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Snorkelling around Tioman Island

This article is Chapter 6 in the Three Continents Overland series.
Written by Joshua Fuglsang on .

Lukas swimming in Monkey Bay

Introduction

This is an article about a snorkelling trip that I did in March 2018. I had a wonderful day out on the water seeing many different species of tropical fish, and even got to see a shark! The water was crystal clear, with more than 10 meters visibility.

Snorkelling around Tioman Island

Our day started with a 9:45am meet-up before a scheduled 10am pickup. First order of the day was to get sized up for our snorkelling gear, before jetting across the two foot swell of the South China Sea.

We arrived at a small, rocky island in the middle of the ocean with a warning from our driver not to go out too far for there is a strong current. The area immediately surround the boat was quite desolate: the coral was flattened by boat anchors and was solid white in colour. I left this area, swimming towards a protected shelf and dived through an underwater passage, which lead to the other side of the island. Victor, my french friend, followed me through. Here was a beautiful myriad of life including colourful coral and a vast array of tropical fish, such as: electric blue parrot fish; large, black spade fish; small, long nosed, and striped fish, who were intensely curious of humans and occasionally took a bite of some dead skin; and a sting ray. In the final few minutes of this first stop Lukas, an Italian man I met in Melaka, yelled out "shark", I quickly swam over to him and we trailed the 1.5 meter reef shark together. The shark had a black tip on its dorsal fin, and a long black stripe down the side of its body.

Our next stop was a beach off a nearby island with a cluster of rocks off its golden beach. On the way out to the rocks I spotted many sea cucumbers, marching their way through the desolation of the once beautiful reef. Beyond the rocks was a living patch of the previously far-grander reef. Here again was a nice collection of brightly coloured fish parrot fish; swarms of smaller wrasse fish; and groups of needlefish, or possibly half beaks. The needlefish were long, silver, fast moving, travelled in groups, and would occasionally jump out of the water. Swimming back from the island towards the beach I found a vast forrest of rolling coral hills. A lot of the coral was white, but some of it was coloured, which was good to see. On the beach were two apparent "models", according to my friends, who were wearing highly revealing swimsuits, and were posing in the water for cameras.

Our next stop was a rocky outcrop near to Monkey Bay. A few people in our group agreed that this was their favourite location of the day. Here I saw my second string ray of the day: a ray of medium size with a yellow body and covered in blue dots. It is fascinating to watch sting rays move: they sit on the ocean floor and flap their fins, kicking up a clouds of dust. The cloud is then devoured by the ray's hungry entourage of scavenger fish. Along the ocean floor in this section was a huge fishing net, draped along a field of coral. The fish were developing a community around the net, quickly integrating it in to their environment. Fortunately there wasn't too much rubbish on the ocean floor, I can recall seeing possibly three different pieces.

From here we went ashore to Salang to have our lunch. We hung out with our snorkelling group and enjoyed icecream together. In our group was a Norwegian couple celebrating their thirtieth anniversary.

The last stop of the day was the rocky headland of Monkey Bay. The coral here was in the worst condition, and the visibility was poor. I swam without flippers here for I had developed a nasty blister. Still, I ranged far on the assumption that if I covered more ground then it increased the chance that I could spot a turtle. Unfortunately I didn't get to see one, but three from our group did at some of the other swimming sites. However, I did find a sea snake. Once I found it I left quickly for I know that they can be dangerous. I spent some time at this stop hanging out with a group of false clown fish. Clown fish sit only in their anemones and are very curious of humans. I swam right up to the anemone and the clown fish came out to see what was going on. The largest clown fish swam up to me and sat just ten centimetres away from my face, which was a very special experience.

From here we returned home to Air Batang (ABC). I had developed a serious sunburn and decided to sleep for the rest of the day.

The trip cost us RM75 per person after some negotioan, or about AUD25 and lasted from 10am to about 4pm. On the boat there were six passengers plus the driver, and all of the gear was included in the service. It was a very nice day in the end, and I am very glad I attended. I think it'll be one of the highlights of Malaysia for me.

Conclusion

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