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Tickling The Feather Star Open for Critters

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See the Clingfish and its pattern?

Crinoids are what divers know as Feather Stars, sporting feathery arms that sway back and forth towards the centre of the body. One of the easiest subjects to photograph, crinoids are prehistoric animals in the class of echinoderms with male and female species found clinging onto coral reef cliffs often asleep in the day or actively feeding at night. The challenge is to photograph the tenants that the Crinoid itself hosts. It’s important to note that no photograph is worth abusing the animal for so please handle your subjects with care as you would a live animal on land. Crinoids are somewhat sticky and brittle. You wouldn’t want to break any of their arms off in your quest to shoot the shrimp within so keep your buoyancy neutral and coax the star to do a grand opening for you. I will teach you how.

After witnessing so many dive guides using their swizzle sticks to roughly ‘part the arms’ of the Crinoid to show divers what it holds within, I felt compelled to write this article to educate the many of you who might follow the bad habit of disturbing nature for your pictures. I practice a minimal disturbance to no disturbances in all my shots. They are never manipulated, nor had my subjects tossed in mid water to get them flaring, fearful or angry and I implore all of you to nurture good habits. The ability to boast of your shots is in the way you photograph them, not how the shot was obtained with manipulation. When you understand marine animal behaviour, you will get your incredible shots. Having spent the last 17 years teaching and 12 years of photographing underwater, I am moving towards educating the diver of the habits that you should possess to encounter your subjects.

What you need in your gear:-
1) Dive equipment of course.
2) Carabiners/loops/holsters to streamline your dangling hoses (SPG/Octopus/reels/SMBs)
3) LED torch
4) Dive computer to record depth and time you see the animal to relocate it next time.
5) No gloves unless you are diving in 15? waters
6) Hood to keep your hair tucked away from curious octopuses
7) Any camera housed in respective cases
8) Marine life guide books

Pre-dive preparation:-
1) Clean your hands after you use sunblock
2) Secure all gadgets with lanyard in your pockets.
3) Identify the subject you want to shoot.
4) Decide with buddy how much time you want to spend on each subject and if you find your target, be considerate to allow your buddy to take shots as well.

It’s not what camera you have but your knowledge of marine life that would get you nearer to the animal. By knowing what your subject lives on and feeds on, you have already increased your chances of finding it. By knowing your reef, you would have access to the inhabitants if you know what feeds on what and when.

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The Shrimp also took on the colours and pattern of this Crinoid, Oxycomanthus Bennetti.


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Close-up crop of the shrimp.

The basis of not touching anything in your dive education has been the point of contention in dive circles as we see dive guides competing with one another to find elusive critters with their sticks/pointers and completely lifting the animal out of the sand even though it’s meant to be camouflaged. I found it deeply offensive and I usually stop following the guide to find my own interaction with critters when I am not the one guiding the trip. When marine scientists collect specimens for research, they can’t avoid touching. We are not scientists neither are we collecting any specimens but we want to document them and there would be some degree of touching (hence rule number 1 in pre-dive preparation is to have clean hands) but not to the point of harassing the animal.

Not all crinoids have critters within. There are several species that host them. One of my favourites is the Oxycomanthus bennetti. 9 out 10 animals that I find have ‘tenants’ within them! On this particular one, I found 3 different types of critters! They all form a symbiotic relationship with the host and even adapt to its colours and patterns. Two Clingfish, a shrimp and a crab (not displayed) were darting about as I got closer.

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There are 2 Clingfish in the picture and a shrimp. Can you spot them?

