My trip to Malaysia: 40 year high school reunion. Visiting the rainforest. Photographing 2 dive resorts.

My trip to Malaysia: 40 year high school reunion. Visiting the rainforest. Photographing 2 dive resorts.

March 18th to March 22nd, 2009
Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan to Lankayan

My wife and I left on the 14th, March from MSP. Spent a night in Hong Kong.  Flew to Kota Kinabalu then to Sandakan where a speed boat took us to the island of Lankayan. One and a half hours later we docked. A total of 22 hours flying time.  The temperature is 30 C, but the sea breeze is keeping us cool.  It is indeed a tropical paradise. My cameras were working constantly, and there were so many things here, that I cannot photograph them all. Schools of fishes that swim together and form a huge “eye” to protect themselves, colorful starfish, etc are a few examples.

March 19th:  The morning arrived with a spectacular sunrise, had breakfast with other guests.  They got ready for the 8 am dive. I walked around the 5 acre island during high tide which was quite arduous compared to low tide. There were a squad of Malaysian marines settled in a bunker, with machine guns and other weapons. They are there to protect us against pirates that are based (I’m told) in Philippines waters, which is a few miles away.  I am also told that there has never been an incident and I am glad about that.  Since we are east of the mainland (Borneo island), sunsets are not as spectacular as on the west coast of Borneo.  Clouds formed over the land and rains in the evening and night (during rainy season), thus blocking the sun.  But there are some colors to be had, I cornered a couple from New Zealand to be my models, promising them images.  We were surprised, when we returned to our chalet, there was a table set up, dinner for two, on the patio.  The dinner was a Mongolian hot pot feast, shrimp, scallops, beef, veggies, chicken, tofu cooked in a chicken broth.  Since this is a Muslim country, no pork. There was a bottle of red wine, but that does not go well with Asian food. But hey it was good after the 3rd sip. We were about to retire to our chalet when the waiter informed us that they spotted a couple of turtles that came on shore to lay eggs. Flash photography is strictly forbidden. We followed the biologist to the 3 sites and watch the turtles digging the sand and covering the eggs. The turtles were much larger than I had imagine, the shell was 3 feet wide by 4.5 feet long.  The eggs were just a bit larger than a ping pong ball with a soft shell. After the turtle left for the sea, the biologist gathered up the eggs and brought them to the hatchery where they will incubate for 50-60 days. A batch of newborns will be released tomorrow or the day after…  One in a thousand baby turtles will survive to adulthood in 20-30 or 30-40 years, depending on the species, Green or Hawksbill turtles.  It was quite amazing to see this happening. I hate to admit it, but when I was a kid growing up in Kota Kinabalu, I had eaten turtle eggs. Now I know better…

March 20th: The day started just like the previous, it is paradise afterall.  The manager and I were debating whether the skies were good enough for an aerial shoot.  The helicopter will arrive at 9:30 am, while the tide is still low to show the white sand beaches. We decide it is a go.  It was quite a process to get me situated for the flight. The engineer weighed me and all my gear, 90 kilos, took off the door behind the pilot, double strapped me, made sure I can move to shoot, gave me instructions, hand signals, headphones, and we took off.  I felt a rush, then slight panic when we banked hard right and climbed to 2000 feet.  Things looked quite small and even smaller through my 17 mm lens. I had 2 cameras with me, a 17 to 40 mm zoom lens in one and 24 to 105 mm in the other, with 4 GB cards in both, and 2 other cards in my pocket.  We circled around the island at different heights.  The view is awesome, the different colors of aquamarine, greens, yellows,dark blues and contrasted with white puffy clouds… We circled about 20 times at different heights, shot from every angle, total of 12 GBs of images. I signaled that I am done to the pilot.  He informed me that I should capture one more image, comparable to a satellite photo, and proceeded to turn the helicopter sideways.  My heart almost came out of my chest. I screamed into the mic, something unintelligent, and I heard him laughing in the earphones.  Ass****. Tomorrow will be more mundane, out on a boat, shooting at sea level.

