Story and photos by Engu Chong Gin
The Marine-friendly snorkelling for Beginners was held at Lang Tengah Island (near Redang Island) from 6-9th September. There were 16 of us (including the three MNS Facilitators). Participants ranged from 3 to over 60 years of age.
On the first day, we were briefed on the Do’s and Don’ts of the Marine Park, safety guidelines, and various hand and whistle signals. Next, we were shown how to use the snorkelling gear such as how to put on the mask, defog the mask, breath through the snorkel, clear the snorkel and put on the fins. We were also informed (repeatedly!) on the importance of having a buddy when going snorkelling.
During my first snorkeling session at the house reef, I wasn’t comfortable wearing the mask and breathing through the snorkel. The seawater got into my mouth a few times. We were also required to use the fins in a fluttering motion (without bending the knees) and that wasn’t easy either. I also noticed that a friend of mine who couldn’t swim was actually comfortable with the mask and snorkel and was holding on to her buddy all the time. She was relaxed and therefore doing much better than me! No worries, the lesson I learnt here was to be comfortable with the snorkelling gear.
As I was fascinated with the many colourful fish, I was also left far behind my buddy. This was another lesson learnt – we need to be alert; check where the buddy is from time to time, and be aware of our surroundings – whether there’s a boat coming or if we’re near rocks or the jetty.
After these two lessons, I would always snorkel together with my buddy and communicate with hand signals. We saw many types of fish, such as damselfish, butterflyfish, gobies, lizardfish, groupers, halfbeaks, parrotfish, pufferfish, rabbitfish, blacktip reef shark, surgeonfish, triggerfish, sea urchins and moon wrasse. Some of us even saw the moray eel, squid and crown-of-thorns starfish. There were many types of soft coral, hard coral and sponges, and it was good to see the many sea grapes between the corals as well.
After snorkelling, we referred to the books to look for the names of the different types of fish we saw earlier, and take note of their different shapes and sizes, colours, behaviours and symbiotic relationships. For example, Triggerfish can be aggressive during their nesting period and will bite people who get too close to their nesting zone.
We enjoyed games and an underwater treasure hunt and of course the topic was always about the sea and marine life. So we learnt a lot about marine life during that time. On a night walk, we saw seashells and a ghost crab. During the day, we trekked 1.5 hours to the other side of the island and back again.
We could see beautiful sunsets every evening from the resort we stayed at. Overall, I really enjoyed myself on this trip and I know the next time I snorkel, I will be more relaxed and will thus be able to enjoy and observe the marine life. For this, I must thank three ladies – Sali, Adeline and Cheng Tuan. I must also thank Wai Chin for inviting me for this trip!