How do you get a Feather Star to open up its multiple arms for you? You only need to tap the spine of the arms gently & softly. As you begin tapping, be mindful that your neoprene suit doesn’t touch any of the brittle feathers or you might end up ripping the poor little thing apart. By tapping with your finger pads softly, it will begin to spread out. Your camera settings would have to be ready for the shot as you might only get one or two shots of the critters within. Set your focusing to Spot and metering to Centre-weighted. Crinoid will stay ‘open’ for you if it feels tickled in all its arms as long as you avoid touching the cilia (feathers). I use a drink stirrer with a ball tip to coax the critter (shrimp/crab/clingfish) into view from the opposite side carefully without touching the Crinoid. Once I get about 4 or 5 shots or a video if the subject is actively moving, mission is accomplished & I move on to other subjects on the reef. Minimal touching and absolutely no disturbance to the Crinoid. It will soon curl up to get back to sleep when it senses no threat.

For more on marine life and nature documentation, follow Pummkinography on Facebook or follow Pummkin on her trips!

Astro Kasih’s Beautiful Malaysia – Reef Rescuers Programme

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Divers surfacing after a round of cleaning up underwater.

Ever wondered what’s it like to have a little underwater camera that produces megapixels of high definition videos? Beginning on 24 May 2013, you can have a go at the Astro Kasih Reef Rescuers ‘7 Days of Sharing’ Facebook quiz that runs until 30 May 2013 to get selected for a GoPro camera giveaway & there’s one given away daily! In bringing you the longest underwater clean up, held at the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park off the shores of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Astro Kasih team organised a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDSâ„¢ attempt from 6th – 13th April 2013 – a total of 7 days or 168 hours – the same length of time that the quiz will run! The initiative was started to create greater awareness on marine conservation – with the help of 134 volunteer divers from Malaysia and across the world, working at 14 dives sites around the park, in an epic, non-stop 168-hour, seven-day underwater clean-up mission.

Astro Kasih’s Beautiful Malaysia programme is a volunteer initiative undertaken by Astro employees for the betterment and advancement of the community that we live in. Being one of Astro’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives under its environment pillar its main focus is to raise awareness on preserving the environment with community engagement for environmental activities. You can give your comments & suggestions as they welcome ideas on the Astro Kasih Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/astrokasihmalaysia.

Astro Kasih Beautiful Malaysia includes a coral transplanting project in 2011 at Ribbon Reef in Tun Sakaran Marine Park, Sabah – an effort that achieved certification by the Malaysia Book of Records with 777 corals transplanted. To learn more, just surf over to www.astrokasih.org/beautifulmalaysia. The purpose of Astro Kasih’s initiative is to help the many underprivileged villages and children in Sabah since 2009. Their activities include building and repairing amenities and infrastructure and contributing to the improvement of educational resources for the kids.

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Volunteer divers posing with their haul.

You may not have been aware of this record-breaking attempt, hence, a 30-minute television special showing an insider perspective of what it takes to plan and execute such a huge marine conservation project will be aired on Discovery Channel (Astro Ch 551) and Discovery HD World (Astro Ch 571) on Thursday 30th May at 7pm. This is a collaborative effort by Astro with Discovery Network to produce Reef Rescuers. Watching it will not only get you into the charms of the purpose of Astro Kasih but to get you involved in this upcoming premiere of Reef Rescuers, through a special quiz!

In that duration each morning you will be given a chance to a multiple choice question that you must answer by 7pm on the same day. You only need to submit your real name, email address and phone number for authentication purposes should they need to call you about the giveaway. Last but not least, you’re needed to spread the word on the Reef Rescuers programme and quiz through a Facebook status update that says “I just took the Reef Rescuers quiz about the world’s longest underwater clean-up in Sabah, Malaysia. Take the quiz today and get selected for a GoPro! Catch the 30-minute documentary on Discovery Channel (Astro Ch 551) and Discovery HD World (Astro Ch 571), premieres 30 May, Thursday, 7pm.” If your sharing can help educate someone about the ocean’s reefs, imagine how much destruction you can help prevent! Share away & save a reef! After that, check back on the Astro Kasih Facebook page after 10am the next day to know if you’ll be getting your hands on a GoPro camera courtesy of Astro Kasih. It is easier to receive notifications if you click ‘Like’ on the page.

