passing Orangespined-Unicornfish:
Malay_Perhentian_1311_29_Orangespined-Unicornfish_P8020971.JPG Malay_Perhentian_1309_29_Orangespined-Unicornfish_P8020952.JPG

And an uncommon Hogfish:
Malay_Perhentian_1313_29_Hogfish_P8020975.JPG

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Edit: I came back in 2014 and spent two weeks on Besar.  I have now been round the whole of the island (the East side using a kayak to help – it is too far to swim!).  I will be writing it all up when I get a chance.

 

Rawa Islands

I took a daytrip boat out to a small group of uninhabited islands 5km Northwest of Perhentian Kecil. These are known as the Rawa Islands.
Malay_Perhentian-Env_004_maps_MAP1-Zoomed-out.jpg

I have written this up on a separate page, here.

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Admin:

The Perhentian Islands are heavily touristed and there is plenty of information in guidebooks and on the web about transport, accommodation, etc.

Beachblogger Tezza has an excellent site here that will tell you most-everything you could ever want to know about the islands. I suggest you start with that.

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A few observations from me:

Note that there are no ATMs, so bring cash – and lots of it!

As a card-carrying cheapskate, I found the Perhentians a little expensive. With one-or-two exceptions, you can’t find a place to stay on Kecil (the so-called “backpackers” island) for less than 80MYR. The cheapest of dishes in any resort restaurant is 10MYR.

The best options for cheapskates include:
Sleeps:
Kecil:
– Tropicana Backpackers on the cross-island track had a dorm for 15MYR and (never vacant) private doubles for 50MYR
– D’Lagoon (Area 3) had a dorm for 20MYR and tent spaces for 10MYR
– A place near to Matahari resort on Long Beach had dog-kennels for 40MYR

I asked about prices in some of the more remote resorts on Kecil:
Petani Beach Resort (16b) started at 100MYR and was already fully booked for a month, anyway. Keranji Resort at Mira beach (14e) wanted 140MYR for a poor-cousin room, 80m back from the beach. They had one room vacant for one night and then were also fully booked for a month. Man, backpackers are rich these days!

Besar:
– There is a campsite at 24a. I’m not sure of the prices, but I guess they are pretty low
– Tezza mentions a dorm at Arwana Resort in Flora Bay, but at 55MYR, it isn’t exactly cheap.
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Eats:
Kecil:
Someone brings a trayful of Nasi Lemak from the village to Long Beach (near the entrance to the cross-island path) at about 11am each day. The boatmen all pounce on it, so get there early. These go for about 3 MYR a wrap. (You eat rice with your fingers, folks).

A young lady from the village has a ‘cooked-while-you-wait’ burger stall in the same location on Long Beach. 5MYR for a nice greasy burger.

There are several restaurants in the village. A basic dish is around 6MYR. But is it really worth the 2 hour walk from the resorts to go and get it?

Other than that, there was nothing for less than 10MYR in any of the resort restaurants.

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I hate paying a fortune for bottled drinking water (and leaving discarded plastic bottles all over the place), but you are mostly trapped on this one. One restaurant on Kecil’s Coral Bay has a Reverse-Osmosis water filter machine for 50 Sen per litre top-ups. Nothing else in the Perhentians is so cheap as to require coins, so no-one has any. Bring lots from the mainland.

Some resort restaurants have a complementary filter-water dispenser for guests to fill a glass from. If you can persuade a friend to fake a heart-attack in the middle of the restaurant, you might be able to sneak a cheeky refill of your water bottle while everyone is distracted.

I guess that the mains water is piped-over from the mainland.

Besar:
Dunno about the cheap-eats-scene on Besar, I’m afraid.

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Diving: I didn’t try the diving. There are several diveshops on both islands. There is a map of the divesites on the Divesite Maps page. xxx
https://whatsthesnorkellinglike.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/dive-site-maps/
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Internet: I think that most resorts have free wifi-internet.

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Crime: Apparently there used to be a lot of petty-theft but this has been stopped by a fierce crack-down from police. When I was there, someone went around late at night setting fire to the towels that people had left drying on their balconies.

