Thursday, June 03, 2010

Report of 8-day dive trip to P. Dayang 23-30 May 2010

70km east of Mersing-Johore is the 5 km long island of Aur, surrounded by three small islands - Dayang, Lang and Pinang. It's more remote than the more popular islands of Tioman, Redang and Perhentian, taking about 4 hrs. by ferry. There is a chance of encountering large pelagic fish or even a whale shark during the opening season in March/April and closing season in Oct/Nov.

(Map and dive sites of P. Dayang P. Aur : )

It was an 8-day trip from Sun. 23 - Sun 30 May. I was with three instructor friends who were taking along seven students doing their first Open Water training, one advance student pursuing Rescue Diver certification and five leisure divers. I went as a leisure diver, assisting whenever my help was required and generally to keep an eye on the other leisure divers when we were in the water.

I came to the rescue of a frightened Malay woman diver whose tank leaked badly when the O-ring in the cylinder valve burst and brought her to the surface safely and escorted her back to the boat. More common assistance was to demonstrate good buoyancy skill underwater and offered tips to reduce the number of weights and anxiety attacks.

On Thur. 27 the students and leisure divers left with the three instructors after the training was completed while I stayed back alone on the island with the cook, his assistants and the boatmen. I had the island to myself for one day before the weekend crowd arrived on Friday in the wee hours of the morning beginning from 3am.

Before the crowds came on Friday I had the chance to dive by myself and this was one occasion when I did 3 solo dives on the house reef. It was a great feeling to be alone occasionally, doing the things you love best in life. The reef along the shore is mostly damaged by boats, swimmers and snorkellers. However, in the deeper part at 5-10 m. there are still unbroken corals and smaller fishes like a school of ten ikan todak (needle fish), trumpet fish, and many bottom sand dwellers such as gobies and blennies.

All too soon Thursday was over and a 15-member group led by another instructor friend arrived at 4am. on Friday I was awakened by the general commotion to greet my friends on arrival.

Water visibility was poor, around 10m, at this time of mid-year. With a full moon the current was moderately to extremely strong. Worse, we witnessed extensive bleaching of staghorn corals and even the anemones were turning white. The cause - warm water temperature of 31 deg. which is about 2 degrees higher than normal. My instructor friends told me that Tioman's corals were also bleaching when they were there in April. This was bad news. I hope that this was seasonal and not permanent. I would be in P. Tenggol in July and back to P. Dayang in November to monitor the situation.

(To read about the causes and devastation of bleaching to the coral reefs, please see: )

During that weekend there were 135 visitors to the island, taking up every room to spare. Singaporeans outnumber Malaysians ten to one. However, there were several non-divers, mostly elderly people including a white couple. Some came to snorkel, a few anglers and others just enjoying the beach. There were 2 canoes, which had seen much better days, put to use by the energetic young.

P. Dayang was a regular diving site for me as my instructor friends gave me a free ride to Mersing and it was a pleasure to dive with friends whom I have met on other diving trips.