Travel Blog – Malaysia 2

21 08 2009

On our second morning on the island we decided to try this whole diving thing so arranged for myself to do a PADI refresher and Alyona to try the ‘Discover Scuba Dive’ which is supposed to be an intro for people who have never tried it before.

Unfortunately it seems that the dive station that was attached to our accommodation doesn’t really care about leisure divers (the place is filled with people doing reef checks) so the introduction was very rudimentary and lacking. It was ok for me as I had gone through this all before but looking back at it, it was a terrible introduction for Alyona where they basically just threw her in a wet suit and scuba gear and said ‘ok now we go in the water and do the 3 exercises needed for the DSD’. No explanation of breathing, what the experience would be like, easing into it or anything. In short: don’t go to ‘Tioman Dive Center’ if you ever find yourself on the island.

So diving is freaky, and without a proper introduction it proved a little too much for Alyona who decided to stop it and went back to shore. As she said, the most surprising thing is the noise: when you snorkel or swim it is almost silent, but when you dive there is a huge amount of noise from the breathing and bubbles streaming past your face.

After the exercises I got a place on the dive boat which was going out to Rengis island which was just off the coast of the large resort next door. It was a bit funny seeing all these snorkelers wearing life jackets that had been ferried out from the resort and were being babysat.

So the dive was ok, max depth 12m but the visibility wasn’t fantastic. Did get to see a turtle and a few cuttlefish (they change colour to blend with their enviornment). Also a few clown fish and other reef dwelling fish. But honestly not as good as even the snorkelling in Samoa…

For the afternoon we decided to do a bit of snorkelling and Alyona was keen on trying to get to the same spot I was diving at earlier that day to have the same experience. So, after applying a liberal amount of sunscreen and taking a little money we headed along the beach with the intent to climb around the rocks to where the resort was. We also had the fins and snorkel from the dive center as the hireage was for the day.

The rocks themselves were a bit of a mission but great fun. Reminded me a lot of clambering up the river back home as a kid. And on the other side we walked along the beach beside the resort. Hadn’t really realized how big the place was, and it kept going after we stopped opposite the island.

The first place we tried going in had way too many sea urchins so we tried right beside the jetty. This got deeper a lot quicker and there was a lot if interesting coral on the bottom. Saw a couple of baby sting rays, some clams, and a few different fish species I didn’t see earlier.

We then swam the 300m or so out to the island and then around it a bit looking at the sea life. While we might not have seen everything that was on the dive it was still really cool and was a lot more relaxing, especially given I reckon we had less than an hour before sunset. It was an amazingly beautiful scene with the setting sun over the ocean and the amazing coral underneath. No photos for the obvious reason that we were a bit wet. After resting a bit we headed back with a bit of speed to try to beat the sun.

When we finally reached shore, maybe 15 min before sunset we were greeted by a pack of about 20 monkeys going through the resort’s garbage. We picked up our stuff again and walked along the path through the resort. After sneaking a shower by their pool we stopped at one of the beach bars for a well earned cocktail. And while not exactly in singapore we did try the sling (and for NZ8 instead of NZ40). At the other end of the resort we bargained for a taxi and took the easy route home…

For dinner we tried a BBQ place down the road. Only difference from home us that instead of ordering BBQ squid, prawns and a whole fish you pick them out raw from a selection of buckets and the man on the grill will cook to order. Some tiger and wine later we headed back for the night.

As I mentioned earlier one of the activities available here is a 7km hike across the center of the island to the town of juara. Alyona’s foot was feeling much better so we decided ro risk it. The idea being that we could always turn around again if it becomes too strenuous. The turn off is about 1km north of the jetty (we being 0.5km south of it) and that walk alone in the blazing sun is a fair amount of effort. The path is a bit hard to find and turns out to be quite small and overgrown. At times the only way to figure out the direction is to look for the power lines overhead that follow it all the way. Once in the jungle (and yes, it really is tropical jungle) it is a lot cooler but gets steep very quickly. On the way up Alyona makes an interesting observation that Malaysia is the “same as the Ukraine except with palm trees, monkeys, and Asian people”.

The jungle (f8.0 1/25 24mm)

The jungle (f8.0 1/25 24mm)

The walk up is accompanied by various small lizards scurrying out of our way, a few squirrels in the tree tops and a 4 foot monitor lizard that got a bit spooked (but not before we took a few photos). The insects were interesting too and we found both huge colonies of normal ants that seemed to be migrating across the path and some solitary and huge ants that were an easy 3-4cm long.

It was a bit hard to pick between the nature shots but I think this one is the best, no cropping or anything…

Dragonfly (f4.0 1/160 105mm)

Dragonfly (f4.0 1/160 105mm)

Near the top is a small waterfall that we were looking forward to having read the guide book but it turns out really is small and a water catchment area for Tekek with signs saying keep out. Well, we didn’t, but did walk down a bit to below the catchment to refresh a bit.

At the top of the pass it flattened out and became very pleasant. With butterflies flitting about and cicadas that sounded like buzz-saws (neither of which would sit still long enough for a portrait) there was heaps to look at and before long we came to the long 4wd road down the other side.

Many jarring steps later we came to the coast on the other side for a well deserved beer and lunch. The atmosphere in Juara is very different and a lot nicer than Tekek. There are far fewer people and the focus is more on the beach than shops. We both thought that if we came back this would be a nicer area to stay in.

Juara Beach (f5.6 1/1600 105mm)

Juara Beach (f5.6 1/1600 105mm)

Fried rice being eaten we decided on going for a swim off the pier. what we didn’t think about was how we were going to get back up. Lots of trying to pull ourselves up on the ropes and being foiled by the sharp barnacles. Started getting worried for our stuff when a boat started to come in and would tie up alongside.

Of course some very intensive swimming later it turned out to be a police boat so we probably had nothing to worry about. Still, good to get a little exercise after such sedentary day I guess :-)

Some time later we negotiated for a 4wd taxi back to the other side. So for ~$15 each we got to sit on the back of a ute as it made its way up and over the very steep road. Interestingly the road was in great shape being poured concrete the whole way so it was really quite comfortable. Great fun going up the road which, while very well maintained was still definitely 4wd because of the incline.

Back of the 4WD (f4.0 1/250 24mm)

Back of the 4WD (f4.0 1/250 24mm)

Neither of us was really feeling like dinner so instead we had one last walk along the beach and swim at sunset. Got some really cool pics and there were no issues with marine life so we were safe for another day!

Sunset on the beach (f10 1/125 24mm)

Sunset on the beach (f10 1/125 24mm)

So after our last mozzy bitten night we woke up, had a quick breakfast and then caught a ‘taxi’ to the ferry. And I say ‘taxi’ even though it was more like an unorganized bus route with a few stops to pick up and drop off people along the way. The ferry trip was easy and once we were back on the mainland it was simple enough to look around at the bus companies and get a trip all the way back to Singapore for $5 each.

Travel baggage (f10 1/30 24mm)

Travel baggage (f10 1/30 24mm)

We had enough time to look around Mersing a bit and have one last Malaysian meal of crab and prawns before getting on the bus and enjoying the bumpy 4 hour ride. No complications and we arrived in Singapore after dark.




One response

22 08 2009

Can see why you found Samoa boring.

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