Thursday, May 05, 2005


As the sun set on Tioman I sipped a beer and pondered the sign at the jetty, it read that Muslims are fined 5000RMs and or 3 months imprison and not more than six lashes of the whip for buying alcohol. Nearby Muslim girls are splashing around in the water fully clothed including headscarf.
As the sun sinks into the ocean day becomes night and the big lizards (upto 4ft) continue to prowl the paths and hunt for bird eggs, tongue darting in and out sniffing out their prey as they lumber through the scrub, sometime visible only by their extended tails pointing out.
Motorcycles with old trailers as sidecars skillfully navigate the narrow path running behind the beach, carrying goods and people from one end of the beach to the other.
I rented out a snorkel, mask and life jacket and donned the equipment and headed into the blue sea. I probably inhaled a good portion of the south china sea up my nose, but still isn't salt water good for cleaning out your sinuses. Once I had the mask better adjusted and a bit more used to it, although I still flapped about on my back like an upturned turtle, I managed to see some fish! Not even sure what half of them were, but once I got a bit deeper into the coral reef there was many varieties, a shoal of 2ft silver shark-shaped fish swam past me, very colourful angelfish pecked at the coral, amongst the forest of branch coral an occasional fish lurked in and out of view. Large annenomes protruded from the ocean floor, freaking me out as I wasn't quite sure if they were close or further away than they looked. Very black and very spiky. Also down there were many fish I had seen in the shops, all black with white dots just below the dorals, yellow tailed blue tinged fish, all sorts, it was just like being inside a good marine fishtank! Shame I couldn't take any pictures. One angry fish kept appearing in front of me and staring into my mask, then if I stood still he would come and bite me legs! I tried to punch him, but he had water supremacy and fins.

A system of buoys keeps snorkellers from drifting off out to the sea, and when I got close to them I turned back and headed for shore, checking direction often as I would find myself splashing off the wrong way somehow rotated in the swell. I have even less sense of direction underwater than above! Slowly I made it back to shore and planted my landlubbing feet back on terra firma.

Another day I tried to go on a trek to Monkey Bay through the forest, I set off with a big bottle of water, but in this humidity amidst the oppresive jungle heat, I just oozed sweat from every pore even whilst standing still. Sometimes you feel like your being watched, sometimes you are. It didn't take along to abandon the planned 3-4 hour trek and head back to the cafes for a nice and very welcome cold coke. However on the way I passed a large monitor lizard flicking his tongue in and out, and got this picture postcard perfect shot of Tioman. Still no to be outdone after my brief scurry into the forest, I decided to retry and be better prepared with more water and some sugar! Again I set off this time across the island to the other side. The path slowly rose up into the jungle, steps climbing steeply, after climbing for a while it twisted and turned until I had lost my sense of direction, suddenly a concrete path appeared, basically a road, leading back down the hill and into the village on the east coast. Whilst traipsing along this, suddenly a bright green snake appeared from the side of the road, nearly underneath my foot, I leapt in the air and the snake (the green line!) recoiled into the edge of the woods. We had both got a fright! But I took a few more photos anyway. Along the way down, I didn't encounter anymore snakes(yet!) but just some dried leaves whose arty black and white photos (1,2,3) should surely win me the turner prizer this year. Onwards past some bamboo trees whose trunks always grow together like this or this. (if you like B&W!). Eventually I descended the rest of the road and got to the jetty at the other side of Tioman. Nice clean beach and beautiful clear water. After a bite to eat and much liquid and a good rest I turned around and headed back into the forest. Soon I came across another snake! This time with a strange red tail, I think it was dead but I didn't get too close.

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