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Malaysian Food Blog, Travel, Diving & More

Tag / olympus

Earlier this month I went to yet another island in the East Coast of Malaysia for a little bit of R&R as well as put a bit of time breathing compressed air underwater. For this trip, everything was arranged by my colleague, Rich, I sort of just tag along. A vacation where you don’t have to plan for anything? Sign me up!

Our destination – Pulau Kapas.

Kapas Turtle Valley resort, Pulau Kapas, Terengganu
Kapas Turtle Valley resort, Pulau Kapas, Terengganu

Pulau Kapas is one of the lesser known islands of Terengganu. Located just 6 km or so from Marang Jetty, it is only some 10 minutes on the ferry (every 2 hours), which makes it really accessible even for those who may be prone to sea sickness. Furthermore, with East Coast Expressway in operation, getting there is easier than ever, around 400km on dual lane expressway with another 20 or so KM trunk road.

snorkeling, sand castle, and playing with hermit crab
snorkeling, sand castle, and playing with hermit crab

Kapas Turtle Valley is run by a Dutch couple who called Malaysia home. It is a fairly small resort with capacity of less than 20-30 guests at any one time. It is also located at semi-private sort of beach with other resorts accessible via a short walk across the small hill in 10 minutes, perfect for those who loves a bit of privacy and quiet time.

You’ll be expected to spend close to RM 100 per night per person to stay at KTV, with breakfast inclusive. The bungalows are comfortable, bathrooms are big and quite luxurious for island standard, and you do have electricity around the clock.

food at Kapas Turtle Valley was excellent
food at Kapas Turtle Valley was excellent

What I love most though, is the food prepared by Sylvia. Breakfast usually consists of very good pastry, dutch cheese, egg, and juice, while lunch & dinner is as per order (usually from 3 choices) and priced reasonably. Her dishes are at least on par with some of the better restaurants in town, and that is certainly quite a luxury on an island, with a budget.

kayaking looks a lot easier in photos
kayaking looks a lot easier in photos

Holiday on island is about rest and relax, reading a book, listening to the waves and such, but if you’re restless, or you’re between 3-6, there are still quite a bit to do.

Making sand castle, catching hermit crab, snorkeling at the house reef, kayaking, throwing freebies, or even sailing on a catamaran is an option.

Aqua Sport Divers, the only dive center at Pulau Kapas
Aqua Sport Divers, the only dive center at Pulau Kapas

We spent 5 days and 4 nights at Turtle Kapas Valley, and only decided to put in some diving on 3rd and 4th day.

Aqua Sport Divers is the only dive center on the island, and some 25 minutes walk from where we stay. Fortunately, they are more than happy to ferry us on a small speed boat to & fro from KTV to dive center.

nemo with anemone, always one of my favorite shooting subjects
nemo with anemone, always one of my favorite shooting subjects

As for the dives, underwater visibility at Kapas isn’t exactly stellar, mostly due to the fact that the island is a mere 6 kilometers away from peninsular Malaysia, but they were more than decent.

Over the 3 dives, we spotted moray eel, barracuda, humphead wrasse, clown fish, jelly fish, big puffer, blue spotted stingray, and more. There were even a story about a group getting a glimpse of a whale shark a couple weeks prior.

UW pics taken with Olympus TG-5
UW pics taken with Olympus TG-5

I loaned a couple cameras from Olympus that are fit for underwater purposes. The Olympus TG-Tracker for video, and Olympus TG-5 mainly for stills. They were very convenient, pop the SD cards in and you’re good to go, no meticulous checking of seals or carrying my huge set up of my (now dated) Olympus E-PL3 with underwater housing. The picture quality isn’t as good as a micro 4/3 format for sure, but there were more than acceptable, and of course, carrying a small pouch with 2 cameras is much easier than a whole luggage full of gear for just one.

Overall it was an awesome trip, thanks to Rich & San San for organizing, will look forward to more R&R trips such as this one.

As promised, here are some photos taken from our diving trip to Anilao last Junuary (post on accommodation). These pictures were taken from the first two days of diving.

