Category Archives: snorkelling

Fish, fish, everywhere!

The water off Paje’s eastern coast is a bit like a Russian chick’s skirt; it looks brilliant, and any self-respecting bloke wants to see what’s underneath it. So today I grabbed my snorkel and went down below for a few hours. Oh, I’m talking about snorkelling, you sicko! And as you can see from these really, really, really great photos, I had a wonderful time in a place that looks like a computer screensaver.

I paid a dude a few bucks to take me out to the appropriately-named Blue Lagoon on his traditional fishing boat, and I felt like royalty as I lay back to relax while he struggled against the wind. By royalty I don’t mean that I felt like an inbred, just that it was nice to have someone do everything for me while I bludged around and looked out at the crystal clear water.

After docking, I dived into the ocean and was immediately overwhelmed by the amount of fish. Seriously, there were thousands of the bastards, and they weren’t shy. I swam right in the middle of a huge school and the fish kept bumping into me and trying to swim down my shorts. It jumped straight into my top five snorkelling experiences. If you’re a fan of aquatic magnificence, Paje is somewhere you really should check out.

There’s a massive array of fishes in all sorts of neon colours. Blue, red, green… alright, I guess you’re aware of the concept of colours. The water is incredibly clear, and splashig around off the coast of Zanzibar is an underwater encounter I will never forget (along with that time I porked a mermaid, of course).

Whilst I enjoyed myself, a fellow snorkeller didn’t have quite such a pleasurable morning. The wind picked up and my little sailor man beckoned me back to the boat, paddling it impressively against the awful conditions. As we chopped through the waves I could see some dunce swimming straight towards us, obviously on a collision course. I tried to shout out to him but he was underwater and couldn’t hear, and had no idea the boat was there until the side wing of it bounced off a wave and clonked down on top of his head. I laughed. So if you’ve got a family member who’s in Paje and isn’t answering their phone, uh, sorry.

All up, it was a brilliant day in the sun, checking out one of the most wonderful places I’ve ever been lucky enough to explore. Zanzibar is a big tourist destination for Europeans and (rich) Africans, but isn’t really on the radar of most Australians. It should be. This island is a mix of the old, untouched Bali that so many people fondly remember, and the still-unspoilt Sri Lanka that a lot of people are just finding out about. In short, it’s as lovely as what’s under a Russian girl’s skirt… well, maybe not that lovely, but it comes close.

Paddling with Pigeons

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Everyone loves pigeons. They’re nature’s comedians and very popular with children and the elderly, so when I had a chance to go snorkelling at Pigeon Island, Sri Lanka, I grabbed it with both hands. The opportunity, not an actual pigeon, just to be clear.

I jumped on a boat full of happy-faced Asians (you can’t miss them on the main stretch of beach at Uppuveli) and headed out there. The snorkelling was good, if not completely awe-inspiring. Pigeon Island provides a decent number of fish – big blue ones, little yellow ones, and everything in between – and some nice coral as soon as you get away from the area where tourists have killed it all. The water is a bit churned up, so visibility isn’t great, but it’s certainly a good place to paddle around for a few hours.

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I love Aeroplane Jelly

There were plenty of jellyfish flopping around like idiots, and I even managed to get stung by some bizarre orange coral. I didn’t die, but I went close. It really was a very pleasant way to spend my last day in my adopted home of Uppuveli, and a trip to Pigeon island is highly recommended for anyone in the area.

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Some stupid fish

I was feeling a little bit cheeky, so I decided to pull my shorts down and take a few photos with my bum out. Oi, don’t judge me, it’s a normal thing for a 33-year-old fella to do. Anyway, I was showing my bottom off and having a fantastic time when I turned around and saw a group of Sri Lankan children snorkelling nearby and shaking their heads in disgust. I went after them to explain what I was doing, but they turned around and swam off, and I felt that pursuing them any further would be asking for trouble.

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Mr Sophisticated does his thing

I soon headed back to the beach, and as I neared the sand I noticed what can only be described as an angry mob huddled on the shore. They were shouting things out and punching the air with their fists, and as soon as one of them saw me he started pointing in my direction. I just assumed he was telling his mates there was a jellyfish in my general direction, so I strutted out of the water like a boss without paying him too much attention. Big mistake, baby.

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Some more stupid fish

As soon as I emerged a member of the mob – who were as angry and vocal as a group of first-year university students arguing the Brexit result – slapped the mask off my face, and the rest started jeering me and pushing me around. They thought I was a sex pest and I had only one option – run! I put my head down and plowed through the palm trees towards the boat, with the angry locals in hot pursuit. I could hear their footsteps and feel rocks and coconuts whizzing past my head, and I just kept on running like popular black man Usain Bolt.