If you are a diver, don’t stop there! Watch it with your fellow divers to see if you get ideas from the Reef Rescuers to safeguard your patch of reef! Connect & invite them on the Reef Rescuers Facebook Events page at https://www.facebook.com/events/320722658059225/. Remember to use the Red Button on your Astro remote control during viewing to get more info, chat on Twitter, see an info feed, or check out their other giveaways.

After you surf over to join the quiz, you can also look around for ways to keep Malaysia green or engage in sustainable living. If you prefer to check out the best places for scuba diving or cool places to travel to, have a look at the conversations on the Discovery Southeast Asia Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/DiscoverySEAsia. There’s always something cool to discover every day!

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The Astro Kasih’s team and the divers commemorating their extraordinary achievement with a group photo. Amongst them is my NAUI Course Director, Michael Tong!

Seashell Underwater Housing for Your iPhone & Camera

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Imagine being able to take your camera with you no matter what the weather is like. On days when you want to take snapshots of your trip to the beach or the waterfalls, you no longer need to worry about getting wet or destroying your gadget. You can even protect your camera when you go cycling, jungle trekking, kayaking or while attending wet festivals such as Songkran in Thailand and La Tomatina in Spain! Now there’s a manufacturer who has come out with a universal underwater housing for your compact camera as well as a dedicated housing for iPhone users. If you have brands of compact cameras like Nikon, Samsung, Sony, Canon, Panasonic, Olympic, Fujifilm, Leica, Casio, Sanyo, Ricoh, Pentax, Kodak, BenQ, Haier, Polaroid, Rollei, Yashica, GE then you would most definitely have your camera housed.

Configuration is quite simple but needs a little understanding of the structure of your camera & how it will fit inside your Seashell SS1 or SS2 housing. Generally, if you have a compact camera that has a protruding zoom lens, then go for the SS1. If your camera has a flat lens & a shutter closure, then get the SS2 housing. I needed a fuss-free option where I can keep a camera on me, so that I won’t have to miss any whaleshark sightings should I be conducting the Advanced Scuba Diver course or any other courses except entry level dive courses (which is prohibited in the standards to carry a camera). This housing fits snugly into my dive shorts pocket. I secure the lanyard to a carabiner which is clipped inside my pocket’s D-ring. The Pentax Optio RS1500 that I had won in the My Selangor Story 2011 blogging competition was a perfect candidate for this pretty housing. Since I have different cameras for different purposes, I use this as my back up underwater system.

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The fitting of the fishtails (silicon pads) was a bit tricky even with the supplied template that you are suppose to measure your camera against. I basically gauged which fishtail should cushion the bottom & applied some guesswork to which goes onto the side wall slots. Put them all into a ziplock bag to prevent losing them over time. They can be used again if you change cameras & need a re-fitting. After placing my camera inside, I took the sponge frame to fit over the display panel of the camera with the sticky side facing up before gently closing the door. Once it caught on, I pressed the sponge into place & voila! My casing is ready to go into the water!

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Here are some point & shoot pictures taken with it.

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During a night dive where my torch was my primary light that doubled up as my subject finder!

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A lionfish or two, lurking on the reef.


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A Chromodoris reticulata (nudibranch) at Sri Nakhoda, Tenggol.

Seashell is the world first Universal Water Proof Camera Case. Seashell can be configured to fit hundreds of different compact digital camera models. e.g. GE, Nikon, Sony, Canon, Panasonic, Olympic, Fujifilm, Leica, Casio, Sanyo, Ricoh, Pentax, Kodak, Samsung, BenQ, Haier, Polaroid, Rollei, Yashica and many more. You can now safely bring your camera to the beach, waterfalls, water themed parks & river cruise or lakes for swimming, and even to water festivals and not get it wet.
        

        Comes with the configuration kit.
        40m water-proof.
        Operate down to -10 degrees Celsius.
        1M Shock Proof.
        IP6X Dust Proof.
        Hard case design, provide better protection against shocks, dust and sand.
        Fashionable design with multiple colour options.

