The start of another Easter long weekend diving and long journeys to and from the Dive Resort started with me having to drop Bruno and Halle, my two chocolate Labradors, at the Pet Hotel. Karen was joining this trip as a PADI Dive Guide, so the dogs needed somewhere to stay. They have a like and hate relationship with the Pet Hotel. They like playing with other dogs, but hate leaving us. Anyway we picked them up on Monday and they were excited to see us both and behaved as if we had only been gone a few hours.
On this adventure we ventured to Perhentian Island in Malaysia. The island is not that far away from Thailand. This trip was a big one consisting of 18 divers plus Karen and myself. Ruby, Maggie, Joyce, Ovidu, Christian, Geok Wei, Jun Long, Andrew, Sarah, Brendan, Moh Tat, Georgie, Phil, Greg, Lucy, Oliver, Aline and Natalia.
We took the 14 hour train trip from Woodlands Train Checkpoint to a train station not far away from the jetty where we met the boat to take us to Perhentian. The train was an overnight sleeper train that was basic, but clean, comfortable and sleeping was easy enough for most.
The trip started a little bit too chaotic for my liking. The train was due to depart at 8pm Thursday night. The plan was to meet at 7pm, collect train tickets, rental gear, clear immigration and board the train. But due to the rain and the congestion at the causeway with the eve of a Public Holiday, our taxi was stuck in traffic for a very long while and Karen and I arrived at 7.15pm.
5 people had not arrived either and I began to get worried. I sent everyone else through and waited for the last to come. 2 people arrived at 7.30pm and another at 7.45pm. I then left to board the train and passed the train tickets to Moh Tat for him and his two friends who were still running very late. At 7.59pm I saw Moh Tat and his friends rush onto the platform, dive bags in tow and with seconds of boarding the train, the train left. Lucky for them!
Chaos aside we arrived at Perhentian around midday, had some lunch and completed two dives. On Saturday, we did 4 dives and some did a night dive. On Sunday, we did 2 dives before heading back home, involving more chaos, which I will explain later.
For the first time ever, I saw sharks at a dive site called “Shark Point”. I saw 5 black tip reef sharks on one dive there and one on the final dive of the trip. All dives where 50-60 minutes long and the last being 75 minutes long. The dive sites are not very deep, allowing good bottom time.
There are three wreck sites at Perhentian; Sugar Wreck, Police Wreck and Vietnamese Wreck. The best was Sugar Wreck by far. It is 95 metres long, lying on its starboard side. The viz on the day was 15 metres, good for this cargo wreck. It was loaded with fish and had some fun simple penetration points into cargo holds. Nothing too big or unsafe, just fun places to go.
At Police Wreck there are 3 identical Malaysian Police boats. The viz was not so hot when we dived it, compounded by some new Open Water Divers creating massive sand storms with their fins, but again a lot of fun swimming inside and around all three wrecks.
The Vietnamese Wreck was an upside down barge that had been used to tow Vietnamese people to Malaysia during the war. Another fun wreck with loads of fish and stone fish. I have seen thousands of scorpion fish, but it’s not often around here you get to see Stonefish. This wreck also had a nice swim through, a bunch of doorways that led to an opening on the other side. You could actually see light from one side of the wreck to the other.
The best by far was “The Pinnacle”. This site was about 20 minutes from the Resort, just incredible with viz of 30 plus metres. It was fish soup. I had to push some fish aside to see other fish. Oh and of course our friend the trigger fish was at most sites.
One trigger fish decided to attack Karen and she swiftly gave it a backhand swing using her underwater camera. But that wasn’t enough to deter it. It then swam at her again, so she hit its head again with another backhand volley.
By the time my group arrived, it was angry! So I took a wide berth and warned everyone else to do the same. Christian did not follow me and decided to go straight for the trigger fish with his new GoPro (he wanted some footage), only to find out pretty quickly what a bad idea that was. The trigger fish went straight at him and he quickly backed away and followed me. It was only later that he realised it wasn’t turned on. Such a pity as Christian spoke about the trigger fish teeth and the recollections. I would love to see if they floss.
The highlights for the weekend were the school of hump heads, black tip reef sharks, “Crush the Turtle”, loads of porcupine fish, loads of clown fish, the eagle ray, a school of squid, schooling trevally and the people on the trip.
It was a big group and I really enjoyed talking to everyone. Although maybe, there wasn’t enough time to do some relaxing on the beach, but it was a great group of people that made the trip fun even with the hassles we endured to get home.
In summary I enjoyed diving Perhentian and so did everyone else, but I was little bit disappointed by the viz. At some sites it was less then 5 metres. And I guess on average it was 10-15 metres and at one site 30 metres plus.
For the distance we travelled and with its remote location, I was expecting better.
Don’t get me wrong it was still good and worth the trip. But I was expecting more, maybe I am just too spoilt!
The fish life was as expected, maybe even better. There was a lot to see and I can’t complain about that at all. I even had a face to face with a blacktip reef shark and that was very cool.
Karen and some of her group saw a herd of 30 humphead parrot fish, which was fantastic.
We left the resort on the last day at 4pm after two more fantastic morning dives. We arrived at the train station early and had to wait until 9pm for the train departure. At 8.30pm, the Station Master came and got me and explained that the train was not coming due to another train derailing. “Ok, now what?” I said. I suddenly found myself thinking I was about to experience another “Truly Asia, Malaysia” moment.
The poor Station Master had two phones on his desk and they did not stop ringing long enough for me to find out for a while what the plan was. All I heard was “bus”. Eventually he explained that a bus would arrive at 9.10pm. Well it never arrived and we had to wait for another, but no one knew where it was or when it would arrive. The next issue was that it could only hold 44 people and there were 51 passengers. We had a lot of dive gear too.
On a side note, the train system in Malaysia is still running on a British system left after WWII. No electronics, just buttons and phones. It looked like I had walked into an antique shop when I entered the Station Master’s office. It reminded me of my days back in Sydney first working for DHL 25 years ago.
Anyway the bus arrived at 11pm and we all managed to get a seat and we had 4 hour ride to where the train was waiting. We boarded the train at 3am expecting to leave but learnt that 4 more buses were on their way. Some went to bed, the rest had a small party before falling asleep.
Hats off to the Station Master and the Malaysian railway. They did a great job and we were back in Singapore only 2 hours late.
All in all, an eventful weekend with good diving with new and old friends.
Video by Gary. Photos by Karen and Gary. To view more photos from this trip, please view our Facebook page – click here