Monday, June 23, 2014

Redang June 2014

We covered the 20 miles to Redang from Bidong/Gelok Islands in a morning and went all the way to the top of the island to anchor in the NE bay, to shelter from the forecast SW winds.  This bay has two very fine, white sand beaches, one private for The Taaras Resort, and the other is the public beach.  The public beach gets used a lot by locals and the fishermen here and would be a developer's wet dream!  Gorgeous, clear, clean water and soft, white sandy beach backed by coconut palms....what more could you ask for?

 What a beach, what a view, what water!  And lots of turtles around here.  The beaches on the east and north of Redang are green turtle egg-laying beaches and we saw the tracks and nests of their efforts.  Turtles pop up all around the boat all day long.  You can hear them exhale and often just see the swirl and splash as they go back down to munch on the sparse growth in the sand.
  The private resort, The Taaras, in the NE bay of Redang.  They let us use their floating dock to tie up the dinghies and get water.  We would walk through the resort to get to the road that led to the village in the valley you can see.  Rooms here go for $250-750/night.  That's insanely expensive for Malaysia!  But the bay is wonderful protection and beautiful place to sit and relax.  And get wifi!
 This is the new mini-mart under construction.  It is considered the 'best on the island', but the stock was skimpy and the building was still pretty raw and dirty.  It got a little better every day.  Ordering veges here was a major disappointment and we had to make do with our old provisions on the boat.
 The pool at The Taaras.  Fully clothed Muslim women and a bikini-clad guest on a lounge chair made quite a contrast.
 Mama goat and her kids resting on a tiny ledge of a foundation.  Lots of goats roamed here and they threw watermelons into a n empty field to feed them.
 Heather and Mark at one of the local restaurants we ate at ashore.  It was cheaper to buy dinner than to cook on the boat.
 Katma and Ishta at the restaurant where Katma's daughter works part time.  Katma gave us papayas and mangoes.  We bought a bunch of bananas from her and struck up a friendship.  We got several batches of papaya from her as I was tall enough to reach the fruit if I stood on a chair.  Ishta grew up in an English-speaking home and is here as a volunteer teaching English.  She is one of the very few women not wearing the traditional head scarf, too.
Mark, Jason, Karen, Katma, Ishta, and Heather at dinner in the village on Redang.
You're looking at the sea bed nearly 30' down--all sand here.  You can see our anchor chain and the attendant squid--those little black marks.
 More squid shots.  They love to hang out in formation near the chain and the boat.  People eat a lot of squid here, too, so they must be prevalent as well as tasty.  I have some squid jigs on the boat, but catching and cleaning them would entail dealing with their ink and it stains something fierce, so I don't bother.  Better to have someone else deal with it and buy a meal for under $2 to get it.
 A closeup of a squid by the boat.  These ones are pretty small.
 The fishing boats come in and anchor or pick up moorings near the shore here.  They leave at dusk and come back at dawn.
 More fishing boats surround Ajax before a forecast of SW squalls.  This bay offers good protection.  We were treated to quite the light show from electrical storms all around.  One day the entire island lost power because of a storm and we couldn't get the phones or internet to work at all.
 Pinang Island, just off the southern tip of Redang.  This is the Marine Park and we are on one of their moorings here.  We snorkeled to the shore over the coral gardens, but only after looking all ways for incoming boat traffic.  They zoom everywhere they go here, no slow speeds for them.  The wakes that the bigger boats put out are enough to rock the boat and one big wake washed a set of tools right off the transom steps.  We had to dive to 30' to recover them.  Luckily, the water is clear enough to see the bottom so we could find them and could hold our breath long enough to snorkel down to get them.
 Around the other side of Pinang, where the tourists are dropped off to snorkel.
 A couple of tour boats tied off to a mooring in front of the tourist snorkel beach.  When three of them decided to speed away at full throttle at the same time, we got that wake that washed our tools off the boat.  The tour boat drivers are plenty rude and inconsiderate here.  They seem to think its funny to push a big wake at yachts.
 The big orange mooring is the one Ajax picked up later in the afternoon, but had to get off it as it kept banging their hull so they couldn't sleep.
 The tourist jetty drop off point.  They don't let tourists use fins here to snorkel with.  I think they're afraid they'll kick or stand on the coral and damage it.   The way the tourists thrashed around in the water, they're probably right.  We were careful with ours, but needed them to get to/from the boat to shore.
 The mega-yacht we anchored near in this turtle nesting area.  They were very noisy and broke out the jet ski and zoomed around to annoy us all before they picked up and motored off in the late afternoon.
 Our view of the snorkel area here on eastern Redang from our anchorage spot.  We snorkeled to the beach from here and it was lovely.
