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Tag / nudibranch

Pulau Aur is one of the Southern most diving destination in Malaysia, as a result, the island is probably more popular to Singaporean than the average Malaysian. Which explains why Gab, who used to work in Singapore helped organize this trip right after our Redang Project AWARE dive trip last September.

The operator was FWS, and we stayed at Pulau Aur Diver’s Lodge.

Journey to Pulau Aur
the journey to Pulau Aur via Mersing

Racheal who missed the Redang trip due to illness was able to join us on the last dive of the season with her boo Norman. Terence, Gab, Irene, Horng, and myself fit into 2 cars and started our journey to Pulau Aur on Thursday evening, taking advantage of the holiday on Friday (Deepavali.)

While the road journey is only some 360 KM, the east-west bit was through old trunk roads and thus it took a good 4.5 hours to get there while driving relatively speedy. This is evident from Irene’s constant exploit of the poor IKEA soft toy to cover her face over the windier part of the track.

Port Cafe by Mersing Jetty
Port Cafe by Mersing Jetty

We arrived at Mersing just before midnight, parked the car and took care of supper in the TSH (tourist slaughter house) looking restaurant that is the Port Cafe. As it turned out, food wasn’t all too expensive at less than RM 10 per plate, and the nasi goreng Cina was exceptionally tasty too!

boat transfer from Mersing to Pulau Aur
slave style boat transfer from Mersing to Pulau Aur

The boat to Aur left Mersing just past midnight. There wasn’t any real seating space on this boat, there were 2 “decks” of sleeping space instead. If you’re like us and got on the boat late, all there’s left would be the rear upper deck that has about 3cm headroom.

The experience was a bit like sleeping in a coffin, except there’s an additional falling hazard and the aircond was too cold. It was still fun though, I slept through most part of the boat ride, bliss!

the resort at night, we arrived before day break
the resort at night, we arrived before day break

We reached the resort before sunrise. Being ushered down the boat onto another platform in the middle of water while still super woozy was certainly an experience. The resort wasn’t even really in sight at night, it felt like we were on set for Pirates of the Pulau Aur or something, that sorta woke me up.

Pulau Aur Diver's Lodge
Pulau Aur Diver’s Lodge does look a lot more inviting in daylight

This is the view of the resort taken from the small jetty that’s only good enough to park a sampan (shallow water). The seating area’s for moonlight BBQ dinner, with Narcosis bar on the left. There are altogether 18 rooms in 9 different semi-d chalet.

Our rooms were located on the 2nd level and it was already too high to climb after exhausting dives. I’d appreciate an escalator around here, but the view is fantastic though.

breathing compressed air - bliss!
breathing compressed air – bliss!

Diving is done from the very same boat that we took from Mersing. We set up our gears and left them on the big boat, but going to and from the diving boat to resort had to be done via the sampan. A bit of a hassle but we weren’t really complaining.

nudibranches at Pulau Aur
nudibranches at Pulau Aur

There were 9 dives scheduled in 2 days, I did 8 and skipped the last night dive mainly due to exhaustion. Over here there was no time to do anything else, it was dive, eat, dive, eat, dive, eat, dive, eat, and with some naps in between.

This was really a proper diving trip, there weren’t any activities for snorkelers.

we take a sampan to the bigger boat before each dive
we take a sampan to the bigger boat before each dive

Besides the platform, Pulau Aur Diver’s Lodge does not really have a beach. There were, however, two very short stretch of beaches at each side of the resort accessible via the very poorly maintained wooden bridge (one of which already completely destroyed). The resort owner explained that maintenance of these bridges/walkways are done by the Malaysian government…

tranquilizing seascape
tranquilizing seascape

Since it was the last dive trip before season ends, the water condition was not exactly the greatest. We were in fact pretty lucky to not have to deal with any thunderstorm or crazy huge waves when we had to be under or on the ocean.

Visibility, as a result, wasn’t too great either, and most dive sites had mild to strong current, not particularly friendly to beginners.

Terence with his new gear, weird sea creature, color-coordinated Rachael
Terence with his new gear, weird sea creature, color-coordinated Racheal

That said, we still had pretty decent dives that could have been even better if not for the fact that our Dive Master somehow always think that fighting the current head on is such a great idea.

There were the usual suspects under the sea – several types of nudibranches, bat fish, cleaner fish, clown fish, baby baraccuda, puffer fish, angel fish, and so on. Horng even spotted a cuttlefish!

Our hope of swimming with a whale sharks though, will have to wait for future trips.

food at Pulau Aur Diver's Lodge
awesome food at Pulau Aur Diver’s Lodge

The food at Diver’s Lodge was really way better than our expectations. We had moon light buffer dinner the first night, and really awesome BBQ dinner the second night. There were unlimited grilled prawns, beef, squid, cuttle fish, and so on. I still miss the sliced fried potato there.

