As we’ve been teetering on the edge of monsoon season here, which apparently lasts up to 3-4 months and is marked by non-stop daily rainfall, we decided to take the opportunity and pack our bags for a Malaysian island getaway. Being so close to some of the best islands and beaches in Southeast Asia made this trip a sin not to take, especially seeing as most resorts are now starting to shut down for the season. Perhentian Islands, comprising of 2 beautiful islands, always seemed to make an appearance on the “Top Malaysian Islands” lists on virtually every travel source I looked up, due to its white sand beaches, crystal blue waters, and renowned snorkeling and diving opportunities. Although a backpacker’s heaven for its budget-friendly accommodations (unsuitable for the luxury-inclined), Perhentian is far less touristy than some of the other frequented islands, which of course equals that “I’m so cool for being on an exclusive, top secret, gem of an island” type feeling.
Although I learned swimming as a kid, I’ve somehow managed to stay away from most forms of water sports most of my life due to a self-admitted fear of drowning. Seriously, even kiddie pools used to come with visions of a series of unfortunate events leading to an eventual and unavoidable demise at the hands of water. When I say that I learned swimming in my childhood, more accurately this can be described as pretending to swim whilst keeping my feet firmly planted in the shallow end, forever and embarrassingly unable to move past the tadpole level of any swimming class (this is pretty much pre-beginner level). I used to tell everyone that swimming was my favorite activity and being a Pisces, it made logical sense for me to love the water – duh, my star sign told me so. After a few seemingly life-threatening (but not really) incidents in the deep end, I sadly and prematurely ended my swimming career and instead longingly watched others effortlessly glide through water as I once pretended to do. I could have been an Olympian swimmer in the making, we will never know.
As the years went on, my fear of the deep blue grew, all the while being continually drawn to bodies of water and wishing I could enjoy them like most self-adjusted, phobia-free individuals. This didn’t stop me from taking lovely beach vacations in St. Lucia and Thailand, as well getting into canoes, kayaks, and sea-doos, whenever the opportunity arose.. albeit anxiously. Moving to Malaysia was a blessing in the sense that it made me promise myself to get over my silly fear of water once and for all, because really, how else am I going to take full advantage of the tropical weather and beautiful beaches? I had plenty of time to myself at a beach resort I was staying at all summer whilst waiting to move into our house, so I managed to re-teach myself how to float, with assistance, and then proceeded to just somehow progress to swimming on my own – no lessons needed! I’m not a great swimmer by any means, but if I am ever in another kayak that capsizes due to a strong wave or a powerful whale (believe what you will, I’m sticking with the whale story), I’m pretty confident that it won’t just be a life jacket that’s able to save me. And that’s a great feeling. Hooray!
Being able to actually enjoy the water rather than just wade around in it was wonderful, and I totally get why people flock to beaches now. Okay, I always got it but it made me feel better to believe that they couldn’t be having that much fun! Silly people, it’s more fun to just sit under a palm tree and read. Wrong. What was even better, though, was snorkeling for the first time. My mind played a remix of Aladdin’s “A Whole New World” and The Little Mermaid’s “Under the Sea” while in the awe-inspiring presence of the most enchanting species of fish of all shapes, sizes, and colors scurrying around beautiful coral reefs (including Nemo, which my husband was so bent on finding). There exists a quality so serene, so calming that is found in the quiet beneath the sea’s surface that the feeling that kept coming up for me was sheer gratitude. If only I had an underwater camera to capture the magic, but for that, there is always next time!