When planning our trip from point A to point B, and so forth, I knew point Z would have to be a primo beach somewhere. I decided that the Perhenthian Islands, off the northeast coast of Malaysia, would be the ticket. Its famed pristine waters and out of the way vibe fulfill most people’s idea of paradise. Getting there first involves a flight or drive from a major Malaysian city to Kota Bharu, a regional hub. Then a considerable drive takes one to the port town of Kuala Besut, followed by an hour long speed boat ride. We stayed on the larger island, Besar, at Tuna Bay Resort. Despite its excellent rating on TripAdvisor, TB was a rather basic joint, but any place would be overshadowed given the ubiquitous presence of the stunning local super star, the Perhenthian water.
Our bungalow was just steps from the beach, where we spent most of our days, in and out of the water. This was one dang good beach. Nothing like having a huge sandbox of perfect sand, warm, clean, calm water, and a few trees to climb. Mother Nature’s ideal playground.
There were docks to swim out to, which served as a fun challenge for the kids. Out there, tons of fish would hang out. We came to realize the occasional tourist would feed them bread, something we definitely had mixed feelings about. Nevertheless, it was wonderful for the kids to dive into the water amongst such a variety of fish. Even the surrounding coral was mostly alive and thriving. We were blessed to see bright orange anemones performing their wavy dance with clown fish and lots of ultra sensitive giant clams in radiant blues and purples. Also during our swims, Chris got inked by a small octopus and I laid eyes upon my very first blacktip reef shark.
When one stays on an remote island, checking out the other beaches is a requisite pastime. I mean, what else is there to do? The tracks around Besar provide some adventurous jungle hiking. For the kids, the trail south from our beach to KK Bay was lovely, with stairs leading to a pretty cement walkway overlooking the sea.
We found KK Bay to be one of our favorite spots. The huge granite boulders provided the perfect backdrop to the endless blues and teals of the delicately undulating water.
It was here, in this little sparkling corner of the world, that we celebrated Mathilda’s fourth birthday. Tuna Bay arranged for a chocolate cake to be boated in, and we opened presents in our cozy bungalow.
Mathilda spent most of her third year as petite nomad, experiencing this big world, its animals, people and environment in ways she may or may not remember. Regardless, she is poised to know the limitless possibilities of joy, beauty, courage, and wonderment that only a trip of this magnitude could instill.
Our last afternoon on Pulau Perhenthian Besar was spent at Turtle Bay, a secluded, undeveloped beach with a protected turtle hatchery. Though only a 15 minute dinghy ride from Tuna Bay, Turtle Bay seemed as isolated as the moon. Once in a lifetime, everyone should seek out an isolated beach only accessible by boat. If you have not let go yet, this will do it.
It was so quiet there, even a butterfly landed on Merle’s bum.
There seems to always be a German tourist in the most unlikely places. Luckily, one showed up just when we needed him to take one of our final family pics of the trip.
So many photo ops on an island getaway, right? The Taiwanese were particularly smitten with Mathilda. She obliged, perhaps knowing her days as a little blonde celebrity were numbered. This is not the only selfie a stranger has taken with one of the kids over the course of our ten month trip. (Another traveling family we know started charging for pics with their blondies–way to turn an annoyance into a side job.)
Beach trips always come to an end too quickly. Before we knew it, we were on the road (in this case, tarmac) again, pressing forward towards home. On the way, we had one last jaunt in Kuala Lumpur followed by amazing Tokyo. Stay tuned!