 Our view of the rocky headland from our anchorage point here.  Nothing in the caves except coral rubble and rocks.  But beautiful coral fringes the shoreline here.
 Testing the self-timer on this new camera.
 Yep, the self-timer works.  And gave me just enough time to run back to my deck chair and plop into a relaxed pose.
 Two turtle watchers/research workers came by the boat in the morning and asked us not to use our anchor lights if we stayed another night.  The light might confuse the turtles.  They'd been 'on watch' all night to gather the turtle eggs laid to take to the research center/hatchery.  They are about the size and shape and texture of ping pong balls.
 The workers estimated they'd gathered about 200 eggs from the few turtles that laid them last night.  They claim about ten turtles per night will lay their eggs here until October.  Those 5-gallon buckets come in so handy for so many things.....
 Turtle tracks up and back from a nesting site.
 More turtle tracks.
 A turtle nest where eggs were laid.  They lug themselves up the beach, dig pits with their flippers, lay their eggs and then scoop the sand back over them.  Then they crawl back to the water and disappear, leaving the eggs to Mother Nature to handle.  The beaches here are fairly steep and it seems like such hard work to drag themselves up above the high-water mark to get to a nesting site!  Any females that survive to maturity will return to this same beach to lay their eggs.  Males never return to the shore.
 Jason near some nesting sites.  Humps and pits were everywhere on this beach.  The sand went from quartz-like gravel at one end to very fine, soft, white sand at the other.  Nests were all along the beach, so perhaps the turtles don't know the difference.
 The turtle researchers hut set back behind a line of turtle nests.
 More tracks on the beach.  One turtle must've been confused as the track wanders sideways a bit.  It's such a hard slog to drag themselves on the sand that we don't think it was just touring for the sake of it.
 Jason on the beach.  YOLO in the background.  You can see the fresh track that leads all the way to the sea.  Older tracks get partially washed away by the tides each day.
 A fresh track that goes in or out of the sea.
 Jason following a track.
 You can see how many turtles go onto this beach by the tracks left behind.  That one that swerves was a wandering mother, looking for a good place to lay her eggs.  The track led to the rocks at the end of the beach and then turned again.  The tracks from last night go all the way to the water; others are partially washed away.
 YOLO anchored off the east coast of Redang.  It was a beautiful coral garden to snorkel over to reach shore here.
 Lots of caves in the rocky shoreline.
 You could get into some of these caves, but nothing of interest was inside and they weren't very big.
 Beautiful water along the cave-pocked shore.
 The sun wasn't yet over the top of the hills when we were snorkeling here in the morning.
 Cool looking caves, eh?
 Could a pirate have hidden his booty in one of these stashes?
 This one was big enough to go into, but we didn't.
 We moved around to the turtle sanctuary bay on the NW of Redang.  This one was another pretty bay with nice snorkeling.  Ashore were university students in a building in the trees.  They made a lot of noise and it sounded like they were having fun during the day.  They didn't come out to the beach to challenge us, even though the literature we'd read said they discourage visitors ashore as this is another egg-laying beach for the turtles.  Lots of turtle nests were staked out and covered with wire mesh; we think it may be to prevent other turtles from digging up the nests by mistake. Or they could be where the eggs are relaid after gathering from elsewhere.  We aren't sure and nobody came out to talk to us as we walked the shoreline looking for shells.
 It was another long snorkel to shore from here but the sandy anchorage area was pretty small; most of the bay is coral.  We got a squally wind early the next morning and pulled up and left before we were blown over the coral.  We returned to the bay on the NE of Redang.  We really quite like that bay.
 Checking out what look like sandy areas for possible anchoring as we circumnavigated the island.  The waters here are so clear, you can see the sand and coral, but depths and lack of adequate swing room for anchoring kept us from staying here.  The sudden violent winds and rain squalls that pop up from the west caught our attention early with the near-disaster at Bidong, so we try to make sure we have plenty of scope for handling the sudden yanks and direction changes when one of them hits.
We came back to the NE Bay and filled our tanks and buckets with water from the resort.  Sure enough, that night, it poured rain.  I'd aired out my closet to ferret out a musty garment--a vest for cold weather--and I'd washed it.  Jason took it to shore to triple rinse it and hung it out on the lifelines.  The strong, sudden gusts took away in the night and we never saw it again!  You can see the bottom clearly here, and I snorkeled around when another wind gust blew a water tub overboard the next day and I had to jump in to get it, but I couldn't spot it anywhere.  Just turtles and abandoned mooring lines and nets on the bottom.  But our anchor was well-set and we sleep soundly knowing we are safe in this bay.  That's a good feeling!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Bidong June 2014

