Diving Perhentian Islands

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Perhentian Islands, Malaysia


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Country: Malaysia  Area: Malaysia

Water Temp: 27 - 32°C (81 - 90°F)

Visibility: 5 - 30m (16 - 98 ft)

Depth Range: 5 - 35m (16 - 115 ft)

Green Turtle Nesting Season – May to July, Green Turtle Hatching Season – June to October

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The islands of Pulau Perhentian Besar and Pulau Perhentian Kecil are one of Malaysia’s top tourist attractions. They are surrounded by turquoise blue sea and lined with palm trees and white sand beaches providing an idyllic tropical island getaway.

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The Perhentian Islands consist of the two main inhabited islands and a few smaller uninhabited islands, Perhentian Besar being the larger of the two. Both islands are very popular with tourists are still not yet very built up. Perhentian Besar is the more expensive of the two islands with a few more upmarket accommodation and resorts, while Perhentian Kecil is cheaper and caters more for backpackers.



The climate in this area is tropical so although most of the year is it lovely hot beach weather it does have a monsoon season. This is from the end of October to the end of March and during this season all accommodation and tourist businesses shut down and most people leave the islands. So the dive season runs from Early April to Late October.

Back from the dive, Credit

Water temperature during this time varies from 27C-32C with the coldest water temperature being during the middle of the monsoon and raising back up to 30C plus for the start of the dive season. This means that it is comfortable to dive in board shorts and a rash vest, or if you are prone to the cold then a 3mm shorty wetsuit. This beautifully warm water lasts all the way through the season and only starts dropping back down at the start of the monsoon at the end October/beginning of November.

Marine Conservation

The islands are home to many nesting hawksbill and green turtles, this number has drastically reduced over the last few years due to oil spills from oil tankers and oil platforms not too far away. The Department of Fisheries have started a turtle hatchery on the island to help with this problem. There are also Turtle conservation volunteer programs which you can take part in whilst on the island which monitor and protect nests and also educate local children about the need to save our oceans and marine life.

Many dive schools conduct regular reef clean up days and also take part in other larger reef check and conservation efforts.

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Shore Diving

Both islands are surrounded by a wide choice of different dive sites providing a nice range of dive sites for divers. All the sites are very close, some can be reached by shore diving (depending on your dive centres location) and the rest are around 5-20mins away. This means that most dive centres have a choice of 4-6 dives a day which you can take part in and you are only usually away for less than 1hr and a half. 

Nudibranch at Tukun Laut, Credit

There is lots exciting marine life to be viewed at many of the dive sites, such as Green Turtles, Hawksbill Turtles, Black Tip Reef Sharks and Bumphead Parrotfish. Most of these creatures frequent certain sites so you will have more luck spotting them in their certain areas than others.

For example the Black Tip Reef Sharks will be more easily seen at Shark Point (which is also a very good snorkelling area) as the sharks tend to circle in the shallower waters and will not be scared off by bubbles. Any good dive center should be able to advise you which sites are best to see what depending on the time of year and the conditions.

Boat Diving

One very popular deep site is Tokong Laut, which is a pinnacle offshore and is one of the furthest sites to travel to. This site is just over 30m deep and can get a strong current so beginners don’t tend to dive here. This site has excellent reefs with loads of diverse marine life, bamboo sharks hiding under the scattered rocks and colourful coral and lots of little pretty nudibranches.

Blue Spotted Sting Ray, Credit

There are a few wreck dives available, the main and most popular being the Sugar Wreck which is a 3500 ton sugar hauler lying on its side at 30m and is now home to a multitude of marine life including shoals of reef fish, a few Giant Barracuda which can sneak up and surprise you in the murky depths of the hold and you can often see small bamboo sharks hiding in the wreckage.

Pufferfish, Credit


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How to Get there

The islands lie approx 20km from the northeast coast of Peninsular Malaysia very near to the border with Thailand. They can only be reached by boat from the coastal town of Kuala Besut. These run at regular times throughout the day all week and will drop you as close as they can to your accommodation.

The nearest airport is at Kota Bharu which is 50km away from Kuala Besut and can be reached by a regular bus service which will take approx 1.5hrs or a taxi.

There are no cars or motorbikes on the island the only means of transportation around are by water taxis or foot following basic jungle tracks.

The Beach, Credit

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Where to Eat & Drink

The Perhentian Islands have become a popular backpacker’s destination in South East Asia, and as a result have developed a very lively nightlife along with plenty of restaurants, bars and cafes. While in general prices do tend to be somewhat inflated on the islands, given that the must import everything except seafood, a wide enough variety in restaurants and bars on both islands manages to accommodate all budgets and preferences.

