This was possibly one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Tourism was taking over but was not too overwhelming on the smaller island where we stayed. It was 6 days of pure bliss!
We arrived at the town of Kuala Besut after a few hours on a minibus and expected to be getting a slow boat across to the islands. That could not have been further from the truth! A tiny speedboat and a smiley, toothless old man met us at the jetty, with 2 massive 150cc engines strapped to the back. No sooner than we were all cramped into each other's personal spaces he gunned the engines and set off at a tremendous pace. Usually I don't mind boats, but I was writing my obituary on this particular ride. Waves were no bother to him, he just pushed the boat through them and got some air. We would slam back down, soaked to the skin and bums aching to be met by a grin and a very insincere 'soorreee!' only for it to happen again 2 minutes later. It was exhilarating and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It beat any form of transport so far. Toothless dropped
us off on a beach called Long beach and then we spend an hour trudging through the thick white sand looking for a place to sleep. We finally chanced upon a dorm set back from the beach that was cheap and pretty clean. The only downside was the big rat that came up through the drain from time to time, but he was friendly enough. We even had big monitor lizards wandering round the complex at various times so it really gave it a proper jungle feel.
The next couple of days were eaten up with exploring the various beaches around and shopping for a dive shop to go diving with. We decided on one called Turtle Bay as Dec had messaged Sinead Pryke for some advice and she recommended them. After signing up to dive we also signed up for a snorkelling trip to 5 different sites situated around our small island. This was by far our best snorkelling trip of Asian! Not only did we see more types of fish than anywhere combined, we also managed to find a giant sea turtle to go swimming with (provided you could keep up with its underwater speed). This wasn't
a designated snorkelling site but the guy just told us to jump over the side and swim down underwater to see it. Needless to say my swimming ability came to the foreground so I was able to shot some incredible footage of the turtle swimming away. Not sure when I am going to ever beat that for a video!
Our fourth day we signed up for an early morning dive (not my idea) and an afternoon wreck dive. We set off at 7am and speedboated over to the dive site (it seemed everyone on the island had a tiny boat with a big engine, probably compensating for other tiny things...) By now Dec and I were pro at all our buddy and safety checks so it was no long until we were descending to 18m and swimming around the massive coral rock. The fish were different and a lot more colourful than the fish seen whilst snorkelling but the turtles were smaller so overall I was a bit nonplussed with them but being back underwater diving was still as incredible as it was the first time I went under. It made me really look forward to the wreck dive
coming up, which did not disappoint. After a quick Indian lunch, we speed boated to the wreck and descended. This time we were going inside the massive cargo bay of the tanker ship on the bottom. This was new territory so I couldn't wait. It was as spooky and murky as promised and to see fish flashing past in front of my torch was exciting to say the least. Visibility was quite bad so my under photos were a bit shite but I really did not care. The highlight was a big grouper fish, the size of a small dog, lying camouflaged on the bottom. The cheeky bastard was so still I nearly swam into him! He got off lightly though as I hadn't had a beer and we were told we weren't allowed to fight the fish so I was on my best behaviour.
The rest of the 40minute dive went uneventfully and the end came too soon for my liking. After the dive day we had a night on the rum&cokes down by the sea so day 5 was a hungover beach day topping up the already sick tan and much the same on day 6! The
only other thing to add was that the rice hotpots we found on the other side of the island were so amazing we ate at that restaurant 3 evenings on the trot and by the end I was sufficiently sick of sand and bleu sea so a trip to Kuala Lumpur to see the Grand Prix was something I was looking forward to immensely!
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