Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Dolphins around Pom Pom


TRACC saw dolphins at Pom Pom Island
We saw a pod of Dolphins,  how cool is that.  Swimming between Pandanan and Pom pom island.  We stopped the boat and drifted and they surfaced quite close.  You could even hear the whistles.  fantastic.

Dolphins and other marine mammals are not common in the Semporna area of Sabah, Malaysia.  Even on Mabul and Sipadan (world famous dive sites 70km from us) there are very few marine mammals seen. 


More info about volunteering with TRACC in Malaysia - Turtle Snorkellers - Divers 

Friday, 15 November 2013

Diving the N. Tip of Pom Pom island

The north tip of Pom Pom island (Semporna, Sabah, Malaysia) is a wall dive with the best wall starting at 30m. The reef crest at the north end of the Pom Pom reef wall has a large flat plateau The current splits at this point and there is a choice to swim either W around the N tip wall or East around the Fleavie wall.
The boat ties to the mooring and we kit up. Quick check of the current direction and last minute gear checks and we are off.
Backwards roll dive entry into 3-4m of water next to a large mushroom shaped bommie and a large area covered with bottle reefs planted by TRACC. The reef slope is covered with rubble and macrolife such as nudibranchs and frogfish can be found. Our dive is to go deep, so we pass rapidly across this shallow dive site down to 20m. A quick ok and then we curve off to the left and down a gully. The visibility is awesome at least 40 and maybe 50m and the wall looms up some way in front. The currrent has started to pick up and there are increasing numbers of small schooling fish. Big black coral bushes (“I must remember to ask the TRACC scientists why black !!! coral is actually red or white or green”) and a school of bannerfish mark mark the end of the gulley. I learn later that in 2012 when TRACC first surveyed the island of Pom pom, there were 3 of these schooling bannerfish. Now they are impossible to count. Everything is so approachable, the current is quite strong and all the fish are facing the current looking for food and ignoring the divers. A shoal of bait fish swims past and the big fish follow, 2 giant trevally, a small group of no idea (rainbow runners – id later from the photos) and a larger school of the bluefin trevally. I stop on the corner of the wall and try to get a good photo of the red tooth triggers when the school of big eye trevally swims past. Not worried by the 4 or was it 5 species of trevally, the small fish suddenly scatter. Swimming along the wall is a huge dogtooth tuna. It glides past a few metres away and then all the small fish return. Beep Beep, all to soon the computer says go up and then the best part of the dive started.
As we slowly ascend cross the plateau we see one or two then 5 or more, green turtles resting. Each bommie has at least one large female turtle and in the water column, a male is cruising looking for action. The females are not timid, they generally ignore divers, one female lifts off slowly and the nearest male cruises alongside. I learn later that mating was finished a few weeks ago, but the males are still searching for a willing partner. The cameras are clicking and I can see my buddy gesturing for me to swim into the right place to get that fantastic picture of me and a turtle drifting across the reef.
We gradually ascend to 9m and the seabed is a flat gentle slope of broken rubble. There clearly was a great reef here once but the blast fishing has decimated the fragile coral and it looks like the gravel when a road is being built. The vis is definitely 40m and I can see rubble in all directions, flat and featureless. But ahead past the dive master is a cloud of small fish. I look closer and they are living on a bottle reef. It is made from a ring of glass bottles embedded in cement and then the centre of the ring was plastic bottles. The whole structure is covered with coral and spomges and only a few bottle tops can still be seen. The fish definitely like it - there is a sabre tooth blenny hidden in the neck of lots of bottles and many many small fish. It is easy to see that the artificial reefs built by TRACC volunteers are making a huge difference to reef recovery..
Floating up into the shallows, there are more TRACC reefs, the ribbon reef snakes across the reef crest and is a highway for butterfly fish, blue devil damsels, anthias and many others. With successful artificial reefs like these I am fired up and will definitely be making reefs this afternoon.