The Perhentians: Paradise islands in Malaysia
SWIMMING here is like pushing my arms through liquid glass, the pale green glass of old-fashioned milk bottles. When I tip back my head the water disappears to be replaced by an endless blue and a shadowy half moon.
Even further back and the green heads of palm trees appear like spiders on long stalks. Then the water enters my peripheral vision again. The temperature of the water is like a tepid bath; and like a warm bath near to the hot sand.
This is Long Beach on Perhentian Kecil, part of the Perhentian Islands off the east coast of Malaysia, and it’s a tropical island paradise of blue sea and jungle fringing arcs of soft white sand.
Where the beach curves away from me an appealingly shaped fishing boat has beached, part of a fleet of colourful fishing boats at anchor. A fisherman sits repairing his nets, his head bent to the task and covered with a broad straw hat.
Bamboo thatch huts peer through the trees beyond the sand and nearby local boys are playing visitors at beach volleyball. A backpacker pulls out her long, fluttering pois and instantly has an audience.
The Perhentian Islands are a great place to dive. There are a number of dive schools where you can gain your open water certificate and experience dive sites like the Temple of the Sea.
Here a wall has amethyst-coloured coral protruding like wounds from the rock and a giant moray bares his teeth from inside a cave.
Swirling anemones ripple upwards to reveal brilliant blue undersides and schools of yellow spotted Trevally shimmer past in a mist of gold.
Up a jungle path from Long Beach is a banana plantation, starred with flowers and gleaming lime green against the dark forest.
The path leads right across the island to a small beach with just one beach restaurant. The sun sets in an apricot-coloured tropical haze and I find that my journal is irrecoverably filled with sand.