In the past, the timing was never right for us to visit the east coast of Malaysia but it worked out this time and we went. The east coast islands are best visited between June and October, the rest of the time it can be very stormy and almost everything is closed for the monsoon season.
We flew in to Kuala Terengganu and took a bus the next day to Kuala Besut, from there we took a speedboat transfer to the Perhentian Islands.
The boat took us right to the jetty that was in front of our resort and we were so happy to see that the resort was on a beautiful stretch of white sand. We spent our days snorkeling, swimming, and beaching. One evening we sat out on the terrace and watched a major thunderstorm and we could not believe the locals would still go out on their boats in the water – crazy!
After 4 days at Abduls Chalet’s we moved to the other side of the island to Bubbles Dive Resort (we couldn’t stay the entire time at Abduls, they were sold out). Bubbles Dive Resort was very secluded and located in a beautiful bay. We spent a lot of time snorkeling here and we were lucky to see a small black tipped shark almost every time we went in the water. Right outside our room we had some dusky langurs come and visit and they were so much fun to watch.
We had a difficult time getting a boat lined up to take us from Perhentians to Redang Island (we didn’t want to go back to the mainland to get a boat transfer over to Redang). The manager at the resort was so helpful and he tried really hard to help us find a boat. Finally after a few days he found one, we hitched a ride with three very nice Malaysian fellows that were doing a day trip over to Redang.
It was a rough crossing that day and when we arrived at Redang Island the boat driver couldn’t even get into the bay where our hotel was because it was so rough. So we had to haul our bags (so glad we don’t travel with big luggage) quite a distance and lucky for us a nice fellow picked us up in a tractor and took us the rest of the way to our hotel.
Redang is a gorgeous island but we found it kind of odd. It is mostly a tour package destination which includes hotel, two or three snorkel tours, and food. There were very few independent travelers and this made things quite interesting for us. Early in the morning the ‘package tourists’ would have their breakfast and shortly after hordes of them (all sporting specific coloured life jackets from their respective resorts) would make their way to designated boats to go on their tour. This took about 45 minutes and then the beach was almost completely empty, except for us and maybe a handful of other independent travelers. Then the hordes of ‘package tourists’ would come back to have their lunch and then repeat the same thing and go on their afternoon excursion – this went on every single day that we were there. When these groups were not on their tours we couldn’t figure out where they were hanging out because the beach was still very quiet. It was a bit strange but no complaints from us, who wouldn’t love an uncrowded beach?
Our hotel was undergoing some renovations that were supposed to be finished before our stay but they fell behind and because of that they gave us a 50% discount for our entire stay. Our room was huge and very beautiful but everything else at our resort was closed and there were no beach loungers either. So we meandered over to the resort next door and they had a long row of loungers that NEVER had anybody sitting in them, so we used those and no one seemed to mind plus they had WiFi.
We enjoyed our time here and spent it snorkeling (Gordon still insists that he is negatively buoyant), swimming, and soaking up the rays. It was easy to go snorkeling on a small boat as opposed to the huge boats that the ‘package tourists’ were on. The great thing about the small boat was that we could go to some really nice snorkeling spots that the larger boats couldn’t get in to and our boat was the only one there!
We loved both the Perhentians and Redang Island. They are incredibly beautiful islands with powdery white sand, crystal clear water, and exceptional snorkeling. Perhentians had more of a laid back ‘backpacker’ vibe and Redang had more of an ‘organized tour’ vibe but we really enjoyed them both.
Where we stayed Pulau Perhentian Besar: Abdul’s Chalet
Where we stayed Pulau Redang: Coral Redang Island Resort