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Yet more stupid fish

When the captain of the boat saw me being chased by the gang he shouted for me to jump in the boat, and fired up the engine as I got closer. I was puffing and wheezing but managed to leap over the side, banging my ship badly and landing on top of a startled Asian woman. The captain spun the boat around and zipped us out of there, while coconuts and other shit hurtled into us thanks to the maniacs on the shore. I apologised to the Asian woman, but she responded with a passionate kiss, which would’ve been more romantic if her husband wasn’t watching on and cheering the whole thing.

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Mr Awesome makes his escape

When we made it back home the husband, Ian, asked me to have sex with his wife while he watched. I politely declined, but made plans to meet up with the wife later on when Ian was busy playing cards with some of his chums. All things considered, it was a good day.

My pilgrimage to the beach of ghosts

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Waking up in Samoa is like waking up in the distant past. Despite spending the night a five minute walk from the centre of the capital, I stumbled out of my fale to the sounds of insects and birds, with palm trees swaying and the pool sparkling. The air was fresh, the weather was warm, and I was happy. I was tired after my troubled night, so I rolled over to the pool to eat my breakfast. Sleeping Beauty joined me five minutes later, and he looked like he’d just crawled out of a bin. He was an Aussie bloke with bloodshot eyes, a pencil neck, a bald head, no shoulders and a big nose – and an open wound on his forehead.

“I had the weirdest dream that some cunt was throwing rocks at me,” he mused.

“That’s funny,” I replied. “I had a dream that I was throwing rocks at some cunt who wouldn’t stop fucking snoring.”

He decided to eat his toast in his fale.

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Who needs a Ferrari when you’ve got a Rav?

I wasted no time getting out of Apia, and by 10am I was blasting along the freeway towards the village of Lalomanu, on the east coast of Upolu. Alright, that’s a load of shit – I was slowly winding my way along a pothole-filled lane in a car that would struggle to beat a midget in a sprint. But I didn’t care, because the scenery was absolutely beautiful. That’s a load of shit, too, because the word beautiful simply doesn’t do justice to this majestic land.

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This is Eugene Cumberbund. Hello, Eugene Cumberbund!

I rolled through gorgeous villages, along breathtaking coastlines, past dense rainforests, and up steep mountains. It was a kick-arse drive, with the highlight being a steep descent into the mouth of a dormant volcano. Even in a Rav 4, it was as much fun as a bloke could have in a car with his shorts on.

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No man is an island, but this island is an island

After stopping plenty of times for more photos, I finally rolled into the beachside village of Lalomanu bit after midday. There’s not much to the joint – a few shacks, half-a-dozen churches, and finally a stretch of sand with a few fales on it. The lack of development is at once surprising and completely lovely. I pulled in to find that Taufua Beach Fales would be a great place to spend the night. The sun was shining, the water was crystal-clear, and I had a hut right on the water. Shit, there are worse ways to spend a Tuesday.

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Bloody bewdiful!

I picked up a beer, dumped my stuff in my fale, and lay down in the sun to check out the female talent. And it wasn’t bad at all! There wasn’t a lot of variety, but the quality was such that I soon had to put down my Kindle and go for a swim to cool off. The water was lovely, but the snorkeling was more sad than anything. The reef was dead, and populated by only a handful of small fish, a reminder of the devastating tsunami of 2009.

Yeah, the tsunami. As idyllic as Lalomanu is, there’s also a cloud of sadness that hangs over this place. It looks pretty now, but just a few years ago the village lay in ruins, the remains of the tourists fales were spread across the sand, and the bodies of the lay piled up. Many people from this small and tight-knit village were killed, and the disaster touched everyone. With steep cliffs surrounding Lalomanu, there was nowhere to run. The people have moved on with their lives, the resort has been rebuilt, and the area is slowly regaining its beauty. But sitting on the sand, looking out at the eternal ocean, the ghosts still haunt the place.

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Also bloody bewdiful!

Still, I had fun, and paddled around like a retard in a bathtub for and hour before heading in for more beer. And more beer and more beer and more beer. Dinner rolled around and everybody at the resort – around 10 of us – were placed at a single long table and stuffed full of prawns, salad, fruit, rice and other beaut stuff. The others were all pretty cool, and I made friends with an Aussie bloke and his Czech missus, while trying to work out a way to make sure the Italian bird opposite me ended up in my fale. In the end I asked her if she wanted to eat my meatballs and she left. The humour must’ve been lost in translation.