If you are interested to get one, please contact me via email at iam (at) pummkin (dot) net. Price for SS1 & SS2 is RM635.00 and for the SSi (iPhone4) is RM 575.00. Delivery within Klang Valley is RM10 only.

Shark & Yolanda Reef in Egypt

One of the most exhilarating dives I’ve had was in the Red Sea when I was in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. Visibility exceeded 30m & water temperature was around 20 – 21 degrees Celsius, prompting me to wear a 5mm farmer jane wetsuit for protection. The initial shock as I entered the cold waters set all my senses into alert. My heartbeat fluttered for awhile but as soon as I saw how clear the water was, that apprehension turned to excitement. Wolfgang was my buddy & we went down to Shark & Yolanda Reef at Ras Mohamed National Park, which sat at approximately 15m – 30m of water. The wreck sits at 145m – 200m further below after the drop off & what’s left on the shallower bed is the cargo of bathtubs & water closets strewn all over.

The corals in the surrounding reef was amazing. Sunlight penetrated to more than 20m depth & with the help of strobes, I brought out the colours of the soft corals as we inched along towards the sunken cargo.

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There wasn’t a shark in sight. I was hoping to encounter at least a reef shark & was geared to film my first oceanic shark but they just didn’t appear when I was there. I could even get close to a Sea Perch without it flinching while I pressed the shutter button.

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Sea Perch.

The sight of bathtubs stacked together was quite nostalgic as my mind wandered to how I’d been raised taking herbal baths for all my ailments but to me, it was a time to frolic! Toilets & pipes were all over the place too, albeit encrusted with corals.

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It was interesting to see what we sit on with our bottoms at the bottom of the ocean & this WC having great growth prospects gave me a new sense of respect for them!

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An inverted WC!

This part of the cargo below has turned into a reef. Can you see the pipes & bathtub?

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Visibility was near perfect!

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Flying to Egypt was quite an experience. I flew UAE & had a stopover in Dubai. I will be planning another trip really soon as I’ve yet to see the SS Thistlegorm, sunk during World War Two. If you are planning a trip to the Red Sea, you can check out holidays to Egypt & request to dive with Diving & Discovery, awarded as the best dive centre in Sharm El-Sheikh!

Never Miss A Shot with Pentax – My Selangor Story 2011

I was eager to swim & soak away the aches so I took the opportunity to take the Pentax Optio WS80 with me. The thing that intrigues me is the amphibious nature of this model that I got supplied with during the contest duration to shoot with. I took it down to 1.5metres in the pool & it worked perfect. I could think of the many times that I have needed a small, waterproof, rugged camera with me & I will detail them here.
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Why You Would Need A Waterproof Camera:-

If you were an underwater photographer/videographer (like me), you need a backup camera. With the usual clunk that I carry, my underwater housing, strobes, lights, arms, tray, batteries/chargers weigh a ton. I simply cannot afford to carry another nor would I be able to purchase another set. When I shoot till the batteries dead, there is almost always a whale shark, a manta ray, an eagle ray or a happy squid BECKONING ME to shoot it. Somehow, Murphy’s Law would only apply then, ‘Anything That Can Go Wrong, Will Go Wrong.’ It is absolutely wrong NOT to be able to document any NatGeo moment that I encounter. The Pentax Optio WS80 or Pentax Optio WG1 would sit perfectly inside my BC pocket.