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Alcoholic drinks are difficult (but not impossible) to find on this moslem island. Expect to pay about 10MYR for a small can of Tiger Beer.

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It might be more difficult to find restaurants open in daylight hours during the month of Ramadan, although as a tourist island, this probably applies less than in most other places in Malaysia. The dates for Ramadan change every year – check the web for this year’s dates.

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The dry (=non-rainy), tourist season is about April to September.

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Alternative maps: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
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I think that’s about all for now. You might also be interested in nearby Redang or Kapas.

Also there’s the main index here.

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Originally written: Sept 2012  . . . . . . . Last updated Sept 2012

Malaysia_Kapas

Pulau Kapas, Malaysia

002 Location- Kapas.jpg

IN BRIEF:

Pulau Kapas is a beautiful little island off the East coast of Peninsular Malaysia, near Kuala Terengganu.

It has some great snorkelling, but you have to know where to go, as there are occasional patches of greatness hidden amongst large areas of sandy bottom or dead coral.

Bestish Seascape:
005 IMG_1629_ Best-bit-processed.jpg
All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions

Typical Seascape:
Sorry, I can’t select a ‘typical’ scene as there is so much variation from area to area. See the detailed accounts of each one, below.

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003 Main map 1_2 jpg TEMP.jpg  Malay_Kapas_004_Aerial-MarkedUp
All images on this site are clickable for bigger versions

Pulau means ‘island’. That aerial picture is taken from the North, with little Gemia Island in the foreground.

I swam all around Kapas and neighbouring Gemia Island, checking out the various areas. The short version is that there is:

•        Awesome coral in area R-S-T  (about 10 minutes walk + 10 minutes swim from the main resort areas)
•        Awesome coral in area GE-GF-GG, but you need a kayak or boat to reach it from the main (Kapas) island.
•        Very good coral in area Y, but you probably need a boat to get to it.
•        Good coral in area L. This is easily accessible from the main beaches and resorts and is your best-bet for an easy snorkel.
•        A pretty good chance of seeing turtles in area I, about 100m off the main beach.
•        Reasonable chances of seeing black-tip reef sharks, particularly around area CD (scared about sharks? Read this)

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IN NOT-SO-BRIEF :

Let’s start with a bit of orientation. Note that in the map, North is off to the left.

Kapas island is reasonably small – about 2km long by 1km wide.

The West side of Kapas (closest to the mainland) is long, sandy beach. At several points, there are clusters of rocks dividing it into separate, smaller beaches. There are concrete staircases and walkways to get you from one beach to another.  You can walk the entire length of the beachy coast in about 40 minutes.

There are about 8 resorts along the West coast. Your ferry will drop you at the jetty (halfway along the West coast) or at the resort of your choice.

At the North end of the island, there is another long, sandy beach.

There is another small island (Gemia/Gem) about 600m North of Kapas. Gemia has a single, hi-end resort on it.

Beach naming on Kapas is erratic – there aren’t definitive names for the various beaches. I’m using the names from the diveshop chart, but you will find completely different names from other sources. The venerable Tezza does his usual good job of describing the island – I also cross-reference the names he uses.

The East coast of Kapas is all steep, rugged cliffs and is largely inaccessible.  There are a couple of ‘jungle trek’ tracks that lead from the beachy West-side to a bay on the East side, but that bay is the only spot you can reach by land.  There is no accommodation or facilities on the East side.

I swam all the way around Kapas and Gemia to try and make sure I didn’t miss any good snorkelling spots. It is about a 15 hour swim in total, so I’m not recommending that you do it. You can reach most of the best spots with a short swim or kayak ride from the beachy West side.

When I visited (August), the weather was fine and sunny with light Southerly and Easterly winds.   There were no currents to speak of. Underwater visibility was consistently about 8 metres.  On one day, viz was down to 2-4m.  The week before, the visibility in the nearby Perhentian Islands had been 6 metres. I dunno where the ‘crystal clear’ waters that everyone talks about have got to.

