After spending 2 nights in KL, we flew out to Kota Bharu in order to get to Petani Beach House on Pulau Perhentian, our island destination. At the airport we bought an official airport taxi transfer ticket to Kuala Besut's jetty. We had been told by Debbie (the lady who manages/owns Petani Beach House with her husband Hash) to not go for the cheaper combined taxi-boat tickets if we wanted a better "boat experience". She also advised to look for Kuala Besut Travel at the jetty. It was a little hidden away, but was worth looking for since we managed to get a boat ride before most of the other people who were waiting for their boats. The lady who manages Kuala Besut Travel was very efficient and quickly got us on our way. The jetty is quite chaotic and confusing, so having someone that takes control is very handy. By the way, since Pulau Perhentian has been made a "Marine Park" you now have to pay an admission fee of 5 MYR to get on the island.
We must have looked a bit "out of place" with our over-sized luggage (blame the city destinations), excessive hand luggage and Siân's white leather handbag. The boat ride itself was fast, very fast and a little bumpy.
My partner Siân was slightly worried about the fact that we wouldn't have aircon nor hot showers, but she wanted a "perfect beach" destination. I discovered Petani Beach House by accident 10 years ago (was able to find my name in the early pages of the Register Book) and afterward never managed to find a beach that lived up to that particular beach setting, not even The Crane in Barbados.
Now, in order to get the perfect beach on an island such as Perhentian you have to be willing to make a trade-off between luxury and nature. It would be really difficult to build concrete aircon bungalows without affecting the surrounding nature and destroying some coral while at it.
I knew the accommodation was going to be quite basic (but not as basic as some other places on the island) and that we should expect some creepy crawlers inside (the backyard literally is jungle), but I was also hoping that the atmosphere and setting would compensate for all these minor issues. And it did! Big time!
Even though Siân had asked me to come up with a Perhentian back-up plan (meaning a place with aircon and hot showers), once we arrived at Petani Beach House she didn't want to leave anymore. The atmosphere at Petani Beach House was just amazing, which was mainly due to the setting and the people who are running the place.
The owners, Debbie and Hash, were visting family in South Africa when we went, so they left the management of Petani Beach House to their children, with their partners and friends. Bianca and David are excellent at running "front of house", while Icken and Raisa are producing amazing food in the kitchen. And even with everybody being very efficient at what they do, there is no trace of stress to be found on this beach. If you can't chill at Petani Beach House, you need valium and if you don't like the food, you need other taste buds.
Remember me saying Siân was initially slightly worried about staying at Petani Beach House, and I honestly was also slightly worried how she would react to it after the 5 star luxury in the cities ... well, have a look at her review on TripAdvisor and you'll see she also loved it!
Tips when staying at Petani Beach House:
- Go for the "specials" at dinner time. Every evening Bianca or David came by the bungalow to say what the special was that evening (always fresh from the day and served at about 8pm) and we systematically just went for it. We had some amazing food, and I particularly remember the red snapper, calamari and crab.
- David organises his own snorkel tour which is just amazing. Do it! With David being ex-military, a qualified diver and having a certificate for rescue at sea, he made us feel very safe and relaxed while we were just totally gobsmacked at seeing sea turtles from up close, giant rays, sharks, and the most techni-colour bunch of fishes ever.
- Make sure to have an underwater camera. I'm still kicking myself for not having brought one to the island.
- Bring some battery powered LED book lights and torches when staying at Petani.
- If you are planning on keeping some snacks or food inside the bungalow, make sure to bring Tupperware style containers, because the ants seem to be able to find your food wherever it might be (even when hung, in a tightly knotted plastic bag).
- Mosquito repellent! Loads of it, and go for the strong stuff! Even though Bianca and David hand out mosquito coils and use them under the tables at the restaurant, the mosquitoes are really aggressive. Seemingly Off is one of the most efficient mosquito repellents for the island according to them.
- For the ladies, bring a mirror you can place on the deck outside if you want to do a bit of pampering. (the light inside the bungalows might not be bright enough)
- Get yourself a local Malay SIM card before going to islands. All the major Malay mobile network providers have a decent signal on the island.
- The nearby bigger Impani resort is handy for when you want a snack when Petani's restaurant is closed, or when you need extra rental snorkel equipment.
- Try the local Orang Utang rum, also known as "Monkey Juice". It mixes very well with Coke or pineapple juice.