Category Archives: Snorkeling

Magical Madagascar

Hellville waterfront

Hellville waterfront

Our first full week in Madagascar started with the chaos that is Hellville, the biggest town on the island of Nosy Be.  The name means ‘big island’ and is pronounced ‘nossy bay’.  It’s thought it was settled as long ago as 1649 by the English but the colony failed due to hostile natives and disease. They have had various arrivals since, Arabs and Comorans, but it finally came under the protection of the French in 1841.  More recently Europeans have created a holiday resort of the island with many French and Italians settling there.  We anchored at

13 24.375S

048 17.059E

The dock in Hellville

The dock in Hellville

Hellville was named after Admiral de Hell a former governor of Reunion island further south rather than an evocation of the state of the town.  It’s one of the places yachts can check in.  A lot has been said about the government officials here and it’s very difficult finding any common ground.  There are two locals here called Jimmy and Cool, Jimmy will walk you around the various officials which, if you don’t speak French, is necessary and Cool will mind your dinghy for you as there’s no dinghy dock. It will be moved around but we felt they needed to be trusted and we had no complaints. We work on 4,000 Ariary to 1GBP and Jimmy charges 30,000 and Cool 10,000 for the day to look after your dinghy so we aren’t talking big money. Unfortunately our photo of Jimmy didn’t come out but he’s on the left of this photo in the the red t-shirt. This also shows the chaos where you have to come ashore.

Tuk tuk driver

Tuk tuk driver

We went ashore first thing on the morning of Monday 29th August and the fun began!!

The first people to see are the police, they have an office/portacabin on the waterfront. They filled in an arrival form for us then said the person to stamp the visa wasn’t there so Jimmy took us to their office in the town. The tuktuk fares are 500AR per person for any journey which was 25p for the two of us. We got off at the bank to get some money out of the ATM. It issued us with 10,000AR notes which are worth about 2.50 so Bill ended up with wads of money in his pocket which is never a good idea. Continuing on to the visa office but the guy we needed to see wasn’t there either. A little word about tuk tuks, forget doors and windows, forget MOTs, forget health and safety,  just go for a ride!

Old colonial building

Old colonial building

 

We went back to the police dock and said we couldn’t find him and, after various suggestions, all of which would have cost ‘bribe’ money, it was agreed we would go back later. Then it was onto port control who were very efficient and it cost AR61,000 for a 1 month cruising permit for the Nosy Be area. (Note to sailors following us , you only need a permit for the month you’ll be in this area even if you have a visa for 2 months as we did.)

 

Prison entrance

Prison entrance

 

 

The next stop was the Orange shop to set up a sim for the phone with internet access passing the local prison on the way. Remind me to behave here, can’t imagine the squalor that would be behind these walls.

Continuing along to the market.

 

Meat market

Meat market

 

 

Quite a sight.  This meat is just sitting out in the open and was covered in flies, fortunately you can’t smell the smells. Needless to say we didn’t buy any.  A bit further along the dried fish stalls were just as bad.

 

 

Dried fish stall

Dried fish stall

The salad was better

The salad was better

 

Beautiful pineapples

Beautiful pineapples

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fruit on this stall was very good and I bought a bundle of these lettuces for about 75p.

 

Hoisting the Madagascar flag

Hoisting the Madagascar flag

 

We made our way back to the port to meet Jimmy at 2.30 to get our visas stamped.  The guy still wasn’t anywhere to be seen and it was suggested we go to the airport to find him. I refused that because it wasn’t a weekend and I knew it could cost 30,000 plus in a taxi each way.  The police were also after their ‘payment’ asking first for 120,000 but we refused saying other cruisers have paid 80,000 which they accepted. This is only about GBP20 but as we knew it was simply a ‘bribe’ we weren’t happy about paying but you have no choice. If you don’t pay they won’t check you in and can then arrest you – having seen the prison, we paid. We went back to the boat and finally at 4pm he turned up and we were able to get our visas which cost AR100,000 per person. At the end of the day we paid less than GBP100 for the whole thing which was far less than the other countries in the Indian ocean but it all felt a bit tacky. At last we were able to host the Madagascan flag I had made.

A zebu cart

A zebu cart

The next morning it was back into town for shopping.  This is the car park outside the supermarket. Isn’t he lovely? Its called a zebu and they are every where including on the meat counters for sale!

The supermarket had a lot of French products and wine so we had a little stock up.  The fruit and veg weren’t as good as the market but we found in the following days that certain days after a delivery the stock was better.

Then it was on to …… guess where?

The hard ware store

The hard ware store

Bill found some tubing

Bill found some tubing

 

 

We’ve got various leaks in Camomile’s water system and Bill needed some tubing. This man was very helpful with his little bit of English and Bill using a little bit of french he managed to get what he needed.

The traffic is a bit chaotic here with a mixture of cars, tuk tuks and zebu carts.

Street life with the market on the right and a roundabout in front of me

Street life with the market on the right and a roundabout in front of me

Loading a truck onto the ferry

Loading a truck onto the ferry

Back at the port we watched the most extraordinary scene where they were loading cars and fairly big trucks onto a local ferry. I’ll try and post a video on facebook. How they didn’t sink I’ll never know. Jimmy was watching and our dinghy had been pulled up onto the side.  This is why you need to pay Cool his AR10,000 to watch your dinghy. The truck was held up while our dinghy was launched.

Later that afternoon we motored the 10 miles around to Nosy Komba and arrived just in time to see this stunning sunset behind one of the off shore islands.

 

Stunning sunset

Stunning sunset

Beautiful tablecloths for sale.

Beautiful tablecloths for sale.

 

The next morning we went ashore with Kevin and Jacqui of Tintin to explore. The village was very authentic and pretty. At first it looked like peoples washing blowing in the wind but we realised it was beautiful hand embroidered tablecloths for sale.

