Saturday, November 28, 2015

Cycling Sabah 2015 - Day 4: Cycling In The Sea

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Cycling Sabah 2015 - Day 4: Cycling In The Sea
Pulau Banggi & Pulau Maliangin : 14th November 2015
Cycling Distance : It was cycling in the sea, so not tracked
Time : Not relevant.
Time Taken :  Not relevant.
Level: Not relevant.

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The previous day after two days of cycling we had reached the Tip of Borneo. It was a ride that was worth our blood, sweat and tears as the Tip was an awesome place. We spent the night at Tampat Do Aman and today we were ready to try something different, today we are going to go cycling in the sea.
Cycling in the sea? Can that be done? .... well read on to find out!

7:00am - Three Avanza vans arranged by Anslem came by to pick us up at the Tampat Do Aman  to send us to Kudat where we will take a ferry over to Pulau Banggi. Most of our bikes and luggage were put into one van; I rode shot-gun in that van, don't want our precious bikes to go missing, yah?

The drive took us just about forty minutes, en route we dropped by at Omar's place. Omar and his friends of the Banggi Youth Club have made arrangements for our stay in Pulau Banggi.
We arrived at the Kudat Jetty early. With time to spare we had a good breakfast at Rainbow Herbs located in a food court near the jetty. They served pretty awesome tomyams which had us drinking the soup until our bowls were dry (see Rainbow Herbs blog). Finished with breakfast, we were ready and eager to board the ferry and head for Pulau Banggi....

... and so were our bikes... only three of us brought our bikes, the others did not as we will be cycling in the sea too.

As the ferry approached the island, seeing the beautiful island with light green patches on dark green; our eagerness turned to anxiousness of getting on the island and witnessing life there.

10:30am - We arrived at the island, I was surprised to learn that Pulau Banggi is the largest island in Malaysia, bigger even than Penang Island and Langkawi. The main town on the island is Karakit, along the seaside here many houses sits on stilts.
Our accommodations while here were suppose to be some chalets like this, sitting over the water. It is rumoured that sea crocodiles will come below these houses at night to look for food. 

Unfortunately there was a mixed up in our accommodations and the chalets on stilts were fully occupied. We ended up staying at some rooms at the old rest house area, so there will be no crocodile adventure stories to tell.
This big blue plastic tank would be one of our favourite spots during our stay here. It stores rainwater piped in from the eaves gutters. See, the old rest house was a bit under maintained and the en-suite toilets had no lights nor water, so we congregated here for some communal bathing and carried pails of water to our dry toilets.
Oh yah.... we even had a room pet - a large green gecko that seems to be resident in our en-suite toilet. There I was one morning sitting on the throne staring at the gecko while it stared back at me; I just tried to do my business as calmly as possible.

Another of our favourite place, these two row of single-storey timber shop-houses which Baki affectionately call the Mid-Valley of Pulau Banggi. Quite an appropriate term actually as this is the place where islanders can come get most of their shopping done.

After we had "checked-in" at the rest-house we re-grouped at the Banggi Environmental Awareness Centre (BEAC) housed in a pastel blue building. The BEAC is an effort by the Banggi Youth Club (BYC) to instil awareness of coral care to the locals and visitors. It is a program that is backed by the World Wildlife Fund. They also do planting and re-planting of areas where the coral reefs had been damaged. Part of the payment of for our stay on the island goes towards their coral re-planting fund.

Above is a photo-grab from the BYC Facebook page showing the replanting of corals.
"As long as the coral reefs are healthy, the fishes will come and multiply and hence so will the community".
The photo shows corals three years after seeding. It is a slow process and that is why Omar and his gang after taking much effort to educate people on preserving the coral reefs.

Pinned onto a wall of the centre is a map of the north-eastern tip of SabahPulau Banggi and the surrounding islands. It is a rare map as the names of many of the villages are indicated, so are the locations of existing coral reefs.

The centre is also a community centre where some locals gather to carry out some community work like rattan-weaving. Their hand-made efforts are sold as part of their fund-raising efforts.
Here's Omar with the ladies of the community centre. Many thanks to these ladies as they also prepared the lunch for us.

For today, it's the weaving of colourful rattan bracelets, pretty aren't they?

Lunch over, the BYC brought us over to their dive centre at Pulau Maliangin. The calming spray of sea water with the blue skies above was just what we needed after the previous two days of hard cycling. They dropped some of us there for snorkelling, while the rest geared up to go scuba diving.

Yes, we are going scuba diving!
This is what my buddy called cycling in the sea as we will be pedalling in the sea with our flippers.... but without bicycles of course. Yes, after decades this AhPek is going for his début scuba-diving experience.

Three of us, Jui Li, Jason & me are new to scuba-diving and we will be doing what is called Discovery Diving, one where we dive with an experience instructor following and guiding us. Somewhere at the sea between the islands, Jason with his instructor plopped into the sea with a splash; but the currents were too strong for safe diving by amateurs, so it was back up the boat again.

We turned around went back to the dive centre to pick up our snorkelling friends and headed out to sea again. The boat dropped us, discovery divers & snorkellers, at Pulau Maliangin Kecil and continued on with three of our other friends (who were experienced divers) to go diving at another spot. (Note: when snorkelling, we wore life-jackets too. This is not because we can't swim, it's more to prevent us from going down to coral level and accidentally damaging them.)
The sea here is so clear, and we discovery divers went diving at the waters off this island. But then, this AhPek failed quite miserably at scuba diving. As we were heading out, I was too excited and tried to swim, scuba gear and all, to the bottom of the sea. When diving, one should remain calm; to go down just release the air on the floats and slowly sink down to a suitable level AND not swim down excitedly. Because I had over-exerting myself trying to swim down, I became breathless and the air from the scuba tanks did not seem to be coming fast enough for my panting breathe... I was having an anxiety attack!
I signal for the rest to proceed ahead and slowly made my way to the shore to join my other friends.... it's back to snorkelling for me.

Snorkelling wasn't too bad (I was consoling myself), but really it was cool thing to do as the following photos show:
Nice clear blue water...

... colourful corals ...

... and pretty fishes.

Yes! Thumbs up for a wonderful time at the sea!

The boat picked us all up and sent us back to Karakit.
Back to our pet gecko, back to a communal bath at the big blue tank, and a nice dinner.
We adjourned to bed, happy and satisfied with an exciting day.

(For more photos of the day Click Here)

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