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
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
Kapas Turtle Valley is run by a Dutch couple who called Malaysia home, there are a lot of pro & cons living in Malaysia as an expat. 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
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
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
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
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
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.
After two dives on the first day, we spent Saturday going underwater three times. The first dive in the morning was a deepish dive that bottomed out at close to 30 meters.
The visibility going down was excellent, but once we reached the bottom we literally couldn’t see anything past 3 meters, sometimes you’re lucky, other times you aren’t, and this is an example of the latter.
blue spotted stingray
However, even with the lackluster visibility, we did spot quite a few creatures at this dive site. A beautiful blue spotted stingray were found laying at the bottom, and there were juvenile bamboo sharks hiding in the reefs too. We also spotted a huge cuttle fish who wasn’t too thrill to see us, I did manage to snap a couple pictures of the undersea alien before it jetted off from us.
cuttle fish, not looking terribly happy
this is 1/3 of a bamboo shark hiding within the coral reef
We spent some 20 minutes at the bottom and another 15 minutes or so slowly ascending to the surface. The temperature at the bottom was a chilly 26 C, making it the coldest I’ve been (other than Aquaria KLCC)
underwater thugs wannabe
After brunch, we had another dive, and on this second site, we found what we were looking for – the magnificent leopard shark.
Leopard Shark at Lang Tengah
I’ve seen leopard shark while diving at Aquaria KLCC, but seeing a beautiful specimen in the wild is something else. Ed and I navigated slowly to the side of the resting leopard shark to take a closer position for photography, and just as we were settling down, Terence landed at the back of the shark, thus startled the creature, it took off..
Luckily I was able to snap a couple photos before it got away. Sharks are often more afraid of us than we are of them, and if we are to be able to see these beautiful creatures in the wild, do SAY NO TO SHARKS FIN.
leopard shark taking off
underwater photographer at work
The fifth dive of the trip turned out to be our final dive. Terence and I had initially planned to conduct a night dive at the house reef, but thunderstorm that started at around 6:30pm or so pretty much doomed whatever plan we had.
We took it easy on this dive, averaging only at around 14+ meters, with the maximum depth of less than 23 meters. The seascape was beautiful, and again there were plenty of clownfish to be toyed with.
the ever so photogenic clown fish in anemone
a fish that looks like coral, or coral that looks like a fish?
All the photos taken in this post were with the aid of the INON UWL & DOME unit. The ultra wide angle conversion allows me to get to the subject much closer, hence reducing the wastage of light from the external flash unit (I have a single unit of Sea & Sea YS-01).
For those who are unfamiliar with underwater photography, the deeper we go, the more red we lose (hence everything looks blue), and thus underwater flash comes very handy. However, flash units are expensive, and has limited range, a few feet further and all you see is blue again.
All this means that the closer you can get to the subject, the easier you can lit them up. To make matters trickier, water has an amplification factor of about 30%, hence the importance of wide angle lenses.
this would make a good aquarium backdrop
beautiful sea fan with them ikan bilis
I hope you enjoy the photos, hopefully there are more to come. What I really want now is another flash unit and some external arms get better pictures. We shall see. Expensive hobby, le sigh.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pulau Tenggol was where it all got started back in 2004, I got my PADI Open Water & Advance Open Water diving license together with Terence and Saint.
When my colleague Richard (he was at xmas eve party 2009) told me about this diving trip, the memory from 6 years back found it’s way from my secondary storage and told me I had to go back there, and Terence agreed too. This despite having just came back from Sipadan less than 2 months ago.
breakfast at some Malay restaurant at Dungun
Together with Richard, San San, Jonathan, Joe, and Terence, we packed our gears and drove up to Dungun last Friday. Spent a night at some cheap hotel, and headed to the Jetty after the excellent breakfast with nasi minyak, roti canai, and nasi lemak at some Malay restaurant by a junction (there aren’t many junctions at Dungun).
Tenggol Island Resort, precisely where we were back in 2004!
Some 45 minutes on pretty choppy water later, we arrived at Tenggol island, and as fate had it, we checked into precisely where we did some 6 years back.
The island still looked exactly like it did when we first got here. It was still relatively untouched, with virgin jungle embracing the sandy bay that has 4 very small resorts housing not more than a few dozen divers at any one time. It is nice to see that the place doesn’t turn to another over commercialized island.
this is Charlie, our resort operator & dive leader
We got our room keys, unpacked, and immediately suit up for the first dive. Our resort operator and dive leader, Charlie Lee, and I share a similar talent in drawing. While I draw maps to food, he excel in underwater topography, and drew maps of every dive sites before we visit them.
The maps come with depth, underwater geological features, path, and so on. Very impressive!
Ahh, being underwater, I miss it already
Our first dive was at Turtle Point, located at the Southern end of the bay, it is protected from the sometimes vicious current at Tenggol. With a maximum depth of 18 meter, the site is usually chosen for check-out dives.
My log book told me that it is also the place where I had my very first dive, though at that time we only went to the relatively safe depth of 9 meter.
Joe busy working, baby barracudas, Terence, blue coral fish
dive #1: Turtle Point
date/time: 27/3/2010 11:26 am
depth: 17.6 meter
duration: 43 mins
visibility: 10-20 meters
Four out of six of us brought cameras with casing fit for underwater usage, which makes for plenty of photos. You can check out the photos I took at this FB album
giant sea cucumber, tang fish, evil crown of thorns star fish
It was nice to get underwater again, Turtle Point was very stress free. We saw a school of baby barracudas, and unlike their grown up counter parts, they looked so cute when they’re at only 1-2 feet in size.
Sea cucumber, tang fish, and various other coral dwelling fishes were spotted too. There’s also the crown of thorns star fish that actually eats coral.
Phyllidia varicosa (scrambled egg nudi), Suunto D6, moray eel
We went on shore and had a very good lunch of curry chicken, vegetable, and rice. Usually lousy food is expected at dive resorts, but the meals we had with Charlie were all rather good, way beyond expectation.
Shortly after that it was our second dive of the day. We were pumped!
dive #2: Tangjung Gemuk
date/time: 27/3/2010 2:20 pm
depth: 26.9 meter
duration: 44 mins
visibility: 10-15 meters
Nemo and cousins, skinny puffer fish
Tanjung Gemuk is located a bit further away and had a bit of current going on. We took advantage of the current and did a very enjoyable and relaxing drift dive for the most part. Spotted puffer fish, two different types of clown fish, the “scrambled egg” nudi branch (sea slug), and more.
We probably covered 4-500 meters in 44 minutes. It was another excellent dive on just the first day.
There are 6 more dives on this trip, and I shall continue on the coming posts. For now, time to sleep!