2003 archive


2003 news archive

17 Dec 2003: Underwater World Singapore

With Christmas and New Year holidays just round the corner, we wish all our visitors happy holidays and a meaningful time spent with family members, friends and loved ones. We hope you'll take time away from the daily rat-race to ponder about life and what matters most to you, to cherish and treasure those around you, to count your blessings and be contented.

For those who thought Christmas trees exist only on land, did you know there are also colourful Christmas trees underwater? There's plenty in Redang! They're actually not plants, but sedentary worms that retract into their burrows when touched (see picture on left).

The monsoon rains have really been coming down hard along peninsular Malaysia's east coast. The weather forecast for Redang seems to be rain everyday! Definitely not a good time to be out island hopping or diving.

Not one to sit quietly at home, I took the opportunity to check out Underwater World Singapore at Sentosa, which I hadn't visited for more than a decade. This time, all the wonderful marine life there looked really familiar, and it was good to be able to see them up close. They really do have a good collection of fishes like big groupers, trevallies, morays, eagle rays, many sharks including white tip reef sharks, black tips, sawtooths and leopards, as well as a sea turtle pond exhibit and a touch pool with bamboo sharks, blue-spotted rays and small puffers. The current attraction were 2 bull sharks which I thought looked docile but are actually the 3rd most dangerous shark species after the Great White and Tiger shark. After watching the bull shark attack on Dr.Ritter on Discovery channel, guess looks can be deceiving! There was also an exhibit with leafy and weedy sea dragons which was really popular with photographers. A worthwhile place to visit while waiting for monsoon season to end. If you're planning on visiting, best time is to go later in the evening around 5-6pm, catch the exhibits in the day, then wait for the switchover to night.


1 Dec 2003: Launch of www.redang.org

This is the big day! After 5 years of getting pushed around different web hosts and existing under different URLs, Redang Island Rendezvous finally has a permanent home in www.redang.org and is residing on a paid web hosting service provider.

So make sure you update your bookmarks. And to commemorate this special occasion, the entire website has been redesigned to be bigger, brighter and better than before to serve you better. All information has been updated to prepare you for opening season come 1 March 2004.

A record 4 trips in 2003

This year alone, I made 4 trips to Redang between July and October, making a total of 18 dives around various locations. The first 3 were personal trips, while the last trip was a family vacation which we managed to squeeze in at the last minute just before closing season. Actually, many of the resorts had already closed, but we stayed at Laguna which closed at end October. You can read all about our 4 trips in the diary section.

After getting so many questions through email and the forum about whether it's still ok to visit in October, I finally had a look for myself - my last two trips were both in October and almost back to back with one another. And the answer is yes, it's still fine to visit in October. Most days, the weather is fine and the sea calm, and what's more, you can have almost the whole beach to yourself! It rains from time to time mainly in the late evenings and nights. As we get into late October, the waves at Pasir Panjang get bigger and rougher, churning up sand and sediment. These are signs of the coming monsoon but not the real thing, as the really rough monsoon seas and heavy rains begin only in November.

The year in review

Looking back over the year, 2003 was probably the year that awoke many people to the importance of reef conservation. Spearheaded by reports in the Malaysian Star newspaper, the reefs at Redang were suddenly thrown into the spotlight. The reports highlighted that corals may have been damaged due to resort development and upgrading works as well as the construction of a jetty at Teluk Bakau. Regardless of the accuracy and claims, the happy fact was that protection of the reefs at Redang became a highly publicised issue, and hopefully this will bode well for the future health of the reefs. Especially if such publicity stirs the relevant authorities, organizations and resorts into constructive action to protect the reefs.

Elsewhere in Redang, Redang Kalong Resort now has to share its stretch of beach with Redang Inn, a new resort whose rooms are housed in what looks like a row of large white tents. Latest news is that there's going to be another new resort being built between Laguna and Redang Inn. Beats me how many more new resorts can be built since almost all the available beach space has been used up. Over at Teluk Dalam, news is that Berjaya Beach is expanding and planning to build apartment blocks. Berjaya's airport runway has been completed and is just awaiting approval from the relevant authorities to begin operations.