In Perhentian Kecil – the smaller of the two islands – a long string of restaurants line Long Beach, nearly all of which launch out onto the beach with tables. While the quality of food across these restaurants isn’t great, the prices are low. Most restaurants serve seafood with a few western options on the menu. PerhentianBesar – the larger island – caters to a more upmarket crowd with better quality restaurants again dotting the beach. The resorts on both islands tend to include buffets in their prices for guests.

Coral in Panglima Abu, Perhentian Island, Credit

Perhentian Kecil has the better nightlife of the two islands and Long Beach is where most bars and clubs are located. Alcohol is fairly expensive relative to the rest of the region, and many people opt to bring their own alcohol instead. That said, Long Beach Bars sell the local Rum – Monkey Juice – in large buckets, which seems to appeal to a fair number of people.

The resorts on Long Beach have a few bars that are somewhat more low-key; however, the prices are higher. On Perhentian Besar the nightlife is more relaxed, with bars catering more to casual drinkers in the evening than big parties.

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Other Activities

The Perhentian Islands deliver a rpetty ideal idyllic tropical island holiday and most of the activities and sights on the islands involve nature and beautiful scenery. Besides snorkelling, diving and sea kayaking theres not really any other “active” activities provided, but that doesn’t matter in a place like this.

You can easily spend hours relaxing on the sandy beaches and if you are feeling a little more energetic there are also many jungle treks where you can spot lizards, monkeys and all sorts of other flora and fauna and reach empty secluded bays.

Kecil is also home to huge monitor islands who roam around the jungle trails and the backs of accommodation so it’s very easy to spot an enormous dinosaur like lizard dozing in the sun as they are not scared of people at all and will get very close!

Turtle Bay, Perhentian Island, Credit

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There is a Marine Park Conservation charge of RM5 to visit the islands this has to be paid before boarding a boat and can usually be done at the same time as purchasing your ticket.

Credit cards are accepted in most accommodations and dive centres, but not everywhere across the islands. Where they are accepted there is usually a 3-6% fee to pay on top. There are no atm’s on the islands so try to take as much money as you expect you will need for food, drink and activities with you.

Electricity is provided by generators and outages as common usually for a few hours during the afternoon.

Ready to go schooling, Credit

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Ask the dive community a Question

Diving in peninsular Malaysia in July

Hi All,

We are going to spend 5 days diving and relaxing in Malaysia (within a longer tour of Malaysia and Singapore).

I ruled out Sipadan/Semporna for safety so wonder what would be the best location where to dive in peninsular Malaysia in July otherwise?

We will be flying from Singapore and going from there to Penang.

Thanks a lot!

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Alla Zakharenko

0 votes

What is wrong with Sipadan/Semporna? We dived there and in Tioman island which is located half day ride from Singapore, good diving as well, but it can't be even compared with Mabul/Sipadan

Nick F

0 votes

Sipadan is a must in the region. Safety was not an issue last year.

Any chance of operators taking diivers out in march 2017

Read somewhere that since Chinese New Year was early this year and the monsoon season follows the lunar year it is possible the diving season may start earlier

Travelling in March

Is diving/snorkelling completely out of the question in the Perhentians in March?

Rating 7/10

Good destination for snorkeling

Perhentian Islands28 Aug 2015 - 11 Sep 2015

In the Perhentian islands, visibility out of shallow waters is not good, so scuba diving is not the best option (but anyway, Tokong Laut is an interesting spot); these islands are much better for snorkeling, especially in the area of Rawa and Shark Point is easy to see blacktip sharks, turtles, stingrays and giant bumphead parrotfish, and the coral is in good condition.

Best Dive Center at Perhentian Islands

Which is the best dive center and place to stay at Perhentian Islands ?

Which big fish, sharks, turtles etc can I except to see at start of April ?

Any other tips I should know ?

Thanks :)


John Irving

1 vote

I have heard that the guys from www.scubadutch.com organize custom made packages to Perhentian and other dive destinations in Malaysia. You should check them out.


Mike Bednarz

0 votes

Universal Divers - pro, friendly and good quality.


Palmira Trentino

0 votes

I do not know if the best but me and friends have dived with Turtle Bay and I would def go back :)

Rating 8/10

Diving the Perhentian Islands

Perhentian Islands27 Jun 2013 - 3 Jul 2013

Completed 7 amazing dives while on the Perhentian Islands. Our dives where done with the Matahari Divers. While there we some fantastic marine life included string rays, an eagle ray, black tip reef sharks and turtles but to name a few. Overall the experience was incredibly and the staff where so friendly, professional and the equipment was sound. I would highly recommend this place to anyone.

1 2 3 4 5

Leanne Howard

Sounds like a great place to dive with loads of life!

9.1262834930.scuba diving in jamaica

Marie Harper

I looked at visiting Malaysia and the Perhentians when i was in Thailand a while back......wish i had now!

9.1262834930.scuba diving in jamaica

Marie Harper

Wow didnt see the photos before? The turtle ones are amazing!

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