Diving Perhentians


Two nights came and went with a snap of the lizard’s tail. We lost our afternoons in the warm clear water at beach and managed to get talked into a dive package with one of the other ‘resorts’ on the island. They reeled us in by offering a room about ten steps from the beach. It had a few hours of electricity during the day, and a peaceful porch overlooking the outdoor restaurant. It was an improvement from the last place, and we just weren’t ready for another long travel day. Besides, despite the lack of amenities on the island, it was still an island. There is little to wish for when floating in clear blue water with schools of striped fish. We realized that this place was one of those one time experiences that deserved longer then a weekend.

Over the following 4 days, we did six dives in various spots around the two islands. The water temperature was warmer than any place we’ve dived before, making it easy to be in and out of the ocean throughout the day. Perhaps our biggest surprise of the week was seeing how damaged the reef is here. On one particular occasion, we returned from a dive to find out that another group had visited a wreck that was full of dead fish. The dive master had concluded that a local fisherman had likely just finished using dynamite to catch fish, and that the unwanted victims had been brought in by the current. While we knew this practice existed, this was the first time we’d really experienced the devastating effects. Two of our six dives were ravaged by reef damage- bleached coral gardens, broken corals, and sedimentation. We were lucky not to have too see any dead sea life, but by the sounds of it that truly was pure luck. At this point, we can only guess what the rest of the Gulf of Thailand will be like. It is a big change from our previous diving experiences.


While spotted with the effects of human damage, there are dive sites in the Perhentians that appear to still be in good condition. We got to see some pretty amazing sea life on the other four dives, including a giant ray that followed Dave through a cave for a bit. We swam by schools of squid, watched black tip reef sharks hover on the sea floor, and found ourselves amongst a school of 20 large bump head parrotfish eating an evening meal.

Yesterday, as our boat pulled away from Palau Kecil on it’s way for the mainland we couldn’t help but recognize a bit of sadness. The Perhentians are a land of extremes, and it takes a certain mindset to appreciate it. But the proximity to nature, and the experience of living in such simplicity was something that became really special. I don’t imagine that the little island will stay this way for long. Undoubtedly the island will be transformed with big resorts, pavement, and modern conveniences in years to come.

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