Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Honeymoon: Perhentian Island, Malaysia

Hello ETD readers! Apologies again for the lack of posts but another good reason is that we've been on our honeymoon. So look out for some exciting travel and dive posts coming up! You might even be so lucky to read a post by Gaffa, if I can convince him to write one about the diving we did on our honeymoon.... I'm sure I won't have to try very hard ;)

Anywho, we were married in December 2013 and 6.5 months later we left for our belated honeymoon. Initially we were wanting to go to Hawaii but money and time didn't work in our favour so we found somewhere closer and a bit cheaper. We decided on 5 nights of diving and 5 nights of relaxing and the "real" honeymoon. When I say "real" honeymoon, I'm talking the typical tropical 5* resort, some luxury and splurging, relaxing and chilling out. Isn't that what most people do on their honeymoon??!

So we found Malaysia to be able to provide both diving and beach luxury. We initially booked to dive in Sipadan and stay on the oil rig dive resort on the east side of Malaysia near Borneo & Philippines but a few days before we left we were told by some friends that there were some terrorist activities going on in Sabah and the Australian Government Smart Traveller website advised to avoid travel to that area. A bit stressed out, we had to reorganise the first part of our trip, rebook flights, accommodation and find a new diving location. I don't know how we did it, but team WinGaz worked it all out in the end and it turned out pefectly!! :)

Say hello to Perhentian Island. I think this place is a hidden gem. Even some of the locals didn't know where Perhentian was! (Maybe we were just pronouncing it incorrectly?!) It's on the east side of mainland peninsular Malaysia, off the coast of Kota Bharu. We flew into KL and stayed overnight then took a 1hr flight the next morning to Kota Bharu. The resort we found, Tuna Bay Resort included airport transfers - so a taxi was waiting for us when we landed. An hour later we arrived at the Tuna Bay office on the mainland and waited for the ferry to depart. The Tuna Express then took 45mins to get to the idyllic beach resort on the Perhentian big island.

There's not much on the island except resorts and when I Googled things to do, there wasn't much else besides scuba diving, snorkeling and jungle treking. Perfect! Universal Divers are connected to Tuna Bay Resort - Gaffa actually found the dive shop before we found the accommodation! The resort did a 3night/4day dive package including full board. So we opted for that and added an extra 2 nights which included breakfast only.

When we arrived we were greeted with a welcome drink and sat down in their restaurant on the beach front. Our bags were taken to our chalet via a wheelbarrow; which overlooked the trees but there are beach front chalets as well. Apparently the resort closes down in the wet season which runs from about Oct - Mar I think... we were actually lucky to get a last minute booking as another couple we met tried to book a few months in advance and were told it was a 6 night minimum stay.

Our routine for each day looked something like this:
Wake up
8am - go diving
Chill out on the beach
12pm - go diving
More beach chilling out
3pm - go diving
Some more relaxing on the beach

We did a total of 11 dives, including a night dive. The package included 7 dives and we added on some extra ones. There are loads of dive sites around Perhentian and there are a few more islands in the area with some more dive sites (like Redang), so we didn't get to experience it all. But that's just a good excuse to go back again!

The diving was super easy - just the way I like it. Universal Divers had 2 boats, a big one and a small one. All the dives we did were off the big boat except for the night dive when there was only 4 of us so we used the smaller boat. 30 degrees Celsius in the water meant no wetsuits, just boardies, a rashie and my Probe top. Each dive site was about 5-20 mins away by boat, entry by giant stride into the water and out via a ladder made for some easy and pleasurable dives. Not to mention the marine life: wow! So much to see on every single dive, it was crazy. As you can imagine I went a bit happy snappy with the camera underwater while Gaffa experimented with his GoPro. So much, that I saw Nemo on every dive and one crazy clown fish decided to take a munch at my right middle finger!!

Away from the diving we relaxed on the beach and the sun lounges. The resort also had a pontoon out on the water and a large swimming area with a net. One afternoon we went kayaking around to another beach in search for turtles - we found them yay! Gaffa made friends with some Canadians and played frisbee with them while I worked on my tan and practiced yoga and handstands on the pontoon and sand. At night we enjoyed a few cocktails and got an early night's sleep because diving wears you out sometimes!

The rooms were pretty good, 3* but very clean and had everything you needed, including an Aussie power point! The menu at the restaurant included both Western and Asian meals. In the full board package lunch was a Western meal: soup then meat and chips with salad. Dinner was Asian meals and always a lot bigger portions. Their drinks were good (juices & fruit lassi's) and cocktails even better - accoring to Gaffa!

On our last night there we decided to try the restaurant next door: Cocohut. We had heard mixed reviews about it, some guys got food poisoning but some had gone their every night and loved we had dinner there with our new Canadian friends. It was good but the day after I had stomach cramps and a few days later Gaffa was really sick with vomiting and the runs. Eep!

The dive operator was very professional. Gear was in good condition - we used our own gear but had some hoses blow on our regs so we had to borrow a set. Rinsing tanks were clean and drying space was organised. We would definitely recommend them to fellow divers. The guides were fun and knowledgeable and most dives lasted about 60 minutes.

The weather was perfect during the day, hot and sunny and not too overly humid. The sun wad so bright you had to squint sometimes to see. It rained at night a couple of times but was always clear during the day. The island was simple and laid back, a great place to just get away from it all. Gaffa and I will definitely be back for some more diving!!

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