GALLERY: Pulau Perhentian Kecil, Malaysia

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The Perhentian Islands are a small group of beautiful, coral-fringed islands off the coast of northeastern Malaysia in the state of Terengganu, not far from the Thai border.

The Perhentian Islands (pronounced Perhen-TEE-AHN, not Perhen-SHEN) lie approximately 10 nautical miles (19 km) off the coast of northeastern Malaysia in the state of Terengganu, approximately 40 miles (64 km) south of the Thai border.

The name Perhentian means “stopping point” in Malay. This is because the islands became a staging point used by traders traveling from Malaysia to Bangkok.

There are no monuments, museums, viewpoints or other above-ground sights whatsoever on the islands; however, the beaches are a sight in themselves. White sandy beaches with clear water and flanked by rolling jungle covered hills make the views from the beach spectacular.

Coral Bay on the small island is the only beach that provides a sunset, but construction of a new jetty has spoiled most of the view. On Besar, the best and cleanest beaches are on the west side of the island. Here the sea and the beach are beautiful and clear.

The south beach on Besar is less inviting and had lots of broken coral, treacherous to bare feet and lots of litter and discarded rubbish (as of May 2012)!

There are several trails that you can take around Kecil island that offer spectacular viewpoints such as the Lighthouse Towers, which you can also climb up and jump off of into the sea.

With luck you might be able spot some of the islands’ wildlife, including huge harmless monitor lizards (almost guaranteed – they are not afraid of humans) and monkeys, not to mention nesting turtles at certain times of year.

Arguably the Perhentians’ best sights of all are underwater, where you’re likely to see reef sharks and sea turtles amongst the corals and tropical fish. Kecil island also has a huge population of cats, most of which are kittens that a lot of the locals and expats take care of.