Strictly: Snorkelling

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Somehow we’ve managed to wangle a load of long weekends this year, and there’s no better time to take a trip than when you have three days off. So it was in this spirit that, at the beginning of July, a group of us headed off to Tioman Island in Malaysia. We ummed and aahhed about where to go to beforehand – three days are good in Asia but you don’t want to go too far and the visa restrictions of some countries are a little off-putting for short trips, but eventually settled on Tioman as it’s visa-free and the closeness to Singapore meant no need to fly. A short bus and a short ferry and you’re there, they told us. Four or five hours they told us. Well, it started promisingly but when you’re over four hours in and not even on the ferry it is a little bit worrying. Turns out that four or five hours is a very conservative estimate of the travel time to Tioman and, by the time you’ve navigated the Singapore-Malaysia border (twice, obviously, because combining the check-points would be just too easy) and just generally hung around more than is strictly necessary, those four hours suddenly become six, then seven, then eight and just when you think you might never make it alive you’re finally there. Yeah, it was a really long journey.

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I had heard a lot of good things about Tioman so was excited to see the crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches and, by and large, it did not disappoint. The island is bigger than I expected it to be, and we decided to stay on a beach on the east side, necessitating a half an hour jeep ride through the largely untouched jungle that makes up the islands middle. It was pretty hair-raising, more so on the way back when we rode in the back of a jeep, but quite an experience to be dodging low hanging branches and watching out for monkeys who would definitely try to steal your hair if they were given half a chance. By the time we navigated the journey, and keeping in mind that we would have all that fun in the other direction, we only really got one full day on the island but made the most of it by spending the whole day on a snorkelling trip.

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Jellyfish and whales aside I’ve developed a deep love for snorkelling since being in Asia and this trip just confirmed how much I enjoy it. As there were four of us we got our own boat, our own very, very bumpy boat (my spinal column did not enjoy crashing down on every single wave), and visited five snorkelling sites around the island. I’ve seen some pretty cool stuff snorkelling in Asia and while there were unfortunately no reef sharks or giant turtles we did get to see some very colourful fish and a lot of coral – including a big green one that looked as if it was breathing, which was very cool. I also discovered that I really cannot wee in the sea, which caused me a lot of traumas, seeing as how we were out on a boat, nowhere near an actual toilet, all day. My bladder traumas aside, the snorkelling was really good fun, even more so because most of the water we were in was really calm, meaning I didn’t even have to make any effort to resist the pull of the tide. There was also a point where I got caught up in a massive school of fish, narrowly avoided a minor panic when they all swam really close to me and then got sad that they had not adopted me as one of their own. It wasn’t until the end of the day when I realised I had gone the whole expedition without being attacked by marine life – I’m pretty sure that’s a first for me. I nearly undid all that good work in the evening though, when we went exploring on the beach and came across a massive herd (if that’s the right collective noun) of hermit crabs just hanging out in the shallows. It took us quite a while to realise that they were actually hermit crabs, and not just lots of shells, and I’m pretty surprised that my toes were not the victims of a disgruntled crab attack.

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As always happens, before we knew it the day was done, and we were moving ever closer to our return to Singapore. We might have only spent two days on Tioman but it was a trip well worth taking, and one I would recommend to anyone, especially if they are a lover of ocean based activities. Maybe not so much if you’re not a fan of rice though, they eat a lot of fried rice on the island and, by the time we headed home, I was very glad to have the choice of some different foodstuffs (although not that many different foods, I do still live in Singapore).

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Leah Out X

P.S. some of these pictures I’ve borrowed, I was not as prolific a photographer on this trip as I’ve been in the past. 

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