Few travellers linger long on the coast south of Kota Bharu; most are simply waiting for a boat from Kuala Besut (for Pulau Perhentian) or Merang (to Pulau Redang or Pulau Lang Tengah; not to be confused with Marang further south). Get money before you set out; there are no ATMs on any of the mentioned islands (or in Kuala Besut), though some accommodation may accept cards, and you may be able to get cash advances at punitive rates. If you do have time to stop, then there are a few good resorts on the coast plus some interesting villages and wildlife in the Setiu Wetlands.
More about Malaysia
Find out more
The only reason to visit the mainland village of KUALA BESUT is to catch a boat to the Perhentian Islands. It’s practically a one-street affair, the street in question running past the boat terminal and terminating just beyond the bus and taxi station. You’ll find agents selling boat tickets and Perhentians packages in the lanes along this street or in the boat terminal; all offer similar services at similar prices.
The Setiu wetlands
The Setiu wetlands
As a breeding ground for the painted terrapin and green turtle, the Setiu wetlands, between Kuala Besut and Merang, have been a focus for WWF projects since the early 1990s, but even now they attract only a trickle of tourists.
Both the main settlements hereabouts, namely Penarik, on the main coastal road, and Mangkok, 6km inland, are small villages, so the easiest way to explore is on a tour organized by an operator in Kuala Terengganu.
Most travellers who make it to MERANG, along the coastal road just south of the Sungai Merang creek, only glimpse the back of the village on their way to the jetty. The beach, accessible along a couple of side roads, is not exceptional, but if you have time to kill there’s reasonable swimming and memorable views of the islands offshore – from left to right, the Perhentians, Lang Tengah, Redang and finally Bidung Laut, now uninhabited but once the site of a refugee camp for Vietnamese boat people.