Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tuna Bay Island Resort @ Pulau Perhentian, Malaysia

Lying approximately 20km off the northeast coast of Terengganu, Pulau Perhentian consists of 2 islands (Perhentian Besar and Perhentian Kecil) and is a haven for beach lovers who return regularly to enjoy its soft sandy beaches and laid back lifestyle.

The island has seen rapid development over the years with numerous resorts nestled among lush greenery all around the island. And although some of these resorts do lack in creating a sense of “paradise” for visitors, there are a handful which stand out from the rest, Tuna Bay being one such example.

The Tuna Bay Island Resort is located on the south west coast of Pulau Perhentian Besar and shares a stretch of beach with Mama Place, New Cocohut, ABC Chalet and Abdul Chalet (All of which are budget resorts). As congested as it may sound, Tuna Bay’s beach front still remains relatively private and the mentioned resorts surrounding Tuna Bay only accommodate a limited amount of visitors at any one time. Based on our experience, Tuna Bay probably stands above pretty much every resort around the 2 islands, even compared to the more expensive Perhentian Island Resort (However, Perhentian Island Resort does arguably have the nicest private stretch of beach in Pulau Perhentian)

With rooms from RM220 onwards or with various packages as an option, a stay with Tuna Bay is reasonably easy on the wallet as well. Ours was a 4 days, 3 night package which included boat transport services to and from the island, 4 meals a day, and 2 snorkeling trips. All within the region of RM800 per person including transport to the jetty.

The Tuna Bay experience begins the moment you set foot off the boat. Your arrival is greeted with warm smiles from the friendly staff and a nice cool welcome drink.

The footprints in the sand leading to the resort entrance urge you to follow them and walk up the steps leading to the reception area, where the warm wooden architecture provides a welcome shade. You walk in, sip on your welcome drink, turn around and then realize the breathtaking view of the South China Sea from the resort. You smile to yourself. Euphoria then starts to set in as the clear blue water shimmers under the sun light, the sound of gentle waves that wash corals and sea shells onto the soft bed of sand where deckchairs and umbrellas call out to you, inviting you to get a glass of Orange Juice, lay back and just chill out.
And then it hits you… that you have just set foot in paradise.

The cemented walkways leading to the chalets are intertwined, lined with sand and plants, with coconut trees that shade you as you slowly look for the chalet entrance with a room number to match the one on the wooden piece attached to the key you’re holding.

The key opens a sliding glass door, shaded by thick curtains on the inside which although do maintain privacy, really do not provide much sense of security. Fortunately, it isn’t something that plays on your mind too much.

The rooms are nicely sized, clean and exceptionally well kept, the bed has a nice premium touch reminiscent of more expensive hotels, the wooden flooring is solid and easy on the feet and everything works together to provide a nice sense of coziness. You basically get everything you’ll ever need in a room for a genuine island getaway. Unfortunately the rooms have rather thin walls so it’s best to hope that your neighbours don’t get too noisy for whatever the reason and the bathrooms are just average with room for improvement.

Fortunately, island getaways involve you spending more time on the beach than in the room, and that’s what exactly you should be doing.

The mid day sun does get slightly intense and is ideal for those looking for a good tan, but if you’re not a sun lover, then the trees and umbrellas will provide a welcome shade with deckchairs to kick back and relax on that are well made and in abundance.

Walking by the beach is no doubt relaxing as well, but the waves wash small corals and shells ashore which might be a little rough on the feet, depending on which part of the beach you walk on.

If for some reason you get tired of lazing on the beach (like that’s gonna happen), snorkeling is of course a highlight in Pulau Perhentian. And Tuna Bay has a good stretch of corals within 20m from the beach! If you’ve never hand fed a fish before, then make sure to bring some bread as you’ll find the fish that consider this stretch of corals home aren’t shy when it comes to getting close to humans for food!

There’s also a host of island hopping, jungle trekking, snorkeling and diving trips that can be comprehensively arranged at the in-house recreation centre.

These snorkeling trips bring you to some really good spots around the 2 islands, whiles the diving sites in Pulau Perhentian are among the best in the world. There are also some other dive centres flanking the resort which provide such services.

* Always be cautious when catching a public water taxi or accepting boat trips run by the locals, always ask the resorts’ advice when taking up such offers.

As mentioned earlier, the package we took up included 4 meals a day, and these 4 meals were absolutely fantastic!

Breakfast is served ala buffet, lunch includes 3 dishes with rice, local snacks and coffee/tea are served in the evening, and yet another 3-4 dish meals with rice including everything from fresh steamed fish, to fried calamari, to curry chicken are served for dinner. And yes, these meals are REALLY GOOD and worth looking forward to after a day on the beach. If that’s not enough then there’s a barbecue and grill section open during dinner time with a host of sumptuous items on the menu to spoil you for choice. An Ala carte menu is also available throughout the day so at Tuna Bay, you’ll never get hungry.

Tuna Bay’s aura of Paradise is even more evident at night.

Dining tables are lit with candle lights and the Tuna cafĂ© area is lit up with a warm orange glow. The South China Sea is now dark and sits under a blanket of stars, making it a very, very nice place to be. And if you think that there’s nothing like a good cocktail by the beach, head on over to the Tuna Club.

With its wide range of beverages and cocktails mixed exceptionally and consistently well by an experienced barman, the Tuna Club is the perfect place to relax and socialize with fellow guests. There’s even Satellite TV available so you can catch your favourite sporting action, whiles sipping on a Pina Colada, by the beach!

Not something you get to do everyday!

If you want to take a night walk on the beach, there’s a jetty within walking distance which is accessible even at night and is apparently a good place to spot different varieties of marine life, even squids!

We managed to spot some interesting looking fish and crabs, but had no luck looking for squids.

As nice as it may sound, we have to admit that reality does take a few bites and there are certain aspects which might prove to be annoying to some:

1) The official check-in time at 2pm doesn’t work too well with the boat transfer schedules from the mainland jetty to the island. Depending on your luck (and resort occupancy), you might have to do quite a bit of waiting before you actually get the keys to your room.

2) The bus services to the jetty on the mainland are absolutely out of sync with the boat schedules and involve a lot of waiting.

3) The deckchairs on the beach are sometimes insufficient during peak occupancy periods.

4) Some rooms are located near the generator towards the rear of the resort which does make a notable amount of noise.

5) Electricity is turned off and on again in the afternoon for power saving purposes. So if you’ve left your air-cond turned on during lunch, you’ll probably return to find it turned off. However it is one of the few resorts which provides 24 hours of electricity.

Currently, Pulau Perhenetian still remains relatively free from the clutches of commercialization and retains its more “natural” charm as compared to some of the more developed islands in Malaysia. Tuna Bay also seems to have successfully adhered to that persona, offering a very simple yet relaxing experience at very attractive prices, as opposed to 5-Star luxury beach hotels which to a certain extent, defeat the purpose of an island getaway. But of course there are even better resorts with even nicer beaches… However, considering the price range, very few come close to what Tuna Bay has to offer.

As with everything, it all comes down to individual preferences. And if you want a memorable, intimate island holiday without having to come back and face the reality of a significantly empty bank account, then Tuna Bay fits the bill perfectly.

Their website provides a fantastic feel of what to expect on your potential holiday there.
Head on to to see what we mean and to find everything you’ll need to know if our review has convinced you to start planning a trip there!

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