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Malaysia forum

Perhentian islands and Taman Negara in late Sept - Oct

Posted by gilrand on 27/7/2009 at 18:50


I've gathered that North-East monsoon begins in the east coast of peninsular Malaysia in late October - November. The rainfall begins to increase already in September or earlier.

Does anyone have any good information on if it still is alright to visit east coast and Taman Negara in late September or during October, propably in October in my case? I've read that MOST (not all?) resorts and guesthouses close their doors in Perhentian Islands in the end of October so at least in theory the weather should be tolerable and it shouldn't be so crowded as I think october is already off-season there.

Also does anyone know how El Nino, which is supposed to occur this year, affects on North-East monsoon?

Did I already answer my own question? Does anyone have first hand or reliable second hand information on this? :)

Thanks a ton in advance!


#1 gilrand has been a member since 8/6/2009. Posts: 15

Posted by BruceMoon on 28/7/2009 at 15:00


Aside from your question regarding monsoon & Perhentians, the question you might like to ask yourself is

"why do I want to go to the Perhentians?

Is it to merely see the islands, or something else?

If it is to see/do something else, and that involves a clear blue ocean, then despite what you intend, November being part of the monsoon season, will have you there in an ocean that can only be described as a thick soup.

I suggest water quality for swimming will be poor, water visibility almost next to nothing, and Perhentian 'enjoyment' very limited.

- - -

El Nino is a term to describe the traction patterns of the Southern Oscillation (of the southern Pacific Ocean). El Nino has a very marginal impact on the rainfall patterns of the South China Sea at the equatorial zone.

- - -

I visited Taman Negara in mid-November (a couple of years ago). yes, it was wet. yes, it had leeches. yes, the paths were sodden and slippery clay-filled tracks. But, the river was stunning, the vegetation was 'in full bloom', and I loved every minute of it.


#2 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by gilrand on 28/7/2009 at 18:43

Thank you for your reply BruceMoon,

and yes, I was thinking of swimming or diving there and generally see the islands as I've heard some good things about them. I see that you mention November having poor water quality, how about late September or October? Same thing?

I have planned my trip this far counting on seeing East Coast of Thai-Malay Peninsula, including Perhentian islands, before North-East monsoon and then crossing to western Coast. It's not too late to change the plans tho if it seems bad idea to go there at that time of the year.

I got the basics of El Nino/La Nina. The El Nino thing just crossed my mind as I read news about it most likely occuring this year and how it affected air quality in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand last time the phenomenon was severe as rains were not suffient enough to extinguish wildfires, fires from slash and burn agriculture etc there.

I'm not afraid of getting wet and as a forestry student Taman Negara will regardless be on my trip plan! :)



#3 gilrand has been a member since 8/6/2009. Posts: 15

Posted by BruceMoon on 29/7/2009 at 08:18


The Perhentian islands are 'sold' by Malaysia as a tourist destination. Thailand has its own 'set' of tourist destination islands - as do most tropical ocean fronting nations.

The Perhentians are on the banana pancake trail (look here), and so get a big rap.

There are heaps of other islands that have much to offer (they just don't always have the banana pancake hangouts).

Just because a set of islands is described in colourful terms in the marketing literature, doesn't ensure that you will experience the depictions in the literature.

A visit to an island or beach on a day when the water is crystal clear and the sun lovely and warm is just great. And, it happens. When it is windy and/or the water clarity is yuk it doesn't quite make it for me.

With this in mind, rather than get statements from people who have been to an island or beach on a 'perfect' day and wax lyrical, work out the environmental characteristics of the locations you may be visiting, and then consider the weather situation.

As the islands in SE ASia are located in the tropical region, all will be exposed to sedimentary inflows (that is, the silt waste from rivers). In the wet season, and for some time thereafter, the river discharges will produce tons of sediment that will permanently 'cloud' all islands. Those close to the mainland (and close to river flows) will experience the sediment impact for longer than those way off the mainland.

Later, when the weather produces warm sunny windless days, and the wave action becomes minimal, these sediments will subside and settle into the top sand layer.

Another 'aspect' is that wind also stirs up waves, that stir up the sediment. Even in the 'good' season, there can be continuous days of wind such that water visibility can lessen.