10 Aug 2003: Back from Rescue Diver course

Our second trip from 2-5 August, coming barely 3 weeks after the last visit, was really exhausting compared to the first. Well, I should have expected it since I had signed up for a PADI Rescue Diver course at Laguna's Dive Centre with Joseph, my dive buddy from last year's Tenggol trip. Our 4D/3N stay was completely filled with 7 leisure dives in addition to the rescue procedures, watching the course video, thumbing through the rescue manual and sitting for the theory test. It was well worth the time and effort considering we learnt a lot of useful skills that might come in handy one day. The exhaustion took its toll though, and I came down with a fever the next day upon my return, no thanks to the roadside durian feast we had on our way back from Merang to Kuala Terengganu when 4 of us gobbled up almost 10 durians. I've recovered since, and will be more careful to keep my appetite in check next time I encounter the thorny fruit.


27 Jul 2003: The real message of Nemo

The past fortnight has been an interesting one with local newspapers reporting how the latest Disney/Pixar movie 'Finding Nemo' has suddenly made the clownfish an instant fad in Singapore. For those of you who've been hiding under a coconut shell the last few weeks, the movie is about a wayward juvenile clownfish 'Nemo' who in a fit of rebellion against his father 'Marlin', wanders over the drop-off at the edge of the coral reef, gets caught by a diver and ends up in an aquarium of a Sydney dentist. Marlin teams up with Dory, a blue tang, and goes through harrowing adventures to try to rescue his son, while Nemo befriends the residents of the aquarium, who tries to help him escape. As with all Disney movies, there is a happy ending.

The underlying message of the movie is really about:

However, in Singapore at least, Finding Nemo seems to have started a fad for keeping clown fishes in marine aquariums at home, with many children pestering parents for a live Nemo of their own. For awhile, it was even more popular than the 'luo han' (flower horn) fish.

The scary part is most of these folks have probably never kept an aquarium, let alone a marine aquarium which is a lot harder and more expensive to maintain. How many will take the time and trouble to really understand how to responsibly maintain a saltwater aquarium? And how many suppliers are responsible enough to sell only to those who have demonstrated such knowledge? Furthermore, many of these marine fishes are probably caught from the wild, rather than 'tank-raised', which raises its own ecological issues. This unhealthy demand will place a burden on coral reefs whose livestock is already under threat from natural and human activities. Kids will no doubt enjoy having their own live 'Nemo', but the truth is many of these clown fishes will end up dead from not being able to acclimatize to changes in water salinity and from improper handling.

My message to these folks is: please think carefully about keeping clown fishes (or any other reef fishes). Don't just do it because it is the latest fad. It is better to help your child understand and appreciate the marine world by bringing them to a professionally run marine aquarium, like Underwater World, or by bringing them to snorkel in places like Redang, where they will see many clown fishes in their natural environment. Proper education and awareness breeds respect and understanding. If you must keep fishes, stick to the usual freshwater guppies, tiger barbs, goldfish, tetras, gouramis or bettas (fighting fishes), which are easier to care for.

Personally, I enjoyed the movie for its entertainment value and its underlying message, though the part where Nemo escapes by getting flushed down the dentist's basin can potentially mislead children. Kids, please do not flush your fish down basins or toilets! Firstly, it does not lead directly to the sea, and secondly, it is unlikely that fishes will survive in our sewage and wastewater systems!


12 Jul 2003: Impact of construction on the reefs

After reading The Star reports and some writer's comments in the Forum page, it was with cautious expectation that I set foot on Redang Island 3 days ago, not quite sure whether I would come away disappointed and discouraged to return. Redang had been in the local news quite often this year, especially after the not-so-complimentary reporting from The Star newspaper. That report had claimed the Redang marine ecosystem was greatly at risk due to the construction activities at Pasir Panjang. As an impartial website devoted to the conservation and enjoyment of the rich marine life at Redang, I was more concerned about the facts of the matter, rather than just believe what the press and others may have to say, good or bad. So my 3D/2N diving trip with Seng Hock from 9-11 July gave me an opportunity to check out firsthand what had happened since I was last there just over a year ago.

Let me state for the record that I am not an environmental specialist or a marine biologist. My background is in engineering. My only environmental-related 'qualification' was as an ISO14K internal auditor for my previous company, and other knowledge gleaned from readings in marine life and ecosystems out of my own personal interest, so 'gurus' in these areas may discount my findings and conclusions.

