Tag Archives: snorkelling

Video: Dancing Clownfish

3 Sep

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This little guy was defending his nest and his baby just left of the dock in Pulau Derawan: he’s straight out of Finding Nemo.

He’s not as elegant as the manta rays and the turtles. But the kids thought he was hilarious….

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Turtle Island, Indonesia

26 Aug

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Pulau Derawan, a tiny palm and sand island off the coast of Indonesian Borneo, is famous for sea turtles.

Now, in general, when it comes to sea turtles, it’s wise to keep your expectations low. Maybe, just maybe, there’ll be a glimpse of a reptile or two sculling in the blue yonder, when you’re diving. Maybe, just maybe, over a long enough night, one will lay her eggs on shore.

Sea turtle grazing amid coral. Pulau Derawan, Indonesia.

The first words we heard in our guesthouse on Pulau Derawan? “Can you see the turtle?” Continue reading

Full Fathom Five…

13 May

Imperial Japanese Navy ship AkutsishimaThere is a sepulchral magic to a shipwreck. Viewed from underwater, with russet filigrees of sea ferns flourishing on the fractured edges of a shell hole in the side, lettuce corals unfurling from a rusting crane, the gossamer fins of lionfish undulating like silken flags outside a propshaft, a wreck is one of the most awe-inspiring sights the planet has to offer.

The battle of Coron Bay might have faded into history. Just another skirmish in the closing throes of the Second World War in Asia, where US Helldiver pilots annihilated a Japanese supply convoy hiding in the Calamian Islands.

After the raid, in September 1944, it took weeks for some of these monsters to sink. They drifted, crippled, on the currents for many miles. Others went down almost instantly, taking many of their crew with them. Some have never been found.

Z and I visited three of the ones that have. Continue reading

A Serpent in Paradise

3 May

Black banded sea krait rising from the base of the sea

Not, honestly, the best thing to see while snorkelling

The labyrinth of reef-fringed karsts around El Nido, Palawan, must be one of the best island-hopping destinations in the world. Whether above water or under it, we’ve had the most amazing couple of days.

A little too amazing for the camera I bought in Vientiane, making that two cameras down in under four months, so you’ll have to take the ensuing purple passages on trust…

We’ve spent the last two days island-hopping, first on kayaks, then on a bangka, with Z’s new friend Dima, from the Ukraine, but based in Manila, and his ma, Natasha. It’s been absolutely idyllic.

Take Secret Beach, for example. You snorkel through a foot high crevice in a jagged grey limestone cliff, above a dramatic, turquoise underwater drop off where shoals of angelfish clog the water, into a lost world: white sand beach, shallow coral lagoon, all fringed by these surreal volcanic shards of dark grey cliffs, with crabs scuttling boldly vertical towards the swifts’ nest up above. And you, your companions and your boat, have the place all to yourself. Continue reading

Starfish and Shells

7 Apr

Blue starfish from Gaspar Island, off Marinduque, the Philippines

A present from a fellow guest. Much more beautiful alive than dead.

Easter Monday, and Marinduque is back into election mode. Banner-fluttering jeepneys pump out the Pilipino answer to Things Can Only Get Better in clouds as toxic as their diesel fumes. Mewls of karaoke waft down the pebble beach. Local party honchos gather over coffee, cigarettes and sweet ham sandwiches in the guesthouse convention room. And Rose pours Klaus his first beer of the day. 9.30am.

So we chip out on a banca, a tall, narrow outrigger with scarlet bamboo poles extending like stabilisers on a bike, to Gaspar Island, one of the three kings which nestle offshore from Marinduque.

This is sufficiently unpopulated to have not an aspirant councillor, Botoxed congressman or optimistic anti-corruption campaigner in sight. It also has one of the nicest beaches ever. Continue reading