Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Perhentian '07: It's pronounced Noo-dee-brank

I used to think that nudibranches are pronounced with a 'branch' at the end, like the tree. Imagine my embarassment when I found out, while watching a National Geographic special on these colourful seaslugs, that they're pronounced with a 'brank' which rhymes with bank.

Pteraeolidia ianthina (serpent pteraeolidia)
Nudibranches come in all shapes and sizes, and are often multihued to either attract potential mates or to ward off would-be predators.

Phyllidiella pustulosa(?)
Sometimes I find it quite difficult to differentiate between different species of nudibranches because they may look quite similar are oftentimes differentiated by rather obscure features like the colour of their antannae or the type of food they eat etc.

Phyllidia elegans
Even within the same species, there are many variants, very much like different breeds (eg dogs, cats).

Phyllidia coelestis
This one looks almost like the two below but apparently they're of different species, I don't know why.

Pair of Phyllidia varicosa going for a walk after lunch.....

Phyllidia varicosa
Meanwhile this little fella was left all alone.... poor guy.

Flabellina rubrolineata
That's latin for red-lined erm... flabellina. You can't see the red line because it's on its underbelly.

Risbecia tryoni

Pair of Risbecia tryoni playing tag. Thanks Asther for the correction. Appreciate it!

Chromodoris geometrica
This is the first time I've seen this particular critter, and I can proudly say I was the only one in my dive team who spotted it.... hehehe

This is a pair of Phyllidiela pustulosa out for a walk after dinner. How romantic! Hehehe

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Perhentian '07: Pellagic

Visibility in Perhentian wasn't very good this time around. According to Kevin, a good friend of mine, it's all got to do with the presence of the full moon..... Still trying to figure that one out.

This crinoid squat lobster hiding amongst the fronds of a feather star was almost too difficult to focus owing to the multitude of debris floating around and the unbelievable current while I was trying to get a clear shot. Hence, this: a thousand apologies for the slight blurriness.

This is one big mama of a moray eel.... It was perhaps the biggest specimen I have ever seen. Maybe it was pregnant, see that bulge?

This perfectly camouflaged scorpionfish is a perfect example of nature and evolution working together to produce.... the ugliest creature on the face of the planet!

All hail the queen..... This is the Blue Queen Angelfish. I find it such a beauty with its orange body with blue stripes. Addendum: Asther insists it's a blue-ringed angelfish (Pomacanthus annularis). ;)

This baby honeycomb eel just managed to peek out for a look at a few strange aliens from outer sea staring at it with a white box that emits light..... Say cheese! Addendum: It is a Fimbriated Moray (Gymnothorax fimbriatus).

Ok.. one major complaint I had while diving here was the annoying abundance of jellyfish. They sting. It's painful and I have to resist from scratching. Luckily I wore a full suit, so I was pretty much immune to their barbed tentacles.

This was a large hernit crab that decided to hijack a murex shell as its home. Looks rather funny doesn't it? Reminds me of Marge Simpson with her large bouffant..... except that she had a blue one.

The blue-spotted sting ray is related to sharks and the only main difference is these creatures don't get John Williams' soundtrack to signal their approach. Teh... deng..... teh...deng.....

And this is my very first sighting of a bamboo shark.... not too sure why they're called that... They look more like B52 bombers to me......

Oh this was a rare find.... a white striped cleaner shrimp doing its thing on an anemone.... So cute.

This is a beautiful but deadly Lionfish, known for its venomous dorsal spine that is used to stun prey and predators alike.

The first time I saw this fish I thought it was a very large pomfret.... u know the ones restaurants use to make steamed fish..... yummy.... Unfortunately, this isn't a pomfret but a batfish. Wonder why they're called that....

This cute little fella is a juvenile shortnose boxfish... which was giving me hell as it darted back and forth, left and right, making the pictures I took of it turn out blurry and not well lit. Yeah I know.... blame the subject....

On one of our dives, we encountered a large school of batfish that, oddly enough, were attracted to us and kept following us around.

Ok, this guy has got to be one of the wierdest fish I've seen.... It's a very large Scrawled Filefish aka leatherjacket (Aluterus scriptus) that was basically just floating vertically there, not really moving or reacting to its surrounding. Maybe it was meditating.

And last but not the least, is this gigantic Star Puffer fish (Arothron stellatus), which measured at least five feet from mouth to tail. Pity it wasn't puffed up.... Now that would have been quite a sight!

As always, kudos and thanks to Asther for helping with the nomenclature and corrections. I really appreciate it.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Perhentian '07: Corals and other creatures that don't move (much).

