We headed to Perhentian Islands mainly for the scuba diving. It is on the far east side of the country and was about a 6-hour bus ride to the end of the mainland, then a speed boat to get across to the island.
Now, we booked our transport through our guesthouse. We were told a minivan/ shuttle bus would take us to the small town on the edge of the mainland so that we could catch the boat at 3pm… boy were we in for a surprise.
- The minibus driver was crazy. And he was proud of it.
- We had no idea there were multiple transfers.
- It was the scariest boat ride we’ve ever been on in our lives.
To start, the bus driver had no chill when it came to slowing down. He rode the gas pedal as we turned or passed traffic with oncoming cars missing us by inches… we would like to think he was in control… but it was so hard to tell it wasn’t worth not asking him to slow down. We’ve been on some sketchy rides in our travels, but this one was definitely something else.
So at the next gas station, Olivier and another French couple traveling to the Perhentian islands went up to the driver and asked him to slow down. No joke… he evil laughed at them. Like Scar in the lion king.. but a little crazier. We then drove for another hour when he pulled over on the side of the road and told us four to get out of the van… we didn’t have a transfer, but got out and asked him what was happening.
He told us another bus was coming and waited with us for 5 mins. He also made a point to tell the locals we were critiquing his driving… and followed again by a hilariously evil laugh “They think TOO FAST! HA-HA-HA!”
He waited for a few minutes then got back in his van and drove off. We were all alone on the side of the road without a number or contact to call.
Another 20 min passed by when a similarly branded car arrived — he told us to jump in. He also had no care for speed limits and passed every single car we approached. When we got to the docks, we were glad the insane ride was over. We boarded the boat. It was very small, maybe fit 25 people and it was filled with women and children from the mainland returning home from school to the islands. A quick glance at the lifejackets revealed that clearly, there weren’t nearly enough for everyone. We started off fine, but as soon as we cleared mainland and were in the middle of the ocean, we hit the waves at full speed — our butts lifted from the seats, our bags flew in the air, and we had nothing to hold on to… it was terrifying.
The boat ride lasted 30 mins, but I remember it feeling like multiple hours. The school kids laughed at us, I can only assume that they’ve experienced worst then this and my squealing every bump was found to be pitiful. But we made it in one piece! The islands were great and we got to enjoy being back in the water again which was a lot of fun.
There is so much development all around Malaysia — we passed lots of unique scenery as well that reminded us of other areas of South East Asia.
But below is my smartwatch results... the driver was driving so fast, hitting every pothole, turning every corner without reducing the speed for almost 6 hours… my watch thought that I was working out… and logged cycling as the activity that was making my heart explode the way it did.
On the plus side… it thought I had over 21,000 steps… when in reality I was sitting in transport all day 🤣
Most of the island runs on generators for power — so it was often that you were completely disconnected and sometimes in the dark. But what surprised me was how little tourists there were… local tourists came on weekends which is a pretty sweet deal if you think about it, a 40 min boat ride and you’re in a generally unspoiled paradise! We enjoyed being the minority and were so welcomed by the staff and locals of the island.
Every night you could BBQ fish they caught that day. We did so every night and watched the sunset.
There are no roads that connect the few hotels/guesthouses of the island so you can either walk a jungle trail… or take a boat for 5–20RM to the destination you are trying to go.
We arrived right at the end of monsoon season — the island had just reopened for visitors, so a lot of the coral and overall visibility in the water wasn’t vibrant. But we lucked out with a few solid dives and you could tell the coral was starting to perk up in color and the fish were all making their way back.
We woke up to find monkeys hanging out above our beach house. They were eating the tree clean of its leaves and Maeghan’s nephew Jude loves monkeys. So she embarrassingly took a bunch of videos where she talks baby in them and asks the audience (Jude) what the sound of a monkey is.
Malaysia is a mainly Muslim country and religion ties into so much. We were told that if you were a good Muslim, you would be considered first pick for prestigious jobs over other very qualified candidates. The example we were given was a top of the class graduate doctor from Harvard vs. a local average student from Malaysia who is Muslim. The average Muslim will get the job over the non-Muslim Harvard graduate.
It was very interesting to learn more about this religion we know little about.
Maeghan is still figuring out how to properly get the setting right underwater — which is why the colors are a bit weird here. So much to consider as you are focused on your buoyancy, breathing, lighting, animal/muse, and surroundings!
Most of the diving around the island is shallower than 18 meters and the deeper you go, the less light and need for a red filter to enhance the colors of your footage.
Our boat ride and bus ride to our next destination was like a night and day difference. The boat was proper, felt very little bumps/waves… and packed with people
Then our bus ride was a brand new double decker at a super sketchy station.. but we had front row seats on the 2nd floor making the ride feel more like California Adventure at Disneyland, and also helped limit the feeling of falling over with speed or curves in the road. Our last stop is Penang for some food and planning. :)