For anyone who’s interested, these is my underwater set up:

  • Olympus EPL3
  • PT-EP05L underwater housing
  • Sea & Sea YS-01 strobes x 2
  • Inon UCL-165 M67 macro wet lens
  • Ikelite tray & i-Das arm system

ribbon eel, Sombrero, Anilao
blue ribbon eel, Sombrero

I did a total of 11 dives over 4 days. We visited a number of dive sites but also went back to a few that we really liked.

Anilao really has quite a lot to offer. On the surface it is quite an unassuming peninsula. There isn’t any great beach nor excellent landscape, but underwater it’s a very different story altogether.

clownfish in anemone, Sombrero
clownfish in anemone, Sombrero

While lacking bigger marine life such as turtles and sharks, Anilao is teeming with huge variety of smaller underwater creatures. You can always expect a big variety of fish, shrimps, crabs, cephalopods (octopus/cuttlefish/squid), searhorses and various types of nudibranches basically in every other dive.

juvenile cuttlefish wasn't very pleased
juvenile cuttlefish wasn’t very pleased

Underwater landscape at most of the dive sites aren’t spectacular either. Arthur’s Rock by the resort offers perhaps the best seascape with more hard corals and rock formations, while sites such as Basura is shallow with sandy and at some parts, grassy bottoms.

emperor shrimp
emperor shrimp

It is when you look closer that you’ll start to marvel at what Anilao has to offer. Hidden amongst the corals, rocks, or sea fan are tiny creatures such as emperor shrimps, transparent shrimps, and and nudibranches.

play time with an octopus in a half bottle
play time with an octopus in a half bottle

Here, even what looked like floating debris could turn out to be ghost pipefish and other creatures. We were lucky as our guide Richard was great in spotting these and pointed them to us.

an unsuspecting scorpionfish
an unsuspecting scorpionfish

One of the strangest creatures I saw was this (I’m assuming) algae octopus that went bipedal and started walking away on the sandy seafloor with two tentacles acting like legs. It was both weird, wonderful, and slightly scary, like something you’d see in a B-grade sci-fi. Luckily it was no bigger than a tennis ball.

algae octopus going bipedal
algae octopus going bipedal

As for diving condition, there is usually very little current underwater. Other than the sites involving pygmy seahorses (maybe on another photo set), dive sites are generally rather shallow, which meant relaxing dives.

the elusive ghost pipefish
the elusive ghost pipefish

The only little problem we had was that the temperature can get a little chilly (about 25-26 C), having thicker neoprene or extra hoods/gloves should solve this problem.

transparent shrimp
transparent shrimp

Now this is making me miss diving again. We have a trip scheduled this October, but lets see if there’s a way we sneak one in between.

nudibranch - Nembrotha kubaryana
nudibranch – Nembrotha kubaryana

Last weekend we did something that usually only tourists do, we went to the butterfly park in KL. The park is located within Lake Garden, a stone’s throw away from KL bird park and a mere 5-10 minutes from the city center.

Spanning some 80,000 square feet with over 5000 live butterflies and other insects, it is claimed to be the largest butterfly garden in the world (I believe the one in Penang is just slightly smaller)

grasshopper at KL butterfly farm
peekaboo! a grasshopper at KL butterfly farm

Haze and Horng were armed with 30mm Macro mounted on Sony NEX 3F & 5N respectively, while I had my trusted Olympus E-PL3 paired with the Digital Zuiko 35mm f/3.5 macro lens for this task.

We spent around 2 hours taking these photos, and these are some of the better pictures taken by yours truly. Hope you like them.

To my muslim friends, Selamat Hari Raya.

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After attending MIDE (Malaysian International Dive Expo) a few weeks prior and ended up spending quite a chunk of change on gears, Haze and I decided that a dive trip must follow. After all, the last trip was some 4 months ago at Lang Tengah.

After a bit of calling about different dive operators both in Tioman and Tenggol, we settled on diving with the operator at Tenggol Resort, the establishment situated on the far right of the beach if you are facing the island.

our resort is located at the far right of the beach
our resort is located at the far right of the beach

Due to schedule constraint, we only wanted a 2 day 1 night trip, and the package we got quoted was RM 580 per pax, which includes 4 guided boat dives. However, we also had to pay a RM 250 surcharge due to the fact that they had to use a 24-seat ferry to fetch just two of us from Dungun (other divers were all on the 3D2N option).

