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Perhentian Paradise

by becca on April 23, 2010

We spent our final week in Southeast Asia on a fabulous stretch of beach on the smaller of the two Perhentian Islands. I tossed my shoes off the boat that ferried us to the silky sand and didn’t put them on again until we returned to the mainland. Our time there was beautiful and relaxing, plus we tossed a few dives in for good measure. Here’s a small vivid excerpt from a journal entry I wrote there:

Sitting on the front porch of our little wooden hut, set up about 40 meters from the water, I can still hear the rhythmic hum of the waves thrashing and receding against the fine white sand. Long Beach on Perhentian Kecil tops my charts for the best beach I’ve ever experienced — and after seven months in Southeast Asia that’s saying a lot. The water is turquoise with a series of white caps floating across a gentle surf and entices Nathanael and I into swimming a few times a day, splashing around like hyperactive children.

Our third day on the island, our friend Mikey, one of the South Sea Nomads from Padre Burgos, arrived to begin his forth or fifth season of working and diving on the island. Funds are pretty low (read: depleted) at this point, so we only managed to do three dives, one reef clean-up dive, specifically removing the destructive and abundant crown-of-thorns starfish, and two with Mikey at some of the best spots in the area: Temple and T3. The latter was especially dynamic, composed of giant granite boulders that resembled underwater ruins with plenty of swim-throughs and we found six different types of nudis. Between diving and snorkeling (which we did quite a bit of) we saw loads of humphead parrotfish, more blue spotted ribbon tail rays than any where we’ve been, green turtles, schools of yellow snapper, giant groupers and a lot of other tropical fish.

We spent our evenings on the beach, listening to music, smoking shisha and drinking “monkey juice” (a local whiskey called Orang utan). A big thanks to Mikey for making our last week amazing! Perhentian Kecil is truly an island paradise and there’s no better way we could have spent it.

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Mamutik Island

by nate on April 7, 2010

We arrived in Kota Kinabalu from the jungle, and had just two things on our mind; laundry, and beach. Before our arrival a nice gentlemen from Holland had mentioned a few islands were very near KK, the largest city in Borneo. In fact, he said a little Island named Mamutik was just a twenty minute boat ride away, and you could camp on the island. The travel gods were smiling upon us.

The tiny island was basically the complete opposite of any island I had recently been on. There were rules. A string of floats marked the “swimming area” with another set of floats marking the “snorkeling area” by the beach. Then there was the entire other side of the island, which on a tiny map at the entrance was labeled “scuba diving.” Of course, my instant assumption was that that was where the good snorkeling would be, and that maybe I could swim to the other side of the island, leaving the orange-lifevested package tour clan behind. Watching some of those people try to swim was seriously perplexing. I swam over, and was just about to round the side when I notice a DM standing on shore waving his hands frantically. Evidently I’m not suppose to be doing this, and somebody is actually stopping me. I’m no longer in the Philippines, but rather a “desert island” theme park in Malaysia. I couldn’t believe what was happening.

Becca and I would need a game plan. We talked to the diveshop and asked about the other side. We asked about trails to the other side. We even asked about accompanying a dive boat to the other side. “No. No. 50 ringit each (US14).” Definitely not the answers we were looking for. So we set out to find our trail.

There’s not much story between marching out from our tent, and the water’s edge on the other side. It turns out there’s a combination of trails that lead down a few stacked granite boulders ending with crystal clear water, not the murky jellyfish water on the “swimming/snorkeling” side. The water had all the good stuff, and the best part was we didn’t have to share it with anyone.

Becca and I have become fascinated with the world of nudibranchs, the colorful seaslug. It’s like an Easter egg hunt in the ocean, as the size, color, and location of these beautiful creatures varies greatly. The one consistency is they’re slow moving, thus perfect photo specimens. I’ve created a nudibranch flickr set highlighting the best I’ve found.

Other highlights of the trip were building fires every night when the daytrippers had left, and sharing the tiny island with the tiny crabs scurrying in the moonlight. We found massive monitor lizards, but one in particular was basically a small crocodile. I was snorkeling when he came walking along the beach, then jumped in for a swim right towards me, before circling around and lazily walking back to the woods. Amazing creatures.

Diving. Sipadan.

March 30, 2010

There were five sea turtles in view when Nate grabbed my fin frantically to show me that there was another just grazing my head, its belly skimming over my floating wisps of hair. The fish were so colorful and plentiful we didn’t know where to look as we descended to 35 meters down a 600-meter [...]

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Coron Bay Island Hopping

March 18, 2010

Coron Bay is famous for wreck diving and tourism in this area seems to be thriving because of it. And though the diving was the initial draw, visitors are now flocking here for the top notch island hopping.
We’ve spent two days on rented bangkas island hopping, and two days kayaking to the best snorkeling spot [...]

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Coron Wreckdiving

March 15, 2010

The landscape around Busuanga Island is exquisite but the history of Coron Bay is what has put the island on the map, especially for wreck diving. The historical chapter relevant for divers began September 24, 1944, when a US Navy force of fighters and dive bombers attacked a Japanese supply fleet of up to 24 [...]

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Island Walking

March 12, 2010

Another day trip we took from Borongan was to Divinubo, a nearby island that we could actually walk to during low tide. This little journey took us through a post-apocalyptic landscape or a “sunken” moonscape as we began to say. The ground was an interesting combination of volcanic rock and dead reef, equally hard, sharp, [...]

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Spider Fight!

March 3, 2010

One night around a bonfire on the beach in Padre Burgos, some local guys held a spider fight that we placed bets on. The idea is this: two spiders fight on a stick until the death. The guys keep their players in match boxes and as one proud owner pulled out his big spider, he [...]

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Padre Burgos Pier

March 1, 2010

From the surface, the Padre Burgos pier doesn’t look like much: a cement roadway jutting out into the bay only a few feet above the water at high tide supported by cement pillars. But underneath, especially at night, there is an ecosystem that we had the pleasure of exploring. Entering the water at night was [...]

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Whale Sharking

February 19, 2010

What brought us to Padre Burgos in the first place was the promise of whale sharks in Sogod Bay this time of year. From February through April whale sharks follow their food — plankton — into the warm waters of the bay and the dive shops around here make a killing charging upwards of $70 [...]

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Freediving

February 12, 2010

Freediving: the art of diving on a single breath.
Sounds very simple and in principle it is, but good freediving requires strong discipline, physiology, and training. After a little research I began to understand what freediving really is and became fascinated. The beauty of the sport is the simplicity and naturalness. With just a mask and [...]

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