 

 

More tablecloths under the bougainvillea flowers

More tablecloths under the bougainvillea flowers

Ladies doing their washing

Ladies doing their washing

 

These ladies are doing their washing in one of the troughs that has a fresh water fill from the mountain above. Their houses don’t have electricity or running water. We didn’t ask about the toilets!

Bathtime

Bathtime

 

 

 

 

This little chap was being given a shower in front of the water trough.

Local house

Local house

 

 

 

 

This is one of the local houses. This isn’t one of those contrived villages where every one goes home after work, these are really houses where they all live.  It looks like one decent puff of wind and they would be blown down but they are fairly strong.  All the cooking is done outside on open fires.  This is her kitchen in front of her house. They were so lovely, its a bit touristy but very pretty.

Our view from bar at lunchtime

Our view from the bar at lunchtime

 

Ylang ylang flowers

Ylang ylang flowers

 

After lunch we took a guide up into the forest to find some lemurs. The first thing we were shown was a ylang ylang tree whose flowers are used to make perfume namely Channel No5 they had a delightful aroma.

A chameleon

A chameleon

 

 

 

 

We walked further up and saw this beautiful chameleon on a tree.

wild pineapple

wild pineapple

 

 

 

 

 

and wild pineapples growing alongside the path.

 

 

 

Black male lemur

Black male lemur

 

Our guide was calling’ maki, maki, maki’ and opening a banana he had brought with us. Then they appeared, first two, then two more and four above us. Such gentle creatures.  Lemurs, roughly cat sized, are well known in northern Madagascar. The males are black and the females are chestnut brown.

 

Male brown lemur

Male brown lemur

 

 

Male brown lemur, you can tell because of his beautiful white ear tufts and side whiskers.

The guide was holding out banana to them and gave me some to hold up ready to give them. Soon I had a couple on my shoulders looking for their piece of banana, they were very gentle.

I had two on my shoulders

I had two on my shoulders

back up in the tree

back up in the tree

 

Such delicate sweet creatures.

they love banana

they love banana

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were some mums with babies further up the tree but they didn’t want to come down.

It was very funny watching them jump from tree to tree. So many of our photos have half a lemur in them.

Giant tortoise

Giant tortoise

 

 

We were also taken to see some tortoises……

 

…… and a boa constrictor

Bill was very brave

Bill was very brave

and so was I

and so was I

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a local boat

a local boat

Line of the bow ready to cut

Line of the bow ready to cut

Back on the beach this local boat was anchored. It’s made almost entirely in local materials, the hull is made of wood, the mast is a tree trunk and the sail is made of a very tough cotton.  Further up the beach was a local boat builder and Bill was fascinated to see the various stages of build.

Building up the sides

Building up the sides

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are in the middle of their build

These are in the middle of their build

A new build

A new build

 

We headed back to the dinghies. On the beach there were some men building a local house, bet they don’t have a risk assessment!

Not a hard hat, safety shoe or high vis jacket in sight.

 

 

 

Anchored on the south side of the island

Anchored on the south side of the island

Thursday 1st September Camomile left Nosy Komba for Nosy Sakatia stopping at Nosy Tanikeli on the way. It’s part of the national park and you have to pay AR10,000 per person. We anchored at

13 29.275S

048 14.209E on a bit of a shelf.  We had 16.5m under our keel but only intended to stay for a few hours so weren’t too concerned.

 

Nice brain coral with an angel fish

Nice brain coral with an angel fish

 

 

There aren’t many places to snorkel in Madagascar and the coral has been bleached but we decided to get in. This would probably be our last snorkel until the Caribbean next year. The first thing that struck us was the water was quite chilly compared to the Seychelles or Maldives

 

Beautiful giant clam

Beautiful giant clam

Beautiful turtle

Beautiful turtle

 

Then I spotted a turtle swimming gracefully around the coral looking for tasty morsels. At first I didn’t want to go too close and frighten it but it wasn’t bothered about us. I was able to get closer and closer. It was almost a metre long from head to tail. I swam with it for about 20 minutes just watching it. Magical.

 

 

dscf9763

I could reach out and touch it.

I could reach out and touch it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The beach and village next to the lodge

The beach and village next to the lodge

 

After our swim we carried onto Nosy Sakatia and anchored at

13 18.926S

048 09.680E with 9m under our keel. This is the beach in front of us, the Sakatia Lodge is right up in the corner to the left of this beach and very welcoming to yachties. The food is more expensive than the rest of Madagascar but was excellent.

 

Our lovely bar lady

Our lovely bar lady

 

 

The following day we celebrated our 38th wedding Anniversary. We went over to the lodge for lunch then returned in the evening for a delicious meal. This lady made the most fantastic mojito and they were only AR8,000 or GBP2 each

Our meal started with chilled cucumber soup.

Chilled cucumber soup

Chilled cucumber soup

Our main course

Our main course

It was followed by Calamari with peas in a delicious sauce and duchess potatoes.

Bon appetite

Bon appetite

 

 

 

 

 

When the meal was booked in the morning the staff were told it was our anniversary. When the dessert came the chief had very kindly made a lovely cake for us. It was absolutely laced with rum and delicious. What a wonderful celebration. Next year – Boston!

The end to a beautiful evening

The end to a beautiful evening

 

North Male Atoll

Our route north

Our route north

After 3 days in Huhulmale Camomile and Norsa left to explore the north Male atoll.  As we had come down the outside of the atoll we hadn’t had a chance to explore inside the atoll so the plan was to spend a week or two doing it together. On 23rd March, after a few last minute jobs, we headed north to Masleggihura island.

We anchored at

04  19.490N

073  35.502E

in 12metres of water on sand.

In front of resort

In front of resort

 

 

 

The overwater bungalows of the Four Seasons Kuda Huraa were just in front of us. It’s difficult to see in this photo but behind these bungalows are the surfing waves that come across the Indian Ocean hitting the shallows and bringing in a great right hander.

