Today has been crazy amazing.
We started the day with a full-day snorkeling expedition. We visited about 4 or 5 snorkeling spots and we saw a manta ray, 6 eagle rays swimming in formation, gray reef sharks, and tuna! But best of all, we saw pods of dolphins, with lots of babies, just following our boat and interacting with us! We even snorkeled a sunken ship, with only the bow sticking out of the water. Breathtaking. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much on one boat trip. It’s bad-ass hardcore snorkeling, if there ever was one.
And the whole time we were treated like royalty – snacks, food, a sumptuous lunch, coffee, etc., overflowing the whole time. We wowed everyone when we brought out a bag of dried mangoes. They kept closing their eyes and exclaiming how orgasmically delicious it was! The whole crew just spoiled us rotten. The whole experience was just magical.
We also had nice company, we had German, French, South African, and Peruvian people as groupmates. When we were introducing ourselves, as they proudly stated their home countries: “Germany!”, “France!”, “South Africa!”, “Peru!”, I was tempted to say, “The proud land of the Pinoy Republic of Jejemon!”
The water was incredibly clear and warm. Even in between snorkeling spots, we would jump in the middle of the ocean just to soak in the soothing turquoise brine of the Indian Ocean. It’s like we get separation anxiety from the ocean.
We were actually sad to see it end, our little seafaring jaunt, one that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
And to our surprise, our day was far from over. Apparently, it’s Earth Hour, and to celebrate, all four “resorts” within the resort (our resort is divided further into four sub-resorts) are dining by candlelight, under the stars, serenaded by Maldivian performers, singing and dancing as we feast. Okay fine, it was crazy romantic, so I was imagining it’s our wedding and it was our reception (hahaha, I can’t believe I admitted that!). But it was perfect: overflowing scrumptious food, romantic setting, the sound of the surf crashing into the shore, Maldivian chanting and music wafting into the air, under the clearest skies imaginable, with the one person I’d want to be experiencing this with, how could I not swoon? What a perfect way to end an already perfect day.
Did I mention that this is now my most favorite place in the whole wide world? No? This in now my most favorite place in the whole wide world.
I forgot to post this lovely little island we went to when we were in Malaysia called Pulau Tenggol. Pulau means island, much like our pulo, and Tenggol means, I don’t know, tingle? So Pulau Tenggol means “island of tingles”?
It was really a little piece of paradise there. It was a cove, so there were very little waves, as it was protected from all sides by the mountains. We went there basically just to snorkel and for lunch after. The pictures weren’t really much, since I took these not while diving, but from the surface while snorkeling, so the quality wasn’t really that good.
This puffer fish was huge! It also wasn’t very shy. I’d free dive really close to it, and it didn’t even budge. It was like: “take yo’ picture, you mofo’, then scram!”
Of course we have our token clownfish photo, mainly because they’re so common and so easy to take pictures of. They’re feisty little scrappers, very territorial of their patch of anemones. I’ve actually been “pecked” quite a number of times by clownfish and their nastier cousins, the damselfish. When they nip at you at full speed, it feels like someone made you batok.
This picture is very deceiving. This was taken from way up on the surface, as this was very deep waters, and that grouper was an absolute monster! Easily that thing was about as long as I was! I actually panicked when I first saw it beneath me, because it looked like a shark. But large as it was, it was very shy, and the moment it saw me, it went under some corals. Huge motherclucker!
Here’s a cute one. The other snorkelers were asking about this school of huge fish, that was circling at the shallows. They were huge, skittish and swam very fast. The dive masters were all trying to guess what they were, even bringing out a fish identification book, trying to find the species of fish. I scrambled for my camera and I asked it these were the fish. Everyone said yes. Then I looked closer and I said: “I think these are bangus.” So I asked them to look for Milkfish in the book, and lo and behold, the picture matched the fish that we saw. Strangely though, the Malaysians had no idea what they were. I told them they’re the most popular fish to eat. I’m surprised they don’t know it! Plus, I got confused. I always thought bangus were freshwater fish? Some said they were saltwater, some said they were freshwater.
Pulau Tenggol is famous for their sea turtles. We saw quite a few of them, so we were pretty much happy to see these shy creatures. Some won’t mind you until you’re close enough to touch them. Then, I guess knowing that we don’t swim very well, calmly swim away when we get too close for comfort, into the open blue.
This sexy beast, the one with yellow fins chasing the turtle, mystified me. I tried to consult so many fish identification books, but couldn’t seem to find a description that matches this exceptional sample of undersea grace and beauty. It was muscular, sinewy, and a powerful swimmer.
Underwater photography while snorkeling is extra challenging for me because one, my vantage point is always from the top, which is never fish’s good angle; two, I struggle so much trying to sink that all the jerky movements tend to scare the fish away; and three, since I’m so far away, I have the tendency to depend on the zoom, which diminishes the picture quality to a large extent. So the quality of snorkeling pictures is nowhere near as good as photos taken while diving, which gives so much better perspective. Plus I used my waterproof Canon D10. I prefer the photo quality of my Olympus Camedia 5060. For me, huge difference.
These were the photos I took while the RX staff went snorkeling in the Dive & Trek house reef. I swear, the few minutes we spent there yielded so many sightings of different species of fish. Those I can identify I will, for the others that I can’t specify, I’ll try to come as close as I can. I remember that when taking my advance course in diving, I loved the part where we did fish identification. When you see the biodiversity of Philippine waters, you really get a strong urge to try and keep the ocean life alive and prospering. Sadly, if we don’t do anything collectively to preserve the ecology of our waters, we might live to see the day when we can no longer find fish as stunningly beautiful as these to take photos of.
The next two photos are quite blurred because these fish are so skittish, that I could barely manage to shoot from afar before they swam away:
The next three photos are from the family of fish that’s pretty common in reefs, very easy to find, and lots of colorful species to enjoy. These are just three of plentiful versions of this beautiful fish.
Pacific Triangular Butterflyfish
Either a Lizardfish or a Grubfish
If you hear crunching sounds under the sea, there’s probably one of these nearby. They feed on corals, so you’d probably find them crunching away at the hard corals with their parrot beaks. I could never distinguish the different species of this rainbow-splashed fish because they all look the same to me. I don’t know if this is an endangered species, but I often find these fish offered as grilled fare every time I’m in Puerto Galera.
Scribbled Filefish (juvenile)
These are pretty hard to photograph when snorkeling. They usually stay in open deeper water, so they’re harder to sneak up on. Although the bigger versions of the unicornfish are much braver so I’ve had a couple of close encounters with those during some dives. These can get really huge.
Possibly my favorite of the reef fish, the triggerfish. I find them very regal. Although I’m petrified of the biggest of the bunch, the Giant Triggerfish, mainly because it really bites when you’re in its territory, I’m fascinated with the smaller cousins, the more harmless variants of this stunning fish. The designs on their bodies are rarely matched in the ocean kingdom.
This one I’m really stoked to have found. It’s very rare to find juveniles of many fish species mainly because they usually hide in rock crevices and wisely stay out of the open water. This is a breathtaking fish to behold with its bright blue stripes that stand out like neon in the water. No wonder they hide a lot, they’re so easy to spot.
Half-circled Angelfish (juvenile)
Here’s how this fish will look like as an adult, an old photo I took from a previous dive. It’s a humongous fish, but very gentle. The sheer beauty of this large fish is awesome to behold. This specific fish had the diameter of maybe a coffee table.
Half-circled Angelfish (adult)