March 21st: Saturday, been here for 4 days.  Thank goodness I am photographing the resort, apparently I am not a good relaxer. It is paradise for most people but I need a golf course to complete it for me.  Laying out on the beach is not my idea of relaxing, my mind gets too busy and I have to “do” what I have been thinking.  However, lounging on the beach is no problem for my wife and she assures me that she is in paradise.  Even though I am not much of a water person, I snorkeled every day for at least 20 minutes.  There is another world under the surface, swam with a group (must be 2-3 thousand) of fishes, saw a cuttlefish, nemo, black tip sharks and others that I cannot identify that zigged and zagged beneath me.  Must have got near to the “nest” of a little fish that is brillant in color, it charged at my mask at least 5-6 times until I moved away. I admit that I used a lifevest for the snorkeling, my legs are so heavy that I swim at a 45 degree angle and will sink without the lifevest, even in the bouyant saltwater.

The sun is blazingly hot, the bottoms of my feet felt like I had 3rd degree burns walking on the gangway to the dive center. Got into one of the dive boats to shoot the island and chalets from sea level.  Not quite as breathtaking as yesterday’s helicopter shoot, but still a sight to behold.  The clouds are just wonderful assets and they help to add interest to the otherwise “standard” island shot.  Amazing to call these vistas “standard”!

Evening arrived and I am keeping my fingers crossed for a brilliant and colourful sunset.  Sadly, the clouds are too thick at the horizon.  Well, lets hope for a great sunrise tomorrow.

March 22nd:  Woke up at 5:00 am by the sounds of bats fighting over bandan fruits.  Fortunately they do not come into the chalet, since we have the doors and windows open all night for the gentle breezes, instead of using air conditioning.  There is a huge bank of rain clouds overhead and will probably block the sunrise.  I quickly set up my tripod and telephoto lens and catch just a few shots of the muted colors. The blues are magnificent and it well may be a postcard for the resort.  Went out on the dive boat, the tide is out and the boat cannot get to the area I need to be without damaging the coral reef.  Then came a drenching and warm morning rain.  Stowed my gear to keep it dry and stood outside the canopy of the boat for my morning shower.  Off to breakfast, I hope there’s Black Black Noodles…

To view more images please visit  http://www.peterwongphotography.com

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15 Responses to “My trip to Malaysia: 40 year high school reunion. Visiting the rainforest. Photographing 2 dive resorts.”

  1. Ruby Ng Chen Says:

    Great Pics. Proud to be associated with the famous “land and sky” photographer!

  2. Stunning work. I need to pass this site along to my son to have something to aspire to. Now it is time for a little golf . . .

  3. Jonathan Lee Says:

    What a fantastic bunch of photos! Award-winning, I dare say.

  4. peter
    what a splendid travelougue!
    two things:
    1. black black noodles?
    2. that was your ONLY food mention

    shoot me your food review after
    you pen it!

    thanks for sharing. chuck

  5. Evelyn Pung Says:

    Great Narrator and fantastic photography.
    Could print a book out of these beautiful photos.
    Well, it gives you more reason why you and Becca should come back more often to enjoy the paradise of Borneo.
    God Bless
    Evelyn.

  6. As always, your photos are stunning. I know you have never did work in photgraphy where you gave it less then 110 percent. It’s no different when we are out on the links. That’s what makes you hard to beat. Thanks for sending me this.

    Your friend Joe

  7. Todd Warnert Says:

    Wow! What a trip Peter. The photos are great!

    Todd

  8. Joe Kress Says:

    Peter, thanks for sharing. At the risk of sounding redundant… simply stunning images. Your ability to capture light beautifully is a skill I have yet to master.
    The beauty and excitement of you trip easily comes through from your writing and imagery.

  9. Peter Yong Says:

    Real gems, all the beautiful moments in time captured for posterity & with such marvellous imaginations that can only be the hallmark of a master!

  10. Ruby Ng Chen Says:

    PO, read all now – great stories and pics. Like Evelyn said, great stuff for a publication…. maybe a souvenir for the next reunion!

  11. Lynn S of Duluth Says:

    Peter,

    I see from your blog that they have turtle eggs that you eat in Malaysia. Why did you eat those eggs? Do you have chickens in Malaysia? Why don’t they just import chickens? No wonder all the sea turtles are disappearing.

  12. Linda Heisel Says:

    Thanks for sending all the fabulous pictures and narration. I’m glad at least one of you knows how to relax on the beach! I think you are having the time of your life!
    Linda

  13. Beautiful photos and wonderful narration.
    Great work keep it up.
    Come back to enjoy life.

  14. Just beautiful. Are these straight out of camara. How extensive is the post processing.

    Thanks for sharing
    Jay

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