The boat pulled next to the jetty at Sutera Resort on Manukan Island and we were greeted by the usual welcome committee. But there was a difference, instead of necklaces of flowers or welcome cocktails, they came bearing pieces of stale bread. And it was the most fun gift I’ve been given at a resort! They were for the hundreds of colorful reef fish gathered below us and I incited a feeding frenzy by throwing the bread into the water.
So many fishy-s
The welcome cocktail was waiting for us at our bungalow. They really think of everything. The cool drink gave a nice reprieve to the heat. I grabbed a quick bite because I was anxious to get diving and wanted time to square away all the gear. But I was told to just go to the jetty, all the gear would be on the boat and I could suit up in transit to the dive sites. Everything was already taken care of, I was assured.
Real al-fresco dining
It’s Marilyn! Lauren’s cat from Brooklyn!
Talk about an open kitchen
Cat: Bite me
Me: You like me now doncha?
A guide getting ready to go into the blue (or turquoise?)
Me: So any sharks? Guide: Nope the coast is clear.
Navigating with a Mark I eyeball
Watching the setting sun while I off gas (= bleeding off nitrogen, not farting.)
The main dining area
Is that for us?
I rolled off the the side of dive boat for the third time today and splashed into the water. I deflated my vest and started to slowly sink, it felt as though the sea was swallowing me. I used to not like night dives as I fear that a shark would sneak up on me and bite me in the ass. Well there was a glimpse of a shark patrolling the reef wall that slopes into the abyss, but he was shy and soon disappeared.
The darkness restricted my vision to the cone of light coming out from my flashlight, the only sound I could hear was my breathing and the rhythmic slow cadence of air purging from my regulator. The sensory deprivation made the dive so peaceful. The only other diver was my guide so it wasn’t a technicolor circus of flashlights and chem sticks. I snuck up upon a slumbering giant turtle and hovered an inch above it. I had to control my breathing, I was so close that if I exhaled too much I would land on the turtle. I was debating to “ride” the turtle by grabbing the sides of its massive shell and letting it pull me along as it woke up and swam. But ecological etiquette finally won out in the end and I decided not to molest it. The denizens of the reef were in a state of transition. The day swimmers were getting ready to bed and the night inhabitants were just shaking off the last vestiges of sleep before going out to look for food.
It was a magical moment.
I came back from the dive hungry and was pleasantly surprised that the resort staff had erected a private dining pavilion for us, complete with our own chef to barbecue for us. Read about that meal here.
Yay more Langsat!
We came back to the bungalow and to our surprise, a basket of fruit was on the table. I don’t know if the staff at Sutera Manukan Island are indicative of Malaysian people in general, but they really impressed me with their hospitality and attention to the little touches that make a stay so memorable. They were genuinely warm and it was such a contradiction to the tension their government has with Singapore
But I didn’t dwell on that. I slept as soon as my head hit the pillow, exhausted from a full day of diving.
I love how they use charcoal as warmers
Making Roti Prata
Charcoal, like bacon, makes everything taste better
In the morning we had a leisurely breakfast. It was peaceful, there weren’t too many guests who stayed on the island overnight. Most of them are day-trippers. The food was average, but I loved how they used charcoal for everything, especially toasting bread, which picked up the flavor nuances. Even though I place a heavy emphasis on food, I didn’t really care in this case. I had a great time because of the dives and the hospitable resort staff. I rarely go to Malaysia, but after this I think I have to come back.
I don’t want to leave