  • When you have a pool party, you almost always get thrown into the pool. Everything else can be replaced but definitely not the pixels recorded in your memory card if you don’t have a waterproof camera.
  • When you go jungle trekking & have to cross rivers with rocky terrain, the last thing you need is to drop your camera while balancing on these ultra slippery rocks. And you are like me, you want to take the breathtaking shots as you trek……
  • You teach swimming & scuba diving like me & want something to record your student’s progress. They can’t see how they perform themselves if you don’t have a waterproof camera that can shoot videos of them with. It is great for perfecting their strokes (swimming) and correcting their finning method (diving). Maybe you can get your friend to record your performance too.
  • You love tide pools after the tide go out & want to document life in these tiny pools that hold a myriad of life. It’s impossible to submerge a bulky, housed camera & a small, handhold, amphibious camera would be great for this task. Another NatGeo opportunity that you wouldn’t want to miss.
  • You’re one of those who like taking pictures of yourself in the bath……no, I’m not that type so WIPE THAT IMAGE OF ME DOING THAT IN YOUR HEAD.
  • You just want to don on your rain jacket & play in the rain & what better way to shoot in these circumstances than to have a waterproof camera with you at all times???
  • Still not convinced? Well, I spent a hour in the pool at Holiday Inn Kuala Lumpur Glenmarie Resort to convince myself why I SHOULD BE GETTING A WATERPROOF CAMERA next & it wasn’t very hard to convince myself after looking at the videos. These videos are super clear & have already been resized.

The beautiful landscaped garden at the hotel, has a man-made waterfall cascading into a concrete pool. The garden is bordered by a walled fence beside the golf course thus, a serene & tranquil environment for guests.

The kids playing merrily in the pool made great subjects to film underwater. Here are the videos taken with it:-

The camera is perfect for travellers who want a fuss-free, waterproof model to take snapshots in situations where they wouldn’t want normal cameras to function in, such as at beaches, waterfalls, lakes, swimming pools. It serves as a good back up camera with HD movie capability in the event that your primary camera refuse to work for whatever reason.

As soon as I got out of the pool to relax on on of the deck chairs, the pool attendant walked over with a beach towel & handed it to me. I am impressed with the level of service rendered even at the recreational level where guest are expected to take it easy. Holiday Inn Kuala Lumpur Glenmarie Resort has definitely got it right with impeccable service!

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Picture taken with the Pentax WS80

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Picture taken with the Pentax WS80

 

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Picture taken with the Pentax WS80

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Picture taken with the Pentax WS80

 

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Day 5 – Pure Joy of Relaxation at Holiday Inn Kuala Lumpur Glenmarie Resort – My Selangor Story 2011

Retiring into a comfortable room when you are travelling, makes all the difference in your stay. My room had twin beds, which I share with Olyvia, a software engineer from Jakarta. The bathroom was spacious & had all the amenities you’d find in a five star resort & the soap was what I loved most. Soaps with a higher content of glycerin makes it super luxurious on your skin & did I enjoy my bath time in the bath tub! The room even had its own steam iron & ironing board, not every hotel equips the room with such & it enabled me to iron my dress in the quickest time possible without having to wait for the delivery by the housekeeping department if it was the conventional way.

The thermostat of the air conditioning can be turned down to 10?C should you wish to fully utilise the efficacy of the comforter provided but we set it at a comfortable 22?C.

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Our bedroom

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The bathroom!

As this was our final day of the tour, we made our farewells & vowed to keep in touch to journey with each other through our blogs. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the sponsors & organiser of My Selangor Story 2011 for making this possible. My stay with each one of the resorts has opened my eyes to many possibilities within my profession to promote Selangor when I go overseas as an ambassador for ISO Standards in Diving Services for Malaysia. I thank you for making me feel important as a guest & may the contest be a platform for me to pitch my skills as a writer & producer for the assignments that I will embark on hereon!


This best sums up the 5-day journey of mine.

I would be so grateful if you could vote for this entry HERE. <—- There are links at the bottom of each post that require a click on the many hearts that you see! Thank you!