Fauna:
There are lots of your  standard, common reef fish at most places where there is coral. Here’s a few of the fish that you will find everywhere on Kapas.
Moon wrasse, Sergeant Major Damselfish, Parrotfish, Checkered snapper, Needlefish, Squirrelfish

Slightly less common, but still pretty widespread:
Chevron butterflyfish, Eight Banded Butterflyfish, Slingjaw Wrasse, Blackedged Thicklip Wrasse, Blue Ringed Angelfish,   Orangespined Unicornfish

Less common species (mouseover the pictures for species names):
010 Foxface-Virgate-Honeycomb-Rabbitfish-Checkered-Snapper_IMG_1446.jpg  014 Blue-Trevally_MG_0879.jpg 013 Doublespot-Queenfish_P8153025.JPG 012 Spotfin-Cardinalfish_IMG_1229.jpg 011 Yellow-tailed_Barracuda_IMG_1410.jpg 015 Small-spotted-dart_IMG_1361.jpg 016 Mullet_P8163255.JPG 835_20f-Many-Spotted-Sweetlips_P4133913_.JPG

Nudibranchs:
017 Nudibranch_IMG_1185.jpg 286 Nudibranch_IMG_1171.jpg 806 GC-Nudibranch-party_IMG_1420.jpg 852 GM-Nudibranchs_IMG_1573.jpg

Less common species pictured downpage (you don’t need to click these links) :
6 Banded AngelfishBatfish, Silver Batfish, Yellow Boxfish, Cuttlefish, Long Jawed MackerelNemos (false clown amenonefish), Tomato anemonefish, Coral rabbitfish,   Brown sweetlips, Blacktip sharks, Big eyed trevallySweepersBlue-spotted-stingray,
Whitetail stingray, Turtles

Better pictures and more information about fish species are at the SPECIES LIST.

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– – – –

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For a more detailed exploration of Kapas, let’s start at point A – the most southerly spot.

Point A is only included for completeness – in reality you probably wouldn’t come here.  The coral is quite good, but the area is difficult to reach without a boat and there is better coral at other, easier-to-reach locations.

If you were coming to point A from the land, you would enter the water at Kapas Turtle Valley resort (near D on the map. Tezza calls this ‘Turtle Beach’) and swim the 600 metres over sandy bottom and dead coral fragments to get to point A (actually, this entry route applies to any of A-D).  Alternatively, to cut down on the swimming, you could get in the water at Kapas Turtle Valley resort, swim the 20 metres around the rocky headland at the South, then get out again and walk 400m along that empty beach before getting back in again and swimming out to point A.

Entry into the sea at Kapas Turtle Valley resort (D) can be difficult – (there are patches of slippery rock and fragments of broken-up dead corals in the shallows), but it is possible if you are careful.  Alternatively, you could enter the water at Captain Longhouse Resort, which has easier entry, but will give you a longer swim.

There were lots of jellyfish on this stretch (D to A) in the mornings and the surface was usually quite choppy in the afternoons. The seabed is generally very uninspiring.  I came to this area on my first day and was initially put off by the effort-to-reward ratio.  On the upside, at point A, I did see a couple of Hawksbill Turtles off in the murky distance,
019 A-Turtle_P8153022.JPG

.. and the coral there is reasonably good. These pictures are taken at 2-3 metres depth at point A.
020 A-Coral_P8153032.JPG  021 A-Coral_P8163407_.jpg 022 A-Coral_P8163411_.jpg 023 A-Coral_P8163440.jpg 020 A-Long-Beaked-Coralfish_IMG_1133.jpg

The jellyfish in the area were bastards!
027 BC-jellyfish_P8153000_.jpg 026 CD-Loadsajellyfish_IMG_0858.jpg

They’ll give you a sting like someone sticking a pin into you, then it itches and stings for about 15 hours. The itching will go away after a night’s sleep. A week later the scar is still visible. Wear long clothes. Still – at least they aren’t deadly.

The tentacles recoil down to about 10cm if the jellyfish is under attack.
029 C-Bigeye-trevally-eat-jelly_IMG_1278_.jpg
Go on, eat the bastard.

There are also yer traditional translucent stingies, too (sea wasps, etc.).  These don’t hurt so much but will give you an itchy rash for a couple of days.

