Malaysia, Perhentian Islands - Paradise!
Mar 27, 2005
|Monday 27th March
Caught a taxi to the ferry that took us to the Perhentian islands. Traveling in Malaysia is much harder than in Thailand. Getting from A to B is never straight-forward here. Perhaps this is why there are less tourists here!
When we arrived at the ferry, there were 2 choices: the fast boat, which takes about 30 minutes, and the slow boat, which they said takes about 1 ½ hours. They recommended the slow boat because it was about to leave immediately, and the fast boat wasn't leaving for another hour or so, so we took the slow boat. It was a small old fishing boat, and they crammed about 50 people on it. There were people everywhere! People had to sit on the side of the boat, on the roof, everywhere! We sat near the back near the 'toilet' which was just a hole in the deck with a single wall to protect your modesty. Luckily no-one used it. I had visions of us having to swim!
The slow boat was very slow. It took 3 hours to get to our destination, and the fast boat passed us half way! I'm not a big fan of boats, especially small, slow ones. When we arrived in the islands, little taxi boats came to the big boat to ferry people on and off. So there was no way to get to land with out getting your feet wet.
After finally being dropped off at main beach on Besar we perused all the available accommodation. Most are much of the same with only one place having air con which seemed to mean they could charge 100s more then the others. So we decided to give one night a go with no air con and chose The Reef. Although not the cheapest it is the best positioned bungalow closest to the beach, so from the balcony we have a lovely view of the sea and the island next door (see pic). We were yet to discover that we had no hot water, ahh.
Some of the local wildlife decided to greet us upon our arrival. A lovely BIIG monitor was meandering around just outside our bungalow (see pic). Unfortunately our attention seemed to scare it and it started to run away so we left it alone.
Tuesday 28th March
The Perhentian Islands are made up of two islands: Kecil and Besar. We chose to stay on Besar (the big island) as it is not as busy as Kecil, hence less backpackers (noisy young people, yes we are getting old!). The main mode of transportation is taxi boat to get around, both to the other island and other beaches on Besar. We thought we would start off by visiting the village on Kecil, we can see it from our beach and there are a few buildings that look large and new so maybe some decent internet, shopping, ATM.....
Well looks can be deceiving! This really is a village, after stepping off the taxi boat and wondering a very short distance down the main road into the village - which is sand and dirt we were greeted by a wandering herd of sheep. Just like home.. (or so you Aussies would like to believe). They didn't seem too keen on being patted and I think I got a telling off from one of the mommy sheep when I was trying to lay my hands on a little black lamb.
We headed back to the road the runs along the water front, again a sand road. One side is made up of shops, mainly little dairy's / milk bars, and a restaurant, along the other side the locals were preparing fishy things.
[WC] We looked around for internet and/or an ATM pretty quickly, as the village wasn't quite as high-tech as we'd imagined. The sheep gave it away. We found a mother cat with three kittens though, which were very cute, so we played with them a bit. All the cats here (like Thailand) seem to be strays. The mother cat had ringworm or tapeworm or some kind of worm that had caused her to lose clumps of hair. So we decided to feed the animals! We bought bread for the sheep, and a tin of tuna for the cats. After feeding the sheep, they followed Katrina around like she was the pied piper of sheep. The cats loved the tuna.
There is quite a bit of other exotic wildlife on the Perhentian islands. We also saw some monkeys. We're not sure what breed they are, but they have big eyes, and are kind of funny looking. They are quite afraid of humans so I couldn't get a very good shot of them (see pic). There are also flying foxes, which are big squirrel-looking things that hang on tree trunks during the day looking dopey. There is a cricket that makes a continuous high-pitched squealing noise, like a rusty wheel that needs oiling. And this is just what's above the water.
For some time I've been thinking about doing a scuba-diving course and we had a look on the island. We found one that looked good and did the PADI open-water certification for 850 ringit (less than $300 aud), which is at least half the price of doing it in NZ. Somehow I convinced Katrina to do it too and we were enrolled later that day, to begin tomorrow.
Day 1. Weds 30th March
Our instructor is a Swiss guy called Yeron. He is here on holiday with his family and he's mates with the guy that owns the dive shop. They were quite busy, so he was pulled out of his holiday for a few days to be our instructor, for our small class of 2. He usually dives in lake Geneva in Switzerland. He also speaks French, German, Italian (and English of course)! Interesting guy.
We were given theory books and homework which we'd done the night before. Yeron took us straight into the water with our scuba gear, and told us we were going to do some exercises, where we pulled the regulator out of our mouths underwater, and also flooded our masks with water and cleared them. This freaked Katrina out a bit as she was still grasping the concept of breathing underwater! The second part of the dive was more fun, we cruised around the beach just outside the dive centre, where there is heaps of coral. We saw heaps of nemo fish (clownfish), hiding in their anemonies, rushing out at you when you get close. There were plenty of parrot fish, flapping their 'wings' underwater to propel themselves. There were millions of smaller stripy fish. It was amazing!
Day 2. Thurs 31st March
Finished the theory today (yay!). Did heaps of work the previous night. Learnt how to use dive tables, and about the joys of decompression sickness and lung over-expansion (both very bad things!). Did another dive from the beach outside the dive centre, more of the same, went to about 3m in depth (not very deep!). Katrina was still unsure about carrying on. She was just starting to catch a cold that I was just recovering from, which didn't make it easier. Yeron was confident that she should continue though, and said it just takes time to build confidence, and about the cold he said 'just try and see'.
Day 3. Fri 1st April
Did 2 dives from a boat today in deeper water. Went down to about 12 metres at a dive site just off the other island called D'Lagoon. Saw a napoleon fish (huge!), a stingray, a squid, squillions of nemo fish, giant clams, trigger fish, etc.etc. Katrina still had a bit of trouble getting into the water, but was much better by the end of the day. We really enjoyed this day as we were both getting the hang of it.
Day 4. Sat 2nd April
2 boat dives again. Did some more exercises, and Katrina descended by herself. Katrina's cold was worse so the instructor excused her from some of the exercises. I practiced (at depth) taking out the regulator and replacing it, taking the mask off completely underwater (which isn't a nice feeling!), and buddy breathing (where 2 divers share the same regulator). Went down to about 16 metres today, which doesn't sound very deep, but when you look up and can't see the surface, and have nearly 3 atmospheres of pressure on you, it feels pretty deep!
At the end of the day, we had passed!! Yeron signed our certificate for us (see pic), so we're now both PADI open water certified. This means we can go diving together, without an instructor or divemaster present. It also means we can go and catch crayfish in NZ (yum!). Technically Katrina didn't fully complete the course because she didn't do all the exercises, like when you take off your mask underwater. Yeron I think wanted to get back to his holiday at that stage, so he passed her anyway. He said that we should practice those exercises next time we go diving, but not in the bath tub
Diving really is an amazing thing to do, I'd recommend it to anyone who hasn't tried it. It really is a different world under the water, especially around coral reefs, it's teeming with different types of fish and animals on and around the coral. If you go snorkeling you can see a lot of it, but I reckon diving is twice as good. You can stay down for ages, and just sit and watch, and you can get closer to everything. Yeron has given us a website of his where he has posted some pictures from his dives around these islands. I will get some pics off this and post them.
Sammy the lizard
We found a tiny lizard on our mosquito net one night. His name is Sammy. See pics. Sammy is a very strange breed, he's kinda like the geckos that are everywhere, except he's smaller, and has patchy camouflage-like colouring. He is very friendly and doesn't try to run away too. In fact he doesn't really move at all!! We could walk all over the island, with him on our hand or shoulder. We kept him as a pet for 5 days, and when we went to sleep, or went diving, we just put him back on the mosquito net. When we got back he was always in the same spot, just hanging out. We were worried he was hungry so we caught him several mosquitoes (see pic). In the five days we had him as a pet, he only ate one that fed him. It was very sad to say goodbye to Sammy . We left him on a hidden ledge in the roof of the front porch. He's probably still sitting there
Btw there are LOTS of mosquitoes on Perhentian islands. One day I kept all the ones I killed (for Sammy), and counted them. In just over half an hour there were 50.