Sea turtles - 2, Reef sharks - 2, Blue spotted sting ray - 2, Giant puffer fish - 1, Absolutely terrifying monster of the deep - 1. I hope I havnt been put off oceans for life. I suppose the moral of the story could be, if you see something lurking in a dark tunnel, dont go for a closer look.. But like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, never detered from going down to THAT basement where there guaranteed WILL be zombies, I just wanted to check. The thing I saw, I still maintain, had a head end the size of my (55litre) rucksack. And an open mouth, circled by rows of teeth. I got such a fright, I almost swallowed my snorkel (a neat trick!). Then rational thought said to me, nooo its a trick of the light, its a piece of coral, Ill just check. It would be wrong to say that it swam towards me because if it had, I wouldve had a coronary. But it did move a little further out of its hole and I have never swam so fast..
Subsequent research says that it was probably a very big moray eel. And they do bite. Id kinda like to stick with the idea that it was a sea monster but that would be sensationalising somewhat. But basically, I feel really bad for the next person who encounters it.
I went snorkelling again a couple of days later (not to the same spot!) and my days of tra-la-la-ing through the ocean are very definately over. I didnt much fancy going far off the 'beaten track', exploring did NOT seem like a good idea and also now that Ive seen that theres sharks around too, every now and then I would turn my head away from the corals out towards the blue of the ocean and fully expect to be rammed and torn to bits. Im a scardy cat now. So much so that when I saw the giant puffer fish (ive always loved puffer fish, theyre so cute!), I didnt much like the way it was looking at me, or moving towards me.
Yes, I fled a puffer fish. Well, it was BIG, and it had FRIENDS!! ;)
So I hear my dive fellows asking, why snorkelling, why not diving, the P islands are world renowned for their diving. I saw all the dive schools going out the same day I arrived and they basically have the divers carry all the eqipment, on their backs, round the corner to the reef. And the boat, if it goes out, is a fishing boat, none of this big boat, out at sea, free seafood lunch gig that I like so much. It just looked way to much like hard work.
But from my list up top you can see that I saw AMAZING things just snorkelling. We SWAM with the sea turtles, they werent bother by us at all. When they were coming up for air, I needed to move outta their way, no chance of them going round me. And they have such wise, cute faces. Apparately some of them have been tagged and they come all the way from Australia to lay their egg at the Perhentian islands, now THAT is a long swim!! Seeing the sharks was cool too, they swim a lot faster then I do.. ;) I was so lucky, I felt, to see some stingray, Ive always wanted to see them in the wild and these ones were bright blue! We also saw some fantastic, big, colourful fish. Really huge, either light blue and pink or dark purple, or yellow. And lots of shoals. Thats one of the nicest underwater views there is I think, a whole shoal turning this way and that, glinting in the sun.
That wasnt the end to the wildlife fun.. Mum and Kim got my SOS messages. The first night in our manky accomodation, I lifted up my bag and a spider the spitting image (and probably younger brother) of the one that bit me in Phu Quoc scuttled out. Normally, Im not a wuss about spiders, Ill be the one to take them out but this one had me wimpering and tucking my feet up under me, the full histeronics. Luckily, Sally, bionic woman saved the day. Having seen the spider I figured there would be no way Id get any sleep that night so I took some sleeping tablets. The next morning I woke up about 10 and Sal and Jen were like - 'We cannot believe you slept right through!!'. Through what, I said. Apparantely theyd been up about 4 times throughout the night, woken and terrified by horrible noises. There were rats in our room which ate their way through Jens rucksack. And a big blue and orange gecko, clambering across the walls. Kims since seen a picture of it and says its poisonous. Eventually Sal and Jen evacuated the room and camped out on the beach. I continued to snooze.. :D
Overall I was in two minds about he Perhentian Islands. Basically, we've agreed, we're all spoilt travellers now. The fact that the sea was shallow for such a distance out, and clear and warm.. (like a bath, a hot bath) - seen it before ;). The people got friendlier the longer we stayed there - they started out pretty moody. I cant wrap my head around the fact that they couldnt produce good local food, the rice or the noodles etc were rubbish. But they did do an ace plate of fresh BBQ-ed fish, the lassis were huge and I appreciated the cheap roti cani. The accomodation was expensive for what you got, but once we'd left rat palace, the next place was a lot nicer, I had some very happy afternoons sitting on the balcony in the forest. The weather was unpredicatable but when it was hot it was very hot!! And the snorkelling was cheap and superb. So Id say go and make your own mind up. Just watch out for eels!!..