Fair enough I guess, hat made it a tad more expensive than normal for 4-dives, but we were pretty adamant on diving last weekend, so we went ahead with the arrangement anyway.

jelly fish, and note the inhabitants within it
jelly fish, and note the inhabitants within it

Ferry was to depart at 8:30 am in the morning, we started our drive from PJ at around 3 in the morning and it took us about 4.5 hours including a sahur stop at highway R&R to cover some 400 km.

obligatory shot of a family of nemo
obligatory shot of a family of nemo

Dungun is actually the closest place to get to for any decent diving, unless you actually consider Lumut/Sembilan islands a valid diving option, which I don’t and hence hasn’t bothered to pen down  the trip there earlier this year.

I just wish they didn’t delay the opening East Coast Highway to 2015 from the original 2011, that would cut half an hour off, hello JKR!

can you spot the tiny shrimp?
can you spot the tiny shrimp?

The room we had at Tenggol Resort had 2 single bed on each side of the smallish room, with no table or closet, and an attached bathroom with surprisingly good heated water (works from 7 pm till 8:30 am, as with electricity). Air conditioning didn’t really work well for us but temperature at night on the island is usually pretty comfortable anyway.

We didn’t have any problems with insects or bed bugs but a mat salleh in another room had his back bitten pretty bad. This is definitely not a 3-star or even 1-star type of place, but it will get you through the night if you’re not too fussy.

a pair of nudibranch, Hypselodoris bullocki, yes, coitus
a pair of nudibranch, Hypselodoris bullocki, yes, coitus

As with any trip at Tenggol (and with most islands), all meals are provided. We were lucky as there was an actual professional chef working (part time) at the resort for that particular week, so we ended up having pretty awesome meal. Your mileage may vary.

a white nudi wandering around - Chromodoris coi
a white nudi wandering around – Chromodoris coi

We did 3 boat dives on the day of arrival, and another morning dive on the next day. Our dive master Salleh was a very “chilling” type of guy, but perhaps one that is more suited for seasoned divers than beginners. Briefings were actually very brief, and the DM also didn’t dictate what we were doing underwater for the most part, we were also allowed to stay as long as we wanted instead of some who can’t wait to get out of water once it’s over 45 minutes.

My experience with the DM is a positive one.

underwater seascape
underwater seascape

Short dive logs, check this image for dive sites:

  1. Moon Wrecker – 11:26 am 21/6/2012. 43 minutes drift dive with plenty to see and pretty decent 15 meter visibility.  Saw some huge jelly fish, and one being attacked/eaten by a Titan Trigger fish, a 5 foot long black tip shark swam by 15-20 meter away too, good stuff. Slightly challenging dive for Haze in the beginning but she cope well. DM led us with another 2 guys – Thomas & Trud (spelling?).
  2. Rajawali Reef – 2:54 pm 21/6/2012. Plenty of nudibranch in this dive, there were no current, nice and relaxing. Spotted stingrays too, 54 minute dive time.
  3. Tanjung Gemuk – 5:53 pm 21/6/2012. We spent another 55 minutes on the last dive of the day, nice calm evening water with more nudibranch, stingray, eel, and pipe fish. It was just Haze, myself, and the dive master in this dive.
  4. Tokong Timur – 8:41 am 22/6/2012. One of the better dive sites at Tenggol that is also a bit more challenging, Tokong Timur is a very small island with a light house atop. There was a bit of a mild current and slightly choppy surface water, saw one really big batfish, and as with anywhere Tenggol, more nudibranch, sea fan, and nemo. Not a bad way to end the trip.
Our maximum depths in all those dives were capped at around 20+ meters, and at one point we touched 27 meter I believe.

Haze's imitation of a sky dive, or something
Haze’s imitation of a sky dive, or something

With this short Tenggol trip I’ve logged 28 dives in 4 diving trips this year. Diving can be an expensive hobby, I justify it with not having a car loan.

hello stingray, look who's looming behind
hello stingray, look who’s looming behind

My current set up for underwater photography is the Olympus E-PL3 with the in-house EP-PT05L housing. I have an ikelite plate for it and a single Sea & Sea YS-01 underwater strobe to light up the subject. All photos taken with Inon UWL 100 & Dome port.