We visited Bidong Island, what used to be a Vietnamese refugee camp in the 1980's, about 20 miles out of Terengganu.  The boats of the Vietnamese were scuttled here in the bay so they couldn't escape or be moved off the island.  Its a small island with little signs of past habitation.  No fruit trees, no cleared land, no housing remains.....odd.

Now it is a private island owned by Universiti Malaysia Terengganu and is used as a field station for their coral research and breeding program.  I wanted pictures of the place and finally had to break out a different camera to get some shots (Thanks Tomas for the camera!).  Here's my mug testing the self-portrait mode at arm's length.
 We were told the island now has three wells and we could take some water if we wanted.  We found the hose that we could use and the first load of water had lots of reddish-brown clay in it, so we used it only for outside washing.  As we took more and more, it got much cleaner/clearer looking and Ajax decided to fill their boat tanks with it for drinking.  That is Jason making faces behind soaking wet Heather and Mark at the water hose on the island.  The university folks left after a couple of days and we had the place to ourselves for several days and made the most of the free water.  You can see our buckets ready to load in the background, too.

That's YOLO just off of Bidong.  We picked up a mooring ball the first night, but when a squall came through with westerly winds, we moved around to the other side of the island to get away from the lee shore.  Jason thought the mooring block might've started dragging.  The next day we picked up a different mooring ball.  
We were on that mooring ball when a squall hit at midnight and we nearly lost the boat on the reef as that mooring dragged.  A backhoe that is upside down in the shallow water out there acts as an artificial reef and we came within 20' of getting smashed into it.  We called Ajax to come help us winch ourselves off the line of floats and I had to get into the churning water in the middle of the rain, thunder, lightning and bouncing waves to cut us loose so we could get away from the coral and that backhoe!  That was a harrowing night!  

This is the backhoe that has been toppled upside down in the shallow water just off the beach at Bidong.  You can see the treads with a ball of fish swimming in the center of the shot.
 The digger bucket of the backhoe.  This is what we nearly wrecked on.
We don't generally trust moorings we can't inspect, but the Science Officer had assured us they were strong enough and the lines on the mooring balls were new.  Unfortunately, the blocks they were attached to were too small to hold our boat.  "Never trust a mooring!" is good advice.  We trust our Rocna anchor and chain much more and sleep better at anchor than on a mooring ball.
 These are still shots from Mark's Go Pro video camera
 Karen snorkeling on the backhoe.
 You can see how close to the surface this thing is.  At times, part of it is out of the water!
 Upside down heavy machinery.  Unfortunately, its battery was on the seabed nearby, too.  Perhaps they just drove it off a barge?
 Karen on the left, digger treads in the center.  Lots of fish now call this home.
 Karen in an underwater Ooh-la-la pose.  I'd float up pretty fast.
 Karen snorkeling away over backhoe.  I like my new red fins we bought in Phuket.
 Karen snorkeling over the backhoe.
 More backhoe pics.
  YOLO with the genoa out sailing away from Bidong to Gelok Is, just 2 miles north.  We anchored in a sandy hump off the shore.
 The beach at Bidong.  The university folks leave food, clothes, toys, etc. just laying around even when they leave for days.
 Looking the other way down the beach at Bidong.
That's Karen doing one of the "Ooh-la-la" poses while soaking wet from the hose.  Another yachtie lady was getting annoying always posing in front of the cameras at every stop and exclaiming, "Oh-la-la!" at everything.  We were making fun of her and taking ooh-la-la photos above and below the water here.  Not very nice, I suppose, but it made for some laughs at trying to match the poses.

