Monday, 25 June 2012

Perhentian Islands Snorkelling Tour

June 4th - June 7th, 2012


PLEASE NOTE, within this next entry:
All photos taken above the water are all Julians. 
All underwater shots I have included in this entry were taken off Google images in attempt to show you a world which is beyond my descriptive capabilities.  All said photos are taken from beneath the waters of the Perhentian Islands and are an exact representation of what I saw.  Initially I had no intention to include any photos in this blog that were not taken by Julian however I believe this to be an acceptable exception to my rule since we have no waterproof case for his EOS.  


The morning was slightly overcast and I wondered if it would make a difference to the visibility underwater.   I was both anticipating and slightly dreading the under sea experience as Julian and I met the other two guys who would be joining our group. 

The cost of our trip was RN5 less than the other full day excursions and when I saw the boat we would be taking I understood why.  The others had a stable, slightly larger boat with a sun protecting cover and ladder available for climbing in and out.  

Our boat however was a small 4-6 seater boat, usually used as a water taxi, which rocked and rolled over the waves as they passed.  There was no protection from the suns rays and there appeared to be no ladder for climbing in and out.  I raised my eyebrows at Julian who returned my gaze with a cheesy grin. 

First stop: Shark Point!  we were told.  They were not going to ease me into this slowly apparently.  I took advantage of the lifejackets that were on offer, slipped it on taking my time until our guide urged us all to hurry up.  Pretty sure my heart was left behind as I jumped out of that boat into the warm waters feeling adrenilyn with a hint to anxiety surge through me.  I hesitated looking down into the water until one of the other guys urged me to do so.

I immediately relaxed.  The colourful bed of coral lay about 3 meters below my feet; greens, browns, reds, whites, blues, purples and yellows, many different species offering various textures and sizes. Schools of gorgeously patterned tropical fish all colours of the rainbow swam below me thankfully keeping their distance unlike the ones I have encountered the day before. As the clouds parted to reveal the sun, its rays penetrated the waters illuminating the ocean floor below.  I raised my head up again to find the three guys looking at me expectantly and I nodded in satisfaction before allowing myself to temporarily become part of this underwater world.  This was all well and good for now… but the sharks have yet to make an appearance. 

I swam off into the waters in awe of what lay before me.  I truly am incapable of coming up with a descriptive paragraph to describe the beauty of this world and the emotion that comes along with it.  Feeling at ease and realizing that that there isn't as much to be scared of as I though I found myself actively seeking these vegetarian reef sharks.  Swimming amongst the coral and fish towards a shallower section of the reef my eyes scanned the ocean floor attempting to take it all on.  From the corner of my eye a swift dark shadow appeared amongst the reef.  Focusing on it I realize this was my first encounter with sharks in the wild.  I squealed with excitement trying to get Julians attention from below the surface of the water I pointed and attempted to swim after it.  The attempt was in vain of course for these fish are far more efficient underwater than I and I quickly lost sight of it. 

Swimming in the general direction of where the shark disappeared I swam over the reef until I came across a sight far more exciting than the shark.  A sea anemone swayed in the gentle current - a gorgeous white-ish predatory animal more so resembling a plant housed the colourful orange, white and black clown fish.  Not only had I found Nemo but it turns out he didn't loose all his brothers and sisters after all!  I really don't think it was the film that made this such a beautiful moment as there is something truly majestic about this sight.  Finally catching Julians attention I showed him my treasure;  having chosen not to use a life jacket he dove down to the bottom of the reef and peered closely.  Curiously, the clown fish inch out of the anemone in interest; peering directly into his goggles as he fought the rising current.  Overjoyed I ripped off the restrictive life jacket, no longer fearing this world and dove down to visit these gorgeous creatures.  Similarily as they had with Julian, they left the safety of the anemone to peer at me directly in the eyes.  We did this multiple times before hesitantly realizing that there was an entire world to explore here and our entire time should not be spent with Nemo. 

Amongst the clown fish and their anemone swam various other tropical fish amongst the garden of hard and soft coral.  A few more sharks graced us with their presence until it was time to move on to another location.  We visited 5 different locations that day hosting a slightly different variety of creatures, fish and sea gardens.  I ditched the life jacket and found that it made almost no difference in my buoyancy; the salt waters supporting my weight effortlessly as I floated on the surface, rocking and rolling over the waves, occasionally dropping down into the depths for a closer look.  

Our third stop was in slightly deeper waters which offered a difference sense of this reality; the open waters offering more intensity.  Our host scanned the depths for the highlight of this area until he spotted it and told us to quickly jump in.  Heart racing I jumped in; there was almost no coral here at all.  Across the sandy bottom a giant sea turtle grazed.  Overwhelmed with the emotion of the open waters and the beauty of this majestic creature in its natural environment was all consuming.  Floating on the surface we grew closer to the animal though a considerable distance of depth remained between us.  We swam on top of it as it walked on the sandy bottom.  Of course, being an air breathing reptile it had to come up for breath and within a few minutes the creature rose to the surface once; twice before returning to its sea bottom pastures.  We all swam fiercely for a chance to swim next to him but only one person managed to keep up.  Within a meter of the beast, Julian shared the dive back down to the ocean floor alongside it and it was then that I realized how large it really was.  Julians body giving perspective; it was almost as big as he.  I attempted to keep up a short distance behind him and dove into the depth until my ears experienced pain that I could no longer bare forcing me back up to the surface.  I was somewhat shocked at how deep Julian managed to go (Julian says "no pain, no gain" - ed)

After lunch at a small fisherman's village of locally caught seafood, rice and fruit smoothies we toured 2 more locations.  I felt comfortably at at ease now after a brief moment of feeling seasick from the constant movement.  The waves were larger now and I felt myself being lifted and dropped as I rolled over the surface.  Rhythmic breathing and the rolling of the waves allowed me to slip into sort of mediation, my visual senses overloaded with the beauty of the sea.  I swam amongst shallow reefs, diving down in between overhanging hard coral following schools of fish as they moved with the current.  

Looking over the surface briefly to clean my snorkel I noticed our group had gathered in one spot and were trying to get my attention.  I quickly swam towards them and was overcome by confusion and awe; at first I thought it was a shiver of sharks until I noticed that this was in fact a school of very large parrot fish.  Quite ugly in all honestly but their size overcame that fact as we swam with them though I didn't dare leave the surface to get closer to these things.  They covered quite a distance following the reef edge as we swam amongst them for a good 20 minutes until the boat came to fetch us to return us to the mainland. 

 Shortly after setting foot back on the land a strange feeling overcame me.  I drank an excessive amount of water to rehydrate myself from a long day in the sun, showered and we went to our favourite little cafe for a couple hours to eat, write and edit photos.  This odd sensation intensified and after a very satisfying bowl of curry my body was still not to rights.  It was then that Julian pointed out that I must be land sick after a day out on the sea when he noticed similar sensations overcoming him.  My world was swaying in my mind bringing forth an awful headache and and waves of nausea.  After returning from the toilet someone else shared our table.  He greeted me in recognition and it took me  a few moments before I realized we had already met this man - the free diver from Californnia we had met in Cherating days before.  I love running into people again while backpacking!  Unfortunately though the sea got the best of me as I retreated to my bed to both enjoy and loath this feeling with rocked me to sleep.

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