Here are our sponsors who made our 5-day tour splendid!
Organiser Official Tourism Board Official Airline

Official Hotel Official Resort & Spa Official Resort

I'm on The Cube, are you? Official RestaurantOfficial Camera

 

 

A Secret Wonder – Coral Bay, Western Australia

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Coral Bay is 155km south of Exmouth & one glance at the azure sea would tell you that this pristine marine park has more to offer than what meets the eye. Famed for its caravan parks & a handful of resorts in this little suburb by the sea, Coral Bay holds the world’s best kept secret in hosting the most diverse structures of coral colonies in the region! Who would have known that this sleepy suburb is the base to reach pristine dive sites? Colonies of corals that built mazes & fish condominiums, tiered mounts that mould into exotic framework piling into the foundations of the sea, this must be one of the best dives I’ve done (and I have done in excess of 2,500 dives in my life all over South East Asia) & truly, I am torn as to whether I should disclose the location or let it remain a secret & maintaining its pristine conditions by reducing human impact on the area.

Every diver in our presence was floored by the awesome structures that formed the maze leading out to a gigantic creek with sandy bottom. The only thing that possibly frustrated me was that the light wasn’t where it was supposed to shine & casted shadows in places where I needed corals to be lit. It was a challenging time for photography (though nothing could beat my Rottnest experience!) & to find the right angle just so that I can show you the majestic formation but alas, these pictures were all I managed as the sun was setting.

Presenting you a dot in the ocean, a speckle in the map but a world of beauty beyond what you & I can ever envision!

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Bearing in mind that corals are actually animals with male & female reproductive organs, the reef is made up of millions of colonies that build structures as they grow. To have a magnificent ecosystem that looks equally astounding is something that only God can create.

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We were taken to a sparsely populated reef before getting into the thick of things. It’s an absolute wonder that the marine life thrives in every reef due to the protected status! There are absolute fearless fish to contend with!

Harlequin Sweetlips at the cleaning station!

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Mantle of a Giant Clam

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Looks can be deceiving. This reef even has a Picasso Triggerfish!

Completing two dives on a day out was exhilarating to say the least. The awesome wonder took my breath away, both underwater & above. Visit Australia if you are planning your journey!

P.S. This blogpost will appear on Amazing Journey with a flash gallery of more photos than what’s posted here. Pummkin’s Pitch has a mixture of my personal journey & adventures but Amazing Journey categorises my travels by destination & product reviews with an occasional sponsored post or two.

Roughing It At Rottnest

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I am here in Perth, Western Australia, courtesy of Tourism Australia & Tourism Western Australia & the main event I was covering was called PUPS – Perth Underwater Photo Shootout, which was held at Rottnest Island on the 12 March 2011. This is the biggest underwater photo shootout in Western Australia with 35 divers contesting to get top spots for the prizes of a dive trip in exotic locations in Indonesia & Malaysia amongst the other sponsored goodies that attracted this large number of participants. Leaving in the morning on a fully equipped dive boat with Perth Diving Academy, everyone had assembled their photographic setup to be ready for the first dive the moment the boat stops.

Despite the perfect weather, the sea condition wasn’t particularly good with 2 – 3m swells & 3 – 5m visibility but what we faced underwater on the first dive was even more daunting. Being thrown forward & backwards, wedged into crevices almost mounted on the ceiling before being thrusted by the next surge of motion only to crash into a mini mount. The sea was throwing a tantrum that day & as Humpty Dumpty was clad & layered in a 5mm Farmer Jane suit, having to offset my buoyancy with a 12kilo weight belt didn’t help. I can’t even begin to tell you how many mounts I have come to ‘know’ & little caves that I find myself in. You get the drift???

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The varied types of seagrass & seaweeds in Rottnest Island.

Dave Baxter, the extraordinary underwater photographer who had put together this feat of an event, was my buddy for the day. I can imagine how much laugh he would have had watching Humpty Dumpty sauntering & gasping, having to turn back & see if I’m stuck somewhere beneath the mounts. I couldn’t take a single decent shot on the first dive let alone nice pictures but after reviewing them on my Mac, I was able to show you what a wild time I had by these ‘super artistic’ (fluke) shots generated by the motion of the ocean!

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Put in a collage for fun…..