It was good to see our sailing buddies across the way from us.

Norsa

Norsa

The Asdhoo reef.

The Asdhoo reef.

The next day both yachts continued north for about 2 hours to the Asdhoo reef.

Once again as you can see from our track the charts can’t be relied on here.  The anchorage was a bit of a horseshoe in the reef and fitted our 2 boats snugly.  We anchored at

04  27.69N

073  39.23E

We were on about 6 metres sand but you need to look at it on google earth first before you go in.  a few bommies around but otherwise good.  If you don’t feel brave enough to go in there’s a more open anchorage to our west (little blue pin) but we didn’t look at it.

The beach on Asdhoo island

The beach on Asdhoo island

After lunch we took the dinghies across to Asdhoo island.  We found a lovely little holiday village called Asdu Sun Island, a delightfully laid back resort without all the trappings of the luxury resorts you normally find in the Maldive BUT also without the costs.  The tiny island has the most gorgeous beach surrounding it with little white painted concrete huts in among the trees.  Very yachtie friendly they were quite happy for us to sit and have a beer (US$3.50) at their bar plus they were offering an evening buffet meal for $20 but as they didn’t serve it until 8pm we passed on that one. Our main objective was to check out the dive school to arrange a dive. We booked for the following afternoon.

Going....

Going….

 

 

 

We went back to the boats for sundowners on Norsa.  We had a great view of Camomile in the sunset.

 

 

going....

going….

...gone.

…gone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

View off the bathing platform

View off the bathing platform

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bommie below the rudder

The bommie below the rudder

 

 

The next morning there wasn’t a breathe of wind and the water was so clear.  This was the view from the bathing platform.  It looked as though the reef was just under the surface but  it was 3 or 4 metres below us and not a danger to us at all; amazing to see.

You can just about see the rudder at the top of the photo.

 

 

 

Practise dive

Practise dive

That morning Bill and Norman got their dive kits out partly to have a practise as it’s quite a few years since Norman has dived and partly because Norsa’s anchor chain had wrapped a bommie overnight and Bill and Norman thought it would be good chance to try out their kit before the dive in the afternoon.  The water was nice and clear, all went well and the chain was freed.  Sara also had a practise .

 

 

Asdu Sun Island resort

Asdu Sun Island resort

 

 

After lunch we went back to Ashdoo island for the dive.  It took about an half hour to get everything sorted and loaded onto the dive boat and we were off.  It was nice to be in someone else’s boat and not worry about where the reef was.  The dive boat went around the back of the island and you can see the accommodation, it isn’t brilliant but good value for anyone that wants a budget holiday in the Maldives.  It’s only about 2 hours on a ferry from Male.

 

Getting their kit ready

Getting their kit ready

After about half an hour we stopped by the Panetone reef.  The island has a lot of Italians staying there and the dive master was also Italian.  Panetone means cake in Italian and apparently that’s what the reef is like – round with coral all around the edge.  Luckily there was only Bill, Norman and Sara diving with 2 dive masters so it was good for their first dive.

In goes Bill

In goes Bill

 

 

 

 

All ready to go down

All ready to go down

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t dive but had a bit of a snorkel over the top although it was a bit deep and the visibility wasn’t great.  They all enjoyed their dive.  After doing a circuit of ‘the cake’ they did a second circuit higher across the top and saw 4 turtles.  I’d looked for them while snorkeling but hadn’t seen any.  The cost was US$51 for Bill’s dive with his own equipment but Norman and Sara paid nearer $160 because they hired some things as well.  When we got back Ken and Eiloo had arrives on Antares II so we all enjoyed a beer together at the bar.

Lovely coral

Lovely coral

It was such a lovely spot we stayed another day. On Saturday 26th, Easter Saturday, we had a wonderful snorkel.  The boats were surrounded by reef on three sides so we were spoilt for choice.  Wonderful coral.

More coral

More coral

Brain coral

Brain coral

 

 

This is brain coral because as you can see it looks like a brain!  It was about 2 feet high.

Lots of fish around.

 

 

Beautiful iridescent blue parrot fish

Beautiful iridescent blue parrot fish

A Royal Angelfish

A Royal Angelfish

 

 

 

 

 

 

51

Crown of Thorns

Crown of Thorns

Unfortunately these beautiful starfish are the enemy of the reef.  They are called Crown of Thorns because they are covered in spiny thorns and are impossible to pick up.  They eat the coral and we’ve seen whole areas devastated by them.

More crown of thorns

More crown of thorns

 

 

 

 

There are more crown of thorns in this photo and you can see the white coral in the middle of the picture is being gradually eaten by them.  This area is suffering enough with the bleaching of the coral caused by the warm waters of El Nino it doesn’t need these creatures too.

 

Beautiful lavender coloured coral

Beautiful lavender coloured coral

 

 

 

 

Bill swimming down for a closer look

Bill swimming down for a closer look

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Norsa watching

Norsa watching

 

 

 

Norman and Sara swam over to join us.  We stayed in the water for a long time.  The coral was very pretty with lots of fish but nothing big today.

 

Our route across the atoll

Our route across the atoll

 

The next day we heard on the net that Tintin and Inspiration Lady were arriving in the North Male atoll and, more importantly, Jacqui had mini easter eggs on board.

Originally we had planned to go to the resort at Helengeli then into the Maa Haa atoll then over to Himmiya but plans are designed to be changed so Camomile and Norsa went across the atoll to Himmiya instead.

Coral under our bow

Coral under our bow

 

 

As we arrived I stood up on the bow watching the coral under us.  The dark patches are coral, the light patches in between is sand.   Fortunately nothing less than 6 metres and all good.

