Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Diving 2017 - Pulau Tenggol

Before my dive trip to Koh Lipe, I dived in Pulau Tenggol, Terengganu, Malaysia in May 2017. I never heard of this island before 2017, when I started seeing pictures from friends/acquaintances on my Facebook feed. Also, a good friend had this really rewarding internship position with a dive resort on the island where at the end of seven months, she would have gotten her Divemaster certification with all the necessary prerequisites. How cool is that?!

I thought of making this my YOLO trip to kick start my one-month "vacation" of my first job transition in the year by diving in Pulau Tenggol. I got in touch with my good friend, got her to make the booking for my stay in the dorms with five dives. The original financial damage was around RM900 with gear rental but in the last moments before leaving on a speedboat from A'King Jetty to the island, I decided to get a room so that my parents who dropped me off at the jetty can also chill with me on the island for the next three days. I think everything cost around RM1,600, I think. I YOLO-ed x 2 for this trip! (My parents enjoyed this spontaneous trip but would have preferred time to prepare for the trip, mainly to bring all the snacks they can to the island, for everything is limited on the island.)

After an hour journey on quite a calm day, we arrived on Pulau Tenggol. The view was dramatic. One moment we travelling in deep blue waters and then it became shallow, evident of a drop just about 100m from shore of the main bay on Pulau Tenggol. (A visitor brought his drone along and captured the aerial view of the island. The drop is reminiscent of a waterfall! I am no exaggerating, though I cannot find any good drone videos on YouTube to show it to you how unreal  the view is.) We stayed with Tenggol Coral Beach Resort and I dived with their dive centre. The room was incredibly basic but my parents and I found it to be comfortable.

The first thing you see when disembarking the speedboat.

My dad chillaxin' like a villain. (I have another picture of this but with more light on my father. Unfortunately, this removed the details from the background.)

A YOLO family.

The view was great. The clouds were welcomed.

My parents, Shakira, and I. Shakira was interning with the dive centre.


Sometimes Google Camera takes perfect panoramas, sometimes not. Sigh.
For the five dives that I paid for, I went on two dives in the afternoon on the first day (The Edge and Tanjung Api) and three dives on the second day, two in the morning (Teluk Rajawali and Moonwracker) and one in the afternoon (Sri Nahkoda). The dives were incredible! The underwater landscape has got to be the prettiest I have ever seen in my life! I am a huge fan of seeing coral cascades and the bottom of all the dive sites were pretty much full of life! The benthos were mainly living hard corals! I was begging for some red light but found none 20m underwater. :(

See, a living seafloor!
What made me fall in love with this place even more is the fact that nudibranchs are EVERYWHERE! I got to see nudibranchs on all of my dives! I always miss nudibranchs on my dives because of how tough it is to spot them when your dive group is being hurried around a dive site per standard practices of dive centres in Malaysia (from my experience, at least) and me lacking the eye to spot these small animals. So I really enjoyed seeing nudibranchs left, right, and centre so easily around Pulau Tenggol. (People like to call nudibranchs "sea slugs" but they are not sea slugs. This article by an avid diver explains it simply the differences/similarities of "nudibranchs" and "sea slugs". They are all marine gastropods and sometimes the defining feature for me to tell apart nudibranchs from the generic sea slug would be the their bushy gills and sensory organs called rhinophores, keyword being SOMETIMES.)

(I saw many nudibranchs and took a picture of a few of them to help me figure out what species they are. Many still remained ID-less to me because the guidebook for nudibranchs of Malaysia is in my previous/future workplace in Langkawi. So, I shall ID them later, I hope? :D)

A blur picture of a few Phyllidia varicosa hanging out. Probably an orgy.

The nudibranch under the bright light (sorry) is apparently a Blue dragon, Pteraeolidia ianthina. You can spot another Phyllidia varicosa on the right. Heh. Thanks, Quek, for the ID help!

I have no ID for this guy yet.

Another Phyllidia varicosa.

An egg ribbon of a nudibranch.

No ID yet.

Again, no ID yet.

Phyllidia nigra. Thanks, Quek, for the ID help!
Another ID help needed please.
I did not get to see many reef fishes during my dives. I was expecting large schools of fish but the fishes remained low-key for all of my dives. However, I did get to see a couple of butterflyfish species that I do not remember seeing, so I am glad for that. Nothing big during my dives. Many people expect to catch the gigantic Whale sharks and cool-looking relatives in Pulau Tenggol. This just means I really HAVE to return to Pulau Tenggol to dive!

The next time I visit Pulau Tenggol, I will opt to stay and go with a dive operator on the mainland (Kuala Dungun). I heard it is cheaper to do so and is something I must research about. My stay with Tenggol Coral Beach Resort was not that good. When asked how to work the water heater, the resort staff did not explain nor demonstrate how to use the heater (it was an old school heater that needed us to switch on the gas line, ignite the gas, and then the fire heats the water). There was a huge group of divers whom all the tea time snacks were kept for (my mother would head towards the eating area ten minutes after tea time started and all food was gone just to observe a new batch of snacks coming out from the kitchen for this group; the group may be special but it does leave a bad impression for us not-so-special guests). I felt that the dive team could have emphasised more on safety and turn down a notch on the horsing around (I only really enjoyed diving with ONE Divemaster). While I returned back to land safe and sound on all of my dives (which I am thankful for), there is always that fear that something bad may happen due to human error rather than the usual risk of being in the ocean.
For those of you who are planning to visit Pulau Tenggol, I would like to state that this is a very SCUBA diving-centric location. #eatsleepdiverepeat basically sums up what Pulau Tenggol is all about and I am glad I had that experience. The snorkelling is better than most places I have been to. Pack some snacks and bring a book. Pulau Tenggol is truly a beautiful place to visit!
(You can check out my other photos here.)
So glad I went on these dive trips in 2017. Perhaps I will dive more this year. Fingers crossed!

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