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Moving North West from A, things get more rocky and the bottom is pretty boring.
030 B-Rocky-Area-B_P8163419.jpg

Generally in the stretch B to F, in the shallower waters (0 to 3 metres deep; in the 30 metres closest to shore), the bottom is very dull. Actually, it’s rather depressing.  It seems to go on like this forever:
033 C-Bad-bottom_P8152962.JPG

But don’t despair – head out towards the deeper water. There are a few interesting reef-lets in a line parallel to the beach and 40 or 50 metres offshore (Areas CDEFG).

Around point C, someone is trying to seed new coral growth on some plastic A-frames.  This provides an interesting diversion.  Unusually for the area, there is also a gorgonian sea-fan:
037 C-A-frames-Gorgonian_P8152982_.JPG

The A-frames provide some shelter for bigger fish like this Batfish and Porcupine fish:
038 C-A-frames-fish_P8152979_.JPG

and this group of Brown Sweetlips:
040 C-Brown-Sweetlips_P8152992_.JPG

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Continuing North West, there is a lone gorgonian around point D, which attracts a range of reef fish posing for photos.
042 D-Gorgonian_P8163244_.JPG 041 D-Gorgonian_P8163235.JPG
This is about 40m offshore, opposite the solo skinny white tree trunk that nestles among all the greenery on the island.

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At point E (50 metres off the Southern end of Kapas Turtle Valley Resort beach, at about 4 metres depth) there is another little cluster of coral.
044 E-Morays-Place_P8163217.JPG 045 E-Morays-Place_P8163222_.JPG

This Spotted Moray Eel lives underneath it, and in the mornings is usually stretched out taking the air.  Look out for a small head of blue staghorn coral at the deepest point which identifies this patch.
046 E-Morays-Place-Moray_IMG_0841_.jpg

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At point F (about 50 metres off the dead-centre of Kapas Turtle Valley Resort beach; at about 3 metres depth) is another little patch of reef.  It has diverse coral in reasonable condition, and it seems to attract all the reef fish in the area.
047 F-Pretty-Patch_P8152940_.JPG 048 F-Pretty-Patch_P8152919_.JPG
It’s like an oasis of life in that big surrounding area of dead coral fragments.

Silver batfish were cruising nearby:
049 F-Silver-Batfish_IMG_1284.jpg

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There are more, similar-looking, oases of coral as you head southwards (stay on the line where the seabed is 3-4 metres deep).

These are roughly around area G.
050 G_IMG_1286.jpg 054 G_IMG_1341.jpg 053 G_IMG_1313.jpg 052 G_IMG_1298.jpg 051 G_IMG_1297.jpg

I should remind you that these pretty parts are the exception, not the norm.  90% of seabed in this area is flat sand or broken up coral like this.  You’ll have to hunt around for the good bits.

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I only saw the one Giant Moray (Gymnothorax-javanicus) in Kapas. It was about here, in Area G.
055 G-Giant-Moray_IMG_0862_.jpg

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The main reason to visit this inhospitable southerly stretch of coastline is that this is the place where you are most likely to see black-tip reef sharks.  (Scared of sharks? Read this).

In the boring, grey, shallow waters (typically at 2 metres depth, near area B to F, but closer into shore), there is a group of around ten Cuttlefish.  The cuttlefish on Kapas are the most chilled-out dudes I’ve ever seen.  Often, cuttlefish will speed-off as soon as you get within 5 metres, but the ones in Kapas are happy to hang-out and pose for snaps.
058 CD-cuttlefish-chilled-buddies_P8163513_.jpg

056 CD-cuttlefish-chilled_P8163505_.jpg 057 CD-cuttlefish-chilled_P816318_.JPG

The cuttlefish spend most of the time mating – hanging around in groups of 4 or 5 with the dominant male on top of the female as she nonchalantly forages for food and/or places eggs under rocks. Another two or three males skulk in the background, waiting for a bit of action but rarely getting any – the dominant male fights them off if they get too close.

