After breakfast, I noticed a sign announcing a snorkelling trip at 10 a.m., it was already 9:55. I found Aziz, who told me there was no problem. I rented mask and flippers, put some sun-block on, grabbed a bottle of water and left for the boat.
I love the sea and I love wildlife, which probably makes me a perfect candidate to love diving, but I don’t have a license. However, I was lucky enough to grow up relatively near an ocean or two and very near a few pools. Still, I’m not much of a swimmer, but I’ve had mask and snorkel since I was a kid, even though I had never really used them anywhere but the first few meters of surf or in swimming pools, I have spent quite a while underwater. I didn’t know if I knew what I was doing, but at least I was with a group of people and a guide, which sounded better than wondering randomly around the island alone.
I don’t have pictures of this because I wasn’t about to buy a 30-frame underwater camera. I kind of regret it now, but I will probably never forget the moments I spend underwater today.
I was always the first off the boat and the last one to come back. We dived about 5 or 6 times, and every time it was just beautiful!
- First dive: sharks! Two incredibly elegant sharks, small (about a meter or so) with a black-tipped fin, were swimming near the bottom. I had to get closer! I did, but as much as I love wildlife, I have a lot of respect for any animal that I don’t know well; besides, I was all alone, since I was the only one not wearing a life-jacket and thus the only one to actually dive, which didn’t really help with my confidence.
- Second dive: hundreds of fish! Even though there were fish other than sharks at the first site, the second place where we stopped was impressive in the quantity of fish by the cubic meter. I didn’t really notice them from above, but as soon as I got off the boat, I was completely surrounded by a huge school of fish. I’ll admit I found it scary at first—or intimidating actually, but the more I dived, the better it felt (secondary effect of the lack of oxygen to the brain?) and the more I saw different species of fish of all sizes and colors. I got to see Nemo and Doris, amongst others.
- Third dive: rays! What I think were blue-spotted rays. I’m not very good at naming fish, but hours and hours in front of the Discovery Channel allow me to make some educated guesses. Anyway, I was alone down there, so there’s nobody to prove me wrong. What’s important is that rays are very elegant but very shy fish, so I was lucky to see a couple of these.
- Fourth dive: the turtle! There are a few turtles in the area, but when we looked for one, we didn’t find it. Nevermind, said the guide, we’ll look elsewhere; but when we were going someplace else, we passed one of his friends who had just spotted one, so we stopped and dove. Again, one of the most elegant animals I’ve seen; then again, I guess that anything moving in water will probably fit that category. I couldn’t name the species, although I’m almost sure it was the same kind as in Nemo, is it a green turtle? Is that even a kind of sea turtle? Once again, I was one of the only few who were diving, and especially diving deep enough to actually get near the animal, so it was even better. I was actually close enough to touch it a few times, but I felt the poor creature was being harassed enough by the crowd that was slowly forming, so I just swam back to the boat.
- Fifth dive: huge fish! Beautiful colored fish at least the size of my arm; I guess that’s about a meter right? By now my group was tired, so I had this one all for myself. I followed it around for as long as I could hold my breath; three or four times. It was incredible to hear it crunch at the coral and then see all the other little fish come take advantage of the mess.
We stopped for a while on a beach and then dived one or two times more before heading back to the cabins. After that, the weather kept getting worse and worse, so I just stayed around here reading and writing.
Tomorrow I leave around noon back to Kota Bharu and then Kuala Lumpur. I have to spend the night there before moving on to Singapore.