Tag Archives: swimming

Turtle Island, Indonesia

26 Aug

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]

Like This!

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

Of Canopies and Caves

9 Aug

Green leaves explode from the lower canopy, above clusters of tree tops. Mulu National Park, Sarawak, Borneo.

[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]This is the view down over the lower storey of the rainforest canopy, in Mulu National Park, Sarawak, from the longest canopy skywalk in the world. Nigh-on 500m of suspension bridge rattles and sways above the tops of the lowest trees, pinned to the sleek trunks of emergent giants.

It’s a place where I discovered that the nine year old’s theory of repeated exposure curing vertigo holds some force. And the nine year old, in turn, discovered a fear of heights.

Well, not so much heights, exactly. His objection, to be precise, was to the skywalk, and in particular the plastic packing tape which held the creaking boards together. Continue reading

The Inflatable Waterpark

16 May

Ek biki inflatable waterpark, Santa Rosa, Philippines

The magic of childhood. Or something.


[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]

This technicolour dream palace is indisputably special. Possibly a little “special needs” too.

What is it?

You may well ask. For this, my friend, is an inflatable waterpark.

Occupying 5000 square metres of apple-green Astroturf in the middle of nowheresville, Luzon, EK Biki comes complete with dangling sharks, inflatable dragon slides, slightly forlorn clownfish and, weirdly, an Olympic-sized paddling pool.

All, like the giant hamster’s wheel and spinning top on which Z spent many happy minutes scrambling, entirely blow-up.

To add a further note of the bizarre, it caters entirely for non-swimmers. 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

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

Hot Springs, Tamarinds and Tricycles

3 Apr

Tricycle in Boac town square, Marinduque, the Philippines

A tricycle. Can carry eight people plus luggage, if you're Pilipino.

So here we are in the Philippines, on the little island of Marinduque to the south of Luzon, experiencing the Pilipino Easter in all its crazy pagan-Catholic magic. Flagellants, crucifixions and, erm, an Easter Sunday beauty contest? Only in the Philippines…

And, best of all, Z has his grandparents along too!

We bumped into Granny and Grandpa a little ahead of time, while we were choosing doughnuts in Lucena port, ahead of our ferry to the island. And Z’s face when he saw my father was a picture.

Not so much ecstasy, or a desperate leap into his arms (which part of me had feared), but a relaxed, calm, “pleased-to-see-you” look followed by a babble of anecdotes. Continue reading

Swimming Lessons

17 Mar

Field of young rice

Almost as beautiful as under the Mekong

When it comes to swimming, the Mekong (at least in the dry season), is the don. And the swimming off Don Det, in Si Phan Don, Laos, really vaut le voyage.

There’s a tiny – I think artificially enhanced – sand beach off one corner of the island, with islets at the most beautiful range of distances.

The depth shelves off so fast you can dive from a catamaran moored on the shore, yet, unlike the ocean, there’s no turbulence or drag to go with the drop off, and the decline is smooth, not shelved. Continue reading

Mum, Mum, Your Hair is Turning Green!

6 Mar

Z jumping into a poolWhen does a child count as a swimmer?

I guess the baseline test is chuck them in and see if they sink or not. This is how swimming was “taught” a generation ago, with a teacher on hand to haul the sinkers off the bottom with a long pole.

Z’s passed this for some time, albeit long after he achieved his first swimming certificate. Ten metres!!! Go figure. Continue reading

Dolphins on the Mekong

22 Feb

Kratie, Cambodia: Sunset over the Mekong

Kratie, Cambodia: Sunset over the Mekong

I was eighteen when I read about the pink freshwater dolphins on the Amazon. I’ve dreamed of seeing them ever since, and Z and I will do this later on this journey.

In the meantime, though, we stopped in Kratie on our way back from Ban Lung, Ratanakiri, to see the Irrawaddy dolphins on the Mekong, and avoid a repetition of our experience on the way up.

The Kratie pod cluster around 15km upriver from the town itself. We took a sampan out to see them from the riverside there, the driver paddling the boat so quietly that the huffs and snorts and squeaks of the dolphins echoed across the water.

The freshwater Irrawaddy dolphin is an endangered species, but this pod was full of life. They surfaced, puffed and played in groups of two or three, one pair arcing so close to the boat that we could see the expressions on their faces. Continue reading