Join STV, as we go Day by Day through our incredible trip to Malaysia... with photos, too!!
Day 2: As above, so below
Our first full day on Tioman Island is a never-endig series of wildlife encounters.
We begin the day with a pleasant breakfast to a musical arrangement of chirping birds and crashing waves. Then, we ready our scuba gear, board the dive boat, and take off unto the sea.
The waters are crystal clear and the ocean is calm - feels like we're sailing across glass. Dozens of smaller islands spot the waters surrounding Tioman, each looking like a pile of massive boulders that have been stacked into the sea, and then sprinkled with a green canopy.
These small islands - where most of the dives take place - make Tioman a wonderful locale for casual diving. The current wraps fluidly around the islands and takes divers for a calm ride through the scenic reefs and gorgeous rock formations. And the islands always serve as visual markers, so it's difficult to lose one's sense of location while underwater. Non-divers will enjoy these trips as well, because many of the dive sites ae perfect for snorkeling.
Like any great dive, submerging into the water feels like one is suddenly flying above a marine metropolis, with a colorful suburban sprawl of reefs and coral apartents tracts that slope upwards toward the island's base. Again, we're amazed by how healthy and unbroken the coral is amongst this trash-free ocean blue. Thriving schools of fish speak to the effectiveness of the local's efforts to protect the reefs. And underwater photographers will be thrilled by the beautiful variety of nudibranchs.
The highlight of today's dives are a spotted ray (who is very hungry and feeding vigorously), moray eels, pufferfish, and - we swear to you - one of the largest green turtles that we've ever sen with some sort of conch attached to it's shel, like it's sporting jewelry.
Our boat anchors at a secluded beach, the obvious spot for lunch break. We fill our bellies and rehydrate, and then jump into the water for a light swim and some beach tanning. If you're looking for a photo-opp to make your friends at home jealous, this is it.
Wildlife is just as exotic in Tioman's jungles as it is in the surrounding waters. After the dives, we take a stroll along ABC Bay's singular walk, which stretches along the perimeter of the rainforest. We stop to pet a few of the island's wild cats, which are friendly and often beg to be petted; did we mention that Malaysia is cat-lover's paradise?
We then come across an assemblage of small monkeys. They inhabit the bushes just a few yards from the sidewalk, eating, socializing, and climbing up into trees. There's a baby one, who initially shies away from us in the brush, but then cautiously emerges to play atop a wooden post. We're in awe, and momentarily forget that these are wild animals... then there's a WAIL, and a two-on-two brawl erupts between feuding monkeys. The locals, who are less enamored by these food-stealing creatures than we are, disperse the fight via their slingshots.
The fluttering of butterflies recapture our sense of entrancement with the wild. They're beautiful and come in a multitude of colors. My favorite was a neon-blue one with a green pattern on its wings. There's also a plain black one, yellow and green ones, and numerous orange ones that resemble monarch butterflies. But that's only a handful of them. Be sure to pack your telephoto lens.
Further down the patch, we spot a python. Have no fear! It lazily hangs from a branch above the river, well away from us and, probably - hopefully - well afraid. It stays on that same branch for the remainder of our trip, perhaps digesting a meal. What makes us even more excited is finding a monitor lizard. It's the second largest lizard in the world behind the Komodo dragon, and is frequent in these parts, especially by riverbeds.
When night comes, we head back to our rooms for bed, and, foolishly thinking that our wildlife encounters have ceased for the day, stumble upon some sort of large beetle, the size of one's hand. None of us have been more transfixed by a bug in our life. It has beautiful symmetry and a shell that's like a slick, polished wood. We gawk at it unti it hisses at us, begging for us to leave it be.
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**Each Day of the trip will be posted, check back for updates**
(all writing and pictures copyright of Scuba Travel Ventures)