Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How I Got My Diving Groove Back


Back in 2012 and after having logged more than 200 dives,

200 Dives !!!!

I started to feel a little bored with diving. I love diving. Don't get me wrong. When I am underwater, I need not deal with traffic jams, indecisive drivers, long meetings, noise pollution, Chinese tourists, etc.
My 6 hour meetings. Every Fridays and Tuesdays

I started to feel melancholic with diving and not finding anything exotic also contributed to my lack of diving interest. I found the same old boring nudibranches
I call these - Tiga Seposen Nudibranches as in 10 cents for 3 nudibranches

It was my third dive on Tenggol Island and I really really love Tenggol Island but the last 2 dive trips there made me want to sell my dive equipment on eBay. 56 minutes into the dive, getting ready to do my safety stop and possibly, diving for the last time, the dive master Hazrol, gestured me to come closer and he showed me this :
How awesome is this nudibranch!!!!!! An undescribed species

That really made my day


Logging almost 300 dives now, I am a bigger dive snob now that I have seen manta rays.
My first sighting of a manta ray

Like the previous symptoms, I was fed up even with the discovery of frogfishes and pygmy seahorses. Spoken like a true dive snob. I began another downward spiral towards diving boredom. Again, the thought of selling my dive equipment on eBay lingered and it doesn't help that my ex girlfriend will soon be a Dive Master after I introduced her to diving and she subsequently decided to break up with me and venture on her own diving career.

It was my last dive on Pom Pom Island at my favourite Celebes Beach Resort when French Dive Master Monsieur Bich Mathieu, found the most dangerous marine creature on the planet - the BLUE RING OCTOPUS 4 metres !!!!!
Sacre Blue ....Ring !!!!

But what hit the sweet spot and got my diving groove back happened at 1000pm later that night :
Baby Thresher Shark !!!

And this is the story on how the dive snob got his diving groove back.

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Historic Gathering Of Waterfall Experts in Malaysia

In life, we hardly encounter historic moments of epic proportions. The gathering of fine men and women are rare and special. There were a few notable occasion of this grand spectacle :

1. The gathering of 5 living American presidents - Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Bush Snr, Bush Jr and Barack Obama

2. The peace signing ceremony between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat

3. The star studded cast of "We Are The World"

I have mine and that is the gathering of Malaysia's foremost waterfall experts and they are Mr Jan Stuivenberg and Mr Lim Siang Hui.
Right most: Lim Siang Hui and Jan Stuivenberg in the center

This gathering of gargantual proportions sadly excludes another waterfall expert, Mr Harry Nian who passed away last year in a waterfall incident and it would have been a grand best of the best gathering if he were here today. Anyway, I have known these two great men for a while now and finally, the three of us will finally scale to greater heights ..literally.

Our target is the unknown, unexplored and remote Upper Tebing Tinggi Falls. Located in the Northern region of Malaysia, this yet to be discovered waterfall lies in the Black Area during the 70's and 80's era where the Communist flourished. Undeveloped, this area has been wild since the olden days.
Lower Tebing Tinggi Falls

Rani and Aric tagged along this time and in Rani's Nissan Xterra, he drove us to Lenggong, Perak - a sleepy town known for fresh water fish dishes. Lenggong is the undisputed champion for fresh water fishes and also ...caves. Malaysia's oldest human being, the Perak man was found in one of the caves in Lenggong.
Here are some pictures of our fresh water fish meals :
Malay Style
Chinese Style

We have all decided to trek the Upper Tebing Tinggi Falls on Sunday so the day before, we visited a not so known waterfall. It's been a while since I trekked and with the full force of the sun and inclination of the mountain, I showed signs of fatigue. It was also visible in all of the men and we deduced our suffering to an overeating session.
Taking a break from the heat !!!
Tall waterfall in Lenggong

The next morning, we checked out from the Lenggong Resthouse and headed to the starting point of our waterfall quest. Along the way, I spotted a wild boar and this goes to show how remote this road is. A fairly large pipe became our starting point and boy oh boy , did it angle itself close to 90 degrees.
The horror of climbing upwards

We trekked, bushwhacked, chopped and climbed every imaginable tree trunk, rock, root, thorny twig, log, salt lick, puddle, overhanging branch, etc. Not to mention leeches...
Tired men