 

 

 

Our anchorage

Our anchorage

We anchored at

04  36.539N

073  23.429E

It looks as though all of the northern area is open but it isn’t.  There was a semi circle of coral right around the top and we crossed the reef just as we turned to port.  There was an area there that was deeper than the rest.  The chart is out again.

Norsa arriving

Norsa arriving

 

 

Norsa arrived just ahead of us. Inspiration Lady just behind them.  Norman and Sara haven’t seen Jackie and Gary or Jacqui and Kevin in almost 2 years.  After the anchors settled we all headed across to a nearby resort for lunch.

 

 

l-r Kevin, Gary, Jacqui, Jackie, Norman, Sara, Bill and Sue

l-r Kevin, Gary, Jacqui, Jackie, Norman, Sara, Bill and Sue

We shared a club sandwich and that was $20!

We shared a club sandwich.

 

Great to have everyone together again.  The resort was very nice and allowed yachties in (a lot of them don’t) but it was fairly expensive with beers at US$6 and that was only a can.  Jacqui treated herself to a cocktail but we just drank water.  We shared a club sandwich and even that was $20++ I can buy a lot of groceries with that sort of money.

 

 

Eriyadu resort

Eriyadu resort

Our view

Our view

 

The resort was very relaxing though and we sat and chatted for the afternoon.

 

 

 

 

Jacqui doing her impression of the Easter bunny.

Jacqui doing her impression of the Easter bunny.

 

When we got back to the boats Kevin and Jacqui came round all the boats with Jacqui doing her Easter bunny impression and handing out Cadbury’s creme eggs.  As I haven’t had so much as a sniff of an Easter egg this year or even any chocolate, it was very welcome and gone before they got back to Tintin!

Thank you Jacqui.

 

 

My Cadbury's creme egg

My Cadbury’s creme egg

The next morning we were all going about our jobs when not one but three different pods of dolphins came dancing through the anchorage.  I was out there watching for about an hour. So wonderful to see.

Dolphins

Dolphins

Giant stingray

Giant stingray

 

Later that afternoon we all went snorkeling and as well as the usual fish darting about we spotted this big sting ray laying on the seabed trying to pretend he wasn’t there.  It must have been 2 metres nose to tip.  It’s difficult to make out but it’s laying across the picture with his nose and eyes on the left and his tail to the right. It didn’t seem to bother about us swimming around him.

 

 

Our passage south on similar course

Our passage south on similar course

 

The Rasfari reef. Mantas at north west corner anchored in south east

The Rasfari reef. Mantas at north west corner, anchored in south east

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Norsa tied onto Camomile.

Norsa tied onto Camomile.

Tuesday 29th March Camomile and Norsa joined Tintin and Inspiration Lady to continue on their journey south to Male but we had one more stop the rasfari reef to see if we could see the Manta rays.  Inspiration Lady and Tintin decided to keep going but we wanted to give it a go.  We found a tiny patch of sand at

04  26.171N

073  21.557E (you can see the size of the sand patch around us)

If anyone is following behind us the weather needs to very calm to stop here because there’s no protection.  There was only room for one boat on this patch but there were some more sand patches a bit further south. Once Bill was happy our anchor was holding Norsa came to tie onto us.

Manta ray

Manta ray

 

The area is a well known ‘cleaning station’.  The mantas come into the shallow water so that the little carnivorous wrasse fish can eat the small parasites that live on the surface of the mantas.

We took the dinghies north of our position and got in the water to drift snorkel back towards the boats. We were almost back to the boats when we saw our first one. Among the most dramatic creatures in the ocean, mantas are cartilaginous fish – like flattened sharks.

 

Manta ray

Manta ray

Manta ray

Manta ray

 

With a wingspan of about 4 metres these were quite formidable in the water.  They are quite harmless although the barb on their tail is what you have to watch out for but you can’t get close enough for it to be a danger.

There were several of them swimming around us.

 

Manta ray

Manta ray

A manta under the dinghy

A manta under the dinghy

I managed to get several really good videos but Bill was worried they were getting too close so we got back in the dinghy and they continued to swim around us. We counted 4 altogether, several around us and one by Norsa’s dinghy.

We spent about an hour watching them then headed back to the boats and left.

 

 

Bill walking on the island

Bill walking on the island

We carried on down the west side of the Rasfari reef in open water – away from dangers.  We gave the southern reef a wide berth because it came out further than charted, and anchored south east of the little Rasfari island at

04 23.675N

073  24.415E

there were a few bommies around but plenty of sand to anchor in.

The phone mast

The phone mast

 

 

The little island is home to the local phone mast.  There are an assortment of generators surrounding it and about half a dozen men maintaining it.

The generators

The generators

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What an amazing place to work.  The island was tiny but beautiful with a scenic sandspit on the southern end.  a great place to take a 360 degree panoramic shot.

76

Manmade path

Man Made path

 

We walked back through the middle of the island along the little path the men have created out of plastic containers.  They had rabbits and chickens running about although I’m not sure if they were pets or if they were going to eat them – everyone said it was the latter.

Inspiration Lady had headed on into Male but Tintin, Norsa and Camomile stayed one more today.  It was a lovely spot.

On the 31st March we arrived back in Male for more shopping, washing and general jobs.

Tintin, camomile and Norsa off Rasfari island.

Tintin, camomile and Norsa off Rasfari island.

 

Thiladhunmathee Atoll

 

One of the batches of overwater bungalows

One of the batches of overwater bungalows

Wednesday 9th March we weighed anchor and left our beautiful island passing the Waldorf Astoria resort on our way out of the Ihavandhippolhu atoll and heading in a southerly direction from now on.  They had certainly made good use of the mother island. There were over water bungalows coming out of the north and south sides of the island and jetties coming out of the east and west, it probably depends on the weather on how they land their clients or there’s always the bright red sea plane that was sitting there waiting for passengers.  How the other half live!

