My Scuba Diving Tour Date With A Blacktip Reef Shark
Michael Tham takes SmartDory on a scuba diving tour and shows here a gorgeous Blacktip Reef Shark swimming by!
There’s a saying, “if you’ve seen one you’ve seen everything!!” Well, it’s not for scuba diving!!
Teeming with fascinating marine life and vegetation, the Pulau Payar Marine Park comprises of four uninhabited islands of Payar, Lembu, Kaca, and Segantang. Malaysia’s oldest Marine Park sanctuary offers the best diving site on Peninsular Malaysia’s west coast.
The best part; it’s a mere 80km north of Penang and easily accessible by speedboats and catamarans which ply the route on a regular basis from Langkawi and Penang.
The largest island, Pulau Payar has the Marine Park Centre, which was set up and operated by the Fisheries Department where you could find useful information for first-time visitors.
There is no accommodation in the Marine Park so most visitors are day-trippers who could opt to stay in Penang Island or Langkawi.
Fishing is strictly prohibited around the islands; either for hobby or commercial purpose.
With an average visibility of between 9 to 15 meters, the water surrounding the four islands is ideal for scuba diving, snorkeling, and swimming. The coral reefs have a lively mix of tropical fishes, including Horse-eyed Jacks, Moray Eels, Clown Fish, Groupers and even baby sharks.
The Pulau Payar Marine Park has many interesting dive sites to offer. So let’s check out the Pontoon, Pulau Payar Jetty, Main Payar Marine Park, Coral Garden at the back of Pulau Payar lastly but not least Shark Point.
In the early days of the Pontoon’s history, the sandy bottom below the pontoon was an ideal place for rookie drivers to descend via a safety line. Upon ascending there was a Monkey bar to sit out the diver’s 6 meters, 3 minutes safety decompression stop.
A vicious looking barracuda called Mustapha used to live there. We were taught that lone barracudas are like injured lone wolves discarded from the pack and looking for easy prey.
However, he was just a docile curious fella who liked to check the divers out.
Welcome to a vivid world of colored soft and hard corals. The corals cover most of the rocky underwater seascape of this small bay. It is no wonder that this a favorite dive site among divers.
At the base of a sandy bottom, two outcrop ridges protrude out of the waters during low tide. Residential nudibranch or sea slugs and fishes are abundant in the Coral Garden; you can swim over the ridge where schools of marine life of every conceivable color, shape, and size await.
If you are lucky you may spot one or two juvenile Blacktip Reef Sharks; easily identified by the prominent black tips on its fins.
During a dive, we were awed by the seven blacktip sharks swimming around us. These creatures were curious about our presence in the sea, so we just laid flat on our bellies watched them swimming around the group.
It was one of my most memorable trips to Pulau Payar!!
A bizarre fish, you’ve probably never heard of before; the Crocodile Fish seen lying quietly on top of an old tire.
Pulau Lembu and Pulau Kaca
Relatively sandy with artificial reefs built from tires, concrete blocks and old boats, the corals have grown into mature reefs famed for the beautiful species of triggerfishes. Here you will be able to see diverse coral formations.
Notoriously ill-tempered triggerfishes will guard their eggs to the extent of going after divers to bite the diver’s fins with their parrot-like mouth!!
If you are lucky you may get to see the resident moray eel.
In the 80s, it was not unusual to come across sea turtles in my dives around the Pulau Payar Marine Park but sadly these great creatures have disappeared.
Many species of sharks are getting extinct due to the consumption of Shark fin soup is a luxury soup of Chinese cuisine served at banquets.
Waste dumps into the seas and oceans have contributed to dying corals. There are many snorkelers and inexperienced divers stepping onto the hard corals, breaking it and, polluting the sea with their urine.
The only monster I can see is Mankind who is destroying the oceans.
That’s why all Dive Institutions educate divers on the conservation of the oceans. Anything pretty or ugly don’t touch. NO SHOOTING OF FISHES the only shooting to be done is by cameras!!
One day the sea may be barren if we continue to hunt and eat the fishes into extinction.
Having said that, diving is an adventure that awaits every unconverted landlubber.
So to see for yourself, next step, take up dive lessons.
Pulau Payar can be visited all year round but the best time will at between March to September.
From Penang, speedboat takes an hour. From Kuah jetty, Langkawi, catamaran or speedboat takes 45 minutes to the Pulau Payar Marine Park.
Michael Tham, Resident Great White Shark, Chef and Barista at large. Michael rules the roost and the deep blue where he met Dory. Sometimes Michael cycles.
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