By Saras Kumar and Norlida Kamarulzaman
On March 17, 2001, 11 Selangor branch members set out to explore Pulau Rumbia, Perak with plans to find a site to do a preliminary check for a future “Reef Check” survey, and also to have fun.
We left P.J. by 6am hoping to arrive on the island at high tide. Unfortunately, no boats were available at Bagan Dato’, but undeterred we continued to Lumut where we promptly secured a boat. By the time we reached Pulau Rumbia, the tide was too low to go right into shore and so we’d have to swim to shore. But what about our luggage? Luckily, the ever prepared Mr. Heah had brought his inflatable mattress to ferry our things to shore. First, a few lessons in how to set up camp from Mr. Heah and then we jumped into the water for some snorkeling.
Those of us who had not been on the island before were pleasantly surprised by the richness of marine life. Although there were dead corals and signs of anchor damage, there were many massive healthy corals, especially of the poroite variety, the staghorn and some other hard corals. Signs of growth were good particularly with the branching corals.
There were also a number of soft corals which was also surprising considering that the island is located in the “polluted” straits of Malacca. There were plenty of fish, garoupas, clown fishes, parrot fish and damsels. The parrot fish and garoupas were of quite a considerable size. There were also other marine creatures, one member even spotted a young turtle and another spotted a group of baby squids.
The marine life cannot be compared to the marine parks of the east coast but they are quite spectacular and abundant. This area is an unprotected area and over-fishing and indiscriminate anchoring seems to be the order of the day. It is imperative that buoys are put out for boats to anchor.
After a delicious meal prepared by Mr. Heah and his assistants, we settled down for the night. The following day, we had time for a short snorkel before the boat arrived. We decided to visit another nearby island, Pulau Lalang on our way back before returning to the mainland. Some of us explored the beach and camping areas while the rest of us went for a snorkel. There seems to be a few basic camping facilities, such as fresh water supply, a makeshift toilet and shower cubicles, and a place for cooking. Pulau Lalang might be a better place to camp in future.
Again we found a variety of marine life and the coral cover was a little better than that of Pulau Rumbia with less dead coral and little anchor damage. This was probably due to the coral areas being at the far end of the beach, out of the way of anchoring boats.
In our preliminary recce trip, we find that the marine life is surprisingly better and more abundant than we had expected. There will be more future trips where we plan to do a better and more organised reef check on the two islands. We find that the islands and the surrounding seas are worth preserving. There are still more places in the Sembilan group of islands that we have not checked out but which might yield more surprises.
Our short weekend was already coming to an end as we headed back to the mainland. The marine group hopes to draw up a management plan for the area in the future with the hope that it can be gazetted as a marine park. Anchoring on the coral reef needs to be stopped and fishing in that area regulated if fish populations are to recover. Educating visitors about pollution, litter and the preservation of marine eco-systems need to be started if the island is to be conserved.