Welcome to this week’s Postcard From – the feature where I chat to some lucky explorer about their recent travels.
This week’s postcard comes from Bernita Lewin, a South African girl with a love of travel, currently working as director of travel business Lekker Adventures. Bernita spent the better part of ten years travelling and working for a while in Central America and the USA, and predominantly in South East Asia where she worked as a Scuba diving instructor. She says “I love to explore new places. I used to live out of a backpack, I now live out of Penang, Malaysia and travel with a suit case… how life has changed!”
Read more: Malaysia Interesting Facts
Welcome Bernita! Where have you been lately?
Last weekend I went to the Perhentian Islands, off the East coast of Malaysia and stayed on Long Beach, on the smaller of the two, Perhentian Kecil. The smaller island is where you will find more backpackers and bars, when compared to the larger island which is quieter and offers slightly more upmarket accommodation options. I had last visited here 5 years ago so I was eager to return and see if it would be as I remembered. And yes, it is! This pair of islands is simply magnificent. As you approach by speed boat you are greeted with the sight of lush dense green jungle edged with white sandy beaches and bright turquoise clear water. I have travelled to many islands, but none as beautiful as this.
READ MORE: 8 of the Best Hostels in Kuala Lumpur
I’ve been to the Perhentian Islands before and loved it! How was the weather?
The weather is hot and humid, like much of Malaysia. Day time temperatures reach well over 30 degrees and humidity is usually around the 90% mark. We had a heavy downpour one evening which provided a great respite from the oppressive humidity, but that passed after a while. Watching the storm roll in is a treat, the changing skies and light pre-rain breeze is magical. Monsoon hits these islands from about end September to mid- February and everything touristy closes down completely.
How did you find the accommodation?
We stayed in small huts on the hillside. The pro was that the views of sunrise and the ocean were magnificent and if you left the sliding doors open you could get a little sea breeze blowing through the hut, but the con was the flight of about 100 stairs one needed to ascend to get there. Most the accommodation on this island is fairly basic, with generator-produced electricity which is only available at certain times of day. Aircon rooms are available but most places offer only fan rooms with cold water showers. During peak season and weekends it can be difficult to find accommodation, especially if you arrive later in the day, so aim to be there by noon.
What did you get up to?
In the evenings we went to the beach bars, listened to some great tunes, watched the World Cup games and generally mingled with all the travellers and some old friends. In the day time we alternated lying under a rented beach umbrella, playing beach volleyball and Scuba diving. With the warm (30 degree C) water and beautiful coral reefs, this is a lovely diving destination. The visibility is most often good, with very little current and lots of colourful corals and fish to see.
We ate a lot of fish while we were there! Did you enjoy the food?
The food… at the moment it is Ramadan, and on this Muslim Island some of the restaurants close during the day. There are still many open though and the food is generally made with the Western pallet in mind. The food is quite nice but authentic Malay meals are not easy to come by. (Go to Penang for this!!)
That’s a shame! Do you have any tips for potential visitors to the Perhentian Islands?
Advice for fellow travellers- try to get to the islands before lunchtime to ensure availability of accommodation. Use sunscreen as time spent in the warm water and lazing on the beaches has a terrible habit of turning unsuspecting visitors in to lobster-red sore unhappy people. Use mosquito repellent from about 6pm to avoid being bitten by some of the largest mosquitoes I have ever seen (basically small birds!) Oh, and take cash with you as there are no ATM’s on the islands and credit cards are not widely accepted.
And finally, can you impress us with any handy Malay words?
The most useful words I learnt were: terima kasi (thank you) and satu lagi (one more) which came in handy at the bar. Almost everyone here speaks Engligh though.
NB – all photos are owned by Bernita Lewin