As one of the appointed judges, I was not running in the competition but I got one of my prized ‘catch’ on the second dive. A friendly & curious wrasse followed me around, watching me up close & wondering why I was turned turtle (ahem…it was a balancing issue with the ultra-buoyant wetsuit & 12kg weights on my belt). The wrasse often came right up to my mask (Dave took pictures) & would even allow me to stroke its tail! It had no problems whatsoever with trusting (clumsy) giants in neoprene & has the curiosity of a cat! Here’s one shot of it while it was staring at my mask:-

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Presenting – Le Amigo D’ Wrasse! Unedited, uncropped, unadulterated. Even speckles are left for posterity!

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When it stared at my camera…..

Perth Diving Academy provided the diving services on their big boat & the day ended with a barbecue at the yacht club. Judging has been postponed to 29 March. Next on the itinerary would be my journey to Exmouth & Coral Bay!

Tioman Rediscovery!

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The start of the dive season saw a new & uncharted discovery of two submerged reefs in Tioman. Virtually unknown by dive operators due to the hit & miss factor of such locations, Gary, my dive buddy & I, went to locate the reefs with the help of a local. Almost hitting decompression as it was a constant 27 – 28m dive, one of the accompanying instructors beckoned me to go over to where he was & showed me the very marvel that people pay tens of thousands of dollars to visit the remotes of Indonesia to see…..the elusive SEA APPLE! (Pseudocolochirus sp.)

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Having bartered with fishing boats for their by-catch, I’ve traded Coca Cola with fishermen for these beautiful sea cucumbers to place them in Tenggol waters in hope that they will breed but they all seem to disappear from the bay in preference of cooler waters. Now that we have them at our doorstep, it will certainly be a joy & wonder to show divers this jewel of a sea cucumber! The one pictured above is sleeping. When they are awake & feeding, colourful fern-like branches would stem from the top to trap food! The Malays call it Gamat Bulat, a name befitting its roundish/spherical posture when tensed.

At this reef, we saw many critters & fish, a refreshing change from the usual dive sites of Tioman.

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The sea fans are exceptionally big, covering the whole of Gary as he posed as my model underwater! Here’s what it looks like, minus the Gary…..

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I will be conducting an exploratory dive trip to make more discoveries & hopefully document other critters. Send me an email if you are interested to join the trip!

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Making our way to the village of Genting towards the southern part of the island, I must say, eating at the pak cik’s cafe was awesome. The spice was just right & we had dollops of chilli paste that came with our grilled fish. The guys at Samudra Divers were excellent cooks too! They brought the whole kitchen & whipped up a storm on the last night of our stay! I’m definitely returning with my students!

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Scientific Solution for Atolls in The Indian Ocean

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Whisking pass the city on the KLIA Express is one of the least stressful part of the travel……when you are not rushing. Realising too late that my 24” luggage handle was broken by the airport handlers on my trip back from Egypt, I had to physically push it on wheels, amongst the crowd & my other bags. I spent the last fortnight in the most expensive resort island in the Indian Ocean where rates start from US$1000 per night to US$6,700 per night. Celebrities, royalties & anyone with cash to burn deserve to have unprecedented privacy.

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Managing the underwater work in a scientific project for the resort, we went out even in rough seas. The wind caused the boat to rock 45 degrees side to side. Internet connection here is via satellite transmission & with 600+ staff in the village, there was no way I could upload any videos of my previous work. I spent my time assisting the team of scientists in getting the job done on land as most of my work is in the ocean. Going out is a challenge & so is coming out of the water. There were moments where we decided not to climb back onto the ladder-less cruiser & swim 300m back to shore with the surf instead. By the time we return to base, I had become so exhausted. Imagine going out like this twice a day.

What’s good though, is the people I get to work with on this island with 200 villas. I got to see plenty of what I don’t normally see, such as the Manta Ray passing overhead while I was working at the bottom! I was too stunned to take a picture but I did shoot everything else in my line of sight though! Got a Honeycomb Moray while he was being cleaned. This picture was taken up close.

