Malaysia's Perhentian Kecil is an island cliché, a picturesque example of what fills the heads of people stuck at work. While that blue water is nice to look at, getting below it is even more exciting. Perhentian Islands diving is both inexpensive and enjoyable enough to actually leave that soft sand -- at least for a little while.
Perhentian Islands Diving
Diving on the Perhentian Islands is a different experience than that found in neighboring Indonesia and Thailand. Expect great visibility, small dive boats, and reefs in decent condition -- mostly thanks to the US $2 conservation fee paid by all visitors to the island.
Because all dive shops use small boats, each diver usually only takes a single tank. The boat returns to the beach for resupply and a short break before continuing on to the next dive site.
Pinnacle/Temple of the Sea, the Sugar wreck, and T3 are unanimously considered everyone's favorite dive sites. The same sites can also be reached from neighboring Perhentian Besar.
Dive Shops on Perhentian Kecil
Similar to Koh Tao in Thailand, almost every other structure on tiny Perhentian Kecil is a dive shop. With two locations on Long Beach and one on Coral Bay, Quiver Divers is by far the largest diving operation.
Prices between the dive shops vary only slightly. Most dive shops accept credit cards, however, all charge between a three and six percent commission.
Fun Dives on Perhentian Kecil
A single dive on Perhentian Kecil costs around US $23; prices go down to US $20 if you do more than four dives. Some popular dive sites such as the famous Sugar Wreck, Temple/Pinnacle, and Rendang Island cost more because of the extra effort required to get there.
Night dives are more expensive, starting around US $40. Strangely, beach dives cost the same as boat dives on Perhentian Kecil.
People who aren't yet totally committed to getting PADI certified can take a short scuba basics course called Discover Scuba Diving; the course costs around US $67 and includes one shallow dive. The dive counts toward your Open Water certification once you realize that you have accidentally acquired an expensive and addictive new hobby!
PADI Courses on Perhentian Kecil
Perhentian Kecil is a very popular place for first-time divers to get their PADI certifications; every dive shop offers courses up to at least Divemaster. Many dive shops have teamed with guesthouses to offer discounted accommodation while you take your course.
Quiver Divers offers PADI courses in English, Italian, German, Spanish, French, Chinese, Danish, and Swedish.
- PADI Open Water: First of the diver certifications, this course can be done in an intensive three days or a more relaxed four days. The cost of the course includes four dives. The PADI Open Water certification costs around US $317; prices vary only slightly between dive shops.
- PADI Advanced: The Advanced course costs around US $300 on Perhentian Kecil and includes your choice of a night dive, shipwreck, or other technical specialty. Once Advanced certified, you can deep dive at 30 meters and beyond.
- Rescue Diver: Considered by many to be the most difficult and most fun of all PADI certifications, the Rescue Diver course includes a separate first aid course. Expect to pay around US $467 to become Rescue certified.
What to See While Diving in Perhentian Islands
Yes, whale sharks – the Holy Grail for all divers – do make unpredictable visits to the Perhentian Islands. While waiting for that whale shark, you will be treated to blacktip sharks, barracudas, massive humphead parrotfish, an abundance of turtles, and decent macro life such as nudibranches.
Titan Triggerfish do patrol their nests, although they tend to be far less aggressive than those found in Thailand.
When to go Diving in Perhentian Kecil
Peak season in the Perhentian Islands is during the summer months; the island fills up between June and August. Perhentian Kecil practically closes down around the end of September and water visibility declines.
Getting to Perhentian Kecil
From Kuala Lumpur you must either fly or take a nine-hour bus to Kota Bharu. Once in Kota Bharu you can either take a one-hour taxi (maximum of four people) from the airport directly to Kuala Besut -- the port town -- or take a public bus to Jerteh and then on to Kuala Besut.
In Kuala Besut you must purchase a round-trip speedboat ticket for US $23. The boat takes around an hour to reach Perhentian Kecil. There is no jetty on Long Beach, so you must transfer to a smaller boat (and pay an additional US $1) to be brought onto the beach.
Tip: The speedboat from Kuala Besut to Perhentian Kecil can be a wet, bumpy ride depending on the condition of the sea; waterproof anything that you care about. You must exit the last boat into knee-deep water and wade ashore.