Perhentian Islands: where I found solitude and scuba

Inspiration, Malaysia, RTW: 2007-2008, Scuba Diving, Southeast Asia — By on October 6, 2008 7:15 AM

Throughout my travels I have really pushed myself to try new things and have set out to discover all that I enjoy and what makes me happy. Perhaps the most surprising realization I have made in the past year is just how much I enjoy being alone. As a “Type A” personality and someone who has always been known to live a very busy and social life, I have spent most of my life surrounded by friends. It wasn’t until I began traveling on my own did I realize just how much I value and need alone time, although I have deprived myself of this pleasure most of my life. I have come to understand that only when I am completely alone can I restore balance to my body and mind. I plan to take more time for myself in the future as I find this to be critical to my overall well being!

When life gets too busy and crazy, like many others, I greatly benefit from taking a time out and sitting alone with myself in search of solitude. It is during this time that I find I can truly reflect and think most clearly and creatively. I also believe we need this sort of peace and quiet to truly appreciate nature.

After traveling non-stop for three months through Southeast Asia, I knew it was time for me to go somewhere beautiful and quiet where I could reflect on all I have experienced so far and think about my future plans. I was happy to find the solitude I was searching for on the beautiful Perhentian Islands, located northeast of Peninsular Malaysia.

It was a bit of an effort to get to the islands…a plane from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Bharu, a bus to Kuala Besut, a walk to the jetty, a speedboat to the island, and a water taxi to my final destination. All my efforts proved to be well worth it as I think back on the amazing week I spent on the Perhentian Islands. I didn’t know too much about the islands other than they were beautiful, offered great scuba diving and perhaps was less touristy than other islands I had visited so far.

I hired a water taxi and took off in a search for the most secluded beach I could find on the islands. The Perhentians are made up of two islands: Perhentian Kecil (small island) and Perhentian Besar (large island). The large island seemed to be more resort like and with many families…so it was easy to cross the entire island off the list. On the small island I explored Coral Bay, which was pretty but there were too many people around for my liking. I didn’t even bother checking out Long Beach as I knew it was the “backpacker beach” and very loud and crowded. From my water taxi I spotted a very small and secluded beach, Petani Beach, which turned out to be exactly what I was looking for!

View of Petani Beach from the water…

I checked into Petani Beach House, which offers only five small chalets right on the beach. The chalets were quite rustic with electricity available only half the day (the beach ran on generators), a cold shower, a fan, a bed with a mosquito net, and many large geckos.

Despite the basic offerings, the chalets were quite charming and the surrounding grounds were gorgeous with flowers gardens, hammocks shaded under giant palm trees, steps from the ocean, and amazing views. The best part of all was the seclusion the beach offered. It was quite common for me to literally have the entire beach to myself, it was AWESOME! If only the owner of the property would have been friendlier I would have had absolutely no complaints. Her cooking abilities more than made up for her moody nature.

My chalet on the beach…

Views from inside my room…

Pertani Beach…

The other four chalets were occupied by young couples around my age, a few were honeymooners. Perhaps in the past I would have found such a scenario a bit depressing but as I lounged alone on the beach I realized that I was extremely happy just being with me! And I am honestly not sure if that has ever happened before in my life? I even pondered the idea that perhaps I was even more happy than the couples walking hand in hand along the beach. Not to say I wouldn’t love to go to a beautiful secluded beach with a significant other one day, but this week in my life I couldn’t be bothered and all I wanted was to be alone with me.

So what did I do during my week alone on the secluded island?

I would wake up whenever I felt like it, head to the cute restaurant twenty feet from my chalet, enjoy a morning coffee, fresh pineapple juice, and banana pancakes covered in chocolate!

I must admit I did not sleep very well the first few night as it was a bit scary being so isolated on the beach! Coupled with the side effects from my malaria drugs, and the large lizards that shared my room…I had horrible nightmares!

As a result, I spent many hours during the day napping in a shady hammock or watching the coconuts fall from the trees!

I probably spent the largest amount of my time in a hammock, whether it was sleeping, reading, or listening to my iPod. It is decided that I must have a hammock outside my next home!

There was good snorkeling just off the beach, so I would often swim and snorkel.

Or I would catch some rays…

Or go for a hike…

One morning I was feeling more adventurous and hiked through the jungle to a nearby fisherman’s village. On the way I encountered at least ten HUGE monitor lizards. They are harmless, but frightening as despite their size they are quite camouflaged in the jungle and tend to lie very still until you almost step on them and then they take off causing lots of noise including my high pitch screams!

I spent some time in the village and met these cute little girls.

I finished each day by watching the most beautiful sunsets.



Before I arrived at the island, I knew I wanted to dive again. I decided to get my PADI Scuba Certification as it was only $185 compared to $700 in Australia. I was also bored of doing the “Discovery Dives” as I had mastered the basic skills and wanted to learn new stuff.

I got my certification through Universal Divers, a dive shop located on the Big Island. My instructor was Simon and I was lucky to be able to dive one on one with him each day, while other dive shops often take out several divers at once. Simon taught me many new safety skills including what to do if you run out of oxygen underwater, which of course would never happen if you watched your gauge and kept track of time. We kneeled in the sand at the bottom of the ocean, about 40 feet under and practiced survival techniques. Simon literally turned off air supply so I would know what it feels like to lose oxygen. Once I was out of air I had to take his alternate air supply and we would swim together sharing the same tank. He was then suppose to turn my air back on and teach me more skills. As I put my own regulator back in my mouth I realized that I didn’t have any air as Simon had forgot to turn back on my tank! It was scary as it was unexpected, but I stayed calm and gave him the sign for no air and he turned me back on right away. He was very apologetic later, and in hindsight I was glad it happened the way it did because now I know know I will be fine in that worst case scenario.

I also learned how to suit up on my own. I had put all the equipment together, ensure everything was working properly and suit up up on my own.

I learned how to do a back roll exit off of the boat…

The diving was great and I saw many colorful corals and fish. I still believe the Great Barrier Reef is the most colorful reef I have seen so far. Check out these pics taken from my cool waterproof camera!

A blue spotted stingray!

And several turtles!

I never expected to enjoy scuba diving as much as I do as it seriously was my biggest fear in life! Diving has come to be an activity I love and look forward to exploring the underwater world in as many different places I can. Just as each country is wildly different on land so is the diversity of what you will see under the different seas.

While I had managed to keep to myself and avoid contact with as many people as possible during my week of solitude, I started to feel the urge to be social again my last night on the island. The owner put on a BBQ for everyone and I met a very cool couple from New York. Erika and Robert were both corporate lawyers and newlyweds who quit their jobs to travel for an indefinite time. I of course completely support and respect their decision! And good timing on their part as they work in bankruptcy law!

I realized by the end of the week that althought I had been alone on a secluded island for a week, I never felt lonely. I was happy in the solitude I found and felt I had provided myself with wonderful and sufficient company! It was so nice to be “disconnected” from the world without access to the internet or phone.

I would have loved to stay on the island for many weeks longer, but I was due to meet Nicole in the jungle! I left the island feeling renewed and refreshed and ready to face any leech that would come my way in Taman Negara National Park!

To see all of my photos from the Perhentian Islands CLICK HERE.

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1 Comment

  1. Erika says:

    I am glad you got the urge to be social again! Hope you are enoying Bali! Erika & Rob

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