Cuttlefish enjoy a range of sex-positions – sometimes doing it like they do on the discovery channel, sometimes face to face.
059 CD-cuttlefish-mating_P8163498.JPG 060 CD-cuttlefish-doggy_P8163192.JPG

061 CD-cuttlefish-face-to-face_P8163166_.jpg

Apparently the male has a sperm-carrying arm (the hectocotylous arm), and uses it to impregnate the female when mating face to face.  They can often be seen with one or two arms in the air, like this.
062 CD-cuttlefish-group-hands-up_P8163186.JPG

Here’s a couple of wobbly 5ex-tapes. Watch out for the dominant male attacking the cheeky chancers at the end.

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Cuttlefish make a tasty meal for sharks and if you find a group of cuttlefish, then there’s a good chance that a black-tip shark will soon be along for a snack.

Hunting time for sharks is generally at first light and at dusk. The cuttlefish helpfully light up with bright white markings while mating, acting like a flashing neon light advertising food.
063 CD-Cuttlefish-glow_P8163144.JPG 063 CD-cuttlefish-ornery-whiteish_P8163524_.JPG
064 CD_cuttlefish-group_P8163149_.JPG

On my first day at Kapas, I saw a group of 6 cuttlefish and was soon joined by three orbiting black-tip sharks.  This was a cool sight, although the sharks stayed right on the edge of visibility, making photography difficult. Eventually, one shark made his move and struck with unbelieveable speed at the cuttle-orgy.  It turns out that he missed – I saw the cuttlefish regrouped about ten minutes later.
067 CD-better-Shark_P8163484.JPG  069 CD-Shark_P8152872_.JPG 072 CD-2Shark_P8152873.JPG

The red/black blobs in the water is ink left by the cuttlefish as they fled an attack.

Your best bet for finding a shark is to head out to this area (halfway between the beach and the line of points CDE) in the early morning or late evening and swim around until you find some cuttlefish, then stick with them. When they start looking nervous and back off by 5 – 10 metres, they have sensed a shark; so start looking for it at the edge of visibility.  Correspondingly, if you see a shark passing by, then chances-are that there are cuttlefish nearby, so try and find the cuttlefish so you can be around for the return visit from the shark.  I did this with successful shark spottings for 4 days in a row.  In the early mornings, you might have to slalom around the jellyfish, but they seem to disperse later in the day. In the heat of the middle of the day you are less likely to find the sharks.

Here are a couple of short video clips of passing sharks here :

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078 J-Barrelsponge-worms_IMG_1315.jpg
The little white wiggly things on the Barrel Sponges are actually small Sea Cucumbers (Synaptula lamperti)  There is a symbiotic relationship here.  The Sea Cucumbers are protected from predators by the toxicity of the sponge and, in turn, the sea cucumbers provide a service by feeding on detritus that settles on the sponge, and would otherwise clog its pores.

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Continuing on North, past the headland at Captain Longhouse resort, the jellyfish disperse a bit and the bottom becomes flat sand. There’s not too much to see here, but there are a few flat anemones at about 4 metres deep (point H) where you might find these funky little Anemone Shrimps:
073 J-anemone-shrimp_IMG_1274__.jpg

..or this unusual species of nemo – the Saddleback Anemonefish:
074 J-Saddlebacks_IMG_1637.jpg

I also saw an Eagle Ray cruising around here one day.  Nice.

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There are some patches of ordinary lump coral closer into shore (about 20m off the beach) outside Ko Ko restaurant (Area J. Tezza calls this “Pier Beach South”). I did spot these juvenile Batfish and some Stingrays there, but generally there’s not much exciting in this area.
075 J-batfish-under-rock_IMG_1751_.jpg 076 J-ribbontail-ray_IMG_1753.jpg 077 J-Blue-spotted-stingray_IMG_1643.jpg

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Continuing North, the next highlight is the turtles that live on the grassy patch about 100m off the beach near the dive shop (Aquasport Divers).  This is a fairly big area (I), perhaps 300m from North to South and 150m from East to West.   It goes from about 3 metres deep to over 7m (when you lose visibility). The visibility here is worse than elsewhere because of the sandy/muddy nature of the bottom.