 

Our passage across to Thiladhunmathee atoll

Our passage across to Thiladhunmathee atoll

 

We sailed, or motored, back into the deep water and on towards the Thiladhumathee Atoll.  The numbers on the chart are depth of water in metres.  Once we go over the edge our depth gauge won’t pick up depths much more than 150 metres and just flashes in a ‘computer says no’ sort of way. Coming back into the next atoll is a bit unnerving but the reefs are quite clearly visible as we approach. The straight black lines are our planned route and again the yellow line is the track we took.

The edge of the reef

The edge of the reef

 

 

 

The islands are just basically sand bars and don’t have any height so you don’t see them until you’re quite close.  It would be dangerous to do a night sail around this area.

 

 

Our track in

Our track in

 

 

 

 

The island just above where we stayed is called Kelaa and was the northern British base during WWII.

 

Local fishing boat

Local fishing boat

 

 

This local fishing boat had come from there. Unfortunately there’s no way in for a keel boat drawing 2 metres so we continued on to the lagoon in front of Dhapparu. Where we found Inspiration Lady and Tintin.  Our position was

06  54.93N

073  13.6E in 10.8 metres sand.

Tintin and Inspiration Lady

Tintin and Inspiration Lady

 

 

 

Not sure I would recommend this anchorage because the snorkeling wasn’t very good and the beach is full of mosquitoes but Inspiration lady and Tintin had a nice visit at the village on the island of Filladhoo to the south east of the anchorage.

 

Our passage trough the reef

Our passage trough the reef

 

 

Thursday 10th we left Dhappura and headed southwest to the Rasfari reef.  There was a gentle breeze from the north east so we put the twin headsails out and sailed there.  So far we haven’t come across any uncharted reefs and the charted reefs are easy to see with the change in the colour of the water.  Some of the islands have been a bit off set according to the radar.

 

Our track shows us going over the reef

Our track shows us going over the reef

This photo shows our track over the edge of the Rasfari reef, the green area is reef which means we shouldn’t cross it but you can clearly see our track takes us straight across it. I had checked it out on google earth which showed a clear passage through the reef plus we had some waypoints from other cruiser that had already visited.  When we arrived I stood on the bow looking out for the deep water.  The passage was narrow but there was plenty of room for us.  It is a deep anchorage but we managed to find one of the few 18 metre spots there.

 

Looking across the reef to the nearest island.

Looking across the reef to the nearest island.

We anchored in position

06  43.082N

072  55.422E

It was a stunning spot. We were over two miles from the nearest island but the reefs were giving us protection.

There was a reef to our port and starboard sides and a few hundred metres in front of us. So the dinghy was lowered and off we went.

WOW the snorkeling was amazing.  I have so many photos and found it difficult to choose which ones to post on here so I’m just going to post lots of them.

The plate coral was the best we've seen since Fiji

The plate coral was the best we’ve seen since Fiji

Lots of stag coral too. Spot the Angel fish.

Lots of stag coral too. Can you spot the Angel fish.

More hard coral

More hard coral

Beautiful coral

Beautiful coral

All of these photos were taken at the reef to the east of us.

The next day we went forward to the reef to the south and west of us and the fish life was astounding. Snorkeling along the edge of the dropoff was the best. The fish hang around waiting for the nutrients to float off the reef.  So many fish.

Unicorn fish

Unicorn fish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bat fish I think

Bat fish I think

Clown fish or Nemo

Clown fish or Nemo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A puffer fish

A puffer fish

So many fish

So many fish

Moray eel

Moray eel

 

Then we spotted this big boy lurking under the rocks – a moray eel.

Quite lucky it see it because it blends in with rocks and it was quite a way down, about 4 or 5 metres.  He came out of his hiding place and slithered under the next rock.  It was a good metre and a bit long.

 

 

 

Moving on

Moving on

More coral

More coral

 

Some of the little coral heads are so pretty and colourful. This one was mauve, pink and white.

Then we spotted a big 3 metre nose to tip of tail sting ray. This wasn’t one of those tame ones you can feed in the resorts but a real wild one.  A bit scary really.

 

 

A large stingray

A large stingray with a long tail.

Bill swimming with 100s of fish following him.

Bill swimming with 100s of fish following him.

Looking at the reef from the dinghy

Looking at the reef from the dinghy

 

Back in the dinghy and motoring to the reef to our south.  The colour of the water here is astounding  The bommies were further apart in the middle of the reef.  While motoring over the lagoon we could see a spot where we could have anchored in 3metres in sand but getting over the reef is the tricky bit.  I think we’ll leave Camomile where she is.  She’s quite happy watching us have fun.

 

 

Camomile across the reef.

Camomile across the reef.

Looking over the edge

Looking over the edge

For the boats coming behind us.  From the anchor spot look to the south west you’ll see a red dinghy buoy which the fisherman often use with a white buoy near it (hope it hasn’t gone) when you’ve travelling in your dinghy on the west side of the reef keep those two buoys in line and head directly south.  You’ll come across another buoy just before you get to the reef (it’s difficult to see) that reef in front of you is the best.  An amazing drop off.

Amazing coral

Amazing coral

 

 

 

 

 

When you’re swimming along the reef looking over the edge it feels like flying as you look down 10 to 20 metres into the deep blue.  It’s a divers paradise.

 

 

Beautiful stag coral rising up from the plate coral

Beautiful stag coral rising up from the plate coral

 

Last coral picture. Looks like a sea monster with horns.

Last coral picture. Looks like a sea monster with horns.

