By Serina Rahman
Underwater images by Irene Fam & land images by Serina Rahman
The annual MNS, Friends of Redang and Dragonet Project Aware event on Pulau Redang was extremely popular this year, with eager participants reaching record numbers (September 22-25, 2005). As usual we had our loyal regulars – but this year was a little different as Technip Malaysia, a French-based engineering company serving oil, gas and petrochemical industries, sent in a large contingent of divers to participate and learn a little bit more about Reef Check.
While all the other Project Aware participants embarked on a treasure hunt and a number of leisure dives, the Technip group buckled down for intensive lectures on fish, invertebrate and coral species identification and other aspects of reef check theory. On top of that, they were taken out onto the sand and into the sun where a transect line had been laid so that they could better understand the cubic area that they would have to survey.
Of course there was no way the group could stay dry the whole weekend, but there were no leisure dives in store for them. After a first buoyancy check dive, consequent dives consisted of species ID dives (where facilitators pointed out indicator species) and then tested dives where the Technip crew had to identify species we pointed out. Their very last dive was a complete mock reef check trial.
Although it took up most of our time, the 4-day trip wasn’t solely about Reef Check. Dragonet and Coral Redang Island Resort, generous sponsors (again!) organised a beach clean up – and everyone… Technip, regular participants, volunteers, dive shop and even resort staff pitched in to clear the beach of a whole lot of rubbish. Evenings were spent at Pelangi Beach Resort (also a generous sponsor) for even more environmental talks organised by Dragonet.
The most interesting of all was the seminar by Prof Chan of SEATRU. Based on Chagar Hutang on the other side of Pulau Redang, Prof Chan was best placed to report on increasing encroachment by fishing vessels into the marine park area and sadly she reported that green turtle nestings were at a low this year. However, nesting figures are cyclical and she was confident that this low figure for 2004 was natural and that the numbers would increase. Unfortunately she did concede that leatherback turtles in Malaysia had to be considered extinct.
Although at times less than perfect conditions both above and below the water made the weekend very eventful, and no-one spotted any whale sharks (they only appeared before we arrived and after we left!), all ended well and everyone left reassuring us that they had enjoyed their trip and had learnt quite a bit about the reefs and its inhabitants.
P.S.: Special mention should also go out to Doc Kana (also of the MNS Marine Group) who single-handedly organised and ran a beach clean-up cum Project Aware at Redang Beach Resort over the same weekend. His event was incredibly well-attended and his participants could be seen slogging under the sun on the beach… while we headed into the cool welcoming water for our dives!