Welcome to heaven on earth. If you are in Malaysia anytime soon it would be an absolute crime not to stop off here even for a mere nights stay.
We survived another overnight journey, this experience was rather comfortable in comparison to the others, and Kirsty and Olly's wise suggestion of taking an empty duvet case with us came incredibly handy tonight as it seems the air con out here has only two settings - cold and absolutely freezing. It cost us a mere 40 ringitt (ten pounds) for an 8 hour journey and whilst we did arrive in Kuala Besut (from where you get the jetty from) at 5am, there were enough travellers there to keep you busy until the first boat at 7am. We met a lovely couple called Olivia and Jay who had been touring Indonesia for many months and it was nice exchanging travelling stories to make the time pass.
Once we had boarded the jetty, backpacks in tow, we did not quite appreciate what was in store. The wind make the waves a tad choppy, turning our simple journey into the latest attraction at Alton Towers. Needless to say after being wind swept for 30 minutes Adam bore the resemblance of rock hopper penguin, and I, a bush.
The island was absolutely stunning on arrival. We decided to stay on coral bay beach as we heard it was couple friendly (we are too old and boring to be drunk all the time) and the beach was deemed nicer. Plus the food is suppose to be cheaper which is handy as Adam decided to over indulge over the next 10days! We stayed at Fatima bungalows as they offered us a deal of 40 ringitt a night. There are other choices which may be a tad more luxurious than the beach bungalow we went for - which included a bed, mosquito net, fan and a wet room. The fact that we had a plug socket felt like a great treat for us! Our theory was that we wouldn't be in the room much and therefore it didn't matter if the bathroom was covered in gold or dust.
The first few days were spent on the beach sunbathing our pasty white bodies until they could handle no more in which case we mixed it up and jumped into the sea. We decided to explore on one of the days and found a quaint isolated beach a mere 5 minutes away from coral bay where the water was crystal clear, and since we had our own snorkels we were able to check out some clown fish which lived close to the shore. It was unbelievably hot and there were some moments during the day where it was impossible to be anywhere but in the shade. The evenings were relaxed, with most restaurants putting on a beach front BBQ where we were able to try various different fish ranging from barracuda to king fish to blue marlin. Afterwards two of the bigger restaurants put on a outdoor cinema club and we spent the evening lounging on giant sofas in the sand, without a care in the world. I'm not quite sure what has happened to Adam on this trip, not that I'm complaining, but for a man who would rather have a scotch egg than a birthday cake I was quite shocked when he regularly ordered us a cheeky banana split to share. These moments may have been a holiday highlight for me!
We met a lovely South African couple who were staying in the bungalow next to us, Viola and Nick, with whom we went out to dinner with and spent afternoons chatting to on the beach and it was a shame when they left as we really enjoyed their company (not that we don't enjoy each others.... )
One day, as the clouds had rolled in and it felt a lot cooler than normal, we thought it would be a great idea to hire a kayak and go around the entire island - something which the lonely planet had promised us is completely feasible. 20 minutes into our trip we thought we had stumbled on another isolated beach, this time where the water was a lovely shade of turquoise rather than blue, but we later discovered that this beach, known as romantic beach, is a regular stop off for a snorkelling trips and a confined dive site so it is possible to get there without having to paddle yourself. After taking a few photos and exploring the resident fish we hopped back into the kayak. However, we didn't quite anticipate how big the island was and it took us 3 hours to get to long beach, which is halfway around the island. Long beach is more suitable for lone travellers as there are dorms and its perceived as the party side of the island which is always handy if you are looking for friends. Exhausted and starving hungry, we pulled ashore for some fried rice before contemplating how the hell we were going to get back. Whilst kayaking on a cloudy day seemed like a good idea, we hadn't considered that the clouds may later develop into a storm. Since the two main beaches are separated by a 10 minute path we considered lifting the kayak and walking back, as we were both too tired for another 3 hour paddle and the waves were getting choppier by the minute. Despite his muscles and my enthusiasm, we didn't even manage to lift the kayak 10cm off the ground, so hesitantly we climbed aboard for a second time (technically third as it had capsized moments before) and started on our journey. We got as far as D'Lagoon beach, which looks fairly close to long beach but in actual fact is a good 45 minutes, and realised that the biggest black cloud was heading straight for us and the waves were toying with the idea of flipping our little kayak with every wave. Since I have no intention on appearing in the daily mail under the latest tourist tragedy headline we headed for safety and paid for a speedboat to ferry us back, kayak in tow. It's just as well that we did since even the speedboat struggled against the waves and there were many times that we were thrown into the air, coming down with an almighty thump. There was no way in hell we would have made that journey just us two. Defeated, with sore egos, we scrambled back onto our beloved coral bay beach, lay on a towel and treated our exhausted selves to a little nap. Put a fork in us... We were done!