The Perhentian (and other) Islands are close to the mainland, and the winds are not reduced by other attributes - such as the Gulf of Thailand for the more northern Thai islands.

The 'prime season for the Malaysian west coast islands is May to end September. October can be iffy. November sees most island accommodation, and boat transport close down.

I suppose the deciding issue will be whether you have ever been snorkelling in tropical waters. If not, then the appeal of same may be so overwhelming that you can't resist.

It is possible that in early October, the waters might still be OK, but that may be tempting fate.

If the cost of travelling out to the Perhentians is somewhat of an issue, then that makes for a simpler decision.

Personally, I wouldn't entertain scheduling a visit to the Perhentians after end September.

- - - -

El Nino...

You wrote...

"I got the basics of El Nino/La Nina. The El Nino thing just crossed my mind as I read news about it most likely occuring this year and how it affected air quality in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand last time the phenomenon was severe as rains were not suffient enough to extinguish wildfires, fires from slash and burn agriculture etc there."

El Nino - La Nina really doesn't affect Malaysia at all.

The term El Nino (or Christ Child) refers to the rains that lash the coast of Peru around Christmas - in some years.

Scientists discovered that there is a big circular flow of ocean water along the south side of the equator across to New Guinea, down the Australian east coast and to Antarctica. From there, the water moves eastwards and travels alongside the Sth American continent to then travel westwards along the south side of the equator...

This water flow pattern is termed Southern Oscillation, and it transfers solar heat from the equatorial region to the lower parts of the globe. The term is now often called ENSO (El Nino - Southern Oscillation). Ordinarily, the flow is motivated by the Coroilis impact (look here).

This pattern brings cold dry air to the west coast of Sth America, and warm moist air to Australia.

Scientists have noted that on occasions, the Southern Oscillation splits into two systems, centred on or around Tahiti / Fiji. From Sth America, the westwards oceanic drift turns south at about Fiji, and travels south-east to the foot of Chile, where it then turns north. Without prolonged exposure to Antarctic extremes, the waters are warmer as they travel past Peru and the coastal winds bring rain to Peru (and the sardine flows fail to appear).

For Australia, with less equatorial heat the oceanic waters are cooler, and the rains diminish and drought occurs.

Malaysia and Thailand are more susceptible to the Walker Circulation (a similar oceanic circulation in the Indian Ocean and incorporating the Humboldt flow).

While some scientists point to a weak correlation between the Walker Circulation and the Southern Oscillation, this proposition has not been conclusively accepted.

- - - -

Most of the smoke you'll experience in Malaysia will be from Kalimantan (Indonesia). Yes, until the monsoons kick in, Malaysian skies will be quite smoky. There's little to worry about as it's not at ground level.

- - -

Hope this helps.


#4 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by gilrand on 29/7/2009 at 22:38

Thanks again for your input, very good information and advice!

I agree that Perhentians are pretty well marketed, as seem to be most of the Peninsular Malaysias few islands. A while ago I read an article about Perhentians on some random finnish travel magazine. They described it as serene place with much less tourists and travellers than most of the islands/places of the region.

I don't know if the article gives true picture of the islands, propably on a sunny and calm day yes. The Perhentians just were on the route I had visioned and according to the article they seemed neat.

I had considered the monsoon season with the information I had before as I stated in the first post. I really hadn't understood to think about the effects of river discharge or wind but thanks to you now I know and can take them into consideration (as well as any other climatic factors that I know of).

The problem is I can't seem to find very much information on independently traveling in Malaysia, there are some pages but usually they are not very comprehensive. I have yet to find a good forum on traveling in Malaysia, this is the best I have come up with. Advice on this is also appreciated! Of course there are travel guides which mostly seem to cover the banana pancake trail (Lonely Planets South-East Asia on a shoestring, which I got as it covers whole region, seems to be very narrow on Malaysia).

I have only very rough plans for my trip (approximate route and some "must see" destinations for first timers in the region) and thus very loose timetable so I have time to get "off the beaten path" which I will, while I don't detest more touristy places either.

I really can't decide now whether I'm going to the Perhentians or not. Will have to see it en route as then I will know for certain the exact timing of supposed arrival to there.

Thanks for the banana pancake trail article link aswell!


Bzz, second time I wrote this post as I got logged out while writing the first one.

