Family Magazine

Tioman Underwater: Better Than Expected

By Behan Gifford @sailingtotem
Hawksbill turtle
We had surprisingly good snorkeling at Tioman Island by just jumping off the boat from our mooring near the village of Tektek. A controversial marina was put in here not long ago, against a great deal of pressure from environmental concerns and with the expected lack of transparency.
The quality of the reef exceeded expectations. I wonder how much it’s been affected by the development of the marina? The marina has probably brought jobs, and money from boats going into the economy; that has to be a good thing. And I suppose there are guys like this who would scrape the bottom paint off his boat on the beach if he didn't have the convenient ramp at the marina. The marina could educate and prevent poor practices like this, but I doubt the information, experience, and will exist to do that effectively...for now anyway.
bottom paint into the harbour
Then there are the idiots like the cruiser who sucked all the oil out of his bilge, put it in shallow pans on the dock, then left the boat for a trip to Kuala Lumpur. Meanwhile, torrential rains caused the pans to overflow and spill all that waste oil in the marina waters. People like that really piss me off. I’m not going to key any hulls, but it makes my blood boil. There's no excuse to be so irresponsible.
We weren't anchored nearly as close as this photo makes it look: it was about 100' to the beginning of the reef, and then about 200' from there to the beach- but you can see, it's right next to the marina development. Still, the marine life in the reef adjacent was really vibrant. Although we have routinely seen commercial fishermen actively fishing in protected waters (so frustrating), the size and curiosity of the groupers near Tektek suggest to me that they really are left alone in this particular area.
Tioman underwater: better than expected
It’s always cool to see a turtle, like the one in the photo at the top. This individual was spotted a few days in a row, by our crew and Utopia’s. Thanks to the distinctive chunk out of the left side of his shell, it's highly recognizable. Random fact: do you know that green turtles were named not for the tint to their shells, but for the color of the fat rendered when cooked? This one is actually a hawksbill. I think. (overlapping scutes, that beaky thing...I am no expert with the species ID)
The reef was full of other visual treats. Among the smattering of the underwater delights were razorfish, something I have wanted to see for years: in my pre-cruising life, I worked at a company named Razorfish. Finally, the moment arrived! They are a crackup to watch: long skinny fish that hang vertically in the water, moving in near perfect unison.
There were beautiful corals. The camera doesn't do justice to the purple edge on this one.
gorgeous coral forms and colors
The table corals were really big, too. This one must have been at least ten feet across. I am too close to fit it all in the frame- oops.
huge plate/table corals
What I don't know is if all that bleaching at the tips is a bad sign, or a normal level. Anyone? Meanwhile, check out the TONS of little polyps waving around!
bleaching, or healthy?
Here's a fish playing symbiotic hide-and-go-seek in a sea urchin:
...and here's as sea urchin playing hide-and-go-seek behind corals:
I see you!
How about the pretty blue spotted stingray under a coral head?
blue spotted ray
There were lots of anemones. I don't think I've ever seen so many in one area.
tons of anemones
So of course, there were so many anemone fish. This is the first time I've seen one that was more white than orange.
with tons of anemonefish
I love these little guys! So much personality. At least they weren't trying to attack me, as they did my bloggy friend Lara.
with tons of anemonefish
It would have been nice to compare other reefs around Tioman, but we were pretty happy in out little spot. Utopia invited us to share their scuba gear one day, and check out the reef around an islet at the west end of the bay. Very fun: although it was less diverse, it was still full of fish (and full of tourists, since it was a holiday weekend). Not to mention- regular shark spotting! A stout looking blacktip cruised through a couple of times. There seems to be an very high population of sea urchins... something out of balance? Not sure, but maybe I should brush up on catching and preparing uni...

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