Every now and again, I am asked by friends for Perhentian Islands beach recommendations, based on my time volunteering there across 2015-2016. Aside from highlighting the resorts which have good sustainability habits (of course!), invariably I have to ask them what they're into. You see, despite its small size, the pair of islands forming the Perhentians have about a dozen different beaches to choose from, and they each have a slightly different vibe. As a result, you could say that there is a beach for almost every major tourism segment. You really can pick the perfect beach that suits - you! Since there's a convenient dozen, I'll categorise each Perhentian Islands beach by zodiac sign! Check out your zodiac sign beach, and let me know if it works! LIBRA ¤ Pasir Petani (Petani Beach) My personal favourite among the Perhentian Island beaches (no I'm not a Libra), Petani beach is a relatively secluded medium-size sandy beach, framed by rocks on either side. Peaceful, laidback, and classy, the few beach accommodation options nevertheless manage to cover the range from 'beach bumming' to 'lux'. Check out Mari-Mari's quirky flotsam-based architecture, or the modern luxury of Alunan - you won't be served by cheap plastic straws there, only stainless steel for the discerning quality sustainable guest. Despite it's exclusive vibe, it is pretty easy to do a coastal hike from here around the island to the Fisherman's Village (Kampung Pasir Hantu). You can also hike to Mira and Rainforest beaches around the other side. Where is Petani Beach? Petani beach is along the south of Perhentian Kecil island. What is the beach vibe? Exclusive. SCORPIO ¤ Teluk Kerma (D'Lagoon) Teluk Kerma is popularly known as 'D'Lagoon beach' after the sole resort on this small beach. It is a relatively isolated Perhentian Islands beach, giving it a secretive getaway vibe. (By this I mean the speedboat taxi price to get to other beaches is pretty steep). The shoreline looking out to a fairly vacant blue sea is comprised of broken corals rather than sand. The jungle hike from the Fisherman's Village to the Wind Turbine peak (header photo) continues onward and ends here. I recommend doing this hike with others. While usually safe, occasionally robbery en route has been reported. There is also a short hike you can do from the resort through the jungle to get to a secluded sandy cove on its opposite (west facing) side. But aside from that, this is the beach if you don't really want to be with others! Where is D'Lagoon Beach? D'Lagoon is at the north tip of Perhentian Kecil island. What is the beach vibe? Exclusive. SAGITTARIUS ¤ Rainforest Beach This little sandy cove is called 'Rainforest beach' after the ...uh... resort? bar? camping ground? ... that is your only choice to stay here. Effectively, staying here involves being mostly outdoors, with snorkelling and beach volleyball being the main activities. The establishment is no frills and laidback, with a distinct beachy vibe, generating little waste which they diligently segregate. The relative distance to the parties of Long Beach may be a strain on more outgoing Sags, but at least the crowd and activity of Coral Beach is just a short hike away - and what's a hike to Sagittarius? For more philosophical conversation on the simple life and sustainable tourism, hike south instead to Mira Beach for a meal and a chat with the Aquarians. Where is Rainforest Beach? This chillax beach is at the west side of Perhentian Kecil island, facing the mainland. What is the beach vibe? Outdoorsy. CAPRICORN ¤ Teluk Dalam (Flora Bay) Photo credit: Sheryn Hing Teluk Dalam beach is a long sandy beach on the bigger of the Perhentian Islands, aptly named Perhentian Besar island. Its popular name is 'Flora Bay', after one of the pioneer resorts on the beach. Over time, tourism on this beach has grown to rival Perhentian Kecil's famous Long Beach, but it caters more for families and groups. The vibe is social and respectable, and the beach development feels a bit more planned - albeit still with many beach activity options. Green Fins certified dive centres are available across the beach. Connectivity to other beaches would mainly be by speedboat taxi, since the nearest hikeable beach is the Teluk Keke camping grounds. The resorts of Tanjung Genting beyond the Marine Park office lie beyond. Where is Flora Bay? This beach is at the south of Perhentian Besar island. What is the beach vibe? Family. AQUARIUS ¤ Pasir Keranji (Mira Beach) If you have an image in your mind of the sustainable beach eco-resort, in all likelihood it would look something like Mira. In this case, it would be an authentic image. The sole resort on this small sandy beach, it has a slightly hippy vibe. The chalets, made of natural materials, are a skip and a hop from the water's edge. The resort aims to be sustainable, having its own organic vegetable garden, kitchen composting, and other projects on the side. Have a conversation with the owner - a Terengganu local - on sustainable tourism, and the simple life. You need to request speedboat transfers from the resort in advance here, due to typically low traffic (nevertheless this is easy to do). They would then call one of the independent Perhentian Islands speedboat drivers and arrange it. The lively Coral Beach is a hike away to the north, passing through Rainforest beach, while Petani beach is an even shorter hike to the south for more F&B options. Where is Mira Beach? This other chillax beach is at the west side of Perhentian Kecil island, facing the mainland. What is the beach vibe? Sustainable. PISCES ¤ Tiga Ruang (Turtle beach) OK, you cannot just book a stay on this beach. In order to spend the night here, you need to volunteer for a sea turtle data collection and conservation project through Ecoteer, who run in it partnership with the Fisheries Department. Nights on this beach are spent on turtle watch. You walk a patrol in rotation throughout the night to watch for turtle egg-laying landings. These are logged, and information about the turtles collected. Days are spent in snorkelling surveys, also logging data about turtle presence in the area. The amenities are basic. There are only a few chalet buildings belonging to the Fisheries Department, where their duty staff are posted. However, on clear nights, you'd probably simply sleep on the beach under the spread of starry sky. There is no amusement other than what you bring with you. This beach is for those who want to give back, and don't need much outside of themselves. You can't easily pop in and out of here, to go to other beaches. You can't hike to anywhere else either. But it is perfect for those seeking peace and service, close to nature. Only the dedicated would apply - and so keep this sanctuary beach, a sanctuary. Where is Turtle Beach? This special beach is on Perhentian Besar Island. What is the beach vibe? Outdoorsy, sustainable. ARIES ¤ Teluk Keke through Tanjung Genting The intrepid Perhentian Islands visitor does not simply book himself (or herself) into a hotel. They bring their own roof with them, obviously! And the place where they will go, is probably the camping ground on the sandy shores of Teluk Keke. Occasionally dive clubs from the mainland would organise trips here, where they can be seen going for shore dives. Located next to the Marine Park office, the camping grounds are shaded by a line of casuarina trees. Near the Marine Park jetty are snorkelling zones and a giant clam 'garden', a Marine Parks initiative to re-seed the surrounding area with giant clams. There are also some chalet options on Teluk Keke and beyond the Marine Park office along Tanjung Genting, for those Aries who have decided to compromise. Tanjung Genting options range from options on the beach to those high up on rock ledges, affording a commanding view of the channel between the two Perhentian islands. Where is Teluk Keke/Tanjung Genting? This is a strip of shoreline along the west side of Perhentian Besar island, facing Perhentian Kecil. What is the beach vibe? Outdoorsy. TAURUS ¤ Tanjung Genting towards Teluk Pauh (P.I.R.) As you venture along Tanjung Genting, its northern portion towards Teluk Pauh reflect a more conventional tourism, family-friendly feel. The tourism is denser than Teluk Dalam, but it has a much better connectivity to other beaches. Long Beach, for example, is just across the channel. The accommodation types range from chalets to resorts. Tuna Bay Resort on the Tanjung Genting side is a full service resort that nevertheless runs its operations with multiple sustainability practices, including waste segregation and composting for landscaping use. It is one of the only two resorts in the Perhentian Islands that actually has a complete recycling effort, rather than just carrying out waste segregation. More Green Fins certified dive centres are located along this stretch. Where is Tanjung Genting & PIR beach? This is the shoreline running from the upper west side of Perhentian Besar island, to its north side. What is the beach vibe? Family. GEMINI ¤ Teluk Aur (Coral Beach) A highly popular Perhentian Islands beach, Coral Beach is dense, with a mad eclectic range all the way between conventional resorts, to chalets of questionable architectural integrity perched on the sides of cliffs over crashing waves. Although it is on the far side of the activity hubs of Perhentian Islands, it is heaving because it connects to the traditional backpacker's stop of Long Beach via a fairly short hike (walk?) across the narrow neck of Perhentian Kecil, allowing you to skip a speedboat taxi trip. It serves as an option for those who like to be near the action, but not live (or sleep) next to the action. Local-run Sea Voice Divers is one of the Green Fins certified dive centres on this beach, and are a highly passionate (and fun!) sustainability advocate within the islands. Where is Coral Beach? This crowded beach is on the upper west side of Perhentian Kecil island, facing the mainland. What is the beach vibe? Lively, family. CANCER ¤ Kampung Pasir Hantu (Fisherman's Village) There are two options for staying in the fisherman's village of the Perhentian Islands. One way is by booking yourself into one of the small village guesthouses (probably easier if you are Malay-speaking, but not impossible otherwise). The other way is to join an Ecoteer volunteer or holiday program, some of which are based in the village. Either way you would get a more direct experience of life in the local Malay village. Because of the nature of the experience, it is better to do this stay as slow travel, as