|Pulau Perhentian is tagged the 13th most beautiful island in the world. It is a major contributor to Terengganu’s tourism industry.|
Pulau Perhentian (Perhentian Islands) lies some 19 kilometers (12 mi) off the the coast of the northeastern state of Terengganu, approx. 64 kilometers (40 mi) south of the Thai border.
In the old days, cargo vessels ferrying salt from Singora in southern Thailand to Kuala Terengganu used the island for stopovers. This is why the island is known as “Pulau Perhentian” (“Stopover Island”). During World War II, the Japanese used the island to stage their attack on Malaya and other Southeast Asian countries. The Perhentian Islands is now under the control of the Pulau Redang National Marine Park, which means that fishing, collecting coral, and littering are strictly prohibited.
2. Geography: Surrounded by 20 smaller islands, the 2 main Perhentian islands are Perhentian Besar (“Big Stopover”) and Perhentian Kecil (“Small Stopover”). Both islands are fringed by white sand beach and reefs, with its crystal-clear water hosting a wide variety of coral, sea-turtles, jellyfish, small sharks, and reef-fish. Pasir Panjang (Long Beach) is a sandy beach, located at Perhentian Kecil. The islands’ maximum elevation is approx. 100 m (328 ft) and are uniformly covered in coastal tropical jungle, with few interior foot-trails and no roads. The much smaller, uninhabited Pulau Susu Dara (Virgin Milk), Pulau Serenggeh, and Pulau Rawa lie off Perhentian Kecil.
3. Legend: Pulau Perhentian has an interesting legend that claims that the island was once protected by a large serpent. Villagers named the serpent, Naga Pulau Berjuang, which was believed to have lived at a spot now known as Tanjung Basi on Pulau Perhentian Besar. This serpent is said to have plunged into the sea to battle another huge serpent which had threatened the island’s existence. A tract on a hill on the island called “Jalan Naga” by the villagers is believed to have been created by the first serpent.
The irony today is that snakes on the island are believed to be non-poisonous. The villagers believe that an extract from the root of a herb (akar cina putih) on the island which can be used as an antidote for snake bites have scared away the poisonous snakes and this is why they are not found on the island.
4. Economy: These islands of 2,000 people, most of them fishermen, are popular with local and international visitors and are a major contributor to Terengganu’s tourism industry. There are more than 20 resorts on Pulau Perhentian Besar and Pulau Perhentian Kecil, among them being:4. History:  Pulau Perhentian had its first residents in the late 18th century. The earliest settlement is believed to be in Teluk Dalam, near a canal named Alur Cina. The pioneer settlers are believed to be Batin Mina and his family from Riau in the Malay Archipelago. They are said to have taken refuge on Chinese junks to escape Dutch authorities who wanted him for attacks on European merchant ships. Batin Mina became chief of Pulau Perhentian and upon his death, his position was taken over by his younger brother, Batin Jamal. Batin Jamal later moved to Kuala Besut and set up a new settlement in Pasir Hantu on Pulau Perhentian Kecil. However, not all of his followers follwed him to Pasir Hantu. A number of them went to Pulau Perhentian Besar and lived in Seberang Air Keruh, Seberang Mat Daham, Batu Jong, and Teluk Pauh. The last of the Batin chiefs was Batin Sidek who died in the early 1990s. Since his demise, Pulau Perhentian has had the ketua kampung as village head.
- Perhentian Island Resort;
- Coral View Island Resort;
- Tropical Reef;
- Paradise Island Resort; and
- Arwana Perhentian Eco Resort and Chalet.
Visitors to Pulau Perhentian can only visit for only 6 months a year from March to August, as the waves are strong and dangerous, particularly during the northeast monsoon. The peak tourism season is from May to July when visitors arrive for activities like angling, scuba diving, jungle trekking, and snorkeling. The island’s residents have benefited as they are paid for lodging and boats for angling and snorkeling. Like Besut, people here generally speak Kelantanese Malay. Other than the owners and staff of the numerous cabin-style resorts that dot the islands (many of whom depart for the monsoon season), the islands’ only permanent inhabitants live in a small fishing village on Perhentian Kecil. There are facilities like a school, clinic, and police beat base on the island. With the exception of a single mainland-communications tower on each island, there are no structures taller than 2 storeys.
5. Turtle conservation: Pulau Perhentian is home to a significant turtle-nesting population. Once home to hundreds of nesting Green and Hawksbill turtles, the islands now receive only about 300 nestings per year, partly due to frequent oil spills from oil production platforms and oil tankers owned by Petronas, located not too far away. The Department of Fisheries is running a turtle hatchery on the islands to help readdress the declining turtle populations. “Help Our Penyu” (HOPE), a non-profit organization, is complementing the government’s efforts by protecting two beaches on Perhentian Besar, as well as educating visiting tourists around the islands. If you want to help the turtle conservation efforts whilst visiting the Perhentian islands, you can join the “Help Our Penyus” volunteer program which accepts new volunteers every Monday.