I saw turtles here every day (August). There were three of them – two were pretty nervous and always took-off as soon as I came into visible range, but the other one was pretty chilled-out and, after an initial assessment, was happy to hang-out and pose for pictures.
079 I-Chilled-turtle_IMG_0890_.jpg 080 I-Chilled-turtle_IMG_1253_.jpg

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There’s an interesting phenomenon going on with the Batfish and the Turtles here.  A Batfish pairs-up with a Turtle and follows it everywhere.
081 I-BatTurt_IMG_1726_.jpg

The batfish get quite territorial about it.  If a human or another batfish turns up, the original batfish will try and chase them away. This one is getting all up in my face, and then chasing off another batfish wannabe.
083 I-BatTurt-InYerFace_IMG_1676.jpg 084 I-Batfish-Chase_IMG_1739_.jpg

I’m not sure what the turtles and batfish get from this arrangement.  The turtle is only interested in chowing-down on the sea-grass and turtles elsewhere seem to survive just fine without the help of batfish.  As for what the batfish gets out of it – I once saw the batfish eating from what the turtle had dug up. Presumably that’s what he is there for.
085 I-batfish-eating_IMG_1727_.jpg

Can anyone shed some light on the turtle-batfish symbiosis?  Do post a comment below.

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Another interesting species I found at this spot was the Mimic Octopus.  These are fun brown/black and white striped octopus which contort themselves into the shapes of harmful sea-creatures to disguise themselves or to frighten-off predators.

Here he is doing a striped flounder flatfish
090 I-Mimic-Occy-Flounder_IMG_0910.jpg

Here – just a natural Octopus.
091 I-Mimic-Occy_IMG_0913.jpg

They also do a good seasnake and a not-so-good Lionfish. There’s some video on YouTube.

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Heading North past Kapas Island Resort, towards the jetty, there’s not too much to see.  In the deeper water (around K) there are a few more flat anemones hosting Saddleback Anemonefish. In the shallows there are a few patches of lump coral and discarded bricks.  I saw one poisonous Stonefish on a small patch of reef there, so watch where you tread! (see the section on Safety).

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The next highlight is the jamboree under the jetty.  Thousands and thousands of silver fish turn the patch under the jetty into a swirling whirl of black and silver that parts for you when you swim through it. Watch them avoid the stinging anemones on the bottom and gyrate around the legs of the jetty.  Watch the food chain in action as 40 needlefish hunt the silverfish and the locals on the jetty hunt the needlefish. What fun 🙂
151 K-Jetty_IMG_0956_.jpg

152 K-Jetty-Anemone_IMG_1363.jpg 153 K-Jetty-Leg_IMG_1372_.jpg 154 -Broadband-fulsiliers_IMG_0944.jpg 155 K-Jetty-Needlefish-hunting_IMG_0964_.jpg 157 K-Jetty-Needlefish_IMG_1388_.jpg

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North of the jetty, there is flat sandy bottom past Pak Ya Seaveiw Resort (Tezza: “North Pier Beach”) and the little bridge that goes over the rocks to another beach where you can find Kapas Beach Chalet; Mak Cik Gemok Beach Resort and Kapas Coral Beach Resort.
195 L-KBC-beach_IMG_0990.jpg

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This little bay (Tezza:”Beach 4”) is pleasantly sheltered from the southerly winds if they are blowing-up.  Mostly the snorkelling here is boring sandy bottom, but the coral starts again at the northern end of it (roughly 30 metres off Coral Beach resort).

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Area L, about 20m off the concrete walkway between Coral Beach Resort and Qimi’s beach has some good coral, a decent range of reef fish and is certainly the easiest to access from the mid-island resorts.  I would make this your first stop.
201 L-Coral-rabbitfish_IMG_0994_.jpg 202 L-Blackedged-Thicklip-Wrasse_IMG_1790_.jpg 203 L-Slingjaw-Wrasse_IMG_1012_.jpg

The reef here is only about 100 metres long, starting with some unspectacular brown staghorn coral in the South,
204 L-start-of-decent-coral_IMG_0996.jpg

..but steadily building up to more diverse reef as you progress towards Qimi’s beach.
205 L-Coral_IMG_1787_.jpg

I also spotted this little White-Eyed Moray Eel hiding under a rock there.
208 L-Whiteeyed-Moray_P8163530.JPG

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Continuing North along Qimis Chalets’ beach, the coral is pretty reasonable.

