Thursday, January 12, 2012

We Saw a Whale Shark!

Yes, I do know that this post is a quarter of a year late, but it is only now that I manage to find the time to go through the pictures and arrange my thoughts a bit more clearly.

 Of course, with my poor memory, I may tend to forget bits and pieces of it.

But oh, this must be how it felt like three years ago when I hadn't started this running habit - more time to do other things! And probably get fat in the process, with all this sitting around, slouching over the laptop...

Oh and if sometimes you happen to read a blog post that sounds jumbled up and incoherent, that's probably because I was nodding off while trying to write! I've been so lethargic these days that I crash onto the bed by 10pm.

As you know, we finally found the time after the wedding to pursue our Advanced Open Water licence last September.

14th - 18th September 2011.

Wednesday afternoon – Leech and Ch’ng picked us up and we headed to Bukit Tinggi for lunch with GK. Lunch was OK, I suppose, I can't find the food pictures anymore.

Next, Ch’ng got into GK’s car and proceeded to lead the way towards Kemaman. With a walkie-talkie in each car, we could communicate and make silly remarks, laughing at each other and that kept us awake throughout the journey.

I insisted we dropped by Chukai for coffee/tea at Hai Peng coffeeshop, despite the idea being vetoed by Ch’ng. He wanted us to save space for dinner but come on, I rarely come by this part of Malaysia so it’s considered a must for me to drop by.

Shortly after, we somehow reached our dinner destination very early. Oops. I was still a bit stuffed but unfortunately, it was time for our early dinner before we headed off to Awana Kijal to spend the night. 

Thursday - We woke up before 6am to head off to arrive at Kuala Merang jetty to wait for our ferry.

We thought we could grab breakfast along the way but unfortunately, much to GK's annoyance, we were running late. In the end we had to eat at one of the stalls near the jetty. Not great, I’m afraid.

 At the Kuala Merang Jetty.

YB says I look like a mad person in the top right picture but I love it!

It took us about an hour to arrive at Redang Island. We were so excited! Blue skies and the clear blue seas and wind in your face … aaaah, it smelled like a holiday.

We stayed at Ayu Mayang Resort which was simple enough to cater for our needs. At least the water heater works and there’s air conditioning. ;)

After lunch we went for our first dive. The first one always gives YB and I the jitters, because clearly we weren’t water babies and it takes us a while to ‘warm up’ to the whole diving thing. Once we got comfortable underwater, it was lovely to enjoy the view and wave at the fishies. OK, I’m not sure who else waves at the fishies, but sometimes I do that. I mean, they’re staring at me as if to say hello, it would be rude not to acknowledge their presence, no? ;D
The things we do after lunch.
YB is very diligent at filling up his log book while mine is half filled.

Fast forward, we were knackered after dinner but we had to stay up to surprise YB for his birthday the next day (16th). Our instructor said there was a briefing at 9pm so we made our way to the chalet he was staying at (Coral Redang).

[Pictures from the surprise party are here.]

Anyway, everyone was so relieved to sing the birthday song, posed for pictures and finish up their slice of cake, (which was pretty good!!) before quickly running off to bed. I don’t know about you, but diving can be quite tiring! It must be the sea water …
At Coral Redang Island Resort.

People bring their own stash of beer. YB lazing in the hammock while waiting for our next dive.

Friday – Everyone greeted YB with a happy birthday greeting. It was a deep dive that morning at Big Mount.

As we descended slowly and got used to our surroundings, we saw a huge shadow on our right. YB and I both swam towards it, wondering what it was. As we inched nearer, we saw the silhouette of the whale shark.

YB gripped my arm and we both looked at each other. Excitement shone in our eyes as we nodded at each other, giving each other the thumbs’ up sign.

I could swear there were tears in my eyes, but who’s to know? ;D

We started gesturing to our fellow divers. Pretty lamely, I must say.

I mean, what on earth is the underwater sign for a whale shark?? When I saw Leech hovering slightly beneath me, I waved frantically at him and he gestured, “What?”

I frantically pointed at the direction of the whale shark and swam towards it, hoping he would follow me.

It was honestly a sight to behold. It was like, woahhhh.