Below is Karen doing another Ooh-la-la pose by the backhoe digger on the shallow reef at Bidong.  This is the beast that we nearly ran aground on when the mooring we were on dragged in a squall.  At low tide,part of the bucket is actually out of the water.
The fishermen had a jetty in the next bay and were using the entire length of it to straighten out and fix their nets and lines.  What a snarl!  I don't know how they ever got them straight.
 Their lines and nets went on and on and on.....
 A view from the fishermen's beach.  The bump way out there in the middle on the water is an odd octopus-like structure that sits up out of the water.  There are three or four of them here and we think they used to be part of a fish farming enterprise.  Now there are no fish in them, but they look like Octopus From Outer Space landing on the water here.
 A monument to the Vietnamese boat people.  Its shaped like a boat to commemorate how they got here.
 We saw this monument from the sea as we came around the point of the island.  We came back to hike up to it by land and found several shrines and lots of plaques.
 The only word I can make out is Vietnam.
 More octopus structures, surrounded by big yellow buoys.  You don't want to sail these waters at night.
 Lots of plaques cover the monument, giving thanks for making it here.
 More plaques from the 1980's.  We aren't sure if the 'Maria' refers to the Mother Mary or the name of one of the boats that brought folks here.  Most of the plaques were dated 1985-1987, but some from 1989.  We ever saw a recent polished black grave headstone from 2003, looking very out of place here.
 A Christian cross shrine.  Crosses are not very common in this Muslim Malaysia, but some Vietnamese brought their religion with them.

 A headless Buddha shrine with flanking dragons was a little further along the climb, facing out over the point.
 A headless statue of some Christian figure we think.

 The small bay around the point.  We'd originally thought we might anchor here, but it was way too shallow in the clear sand and the surrounding area is covered by coral.  We brought the dinghies around and drift snorkeled into this bay.
 An unusual emblem on this marker caught my eye.
 The bay beach around the point.  You could climb down from the monuments to reach this bay, too.
 View from the beach to another island nearby.  Snorkeling here was very good,
 Looking back up the hill from the beach to see the shrines
 A wall of more plaques as I climbed back up from the beach.
 Giant Buddhist or Confusian temple candles were just laying on the ground.  We saw these in the Chinese temples in other parts of Malaysia.  They are over 5' tall when standing.
 These containers were just sitting at the top of the point, a bit back from the shrines.  These may be where people lived?  They are made of pieces of fiberglass squares that bolt together.  We don't really know what they were for or how long they've been here.  There is very little info about this place here on the island. There was no internet reception here so we couldn't look up anything either.
 Hilltop view of the monuments on Bidong.
 The rusty remains of a ship on the beach in the fishermen's bay.  More scuttled boats can be seen in deeper water beyond the fish farm, but little is left of the boats other than the ribs.  This was the place where the Sail Malaysia dive was going to take place, but it was cancelled for lack of interest and the cost to dive here.
 Local fisherman trying to repair his lines on the jetty.
 Fishermen's bay from the dinghy.  There was lots of trash and discarded lines and moorings on the bottom.  Where the good sandy anchorage might have been, they've erected floating fish farms, basically nothing more than giant nets suspended from the floats.  They raise grouper and barimundi to sell for eating.
 Ajax motoring along.
Gelok beach view from the boat.  This is an uninhabited little island just two miles north of Bidong.  We dropped our anchors in the sandy area offshore here and snorkeled in to the beach over the reef.  Clear, warm water makes the long distances much more appealing.  We just have to make sure the tides aren't sweeping us away when we get into the water.  Coral won't grow much beyond thirty feet deep, so we find the sandy spots a little farther from shore on the outside of the reefs around here.