I rounded out the night with a long walk along the beach, drenched in moonlight and contemplating life and other crap. I just find it hard to justify being at work, and all the bullshit that goes with it, when I could be on a beach somewhere drinking beer. It doesn’t make sense.

Bloody hell, I always come up with my best thoughts when I’m pissed – someone pass me another Vailima!

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I’ve slept in worse places (bins, for example)

 

Show us ya snorkel!

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I woke up bright and early, had a quick breakfast of cereal and tropical fruit, then boarded a gigantic bus for a day of sun and chasing fish around in the clear blue sea. I was late, of course, but after 29 years of that, why change?

We drove over to Langkawi’s ferry terminal, boarded a boat, and I ended up sitting next to Lenny, a very fat Pom wearing a Battlestar Galactica shirt with tomato sauce stains all down the front. He was a nice bloke, but he did admit one thing –- he was here on a sex tour. He’d already been to Thailand and Cambodia, and was having sex with different prostitutes in each place. He even acted out a few of his ‘conquests’, leading me to suspect that the tomato sauce may not have been tomato sauce at all, and was actually the blood of some poor prostitute.

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If this ain’t paradise, it’s pretty damn close

The boat arrived at a gorgeous island in the middle of the ocean, and even as I walked along the boardwalk to the beach, I could see all sorts of weird aquatic creatures splashing around beneath me. Excitement turned to disappointment, however, when I saw that the tour company had set up a dinky little roped-off area for us to swim in. The island itself was adorable, but they’d set aside an area about as big as a basketball court for us to snorkel in, and it had about six fish in it.

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Rats in a very wet cage

So, just as I had at the Great Wall, I broke out of jail and went exploring on my own, and it actually turned out to be a really good adventure. The further away from the ropes I got, the more coral and fish I saw. Angel fish, clown fish, gigantic blue fish, sea cucumbers (no, I’m not talking about my penis) and all sorts of other aquatic abominations fluttered around me. I made it to the other side of the island and it was like I was the only person on the planet. At one point, thousands of tiny silver fish raced in a circle around me, and it was truly magical. I even found a secluded little beach to explore!

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Doing my best Tom Hanks impression. No, not from bloody Philadelphia, from that movie where he was stuck on the island

I barely made it back in time for lunch, then set out to go even further around the island. There were even more fish of every description, and I had a grand time hovering around and taking photos of them. It was exactly what I had come for, and yet more proof that it’s never a good idea to stick to the rules.

After chasing a bright red fish for a good 10 minutes, I checked my camera and saw that it was 2:52, and the boat was pissing off at three. And I don’t think Malaysian tour operators really give a shit whether they leave someone behind or not.

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There’s the fish, but where are the chips?

With visions of being left on the island to be eaten by savages (and not in the good way), I cranked the engines and absolutely belted it back to the beach. Seriously, the Thorpedo would’ve been proud of me. I looked up to see the last tourist climbing from the pier onto the boat, but there was still 100 or so metres between me and the shore. I put my head down and zoomed along faster than Michael Phelps on speed and hit the beach, then raced along the jetty just as the boat was pulling out. One of the guides was yelling out, ““You too late! We see you tomorrow!”” but he didn’t know that, if need be, I’m also a world-beating long jumper. I launched myself off the end of the pier, cleared about seven metres of water, and came crashing down on top of a fat bloke on the deck of the boat. I’d made it, and from the look on the fat bloke’s face, I’d made his day, too.

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Holy shit, it’s a flying shark!

On the way back I had another chat to Lenny, who asked if I was keen to “Go halvsies” with him in a hooker, and told him I’d have to give it a miss! Good bloke, that Lenny.

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At least I was able to keep this meal down

After getting dropped off, I had a short nap, snapped some photos of the sunset (and ‘accidentally’ managed to get some photos of a topless Malaysian sheila in there) and then had dinner at a beachside restaurant next to the one I’d visited the night before. You know, the one where the chef poisoned me for making a witty comment to his girlfriend, only for me to go back a few hours later and shit and spew all over their tables as revenge. As I tucked into my calamari rings and sipped on my cocktail, they stood a few metres away, shaking their fists and yelling at me in a language I couldn’t understand. I just raised my glass and blew them a loud raspberry, which made the chef take off his silly white hat, chuck it on the ground and step on it angrily.

And that was the end of my trip to Langkawi.

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Goodnight, sun!