Southeast Asia and Malaysia in particular is blessed with a rich marine ecosystem, thanks to its relatively shallow waters, an abundance of protected coves, bays and lagoons, and warm temperatures that is very condusive for coral growth.

There are basically two kinds of corals, namely soft and hard coral. As the name suggests, hard corals are rigid owing to their calicified exoskeleton.

Hard corals come in various shapes and sizes and their common names often reflect what they resemble. eg. this coral formation is called the staghorn coral owing to its erm.. staghorn-like protrusions.

This, on the other hand is a garden of whip corals. Single strands of white corals seemingly 'grow' from out of the seabed. Often found in areas of strong currents, they are regarded as warning beacons or landmarks to avoid .

Then of course there is the soft coral, which does not have a calcified skeleton and often are whispily blown about by the moving current. They also come in various designs, such as this one, which is a large colony of bubble corals.

Aside from corals, there are many other sea creatures that 'hang around' the coral gardens to forage for food, very much like gazelles in the African savannah. The above is a cushion star which can double as a pin cushion for your spinster aunty's knitting projects.

This is a two-in-one: A sea sponge (in pink) with a growth of feather stars in its funnel. Sponges are perhaps the most primitive of multicellular creatures as they lack true tissues and organs like nerve cells or muscles.

This is a cucumber, and is what is commonly served in many chinese restaurants as the sea ginseng ("hai shen") IT is often regarded as a potent aphrodisiac (probably due to phallic shaped body) and has been a staple chinese delicacy for thousands of years. If only they knew that this creatures actually acts as a vacumn cleaner of the seabed, cleaning it of fallen and decaying debris.

This is another type of coral very commonly found in these waters.... but I'm not too sure of the name. Well, it looks like a comb.,.... so i guess it is a sea-comb, perhaps? Asther, what is your opinion?

Ok, this is the big mama of all sea urchins. It comes in at a whopping three feet in diameter and thos spikes are hard, sharp and full of poison. Although the locals swear by its delicious meat and entrails.

Sea fans are also a common sight in coral-rich waters, and are considered a type of soft coral, although it looks more like a plant than a coral. They come in various colours and can grow to be as big as a truck!

I also saw lots of sea-kelp growing near the coast and were constantly being washed up to the shore. The resort staff had a hard time clearing the beach of this 'trash' as they were rather sinewy and tenacious.

Last but not least, is the giant clam. They lie in between cracks in the wall, or in between the large hard coral formations... just lying in wait for morsels of food with their mouths wide open.... hmmmm kinda reminds me of my rather obese Uncle..... ;)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Perhentian '07: Paradise On Earth

Last Mayday, I went on a short diving trip to Perhentian Island, off the coast of Terengganu, with my diving buddies Joseph and Jason. We stayed at a private and rather secluded resort called Bubbles.

It was quite a rustic and peaceful place, where we had lunch under a leafy canopy, and watched the sun go down while lying on a hammock with the gentle sea breeze beckoning us to dreamland......

Meanwhile the diving was superb, with lots of shipwrecks filled to the brim with corals, fish and other sea creatures just waiting to be explored.

The staff was excellent, especially our dive masters, Jim and John who were very friendly, professional and great company.

Visibilty underwater wasn't exactly the best I've encountered, but the variety of sealife more than made up for it.... including my first ever close encounter with a Hawksbill turtle.

Back on land, what more was there to do on paradise than to bask in the afternoon sun, trying to get the perfect tan and sinking my teeth into a Michael Crichton novel about nanobots that are out to annihilate mankind. :)

It's times like these that I truly thank God for the opportunity to enjoy a momentary escapade of tranquility, away from the hustle and bustle of the daily grind back home....

where palm trees provide a cool shade from the mid-day sun as I sip lazily from an ice-cold glass of lemon tea....

It really doesn't get any better than this.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Every Once In A While

I was in Perhentian recently and while on an early morning jog, this was what greeted my eyes while this song was playing on my iPod. I had to stop to catch my breath....literally.

I walked down to the park last night
Warm breeze stirring up a soft moonlight
And my mind started drifting to way back when
Yes I do think about you every now and then

The other day I saw a car like you used to drive
I got a funny feeling down deep inside
And for the briefest moment I felt a smile begin
Yes I do think about you every now and then

I heard a song on the radio just yesterday
The same one you always asked me to play
And when the song was over
I wished they'd played it again
Yes I do think about you every now and then

I've been layin' here all night listenin' to the rain
Talkin' to my heart and tryin' to explain
Why sometimes I catch myself
Wondering what might have been
Yes I do think about you every now and then....

Adapted from "Every Now And Then" by Garth Brooks from the album "The Chase"