Even the lunch/tea time food were pretty good, fried chicken, fish, and of course, that awesome homemade donut with Hershey’s chocolate sauce.

earth is 70% water, don't always be land bound :D
earth is 70% water, don’t always be land bound 😀

I think I’m done with diving for 2010, next year we’ll get the girls to learn diving too! Kerol, Kim, Haze, Diana and more (and also the return of Gareth), can’t wait!

Nudibranch is a type of shell-less mollusk (octopus is a mollusk too!) that dots the ocean, typically hanging at the rock wall, coral, or bottom of the sea. Also known as sea slugs, these creatures are pretty tiny, typically not larger than your pinky.

Nudis come in a huge variety of shapes and colors, but they usually have a recognizable head with a pair of antennas, and an naked gill like organ at the rear that looks almost like a flower. The colors act as a deterrence and/or camouflage, some nudis can somehow “move” venoms from their prey to the outer part of their body to make themselves toxic to their potential predators. Fascinating stuff.

Tenggol island was partly made famous by the abundance of nudibranchs, and in my last trip (31st April to 2nd May) and over 8 dives, I’ve spotted at least 11 different types of nudis at dive sites around the main and surrounding islands.

The photos below are taken with my Canon S90, either with the miserable built in flash that’s half blocked by the underwater housing, or with natural light. Color temperatures are corrected, as with a bit of contrast adjustments.

I am dreaming a set of underwater strobes, but those toys are pricey….

Phyllidia varicosa (scrambled egg nudibrach)
Phyllidia varicosa

Also referred to as the scrambled egg nudi, this one’s pretty big in size, almost 3-4 inches in length. I don’t know who came up with the name, but if you serve my scrambled egg in this color, I’m probably gonna reject it.

Flabellina exoptata
Flabellina exoptata

From the puplish base, white tips and the blue rings, this looks like a flabellina exoptata but I could be wrong.

a black nembrotha something?
black nembrotha something?

It took me better part of an hour to find out the name for this nudi, no luck. Anyone know?

Atagema intecta
Atagema intecta

Again, atagema intecta might not be the correct species name for this black nudi with tiny brown spots all over. With 3000 or so species of nudibranchs it’s quite a drag to find the correct name sometimes.

Chromodoris coi
Chromodoris coi

The white and grey nudi with black outline’s just lovely.

Phyllidia coelestis
Phyllidia coelestis

The first time I spotted this lovely blue and black nudi with yellow spikes and tentacles.

Chromodoris magnifica
Chromodoris magnifica

This one’s also called the stripped pajama nudi, not hard to see why. But does anyone seriously still have pajamas of this yellow, white, and black color scheme?

1. Phyllidia pustulosa 2. Nembrotha kubaryana 3. Pteraeolidia ianthina 4. Hypselodoris bullocki
1. Phyllidia pustulosa 2. Nembrotha kubaryana
3. Pteraeolidia ianthina 4. Hypselodoris bullocki

These few are the more common ones around Tenggol, with Pteraeolidia especially plentiful. In the last dive I could spot at least a dozen of them within 10 meters in diameter.

This is the last of 3 part series on my diving trip at Tenggol that happened from 27-29 March, 2010. Click on part 1 and part 2 (with dive site map) for previous entries.

Above is a short video from dives I did at Tenggol, editing it made me miss diving lots, but it’s all good since I’m already planning another trip to Tenggol over the labor day weekends. This time I’m going to have my own set of equipments too, yes, diving is now a serious hobby for me. 😀

Work hard, play hard.

diving at pulau tenggol
wreck diving at Palau Tenggol, Terengganu

  • dive #6 – House Wreck, Tenggol
  • date/time – 28/03/10 2:48 pm
  • depth – 25.0 meter
  • duration – 33 mins
  • visibility – 10-15 meters
  • temperature – 30c

This was the second time I visited the house wreck that is located within the protected bay where the resorts sit, the last time was on the 30th July, 2004. It was a relatively easy dive albiet the relatively murky condition. Terence took his time to snap pictures during descent and somehow managed to get lost and had to surface alone and missed the fun completely, poor thing.

nudi branch: sea slugs
nudibranch – sea slugs if you can’t be bothered

  • dive #7 – Pasir Tenggara, Tenggol
  • date/time – 28/03/10 6:05 pm
  • depth – 14.9 meter
  • duration – 53 mins
  • visibility – 15-20 meters
  • temperature – 29c

For the 4th dive of the same day, we chose to go shallow for a more relaxing dive at Pasir Tenggara. Saw more nudibranchs, starfish, and managed to take a couple more videos of clown fish too. It started drizzling as we surface, but luckily water wasn’t all too choppy.

starfish, coral, clown fish
star fish, table coral, and them nemo!