Our route to Kulhudhuffushi

Our route to Kulhudhuffushi

Saturday 12th we left the Rasfushi reef on our way to Kulhudhuffushi where we were meeting up with Inspiration Lady and Tintin again.  After an early morning start we got to the harbour at roughly the same time as Inspiration Lady.  It’s possible to tie to the wharf but Bill wasn’t happy doing that so we went in and dropped our anchor.  Unfortunately we were drifting too close to the shallow area by the wall.  Bill tried to bring the anchor up quick but it jammed and wouldn’t go up or down. Gary was planning to go up against the wall and suggested we tie alongside them which we did so Bill was able to sort out the anchor chain.  Tintin came in about an hour later and also tied to the wall.

Camomile alongside Inspiration Lady

Camomile alongside Inspiration Lady

Our position

06  36.9N

073  03.9E

 

More coral houses here

More coral houses here

 

 

 

 

It was only US$12 to go into the harbour which was very reasonable and saved us anchoring in the deep water outside. The town wasn’t very big but had an ATM so we were able to get some local currency.  It also had some groceries stores and a couple of places to eat.  It was Jackie’s birthday and we all went out to celebrate (camera left behind).

 

The damage to Inspiration Lady

The damage to Inspiration Lady

The tide dropped overnight and unfortunately Inspiration Lady’s rub rail managed to get under the big rubber fender that is permanently attached to the wall of the wharf and as the tide was coming back up it ripped part of it off.  The fenders had bounced out of the way. Poor Gary.  Bill helped him remove the old wood but he has a serious repair to do.

We stayed there two nights then headed out on 14th March to continue south and into Miladhunmadulu atoll.

One last coral picture.

 

DSCF6558 (800x600)

Visitors in Tioman

Chinatown

Chinatown

Finally got a decent signal to update the website.  I’m still writing the Chinese story but first a quick blog on what we’ve been up to. After arriving back in Terengganu on 20th September. We spent a couple of days unpacking, shopping, washing and fueling before leaving on 22nd.  Terengganu was a nice town with a good supermarket and also a very nice Chinatown area. The buildings have been nicely restored.

How about this classic car? Isn’t it pretty?

My kinda car

My kinda car

A hazy Tioman beach

A hazy Tioman beach

After spending a couple of days at Kapas, one of our favourite islands, we did an overnighter down to Tioman island arriving at the little marina Saturday lunchtime.  Bill’s sister Kate, her new fiancee Mark and our niece Daisy were due to arrive the next day.  Sadly the Indonesian fires were causing a bad haze and the beautiful views of the island were no where to be seen. After a difficult journey they finally arrived in the evening all hot and sweaty.  We decided to go straight out for a meal  because it was pointless having a shower and going out and getting all sweaty again. They were grateful for our air-conditioning unit.

Kate and Daisy kitted up

Kate and Daisy kitted up

The first day of their mini holiday with us was spent diving. Kate has a Padi certificate but was a bit rusty and Daisy wanted to do a try dive. There was a dive school just along the beach from the marina that didn’t have any customers on that Monday and were happy to take us all out. First Kate and Daisy had a little skills test in the water in front of the dive school.  Yn pronounced yen was very pleased with them.  It was great to get his undivided attention

 

All happy with their skills

All happy with their skills

Skills sorted

Skills sorted

 

 

 

Considering Daisy hadn’t dived before she did very well.

 

Yn's plan

Yn’s plan

 

 

After a little bite to eat (not to much) Yn sketched out a chart of where we were going.  There was a diving plan for Bill, Kate and Daisy while Mark and I were going to snorkel.

 

 

Kate and Daisy ready for the off

Kate and Daisy ready for the off

 

All the equipment was loaded into the boat and off we went.  As they didn’t have any thing to do that afternoon two of the other dive masters decided to join us so the three of them had a dive master each and it wasn’t an expensive day either. Bill has his own kit but Kate and Daisy hired their’s so with the skills test, the dive and the 5 of us in the boat it came to about £75 – bargain.

 

Daisy first

Daisy first

 

Daisy was very brave and went in first performing a perfect back roll out of the boat first time.

Followed by Kate who also did a perfect back roll.

 

 

Then Kate

Then Kate

Then Bill

Then Bill

 

 

 

 

 

All ok

All ok

 

Mark in the water

Mark in the water

 

They all disappeared below the water down to about 6 metres so not too deep but deep enough to enjoy the fish.  Meanwhile Mark and I were taken to the shallower side of the island so we could snorkel.  Mark was amazed by the fish and the coral, he said it was like being in an aquarium.

 

Mark with the coral under him

Mark with the coral under him

 

More coral

More coral

 

Even without the sun the colours were amazing and so many fish.

Everyone had a great time.  The boat even took us back to the marina to save us having to walk back in our wet swimmers.

 

Lots of fish

Lots of fish

 

Beautiful sri Buat

Beautiful sri Buat

 

The next day, Tuesday, we took Camomile out to Sri buat commonly known as the butterfly islands because there are two islands of a similar size and shape with a delightful anchorage in between them. When the tide goes out a large area in the middle of the islands dries out giving us good protection from the weather coming in from the south.  When we were there in July it looked like this

 

A smoggy view

A smoggy view

 

 

Sadly with the Indonesian fires causing a really bad smog across the whole area it looked like this

 

 

Kate relaxing

Kate relaxing

Mark doing a 'bomb'

Mark doing a ‘bomb’

In a way it was good that the sun was blotted out because they would have all burnt to a frazzle.  As soon as the anchor went down they were in the water.  Although we didn’t have the sun it was still far hotter than they were used to and getting in the water was a good way to cool down even with a water temperature of 26C!

 

 

Kate and Mark

Kate and Mark

Daisy managed to tip Kate out of the lilo ring

Daisy managed to tip Kate out of the lilo ring

I spent the afternoon preparing food for a bbq which Bill and Mark were in charge of while it was cooking along with quite a few beers. Normally we could have sat and watched the stars but the smog scuppered that idea. The disadvantage of coming out of the marina was that the air conditioning unit had to go off and even when it got dark it was still very hot.  Poor Kate and Mark didn’t have a very good night’s sleep as they had arrived from a New Zealand winter into 32C without time to adjust to the temperature so the next day it was decided to head back to the marina and get the air conditioning back on.