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Sneaking in a leisure dive or two yielded pretty good results as I got my chance to come very close to the most fearsome Titan Triggerfish & filmed it! The coral reefs are teeming with life & pelagics will occasionally swim overhead.

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Look at his teeth!!!

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Chancing upon a Cleaning Station, all these fishes congregate here to have parasites removed from their bodies. It’s like our car wash queue! God’s design for the reef is so beautiful & marvelous!

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That brings me to this observation. A typical female’s 5C’s are Cash, Condo, Car, Carat & Credit Card but the picture above contains MY 5Cs……can you guess what they are??? Clam, Crab, Christmas Tree Worm, Coral & Crevices! These are stuff that I live for! Even if only one of you appreciates my work & pursuits in obtaining the most bizarre footages in what I call a NatGeo phenomenon/encounter, it would be worth my while to keep producing them for you. I have achieved all that I’ve set out to achieve & nothing makes me happier than to find these & discover new things in my oceanic adventures. If you have nothing to live for, you have lived for nothing.

As we were bound by the contract, I can’t really say where I am but from my title, I’m sure you can guess where I’ve been for the last 2 weeks & pray that I get to return home for Chinese New Year! What a way to end January 2011!

Wonderful World of Mabul!

The cloud of silt smoked wispily from beneath the crab. If it hadn’t been the medium of water, you would think the crab’s bottom was on fire. Hovering closer to take a look, I realised that it was using its hind legs to sift the sand to get to its prey, the Sea Biscuit urchin! Every year, I dedicate one trip to a far-off destination, to capture creatures that would completely blow my mind such as this funny crab. Seeing someone upside down, filming a scuttling crab with its morsel must have been quite a sight for the creatures. During night dives, especially in sites where there are plenty of sea urchins, there is no telling what you might hit when you are concentrating on your subject and the only source of light. I didn’t collide with anything and thank goodness for that.

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Check out the video!

Spending 5 days on the oil rig resort called Seaventures was pure bliss. Located off the island of Mabul in Sipadan, our ‘escape’ route was down the ocean below, lowered by the elevator that accommodates 7 people at a time. We had a great crew serving us while having the time of our lives when we sieved out the bizarre residents below the rig.

On the night that we arrived, it coincided with Mid Autumn Festival for the Chinese, what we fondly call ‘Mooncake Festival.’ According to what Ive been told as a kid, this festival is about a rebellion of the current rulers of China then….commemorating an uprising in China against the Mongol rulers of the Yuan Dynasty (1280–1368) in the 14th century. They devised a plan to time the rebellion to coincide with the Mid Autumn Festival. Permission was sought from the emperor to distribute thousands of moon cakes to the Chinese residents. These mooncakes, seemingly to bless the longevity of the Mongol emperor, contained the uprising message inscribed on the cake itself! Though Wikipedia stated a different story of a piece of paper with a message ??????? – Kill the Mongols on the 15th day of the 8th month, that’s inserted into the mooncake, I was told it was inscribed. The rebels successfully attacked and overthrew the government on that night and the Ming Dynasty was established soon after. I associate lanterns to this festival because I used to lit them up on nights leading to this day when I was a kid. Prior to being in Mabul, I bought 18 paper lanterns, packed them in my suitcase and on that night, we lit them up and hung them with the help of the crew and other guests in the resort……TA DA…!

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We averaged about 4 dives a day, taking as much in as I could with one of my strobes doing the disco light on me all of a sudden. Disabling that I resorted to one strobe & one light instead. Great weather greeted us when we arrived, stormy weather in between, reminded us of nature’s fury as we scrambled to grab our things off the tables into shelter. Just as the most difficult times in the most difficult of situations, the storm will pass and the rainbow is a reminder of not only God’s promise but that the sun will shine again.

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Footnote:- Over the next few days, I will blog about the things I’ve seen. I have to get ready for yet another assignment next week which would see me in another part of Indonesia. Till I find some time to upload the videos, you can follow me on Twitter for real time updates!