I didn’t dare got near it but I was still near enough to see the spots on its body. YB, Ch’ng and everyone else swam as close as they could to touch it gently, while the photographers kept their distance in order to capture snapshots of it.
YB swimming alongside.

We swam it for a while, going wherever it was going. It was almost 10 minutes, I think.

And then, GK tapped it a bit too hard on its tail and the whale shark shot off.

Everyone glared at him as best as they could through their masks. I’m sure someone waved a fist at him, too.

Thereafter, our instructor took YB and I down to the seabed to continue with our deep dive – basically doing Maths underwater. I took a little longer just because I wanted to double check my answer. Ha!

As we ascended and got onto the boat, Ivan & GK were first, followed by YB and I, then Leech. We told our boat driver excitedly, “WHALE SHARK!!! WHALE SHARK!!!”

You see, when we arrived at the island, there was word around that a whale shark had been spotted recently and since then, every dive group was on the lookout for it. So we considered ourselves one of the LUCKIEST people to have witnessed such a beautiful gentle creature.

Our boat driver was excited, too. He insisted that Ivan showed him the pictures, to the extent that he forgot to help other divers up into the boat.

He immediately called up his friend on his phone to tell them, “Yoh, whale shark spotted here at Big Mount!”

IT WAS AWESOME, I cannot tell you just how awesome it is but YEAH!!!

I was just relieved that my mask didn’t fog up as much as it did the day before.

Everyone thanked YB for his birthday wish, i.e. seeing the whale shark. We were grateful for being a part of that special moment. Hehe.

 Food's not that great, you can tell. But sometimes if you're lucky, one or two dishes could be good.

Chilling out at the neighbouring resort.

Saturday – We had to do a wreck dive which turned out pretty disastrous in a funny way. The visibility was so bad that we couldn’t see beyond 3 metres. I spent too long studying a dead fish under a log and when I looked up, YB was gone. The only person left was Leech. Everyone else were at the wrecks.
I gestured to Leech to go left, as I recalled the instructor saying that the wrecks were on the left as you descend along the rope.
But men being men, they don’t take directions from women well. You know that, right?
He insisted we go right. I shook my head and gestured left, but he INSISTED that it was right.
Fine. I shrugged and followed him, knowing that we were definitely going the wrong way.
The water was so sandy that you really wouldn’t know where you’re going. The wrecks were on a sandy bed, devoid of corals or anything else. 
We spent 30 minutes trying to find our way towards the wreck but we were clearly off the track. I kept smiling to myself, because I wanted to laugh. Leech was doing his kick cycle to see if he could retrace his steps but I could tell we were definitely way off track.
Eventually we ascended to the surface.
We saw our boat far far far away. We also saw YB on the other far side. Our instructor was already on the boat.

Apparently YB decided to look for me when he couldn’t spot me at the wrecks. Ch’ng saw our instructors signaling to each other that 3 people were missing, so one of them headed out to look for these 3 people.

But because visibility was SO bad, he got lost, too!
We all had a good laugh, really. Leech was worried that I’d freak out and panic but if I panicked, I think I would have resurfaced immediately!
Finally, we could all drink ourselves silly that night. But YB and I ended up playing some telematch games on the beach with a group of snorkelers. I’m sure there’s an embarrassing photo of me somewhere … let me check with PL.

One of the few things we saw: blue spotted stingray, nudibranch and a green turtle.

On the last night, our dive instructors organised a lucky draw among their divers/snorkelers as well as a prize giving ceremony for the winners of the telematch games.

My lucky draw got me a TUSA tshirt! Ch'ng was jealous. =P

Sunday – oh bugger it was a week before our River Jungle Marathon so I made myself get out of bed early to go for a run. YB was already up early, taking pictures of the sunrise. PL and I had arranged to run that morning but she didn’t wait for me and by the time I arrived, she was doing her 2nd lap.

We found out on the boat the other day that we both took part in running events. ;)

The ferry on the way back was packed with people.

By the time we arrived in the evening, we met up with Des and Mae for dinner to regale them with our stories, especially our encounter with the whale shark.

We had text them the same afternoon we saw the whale shark, urging them to join us immediately.

YB and I can’t wait to go diving again but looking at our calendar, goodness knows how we’ll be able to fit in a quick weekend trip. I really hope we can because my buoyancy is still a bloody problem for me!

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