Before we left Bill took them for a little explore in the dinghy.  There’s a little island in the channel where someone has built a hut but sadly the beach is covered with plastic washed in from the sea.  They went onto the beach where there’s a nice little bay for snorkeling, although not as good as the island the dive team took us to, it was still fun for them exploring the crevices and rock pools.

Bill, Mark, Kate, Daisy and Sue

Bill, Mark, Kate, Daisy and Sue

Once back in the marina we headed out into the village for a meal ashore on our last evening.

Daisy and I went looking for monkeys before dinner and although it was already getting dark there were quite a few sitting in the trees above the road. Kate and Daisy went for a better look at them in the morning.

 

 

Mark, Kate and Daisy all looking a bit sad

Mark, Kate and Daisy all looking a bit sad

 

brother and sister

brother and sister

 

All too soon their visit was over and it was back to the little ferry port so they could catch the ferry back to the mainland then take the coach back to Singapore for their onward journey.  They fitted quite a bit into their 4 days but it had gone very quickly.  Photos were taken in different combinations.

When did you get so tall Daisy?

When did you get so tall Daisy?

Bye Kate

Bye Kate

 

 

The ferry arrived and it was time for final goodbyes.

 

 

Into the ferry

Into the ferry

 

All aboard

All aboard

 

 

 

 

 

 

Into the smog

Into the smog

 

Goodbye Kate it was great to see you and to meet Mark.

It was nice getting to know you Daisy.

XXXXX

The Perhentian islands

Long beach taken from Bubu's

Long beach taken from Bubu’s

We arrived at Pulau Perhentian Kechil or ‘small island’ on Sunday 2nd August.  We anchored off of Long beach (anchorage 112 in the Sail Malaysia cruising guide) at

05˚55.1N

102˚43.4E

We were still on our own as Inspiration Lady and the others were still at Tioman.  Long beach, as a holiday destination, is lovely.  There’s Bubu’s at one end and the World café at the other end and lots of small resorts and dive shops in between. I was happy because we discovered that not only did the world café have a proper coffee machine (practically unheard of in the islands) but it was being run by a lovely Italian couple Ranieri and Mathilda who made the most amazing Cappuccinos.  Bill managed to impress them with a bit of Italian just about remembered.

Looking at Camomile through the beach umbrellas

Looking at Camomile through the beach umbrellas

Long beach is a beautiful sandy beach but the bad thing is that the tourist boats and water taxis are allowed to go where they like at any speed they like making swimming off the boat very dangerous.  Added to that as the sun went down about 3 different techno machines started up sending out a cacophony of noise which continued until 3am! That wasn’t so bad, we couldn’t hear it downstairs so well but around midnight fireworks starting going off ……

 

 

Camomile on her own

Camomile on her own

The next morning we left to anchor at the other island Pulau Perhentian Besar ‘big island’ at anchorage 109

05˚54.1N

102˚44.1E

We had the private Perhentian Island resort (PIR) (would be my recommendation if anyone wanted to holiday here) in front of us that has a protected sandy beach and Coral View Island resort next to it.  This photo was taken from Coral View as we ate a delicious lunch there.

One of the things we wanted to achieve here was a PADI dive course for Bill.  We have recently bought a good second hand diving set and I wanted Bill to take a proper course.  Beyond the Coral view was a row of eateries and dive shops, although not as many as Long beach.  All the dive shops were the same price but in the end we decided the Turtle Bay divers back on the small island seemed to be a bit more switched on. So we took Camomile back to anchorage 112 and Bill signed up for the 4 day open water course at MYR980 (about £170).  Fortunately the fireworks had been a one off and we got used to the music.

Bill off to school

Bill off to school

Wednesday 5th Bill went back to school. Note his little homework bag with his reference book in it, I also gave him an apple for break time!

The first day was mostly theory but in the afternoon they started on the skills required to pass the course.  None of the resorts have pools here but there’s an area alongside the rocks on the edge of the bay that gently shelves allowing you to gradually get deeper, ideal for learning to dive, and it’s cordoned off.

 

Bill in his dive kit

Bill in his dive kit

Bill and John

Going…..

 

 

Bill had been teamed with a guy called John plus there were 2 Korean girls in his class and the four of them gradually submerged with Aswan their excellent diving instructor.

 

 

...going..

…going..

...gone but you can still see which one is Bill!

…gone but you can still see which one is Bill!

I watched from the dinghy on the other side of the line.  Bill seemed to be doing very well.

 

I was glad I hadn’t joined him because the course is much more advanced now than when we last attempted it in the Red sea many years ago. Not only did he have to work up gradually to taking his mask off (a complete no no as far as I’m concerned) and put it back on underwater, he had to swim without it, swop regulators, share his spare regulator with John and vice versa as well as other skills.

Lots of kittens

Lots of kittens

 

Meanwhile I went and played with the pussy cats, literally. The dive school has adopted a mummy cat and her kittens, 5 of them.  This one is my favourite they have named her Seabelle and she was mine for the taking.  I enjoyed playing with her every day and would have loved to keep her but all things considered we decided it would be best if we didn’t.

 

This is Seabelle

This is Seabelle

Bill off diving

Bill off diving

 

 

The next day after spending the morning doing more theory, there are 5 sections to work through, and skills in the cordoned off area we had lunch together.  In the afternoon Bill was going on his first proper dive, he looks quite happy going off…..

 

 

 

back again

back again

….. and even happier coming back after a successful dive where he learnt how to regulate his buoyancy, practised rescuing a tired diver, clamp removal and more mask removal.  They had seen large parrot fish, angel fish and barracudas.