211 LM-Qimis_IMG_1019_.jpg 211 LM-Qimis_IMG_1020.jpg

It fades out a bit as you reach the rocky islet at the northern end of Qimis beach.
210 LM-Qimis-overland_IMG_1801_.jpg

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The southern face of the islet is mainly just barnacle-covered rocks.  There are some scrape-y looking channels through the middle
225 South-rocky-headland_P8173527.jpg

and I saw a black and silver Banded Seasnake there one morning.   That was the same morning my camera decided to spring a leak and die.  Kudos to the kind lady who loaned me hers so I could continue snapping.

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The North side of the rocky islet (M) has some OK lump/hump coral, but it’s not that spectacular.
231 M-Coral_IMG_1027.jpg

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As you move North along Bt. Berhala beach (M-N on the map; Tezza: “Camping Beach”),
226 MN-Beach_IMG_1802.jpg

.. the coral gets a little more interesting:
232 M-Coral_IMG_1026_.jpg

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Around the middle of this bay (between M and N), about 30 metres offshore, there are some old discarded shipping/engineering parts.
235 MN-tanks-mid-beach_IMG_1036_.jpg 237 MN-Pipe-mid-beach_IMG_1033_.jpg
By the coral growth, it looks like they have been here for several decades.  I wonder what the story is.  The 24 inch pipe isn’t connected to anything at the other end.

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Here’s a spot two-thirds the way up Bt. Berhala beach:
238 N-mid-to-North_IMG_1040_.jpg

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And another towards the Northern end:
240 N-North_IMG_1037_.jpg

For all the areas mentioned above (J to N) – access to the water is easy. Just step off a sandy, sloping beach.

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There is another rocky headland at the North end of Bt. Berhala beach.  It’s a longer swim around this headland and the coral isn’t that spectacular here,
250 NO-around-the-cape_IMG_1059.jpg 251 NO-around-the-cape_IMG_1058.jpg
…so you might want to use the steep steps at the end of the beach to reach the North coast.

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There’s a good view of Pulau Gemia from the top of the steps
260 O-View-to-Gemia_IMG_1404.jpg 261 O-Gemia_IMG_1050.jpg

And here’s the view from sea level (at point O) of the steps that go back down to the tiny beach at O and of the second walkway heading left/East, towards Bt Paming beach; Derdat Beach (Area O-P; Tezza: “North Beach”) and Long Beach (Area P-Q; Tezza: “Kayak only beach”).
264 O-Stairs-at-O_IMG_1077.jpg

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I found these fun Long Jawed Mackerel around point O.  They expand their gills, swing open their big mouths and swim around in perfect formation hoovering-up any food in their paths.
265 O-Long-Jawed-Mackeral_IMG_1066_.jpg 266 O-Long-Jawed-Mackeral_IMG_1062_.jpg

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Here’s some coral West of O:
270 O-Coral-West-of-O_IMG_1082.jpg

There are some more A-frames seeding coral growth near here.
272 O-A-Frames_IMG_1090_s.jpg

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You can also spot the water-pipe across to Gemia Island.
275 O-water-pipe-to-Gemia_IMG_1083.jpg
It had sprung a leak when I first passed it. The escaping stream of high pressure water was drilling a hole in the coral underneath.  They fixed it pretty quick when I told them about it, though.  I’m sure this was for environmental, rather than commercial reasons.

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Here’s some coral just East of O:
278 OP_Coral-East-of-O_IMG_1098.jpg

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The North coast beach is known for the best snorkelling on Kapas, which is right. But watch out – this beach is deceptive.  There is a range of reasonable, but not stunning, corals all the way up from O to Q, at about 20 metres offshore.  But this isn’t the good stuff.  You’ll think it is, because the island throws in a deceptive boring (deep, sandy) strip further out from the coral to make you think that there’s no more coral to be found. But there is.  Out into the channel – past the OK coral: past the boring deep sandy bottom; that’s where the good stuff is.

Here’s some of the OK stuff directly off the beach at O to P and (mostly) P to Q.
280 OQ-Coral-Near-the-Beach-OQ_IMG_1106.jpg