My approach was basically to do a simple aspect-impact analysis (i.e. which specific elements of the resort activities may cause air pollution, water pollution, land contamination, waste disposal, resource depletion etc) and to note any actions taken to address these. I also specifically snorkelled and dived at the house reefs in Shark Bay, Tanjung Mak Cantik, Tanjung Bertigi and Teluk Bakau (where the Laguna jetty was constructed) to see firsthand the health of the reefs. My conclusion? I returned to Singapore this morning, rather hopeful and optimistic that despite the construction activities, the marine life at Pasir Panjang and neighbouring areas did not suffer noticeable damage compared to last year before the construction activities began. It was also the first time I had been on Redang during off-peak non-school holiday season, and Pasir Panjang looked really beautiful with its clean, white sandy beach without the usual crowds.

This time, I stayed at the new kid on the block, the majestic Laguna Redang Resort. Actually, it was more like a kid on steroids as it literally dominated the southern Pasir Panjang beach! As a resort guest, I was impressed with the value and quality of the resort - large, comfortable rooms with all the required amenities, good facilities, good local food, impressive seafront vistas, and very impressive architecture. As planned, the More More Tea Inn from the Summer Holiday movie had been resurrected in the form of a replica, housing the gift shop below and a bar/karaoke lounge upstairs. Great resort, but what about the environment?

After discussions with the owners/management and touring areas of the resort that most guests wouldn't be interested in, I came away satisfied that the resort owners were environmentally-conscious, open and willing to listen to suggestions and improvements, and doing what they could to minimize any negative impact of the resort's operation on the environment. They worked with environmental consultants and sought professional advice. They had a proper wastewater treatment facility to handle all wastewater and sewage. They had proper diesel storage tanks for their power generators, and diesel is pumped directly from the supply boat to the tanks on land, avoiding spillage from diesel drums. Even the cement enclosures were designed with sufficient capacity to contain all the diesel from a tank should it rupture or leak. The power generators were housed in a soundproof building, and diesel residue from generators were collected in proper collection tubs to be shipped back to the mainland when full. Solid garbage was collected in bags and kept in a dedicated freezer room to prevent decomposition and foul odour until it was shipped back to the mainland for disposal. Silt traps and proper drain channels were constructed around the resort to ensure that ground debris from run-off rain water would not find their way to the sea. The list goes on, and some of the things they are planning to do which I am unable to mention here gives me reason to believe that they are here for the long-haul, and are determined to protect the marine environment - the proverbial 'golden goose' for all the resorts - as best they can. Of course, there are always areas for improvement, and it is good to see that they are ready to acknowledge and willing to improve. The owners of Laguna actually read the forum section of this website, so for those of you with feedback and suggestions, do post it in the Forum page.

As for the marine life, there is healthy growth of staghorn coral on the north side of Tanjung Bertigi, with many patches of soft anemone and clownfish in waters of reasonable visibility. We also encountered a turtle there on our beach dive. So the construction of the jetty and deepening of a channel passageway had not adversely affected the live coral areas. Even before the jetty was constructed, there were already lots of coral rubble on the shallow south side and areas nearest the beach which were visibly exposed at low tide. Of course, some would argue whether the jetty should have been constructed in the first place, but if one had to be constructed, Teluk Bakau was probably the most suitable place as it meant no boats were visible in front of Laguna and Redang Reef resorts at Pasir Panjang, which would have spoilt the scenery somewhat.

The house reef in front of Redang Reef resort looked similar to last year, except it was noticeably cleared of drink cans which were present in large numbers last year. A fairly large resident stingray was present on the sandy area of the beach, while the resident school of squid were close to the rocks just in front of the extended dining area of Redang Reef. Over at Shark Bay, there were about 10 baby blacktip sharks, probably newborns over the last monsoon as they were smaller than the ones seen last year. Again, not much has deteriorated compared to last year, though I still observed some snorkellers stepping on corals. Snorkelling across from Shark Bay to Redang Reef, I expected to see some debris, pebbles and stones from construction activities, but met only with sandy bottom, which suggested there had been some clean-up carried out. I didn't get to explore the other snorkelling sites, and missed the Marine Park Centre as I was out exploring the dive sites which were still rich with corals and other marine life. As usual, I will summarize trip details and include more photos in the up and coming Redang Trip Diary 2003.