On the third morning he took the ‘quiz’ and passed so that was the theory over.  In the afternoon they went diving at shark point and I was going to go with them for a snorkel but the weather closed in and the sea became a bit rough so I stayed behind.  Bill said they didn’t see any sharks but saw a green sea turtle among other things, and got down to 16m but the visibility wasn’t very good with the bad weather. John’s wife Angela, who already had her PADI, went with them.

Bill with John and Angela

Bill with John and Angela

Their 4th and final dive was the 18m dive and included working with dive computers which went well.  Back at the dive centre Aswan congratulated them all on passing and signed off their log books.  Bill enjoyed the course and feels more confident to use the kit to clean the bottom of the boat but also he will be able to join our fellow cruisers on a dive now; I’ll stick to snorkelling or better still when he goes for a dive I’ll book into the local spa!

 

 

They all passed

They all passed

Storm clouds gathering

Storm clouds gathering

 

 

We had lunch with John and Angela but later that afternoon the storm clouds gathered and we had a big storm.  Luckily they aren’t too bad in this area.  Our friends further south and on the west coast have been having some awful ones.

 

 

Stunning coral bay

Stunning coral bay

Sunday 9th we went ashore for Sunday breakfast, a treat we often spoil ourselves with, followed by a delicious cappuccino at the World café; it was getting difficult to leave.  There’s a short walk over the hill to Coral bay so decided to do that to walk our breakfast off.  The bay was stunning and the water looked inviting but no good for anchoring as it’s on the west side and the evening storms would put us on a lee shore over that coral.

 

 

Amazing views

Amazing views

 

The next day we came ashore prepared for a longer walk and after walking through to Coral bay again continued on the 1½ hour walk around the south west of the island. The views were amazing peeping through the trees tantalisingly as we headed south. The islands in the distance are Pulau Rawa, Pulau Susudara and Pulau Serenggeh we have been considering visiting them.

 

 

Watching the monitor lizard

Watching the monitor lizard

 

 

As we walked up some steps this monitor lizard was having a good hunt around, not sure what he was looking for but once he saw us he scuttled off.  Must have been a good metre long.

 

 

A village road

A village road

 

Eventually we arrived at the village on the southern side of the island.  This is a ‘main’ road.  The houses are built on stilts to allow the air to circulate under them to keep it cool.  They also store things under them and, if they are high enough, washing is hung out to dry.  The houses are very simply built out of wood.  This lady was cutting up the catch of the day. There were lots of hibiscus flowers growing around the village.

 

A village woman cleaning the days catch

A village woman cleaning the days catch

 

Unbelievable!

Unbelievable!

 

We sat at one of the little eateries on the sea front and watched these guys building a new construction next door.  No hard hats, safety boats, high vis jackets or safety harnesses but they were getting the job done although everything was being done by hand.  It was going to take them some time to build this structure especially at the speed they were working but it was very hot too.

 

 

A very ornate mosque

A very ornate mosque

 

It isn’t possible to walk any further so after lunch we hired a water taxi to take us back to the anchorage passing their beautiful mosque on the way.  Once back we decided we had ‘done’ the small island and moved Camomile to the other island to anchorage 109 by the Coral View resort.  It was a relief to get away from the steady stream of water taxis by day and the music by night.

 

 

Turtle hunters

Turtle hunters

The problem with anchorage 109 is its name – Turtle bay.  There are many turtles here and consequently it’s on all 3 ‘tours’; big island, small island and Rawa island. So many times during the day we had this, dozens of boats looking for the ubiquitous turtles.  Once the ‘spotter’ has seen one their customers are disgorged into the water, many with buoyancy jackets on, in hot pursuit of the poor thing.  They don’t hurt them but the turtles must get a bit ticked off at being followed every day. At one point we had the occupants of 14 boats in the water around us all trying to glimpse a turtle.

 

'It's this way'

‘It’s this way’

 

Wednesday 12th was another walking day.  Behind the PIR is another jungle trek (ask one of the staff where it starts) which we set off on.  Our instructions were just keep walking south but the path divided so out came Bill’s compass that his sister Kate had given him and we found the right track.

 

 

Another stunning bay

Another stunning bay

It was a steep climb

It was a steep climb

After about an hour of walking the path came out onto another beautiful beach lined with small resorts.  We had been told it was good for snorkeling but the visibility wasn’t very good so we walked west along the beach and re-joined the path to take us back over the hill. It’s difficult to see the gradient but it was quite steep and reminded us of the Cameron highlands but luckily not as far.

 

Half way up

Half way up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fish cove

Fish cove

 

 

 

The path brought us out to this beach, it was called fish cove.  The boulders that surrounded the beach on the southern side were huge.  The water was a lot clearer so we went in for our snorkel.

 

Bill free diving around the rocks

Bill free diving around the rocks

 

 

The area around the rocks was astounding.  There were also a lot of rocks under the water creating amazing shapes and surfaces for coral to grow on as well as a wall that went down out of sight – would have made a good dive.

 

Beautiful coral

Beautiful coral

 

 

 

Coral on the wall

Coral on the wall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lunch with a view

Lunch with a view

 

 

 

 

 

The beach continued north back towards the boat.  We sat and had lunch with this view.

 

 

 

 

 

Rawa just coming into view

Rawa just coming into view

 

Tuesday 18th we finally left the anchorage having been there a week and took Camomile 5 miles out to anchorage 113 off of Rawa island at

05˚57.65N

102˚40.84E this was as far north as we intended to go on this coast.

 

 

Magnificent coral under the water around the headland in front of us

Magnificent coral under the water around the headland in front of us

 

Camomile nestled in the rocks

Camomile nestled in the rocks

 

Simply extraordinary snorkelling off the northern headland, probably the best in this area with lots of fish. Lovely spot but no shelter from the overnight breeze so took Camomile back to small island for one night then left the next morning to start heading south.

 

 

Rawa island

Rawa island

%d bloggers like this: