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Published: September 25th 2005
How to write about paradise? How is it possible to keep finding a paradise more perfect than the last? When will I find a way to stay in paradise longer than a week? How many mentions of the word paradise is too many?
The Perhentian Islands were as close as I've come to a vision of paradise, island paradise, diving, beaches, coconut palms and all at a price that even a stingy backpacker like me could afford. I stayed on Perhentian Kecil, the little island, on Long Beach. Sand white and squeaky under foot, water clear to the bottom in the bay, very few waves, generally very calm. Palms drape over the beach, the sounds of the jungle behind mix with the gentle lapping of waves. Nights lead to phosphorescent swimming, bonfires, guitars and socialising with new friends.
Although some find Long Beach crowded I have to stay close to Internet access, thank god for broadband satellite, curse the the extortionate rates! (captive audience, remember this is an island) The same can be said for most of the prices, compared to the mainland an extra 50%, but compared to home the paradise premium is fine.
I spent the
days scuba diving, visibility of 20m on half my dives, lovely coral, and vivid reef life. I saw my first turtle on my 23rd dive (I've made 23 dives in total now). Small sharks, barracuda, nudibranchs, sea-slugs, butterfly fish and rabbit fish were all common on most of the dives. The reef was a mixture of soft and hard corals, one wreck dive, and one boulder field. My favourite dive was Temple, I dove twice on this location and the second dive (the one with the turtle) rates as my second best ever, the dive-masters were of similar opinions.
Underwater no one can hear you scream. They can however hear you tapping on your tank, which is how you gain attention if something spectacular comes along, such as a large green turtle, a school of barracuda or a black tipped reef shark briefly appears out of the blue.
After a week and the advancing of the monsoon, the dive shops were to close in another week, I decided to head on. As the boat pulled away from the island a rarely experienced feeling of sadness descended on me, I can see how people stay for 6 months a
year. I'd said goodbye to a place that I could have stayed at much longer, friends that I'd made on the island and Dawn who I'd met in Kuala Lumpur - nearly two weeks of company from the same person. The good news is that several of them are heading to the Gilli Islands (near Bali) and I'm heading that way as well.
A few specific details: I dived with Sunlight Divers
run by Sunny, what impressed me when talking to a few dive shops, was the attention to safety, conservation of the reef and the friendliness of the staff. I stayed at Moonlight Shallets, ate at Moonlight Shallets and pretty much hung out there when I wasn't under the water or exploring the little island. At night BuBu's (the only “resort” on the island) blasted out music until 1am - those that would prefer not to have this disturbance should look at Coral Bay, a 10min walk from Long Beach and another league quieter.
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