Redang has always been close to my heart. To me, it is probably the most beautiful island in Peninsular Malaysia, and Pasir Panjang is a rare gem among beaches. I am encouraged that big resorts like Laguna are putting in money and resources to help to maintain or protect the environment, realizing that the continued success of their business investment really lies in how well they preserve the marine life. I hope the other resorts, and all visitors to Redang, are also equally committed not just in words, but in action. It is not just the development of new big resorts that will affect the future of Redang, but more importantly the attitudes and actions of people - government policy makers, resort management and staff and visitors. A small campsite run with total disregard for the environment may cause more harm than a well-managed environmentally-sensitive big resort. Effective conservation must involve the 3Ps of policy, process and people. If resorts establish environmental protection policies as part of their business plans, set up processes to effectively manage and enforce those policies, and educate and sensitize staff and visitors to marine conservation issues, it will bode well for the marine environment at Redang. For now at least, Redang remains a place that I will want to return to, a little paradise in our corner of the earth.


16 Jun 2003: Back from Sipadan

4 days of diving. 14 dives. More than 10 hours total time under the water. 300+ photographs and videoclips. That basically sums up my trip to Pulau Sipadan and Pulau Mabul from 22-27 May. It's the sort of place where 'divers run out of film before they run out of air'. Well, that was probably before the age of digital cameras. Still, I used up almost 200MB of my 256MB Compact Flash memory card.

It was a different world out there, with a staggering variety and abundance of marine life. If reef life in Mabul came in XS and S sizes, everything in Sipadan came in L and XL sizes. I now understand what a 'world-class' dive site means and Sipadan truly earns its title as 'best shore dive in the world'. As Malaysia's only truly oceanic island sitting on a pinnacle that rises 2000 feet from the ocean floor, there's nothing on West Malaysia that comes close, not even Tenggol. And it's so small that one can walk around Sipadan in 30 minutes. Interested? Jump straight into my Sipadan and Mabul trip diary and follow me on an unforgettable adventure to one of the top 5 wall dive sites in the world. Sorry it's taken so long to write up, but sorting through 300 photographs and researching all the species I've seen isn't easy.


6 May 2003: Resort updates

Seems quite a number of resorts have upgraded, notably Redang Beach Resort which has grown quite a bit with 120 brand new chalet rooms each sporting their own private balcony. This would make Redang Beach one of the biggest resorts on the island. Of course this is still dwarfed by the new behemoth next door, the 4-star Laguna Redang, which when fully completed will offer 212 rooms and the most extensive set of resort facilities in Redang at affordable prices. From pictures I've seen on the brochure and on their website, the furnishings and built quality are excellent, and it looks very classy and pretty - definitely a majestic sight to behold on southern Pasir Panjang beach.

According to Berjaya's website, the golf course at Berjaya Redang Spa Resort is closed until further notice, but the resort is accepting bookings now after being closed for some time last year. Apparently, the airstrip on Redang being constructed by Berjaya Resorts is also going to be operational soon. Their website already offers a separate 'flight-inclusive' package for customers at Berjaya Beach Resort and Berjaya Spa Resort wishing to fly direct to the island from KL Subang Airport (the old international airport). Berjaya Air currently flies their fleet of 48-seater De Havilland Dash 7 turboprop aircraft between Singapore and Tioman, and from KL to Pangkor, Tioman and Koh Samui. It remains to be seen whether they will offer flights between Singapore and Redang.

I have not been able to locate Wisana Beach Huts and I suspect they might have closed down - their web and email links are all gone. There is another 'new' resort called Redang De'ekor Tebu Island Resort whose website mentions that they are located 500m away from the main Redang island - referring to Pulau Ekor Tebu located southeast of Redang. They had intended to build the resort on Pulau Ekor Tebu initially (hence the name) but hit some snags and have now instead taken over the old Redang Mutiara Resort at Teluk Kalong. No wonder the images of their resort on their website look similar to pictures I've taken of Redang Mutiara! So the mystery is solved for now, Redang Mutiara is under new management and has been renamed De'ekor Tebu Island Resort.

Over at Lang Tengah, 2 new resorts have come up too. Redang Lang Resort which is already open for business is located to the right of Blue Coral Island Resort while D'Coconut Lagoon Resort is located at Tanjung Telunjuk to the left of Square Point Resort, separated by rocks. D'Coconut is planning to open middle of this year if all goes well.