My gears are almost complete, I just need to upgrade it to dual YS-01 (or trade this in for dual Inon z-240 and be RM 2-3k poorer), and add a stacked Inon UCL-165 lenses for macro to complete my gears. Perhaps some floats will help too, the equipment is getting heavy.

normal camwhore is so mainstream, this is underwater camwhore!
normal camwhore is so mainstream, this is underwater camwhore!

I think there’s another 1-2 trips to be done in this year, bring it on!

Following last year’s positive experience at Lang Tengah, we made a returning visit to the same island again. After Similan Islands live aboard and the trip to Pulau Sembilan (had good seafood, not so great diving), this is my third diving trip for the year, and that’s 24 dives logged this year. Can’t say I’m complaining. 😀

arriving at Redang Lang Island Resort's Jetty
arriving at Redang Lang Island Resort’s Jetty

We charted a bus and left KL at around 10pm on Thursday night. After spending a night largely freezing our asses off in the bus and had breakfast at Kampung Cina’s kopitiam, we hopped on the transfer boat, and 45 minutes or so later, we arrived at Paradise.

The fine white sand and crystal clear water always has a way of making the journey worth it.

and here's a slice of paradise here in Malaysia
and here’s a slice of paradise here in Malaysia

After lunch, we started diving. There were 5 dives in two days, and they are:

  • Day 1, first dive: Karang Nibong, 60 mins, 18m max
  • Day 1, second dive: Tanjung Terunjuk, 52 mins, 23m max
  • Day 2, morning dive: Terumbuk Kuning, 46 mins, 26m max
  • Day 2, second dive: Karang Nibong, 63 mins, 21m max
  • Day 2, afternoon dive: Karang Baha, 54 mins, 22m max

finally, a photo of us underwater
finally, a photo of us underwater

We were pretty fortunate on our dives and managed to spot leopard shark on two separate occasions. First at Tanjung Terunjuk on day one and again at Karang Baha on our last dives. However, the sharks were pretty shy, and on both occasions swam away before we could approach close enough for a Kodak moment.

By rough estimates, the sharks were at least 8-9 feet in length, and absolutely stunning.

a shy green turtle hiding beneath a boulder
a shy green turtle hiding beneath a boulder

This was also Haze’s first real diving trip, the two leisure dives at Pulau Sembilan she did (and I participated) had visibilities so poor that there isn’t actually any hint of leisure in them.

On these dives, we were blessed with visibilities in excess of 20 meters on all dives except the two occasions when we veered off to the slightly more challenging areas to spot leopard sharks.

those elusive razorfish
those elusive razorfish

At Redang Lang, like most other resorts, food is included, they are edible and very average. Breakfast, lunch, tea, and dinner served at the “canteen” area everyday, and dives are usually scheduled in between meals.

a relative of bad joke eel is found here too
a relative of bad joke eel is found here too

Luckily for Haze and a few others, Redang Lang’s rental gears are all new this year. Often times at budget dive trips the rental gears can be quite… disappointing. This was one of the reasons I bought everything I need sans weight belt and scuba tank.

Lydia making friends with Nemo and family
Lydia making friends with Nemo and family

It was a good couple days of divings. We boarded the bus again on Sunday and left Paradise reluctantly. It was another 10 hours or so before we reached KL (traffic was a bitch, and we made too many stops).

Guess it’s time to plan another trip. 😀

nemo, sea fan, plenty of fish, and this interestingly shaped dead coral.. ermm
nemo, sea fan, plenty of fish, and this interestingly shaped dead coral.. ermm

James helping out divers taking off their fins before boarding

James helping out divers taking off their fins before boarding

KY, Haze, Terence, Celine, James, baby and mom, Lydia & the rest
KY, Haze, Terence, Celine, James, baby and mom, Lydia & the rest

p/s: all photos taken with Olympus E-PL3 with this set of gears.

 Olympus E-PL3