Friday, 20 April 2012

Desert island bliss

I'm writing this from a desert island with rain hammering down like a million tiny bullets on the tin roof of the cabin. The thunder is so loud that if I closed my eyes I could be forgiven for thinking that there was a war going on outside. Bombs exploding right above my head, rumbling each time for what seems like minutes. The first crack made me jump right out of my seat as the ground underneath me shook and the walls rattled.

What, for the last three days, has been pure turquoise sky with puffy white clouds that never move and crystal clear water the colour of valuable gems is now one big wash of varying shades of slate. But for the thunder, the island is now silent - the villagers are all hiding inside their huts; the children have stopped playing in the water and the men have stopped repairing their boats.

The power is out and so is the Internet so I'm scribbling down my notes trying to ignore the explosions around me. There is no sign of this storm clearing any time soon.

I'm on Mabul, an island an hour away by boat from the mainland. It's a happy, feel good place with a community that works together. The island is tiny, you can easily walk around it in 20 minutes through the little shanty village where the sea gypsies live.

There are children playing everywhere, most of them toothless but each of them happy.

I had one run up and give my leg a hug and another run along side me and hold my hand. The water is their home and they splash in and out of it like fish.

They run, naked, down the beach and launch themselves belly first into the water, laughing all the way.

It's where the turtles come to lay their eggs before heading back out to sea. I'm staying at Scuba Junkie, one of the few dive resorts on the island. They are passionate about the future of our ocean and pay the locals 10 ringgit for every turtle egg they find - an incentive which stops them eating them instead. Each turtle lays around 120 eggs so it's an expensive operation! Those eggs are then transferred to their hatchery and released, when ready, back into the sea.

The money they pay out comes from their own profits, not the government so they are disappointed that not all of the eggs can be saved. But some is better than none and their work pays off for all of the divers and snorkellers who get to see the turtles, fully grown, at every turn - some up to a metre and a half. HUGE.

Scuba Junkie campaigns against a number of other environmental issues including shark finning. In the last thirty years sharks have almost been wiped out, taken only for their fins and then thrown back in the water to die.

They teach the villagers about the importance of keeping the beaches clean and have organised large scale litter picks to get rid of the debris washed up.

Even the cocktails are served in recycled water bottles - though not from the beach, I hope (that's a litre of Mai Tai I'm drinking there - yeah, I know how to live).

They also encourage guests to go and help teach English at the local school on Wednesday evenings. No teaching experience necessary, just a few interesting things to show the children.

There is not a lot to do here (if you don't like water) but a lot certainly gets done!

(Posted, belatedly, from Cameron Highlands)

Location:Mabul, Borneo

1 comment:

  1. whenever i read travel stories i prefer to see island pictures first.. as it shows the beauty of any country..great pictures as always.