Update from our Malaysia coral reef expedition (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/malaysia)

NOTE that this is a text-only diary for now as we are struggling to get pictures through whilst at sea. As soon as we manage to send some pictures, we will add them to the WordPress, Facebook, etc. versions of the diary too.

Tuesday (16 Aug)

We left our dock in Singapore at 17:00 with all dive gear checked and stored and everyone moved into their cabins. Wan (our dive leader on board the boat) gave us an introduction to life on board and then we ran through the risk assessment for the trip, talking through any risks associated with life on board and our survey diving regime. Dehydration is the main worry day to day while diving in a hot country, so we have plenty of cold water and juices available, plus isotonic sachets, to top up with on a regular basis.

The immigration boat came to us and stamped our passports as we left Singaporean waters, and then we headed off on our overnight 14 hour journey to Tioman Island. Pom and Deng, our two cooks, produced a really good meal as we got underway and we ended the evening introducing ourselves and getting know each other. The seas turned a bit choppy as the evening wore on and we got further out to sea, and everyone settled down for their night at sea.

Wednesday (17 Aug)

As dawn broke we arrived at Tioman Island, an hour ahead of schedule to pick up our expedition scientist for the week, Alvin. We were able to go through an introduction to Reef Check, the methodology that we are using for our survey dives, while the immigration checks were being undertaken. After this we headed out for our first dive, a check dive to get comfortable in the water and practice a few diving skills that would be useful to us during the surveys. Renggis, a dive site used regularly as a good training spot by many dive boats, proved to be a little tricky! As we whisked along sideways in low visibility during our descent, it soon became apparent that the site was not its usual benign self. Alvin tucked us around a corner on a patch of sand that he knows and we were out of the worst of the current, magically able to go through the skills that we planned. All was well and the team returned to the boat with tales of turtles, cuttlefish and coral, as much as current, weight and air consumption. We were greeted back on board with an inspiring ginger tea and settled down to learn more about Reef Check.

The rest of the day was spent learning about the fish and invertebrates that we need to know for our surveys, and we went on a second dive around the corner with Alvin and I pointing out the species that we all need to know. The second dive was in better conditions, although visibility was still poor. More classroom work followed and after the dinner the team went to bed with their heads buzzing with different fish to learn.

Thursday (18 Aug)

The first dive today was at 07:00 to have another look underwater at the fish and invertebrate species that we have learnt. Revisiting Renggis made for a great dive with lots of fish to look at and the team came out of the water feeling more confident than before. Breakfast and last minute revision, then came the first two tests…

More soon.

Update from our scuba diving volunteering expedition helping to save the coral reefs of Malaysia and Tioman Island.

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