23 September 2009

Pulau Pehentian – Island Ahoy!

What a perfect way to end a long, intense internship in tropical waters than to go an island with sandy beaches, palm trees and loads of sun?!

Pulau Perhentian (or in English, Perhentian Island) is actually a pair of islands located of the Northeast coast of Malaysia, near the border to Thailand.

The jetty brings back memories of the last time I tried to board a ship to an island. Back then, it was a catamaran on a rough sea in Thailand and after laughing at first at the plastic bags handed out before the start of the engines, the whole matter turned serious 10min into the ride!

This time, the boat ride was much more exhilarating/fun though. Have you ever tried an open boat going at 70-80km/h at 40 degree angle? The sun had just risen (the night bus arrives around 5am). All the white surf whooshing past the boat...

I stayed on the smaller of the two islands in a kampung-style wooden A-frame bungalow on stilts and a mosquito net over the bed - yeah, those fuckers were everywhere (what function do mosquitoes serve in evolution??) that will do me great service. The whole hut is relatively easy to take care of: All you need is to take a broom and brush the sand off the edge of your terrace and that's it!

Very fun. The dive shop is three huts down, so it takes me only 15 seconds each morning to my diving class – YES! DIVING CLASS!!!

What a lucky person I am! I have fulfilled myself another dream I've had for more than 10 years and fulfilled a goal I set myself for the past two months in KL to crown my stay for this internship!

At first it was a bit scary to do all these so-called “airway control” exercises under water but eventually, as you become more familiar with your equipment and the environment, a whole new world opens up and the open sea is your limit! It's like seeing a reef right through itself, with a huge stingray nestled on the ground below half-buried in sand, endangered (!) bump-head parrot fish passing through (they're huge!), underwater vegetation you have never seen before so close, clown fish (Nemo!), cleaner shrimp (they engage in symbiosis with other animals by removing parasites off fish, both internally and externally), puffer fish and and a (non-stinging) red jellyfish making its way up. It's like a 360 degree slow-motion movie with you right in it and it's SO ALIVE! The fish usually ignore you, so you can suddenly find yourself swimming along with a big school of brightly-coloured tropical fish (at least 300 of them) or... fish nibbling at you curiously once you get your buoyancy right (and hence don't have to move any limbs to stay absolutely still in the water).

Definitely a new hobby I want to keep up on! So if there's any divers among you crowd, let's buddy up!

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