After 3 hours, we finally heard the mighty roar of the Upper Tebing Tinggi Falls but we still couldn't view it due to the thick foliage.
Just a little bit more from the fringes of the jungle

As soon as we emerged from the side of the jungle, we were in shock and awe because this is truly a tall magnificent waterfall and we're just tiny specks at the bottom of it.
Upper Tebing Tinggi Falls

A marvelous achievement

The first thing I did was jump into a pool and refreshed myself because throughout the 3 hour trek, there was no pool in sight and we were only glistening in our own sweat. There's something about jumping into a pool of really fresh natural water. Everyone should do it.
We hung around, took pictures, made coffee, measured the height of the waterfall with a measuring device and after an hour, we were on our way home.
On our way back, we rewarded ourselves with a hearty meal of ... fresh water fish again.
Temoleh Fish. Only to be found in the rivers of Belum

The Upper Tebing Tinggi waterfall was spectacular, the meals were delicious but most importantly, it was the company of passionate waterfall loving men that made it a defining moment in the history books of my life.
Great company and Upper Tebing Tinggi Falls

Pulau Weh - Diving & Scootering

Everybody knows Aceh. Aceh was made famous tragically by the 2004 tsunami. Prior to that , nobody knows about Aceh nor what a tsunami really is. And after Aceh, tsunamis started happening albeit in small doses but the second major one struck in Japan two years ago. And after the tsunami in Aceh, guess what.... Aceh flourished!! She flourished into a bustling, active and lively city. According to the locals, prior to the tsunami, even stray cats avoid Aceh because it was so dull and unattractive.
I landed in Aceh's Sultan Iskandar Muda International Airport. Here's my advice and please heed this advice seriously. If you are a foreigner, be the first in line at the Immigration Counter Foreigner's Lane because if you're the 8th foreigner, you'd have to wait at least half an hour until it is your turn. I was Foreigner No. 19 so I had to wait until Moses appeared with his 11th Commandment "Thou Shall Wait".
Firdaus waited for me at the Arrival Hall. With his giant welcoming smile and his warmth, I felt at ease and was whisked away to a local Acehnese restaurant for lunch.
There's the chicken, the vege, the fish, the rice.... Haaa ..same Malaysian food

I was also taken to this Tsunami Monument whereby an uncommanded trawler which was struck by the tsunami saved 56 lives who were washed away. They climbed themselves up onto the boat to save themselves. After the seawater receded, the trawler stay put ontop of a house.
25/12/2004 : Zinc Roof
26/12/2004 : World's Most Expensive Roof

Time to board the ferry. Firdaus took me to the Ulee Lheue (try pronouncing that) ferry terminal which connects Aceh and Pulau Weh. Remember, Aceh was struck by the devastating tsunami 9 years ago. Look at their jetty :
Clean and proper
Don't get me wrong. I love our country very very much but I think the Mersing Jetty can do better.
The ferry ride was a breeze. 40 minutes later and I was on Pulau Weh's Balohan harbour. I took a taxi to my dive centre located at Gapang beach. Without going into details, here are some underwater pictures
A pair of Chromodoris Geminus
Juvenile Tambja Sp - I love nudibranches like Christians love Jesus
One of the hardest marine critters to photograph!!!Very very frusrating but hey, I have steady hands !!
One of the weirdest moray eels I've seen.In Pulau Weh, the moment you backroll, you'd see morays 360 degrees. I kid you not
Some guys like red sportscars. I'm a simple man. Give me a red frogfish anytime
Rare - Fu Manchu Lionfish. Twin Spotted. This rare lionfish species can be easily found in the waters here but in Malaysia, it's rare... like a punctual Air Asia flight
Did I mention that I absolutely adore nudibranches?
Just so you readers know, diving operations cease every Thursday from 6pm onwards right up until 2pm on Friday the next day. This is to respect the holy Friday prayers. If you are restless, fear not because you can rent a scooter and that's what I did. I rode all over the Weh Island. Went to a waterfall, ate local breakfast , watched a local tennis tournament and dropped by a secluded beach.
Cool scenery
Waterfalls - My No.1 Passion !!
Pulau Weh Breakfast ..sorta like Kelantanese breakfast
Local tennis tournament
Secluded beach!!!!!
How do I feel about this island? It is definitely an island I will come back again. However, being a dive snob, I've practically seen everything before I dived Weh Island
Dive Snob