With all these new developments to accommodate an even larger number of visitors to Redang, I sometimes wonder whether there has been any formal studies made to ascertain the impact to the marine ecosystem. It is obvious that house reefs in populated areas have shrunk in size over the years, and dead coral line the areas closest to shore. Regardless of how accurate the articles in The Star were (and we all know better than to believe everything the press says), the fact remains that an island of this limited size and resources can only support a certain amount of development and visitors, and anything beyond that will have a detrimental effect on the ecosystem, even despite the best efforts and practices of resorts and the relevant authorities to prevent it.


20 Apr 2003: Personal updates

The latter half of 2002 heralded a number of major changes in my personal circumstances that has contributed somewhat to my long absence. Anyway, it's good to see the Forum is still active and for those of you who have taken the time to drop me an email, thank you for your continued support.

The biggest change was probably to my job circumstances. After being in a multinational computer company for 14 years in an R&D environment, I left at end July 2002 to set up my own consulting business. It's been a challenging and enlightening experience, but also satisfying and rewarding despite the uncertainties especially in these economic times - fortunately the war in Iraq has almost ended, and we are left with SARS gnawing at an already battered economy in this region. The travel industry has been the biggest victims, and I hear that bookings in Redang are down 20-40% over the same period last year, probably caused by a lot of visitors from Singapore cancelling their travel plans.

Well, the good news about all this is that I finally have my own company domain name which I have paid for and reserved, and have moved this entire website to my web host, FREE OF ADVERTISEMENTS and annoying popups! So now you can have a smoother surfing experience. Use this to access the actual URL: http://www.designius.com/redang/ - this should be valid as long as I'm still in business :) If you still want to continue using the redirector URL: http://redang.cjb.net, it is still valid but you will have to bear with a little pop-up that may comprise an advert or it may ask you whether you want to install a particular advertised program. For safety reasons, I would advise not installing the program unless you are confident that it is not malicious.

One more thing, some of you have sent email to me asking me to quote prices at my 'resort' or asking me to make travel arrangements for a group tour. I hate to disappoint you, but if you had read the 'About this site...' section below, I had made it very clear that I am not in the travel industry. I do not own any resorts on Redang, nor do I own a tour/travel agency. The only thing I do related to Redang is this website. You can contact the resorts or travel agents mentioned in this site directly for such queries.

OK, now for the latest updates on Redang...

The School holidays 2003 for Malaysia and Singapore has been updated in the visiting season portion of this site. Use it to plan your vacation.

The new resort, Laguna Redang, is scheduled to open partially sometime in April 2003. Their website is already up at www.lagunaredang.com.my.

Recently, there's been a troubling spate of reports in the local Malaysian papers concerning recent developments in Redang and how these are potentially damaging or threatening the marine and terrestrial ecosystems (The Star Online 15 April 'Marine Park In Distress' and 10 April 'Stop Work Order for Jetty Project'). I've also had feedback from visitors who've recently been there firsthand and reported that the descriptions aren't too far from the truth, especially in places like Teluk Bakau.

If what has been seen and reported are true, such irresponsible activities will destroy the marine ecosystem faster than a whole bunch of irresponsible visitors can. Things like siltation caused by dredging and sewage and commercial pollutants in detergents improperly treated and handled, will simply destroy what's left of the fragile house reefs in Pasir Panjang and neighbouring beaches. To me, nothing can replace the natural wonder of being able to step off the beach into waters teeming with marine life and live coral, all at the doorstep of your resort. That was what attracted me on my very first visit to Redang, and many others who've been there many years before claim an even richer diversity of marine life in the past. Sadly, things have never been like that first visit and each subsequent year has seen the condition of the house reefs deteriorating. These house reefs are what differentiates Redang from other islands like Tioman and even Perhentian, whose house reefs have been replaced by dead coral rubble accompanied by a noticeable lack of marine life. Even though there are other sites in Redang with healthy coral reefs, these are mainly in uninhabited areas accessible by boat. The house reefs, on the other hand, are accessible by visitors anytime. It will be a pity if these vanish due to overdevelopment and irresponsible housekeeping by resorts and by poor enforcement of regulations by governing authorities. It is my sincere hope that visitors will continue to do their part to observe park regulations and to take care of the marine environment, and even more importantly, that resorts will cooperate with the authorities to adhere to strict environmental regulations and guidelines. Protecting the marine environment keeps visitors coming and protects their own business investment. OK, enough said!