#5 gilrand has been a member since 8/6/2009. Posts: 15

Posted by BruceMoon on 30/7/2009 at 05:25


I know how you feel - one writes, goes to post and zippo, it's gone. It'd be nicer if one could hit the back button and it was all there. But, alas.

I've learnt that before I post, I copy (ie. CTRL + C ). That way, if I'm overtime and automatically logged out, I haven't lost anything.

- - -

I agree re: info on Malaysia.

Malaysia appears to have a series of tourist 'places' (ie. Lankawi, Genting, Bukit Fraser, Perhentians, etc.) where the big companies have their 'resorts' and are the focus of the tourism marketing 'machine'.

The remainder 'places' appear to be considered off the tourist 'trail' and so neither have a good range of tourist options, nor do the local administrations appear interested in seeking tourists for local business. In fact, when one travels the west coast, many locals (esp. the Pakistani immigrant workers) view tourists as Infadels - and treat them accordingly.


#6 BruceMoon has been a member since 27/12/2008. Location: Australia. Posts: 1,941

Posted by skwek1 on 15/7/2011 at 03:25

Hi Gilrand,
We are thinking about doing the same thing- going to the Perhentian islands the first two weeks of Oct and staying at Coral view this year 2011. So how was your experience about the weather and maybe where you had stayed during the same month in 2009?

#7 skwek1 has been a member since 14/7/2011. Posts: 1

Posted by tezza on 13/8/2011 at 17:30

I have just revisited the Perhentians (both) and also did Redang, Kapas, Sibu and revisited Tioman.
Although I thought Kapas blew the others away, there is nothing wrong with the Perhentians. Still nice islands, still worth visiting.

As to an October visit - if I really really wanted to visit the Perhentians I would not hesitate.
Some resorts stay open all year - such as Senja Bay resort (budget/flashpacker) which is on Kecil's Coral Bay - sheltered from the NE monsoon. Pretty okay resort - I stayed there this latest visit.

The islands have a pretty big local population as anyone who has visited the village will attest, so there will always be transport. Sure in really really rough patches the boats may stop for a day or two - so don't run too tight an itinerary.

In regard to really really rough patches, Rose at Qimy Chalets on Kapas which is only 30-40km away (Qimy also stays open) told me December is the one most likely to produce this - she said there are plenty of nice sunny days in wet season.

#8 tezza has been a member since 13/4/2006. Posts: 1,344

Posted by savorygal on 14/8/2011 at 08:14

I just came from the perhentians & while there was no "monsoon" it did rain most every evening & the diving visibility was very poor. one dive was like diving in soup. the islands are also very sleepy. i mean really quiet. so if you are a solo traveler the chances of you meeting any other travelers is quite slim. I saw mostly families & honeymooners.

That being said, i enjoyed myself & they are quite lovely: white sand, blue water, beautiful terrain.

Keep in mind there are NO ATMs & very limited internet. so bring plenty of cash.

if it's diving you are after, i would head to indonesia.

#9 savorygal has been a member since 16/7/2010. Posts: 168
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Posted by tezza on 14/8/2011 at 09:51

That's interesting - I was there in late June/early July and things were also pretty quiet, on both islands (although there were still plenty of chances of meeting other travellers).
Yet a friend later emailed me and said late July had few vacancies on Kecil. Maybe a short term spike in visitors.

#10 tezza has been a member since 13/4/2006. Posts: 1,344

Posted by ScubaDutch on 12/8/2015 at 12:23

Perhentian is still nice and good fun to go too. Although the visibility is not great outside of the peak season (March, April, September and October) it's still worth checking out. Expect visibility between the 5 and 10 meters. Also depends of the moon and the tide. Because there are some rivers close by there is a chance that the rain will drag some sediment into the sea.

Perhentian Kecil (the small island) is still good fun for backpackers and the large island more for families.

In case anyone has questions about diving in the Perhentians or the nearby islands, check our website at for the latest updates.

Last but not least, there are other dive options in East Malaysia (Borneo) during the East Coast monsoon in the peninsular. Never ever bother going to the west coast of the peninsular if you have the choice, diving is not that great.

Cheers from your friends from ScubaDutch.

#11 ScubaDutch has been a member since 12/8/2015. Location: Malaysia. Posts: 3
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