The next day was another adventure in itself. We booked onto the perhentian island snorkel trip where we stopped off at shark point, turtle point, fisherman village, romantic beach, the lighthouse and coral gardens. We saw some amazing sights on the trip and I highly recommend it to anyone who goes. However if you do, book with the restaurant ombak -situated just in the beach with an orange sign - as they take some awesome underwater pictures for you (which we missed out on but thanks to Adams dad we were still able to take our own - thank you Ian!!) My personal favourite moment was swimming alongside a giant sea turtle, who came up for air every 10 minutes. another favourite moment was swimming around blacktip sharks. Our tour guide also gave us some bread at the lighthouse stop for the fish and we were flocked by hundreds of them! So make sure if you want some cool photos you take something with you. Unfortunately we didn't get to visit fisherman village as it was closed on a Friday but we have heard from others the food there is amazing and its an interesting place to visit. Regardless, we had so much fun snorkelling and the water was so clear it was amazing what you could see.
Having had such an amazing time
Snorkelling we decided to take the plunge and try the padi open water course at Ombak dive school. For only £200 (and they accept debit cards which is handy as the island has no ATMs) we spent 4 days with the wonderful Crystal who taught us privately everything we needed to know. Scoring a 98% on the end test I think it's fair to say she did a fantastic job. We had our doubts originally as we didn't want to spend all our time in a classroom but most of your time you are outside learning as you go. We had to watch 5 DVDs, read the textbook if you wanted, although this simply repeated what the DVD had said, and participate in two confined dives and 4 open water dives. The confined dives were in shallow water and the purpose of these was that we practised important skills, such as how to share air supplies with your buddy incase yours runs out and how to find perfect buoyancy underwater. Crystal threw in a few fun games for us and it helped us grow comfortable with breathing underwater. Later, during the open water dives, we went down to 18 metre depths and again practised our skills, whilst also checking out the local marine life. We got to explore a wreckage and we saw so many schools of fish and different types of coral. I was worried at first that I could have problems with my ear as you often hear that the changes in pressure can cause discomfort like an aeroplane. Admittedly during my first confined dive, which only went down 4 metres, I had problems and I started to panic but thankfully crystal brought me a tad closer to the surface so I could pop my ears before going down again. After one painful pop everything worked perfectly and I didn't have any other problems. Also, on my first open water dive, I did get a little scared as we went down went down the buoyancy line, which we used to guide us. Deeper than I'd ever been in the sea it is daunting to think how far under sea level you are, but after a few deep breathes a fish swam past and I was so distracted with what was around me that I soon forgot all about my fears. So honestly, if you are ever considering trying diving I suggest you do as its great fun, very easy to master and even my parents have started diving lessons (which I am super excited about!) so, in the nicest way possible, anyone can give it a try regardless of age or fitness. I hope my sister might do a course too and then we can blag a free holiday with the parents just like we did when we were 12! Unlikely but still worth a try.
To celebrate the end of our course we went out to long beach with all of the dive masters, as well as Bev and Steve, a lovely couple from England. The evening started with a delicious dinner at Oh la la and ended, naturally, with dancing on the beach covered in paint drinking whiskey and rum. We stumbled home at 4am with the aid of our torch (another massive thank you Ian) whilst carrying our dive master home, which was the least we could do after she kept us alive underwater. Adam even managed to traumatise some drunk girls who thought they had got away with a sly wee in the bush by shinning the torch on them and waiting about a minute before realising what he was witnessing and instead continued asking them for directions. The expected hangover kicked in the next morning, but thankfully we had planned two days of sunbathing and relaxing before our time in the wonderful perhentian islands came to an end. Having not had a summer holiday together in 6 years, aside from Thailand in 2009, it was great to relax and unwind and I was chuffed with the amount of books I managed to read within the week. We spent approx £200 each for 10 days food accommodation and trips, excluding diving, and given the stunning scenery I would say that is money well spent.
A cheeky little tip if you do go to the perhentian islands - watch out for the monitor lizards. I had read about them
And expected them to be the size of a gecko, and I nearly had a heart attack when one the size of small child crawled out from under the bungalow opposite ours before shimmying under ours. This apparently was nothing compared to the one Viola saw which apparently could rival the size of a. Fully grown crocodile and was about 5ft 9. Fear not they are harmless and only eat kittens (gross) but you may feel your heart stop if and when you see them.