The name Pulau Perhentian actually covers two islands, Perhentian Besar and Perhentian Kecil (which mean large and small stopping places, respectively; Big Island and Small Island are sometimes used instead). Both are textbook tropical paradises, which retain considerable appeal despite having been developed for tourism. The essentials of any idyllic island holiday – fantastic sandy beaches, and great snorkelling and diving – are all in place. Both islands have jungly hills in their interior, with paths for walking and opportunities to spot flying foxes, monkeys and monitor lizards. All this is capped by a refreshingly laidback atmosphere that can make it difficult to tear yourself away.
For many years, large-scale development on the Perhentians was kept to a minimum. This was just as well, given that both islands are home to several turtle nesting sites, active from April to early August – the only organized viewing is through the Bubbles resort – and that the impact of the existing resorts on the environment is far from negligible. Shortages of water, for example, can be a hassle during the tourist peak.
The state government’s attitude towards development has loosened up in recent years, however, and a few larger resorts have been constructed. Alcohol is also sold openly these days at a handful of restaurants and bars, although it seems that it is not strictly legal: the police periodically confiscate booze from businesses on the island but it isn’t long before things are back in full swing.