  • dive #8 – the 5 sisters, Tenggol
  • date/time – 29/03/10 8:22 am
  • depth – 35.8 meter
  • duration – 51 mins
  • visibility – 15-20 meters
  • temperature – 29c

For the last dive of the trip, we went to the famous 5 sisters dive site. Here lies 5 Vietnamese regufee ship wrecks at over 30 meters underwater. Looking at these relics made me wonder how the refugees must have felt when they arrived at this small island and had to sink their ships just so they can’t be towed out to international water and left for dead.

We stayed at depth for only about 15 minutes before proceeding to shallower water to avoid decompression time. Visited some artificial coral reefs too.

Due to my failure in checking the underwater camera casing’s seal properly, a couple drops of moisture went in, but thank god it wasn’t a full flooding. Gotta be more careful next time.

I’ll see you in a couple weeks, Tenggol!

Time to continue my second Tenggol dive trip post.  I intend to use this blog as sort of a dive log so just in case I lose the precious book, at least the information would be here. What a concept, right?

In case you missed the first post, it is here – Tenggol Island dive trip – redux

With the help of my latest toy – the Bamboo touch & pen, I now present you my very first awesomesauce drawing of Pulau Tenggol dive map, something I shamelessly copied from Tenggol Island Beach Resort website.

To avoid exercising plagiarism to the fullest, I added a little smiling clown fish to the dive map for that extra cheerful factor. Sweet isn’t it?

diving at pulau tenggol, nudibranch, blue spotted stingray
Nembrotha kubaryana (nudibranch), blue spotted sting ray

  • dive #3 – Amazing Grace
  • date/time – 27/03/2010 4:59pm
  • depth – 18.5 meter
  • duration – 46 mins
  • visibility – 10-20 meters
  • temperature – 29c

After the relatively deep dive two, we took the boat to Amazing Grace for our final dive for the day, a dive site located near the southern end of the neighboring island closest to Tenggol.

lion fish, seaweed, giant green turtle
seaweeds and giant Sea Turtle

Like other sites at Tenggol, there were more nudibranchs to be found. I spotted this very colorful nembrotha kubaryana crawling up on a coral, while it resembles land slugs more than other nudi, you’ll be hard pressed to find something of this color above ground.

There’s a mild current at this location and we did a very relaxing drift dive, a perfect end to the day. Spotted a giant turtle that turns out to be the only one we saw in the entire trip.

party at Tenggol
KY, Rich, San San, Joe, Terence, Jonathan with ze Whisky

After dinner, the six of us spent quite a few hours talking quite a lot of crap with the aid of a bottle of whisky so thoughtfully brought to the island by Jonathan (Joe brought another bottle for the next night too).

With no TV, restaurant, or let a lone a pub, it is imperative to BYOB to this island.

Tokong Laut dive site, Pulau Tenggol
swimming under boulder at Tokong Laut, bat fish

  • dive #4 – Tokong Laut
  • date/time – 28/03/2010 9:31 am
  • depth – 34.2 meter
  • duration – 43 mins
  • visibility – 15-20 meters
  • temperature – 29c

Tokong Laut is one of the more challenging dive sites at Tenggol. With swift current at entrance, you have to descent pretty quickly to avoid getting swept away by the moving water.

It is also the very same dive site we had to abandon almost 6 years ago when Terence did exactly that, swept away by current.

soft coral, nudibranch
anemone, Pteraeolidia ianthina (purple nudi) chromodoris coi (white nudi)

We did concure Tokong Laut this time around, and boy it was some rewarding experience! There were plenty of big size bat fish all over, and we particularly enjoyed those “swim throughs”. When Charlie the dive lead talked about swim throughs on land, I thought it was about finning through uninteresting places, little did I know that we got to swim through openings beneath huge boulders. The experience was exhilarating, almost but not entirely unlike cave dives.

Of course, there were more nudis at this site too.

awesome lunch at Tenggol Beach Resort
exceedingly good lunch!

I must give two thumbs up for the food at Tenggol Beach Resort, all our meals were really good. The collage above was from one of our lunch/dinner session. WIth fish, prawns, chicken, and vegetable to go with rice, it was out of our expectations. My previous dive trips usually accompanied by lousy foods.

Lost World, Pulau Tenggol, giant sea fan
can you spot the tiny white shrimps on the top right pic?

  • dive #5 – Lost World
  • date/time – 28/03/10 12:03 pm
  • depth – 31.3 meter
  • duration – 45 mins
  • visibility – 15-20 meters
  • temperature – 29c

Lost World, Pulau Tenggol, giant sea fan
KY, Rich, and San San. Hypselodoris apolegma (purple nudi)

Dive #5 was another pretty deep dive at Lost World, which isn’t on the map above (can’t exactly remember where it is located). We spotted some tiny white shrimps, more nudi, as well as angel fish, among others. The feature of this site though, must be the sea fans. They were plenty of white sea fans making up the very beautiful seascape.