there is little that can truly be experienced from a too-short stay. Ecoteer programmes usually come with 'Malay dinners' every so often, where you get to dress up in local sarong and come to dinner at one of the local homes. This is the perfect beach for culture travellers, and those who travel to meet local people in their own communities. As a general rule, decent clothing within the village is considered to cover at least shoulder to knees. Where is the Fishermen's Village? The sole village of the Perhentian islanders is at the southeast bulge of Perhentian Kecil island. What is the beach vibe? Local. LEO ¤ Pasir Panjang (Long Beach) Pasir Panjang (literally, "Long Beach") is the famous original backpackers' beach of the Perhentian Islands. Easily the most impressive beach of the Perhentian Islands, its long stretch of fine white sands are washed by regular waves from a brilliant blue sea. Being the sunrise beach of the Perhentians, the full glare of the sun renders the beach blistering hot in the morning. This is when you should go diving with one of the Green Fins certified dive centres here. Alternatively, the beach also has many beach amusements on offer. At night, the beach bars open for business, and Long Beach earns its reputation as the 'party beach'. Accommodation options range from budget chalet to lux resort. Where is Long Beach? The party beach of Perhentian Islands is at the upper east shoreline of Perhentian Kecil island, facing the open sea. What is the beach vibe? Lively. VIRGO ¤ Tanjung Tukas (Bubbles) This bay is popularly referred to as 'Bubbles' after the sole resort that occupies it. Similar to D'Lagoon, the bay is relatively expensive to visit from other beaches, assuring its exclusive atmosphere. It is quiet and family friendly, and has a close-to-nature vibe. The small sandy beach is lovely, with known turtle landings. So much so that the resort now has a true blue turtle hatchery program, the only one in the islands other than the hatchery on Tiga Ruang beach. Apart from this, the resort is one of the two resorts in the Marine Park that has a recycling initiative - although Tuna Bay along Tanjung Genting has a more comprehensive program. Where is Bubbles beach? This little bay is south of Perhentian Besar island, and furthest towards the open sea. What is the beach vibe? Sustainable, family. Diving and snorkelling tips for the Perhentian Islands Snorkelling and diving activities are basically available throughout the islands, irrespective of where you stay. However, the bigger beaches would obviously have more options. Get your PADI license in the Perhentian Islands There are a LOT of dive centres around the Perhentian Islands. At the same time, the quality of dive instructors around the islands is good. Consequently, this is among the best value locations in all Southeast Asia to obtain your PADI certification. So, if you want to learn to dive, do it at the Perhentian Islands! Dive with eco-friendly dive centres in Perhentian Islands You may have noticed that I repeat the phrase 'Green Fins certified dive centres' quite a bit. Why does it matter? Green Fins certification essentially means that these dive centres have adopted positive sustainability metrics in their business. They are re-assessed annually via Reef Check Malaysia, in partnership with the Marine Parks Department. Head over to the Green Fins website to find out more about what the certification means, as well as a current list of Perhentian Islands dive operators with a live certification. Below is a video of the kind of pre-dive environmental briefing you should expect to get with a Green Fins certified dive centre. Snorkel safely and responsibly in the Perhentian Islands DO NOT snorkel without a high visibility life jacket in the Marine Park, or outside designated zones! Apart from being Marine Park regulations to protect the coral reef, the main transportation around these islands is by speedboat. These go really fast and may not always be able to see stray snorkellers in time. In fact, one of the conservation issues here is turtle deaths through being struck by speedboat. Now, imagine that instead of the turtle's carapace, it's your skull. Enough said. DO ask for an Eco-Friendly Snorkel Guide (EFSG) for snorkelling. Even if you are unable to obtain one at your accommodation, you would help by signalling a demand for responsible snorkelling practices, and it would encourage ESFGs to really deliver this service instead of succumbing to peer pressure. Check out this local Perhentian community site for more island information and the list of certified EFSGs. Find out more in this article (scroll down to 'Malaysia'), including information on how to give feedback. Perhentian Islands is a very popular tourist destination, and since it is Southeast Asia, it is prone to overtourism. On balance, at the moment my opinion is that it is better to snorkel independently than with mass tourism snorkelling packages. Unless you know that the tour operator is well known for operating responsibly in a Marine Park, in which case - support them! Malay-English glossary: Pasir: sand or sands, often another way of saying 'beach' Teluk: bay So what are you waiting for? Head over to Perhentian Islands, and let me know if I've got your beaches wrong!