BBQ lunch on the beach
BBQ by PDRM Terengganu

After the 2nd dive, we were treated by the local PDRM who happened to be at Tenggol for an excellent BBQ lunch. The grilled cuttle fish with kunyit and BBQ ikan kembung were excellent! So were the curry and they even had rice too, it was amazing. Who said cops aren’t friendly?

There were 3 more dives at Tenggol that I shall post soon, and hopefully with some videos too.

After a night’s stay at Semporna at the lion’s lower jaw of Sabah, we packed up our gears and took the boat to Mabul island. The six of us jumped onto the speed boat operated by Uncle Chang’s Sipadan Mabul Dive Lodge.

We were all stoked as it was the first half of our 2 day, 6 dive expedition.


all smiles except for Chan, who is susceptible with sea sickness, noob

A lot of people associates diving at Mabul/Sipadan to be an expensive affair, but with Uncle Chang’s, accommodation is at an affordable RM 60 per night including all meals, with 3 dives at Mabul & Kapalai priced at RM 260, and a further RM 560 for 3 dives at Sipadan (longer boat ride and 1-day dive permit). For those who doesn’t dive, there’s a RM 100 boat transfer fee that includes unlimited snorkeling at Mabul.

We had a bit of an engine problem half way to Mabul, so the usual 45 minute ride took over an hour, no one really complained though. We were too excited for what’s ahead of us.


giant sea turtle

Mabul and Kapalai are arguably the best spots for muck diving, which basically consist of slightly water with higher concentration of sediment, a condition perfect for many exotic sea creatures to call home, albiet with slightly lower visibility.

Our first dive site was at Eel Garden where we spent 43 minutes at 17 meter underwater. There were plenty of giant sea turtle, stone fish, lion fish, and of course, the famous Nemo too.


pipe fish, crocodile fish, blue nudibranch

After stopping at the dive lodge for slightly over an hour, we proceed to our second dive site at Kapalai island and spent a further 42 minutes at a maximum depth of 18 meters.

The dive site at Kapalai consist of mainly sandy bottom with plenty of man made corals. Ship wrecks and other structures make perfect home for plenty of fishes. There were giant grouper, trigger fish, cuttle fish that flashes colors, blue spotted stingray hiding under the wreck, and even a sea dragon too.


clown fish with anemone, blue spotted ray, cuttle fish, hermit crab

We probably didn’t have enough surface interval between the two dives as the boat transfer from Semporna to Mabul took a bit too long. As a result, Chan somehow ran out of air (while I still had some 70 bar left) and Gan managed to throw up after surfacing. I think we almost went off the dive chart for diving again too soon, oh well..

We then went back to the dive lodge and had our well deserved lunch. It wasn’t great food, but perfectly edible with meat, vegetable, rice, and fruits.


fluet fish, angry eel, upside down pencil fish, moray eel

After lunch and a bit of rest to clear the residue nitrogen in our body, we headed to our final dive site of the day, Paradise II at Mabul. There we spent 45 minutes at a shallower 12 meter maximum depth, I managed to finish with more than half a tank of air left.

Paradise II had plenty of turtles, moray eel, sting ray, and we even spotted a hermit crab. It was already 4pm by the time we were done.

Some of the best photos I took on this day came from this dive as shallower water = better colors.


the most beautiful sunset this side of malaysia

We spent the rest of the day completing our dive logs and a bit of tanning. As Uncle Chang’s is located at the west side of Mabul island, by around 6pm when the sun starts to set, the whole resort bask in amazingly beautiful golden rays of light.

They claimed this place to have the most beautiful sunset, and they were right. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.


rocking it on at Uncle Chang’s Sipadan Mabul Dive Lodge

After dinner, the live band at the lodge came out and started rocking the crowd. There were 4-5 singers, some of them orphans under Uncle Chang’s wing (part of profits go to orphanage), and the man himself (long hair, white t-shirt) too sang “we are the world”. The singers were actually rather entertaining, with the girl possessing an exceptional though unpolished voice. She’d have made Simon Cowell proud.

After a while, bottles of free rums were given to each table, and the dive masters started pouring cheap red wine to us too. That got the crowd really going, in no time we were dancing on the floor and singing together with the rockers. It was absolutely awesomesauce.

The night more than made up for the canceled Killers concert.

A couple of us spent the night sleeping on uncomfortable wooden deck chair under thousands of stars at night, with sea breeze blowing on our face, and max brenner the cat on my stomach acting as an extra organic heater. It was splendid.