Island Hopping Adventures: Pelong Rocks

Last week, my friend Acai put on his Facebook status an offer for a snorkel trip to Pelong Rocks. Cost was about $20, and given my current obsession with island hopping and everything to do with the sea, jumped at the opportunity.

Pelong Rocks is one of the only two ‘oceanic’ islands in Brunei waters, of which the other one is Pulau Pungit. It’s situated on the coast of Serasa and is visible from Pantai Meragang. Pulau Pungit is apparently on the coast of Jerudong, though I really have never noticed its exact location. According to this article, both of the islands are fringed with coral reefs.

Two small marine wildlife sanctuaries (islands) with coral reefs, Pelong Rocks (2 ha.) and Pulau Punyit (8 ha.), have been protected as historical sites through the Antiquities and Treasure Trove Enactment (1967), with a view of protecting their fauna and flora.

Interesting! Has anyone been on Pulau Pungit? Perhaps we should go there next?

Anyway, Pelong Rocks is THE Pulau Pilong-Pilongan that is associated with the legendary cockfight between Asmara and Mutiara some 500 years ago. If you do not know the story, read here. It’s quite an interesting era in Brunei history, wish we have more stories from then.

Asmara fled out of sight and succumbing to his wound, fell down into the sea turning into a rock becoming an island (Pulau Pilong-Pilongan).

So yes, apparently islands made out of chicken have beautiful coral reefs surrounding it.

Woke up at the ungodly hour of 5.45am and left for Meragang beach, cause we were supposed to meet there at 6.30am. Crazy! The sun wasn’t even up yet when we left home!!!

This is at Pantai Meragang, at about 6.40pm. Was very cold, and you can see Pelong Rocks at the distance.

Suddenly, received a text that we’re to meet at the Marine Police Dock instead. Boats were already waiting for us.

Add this dock to the list of places I didn’t know existed but now I do.

Soon we were on our way. Began a precarious journey over swelling waters, towards the famed Pelong Rocks. Water looked calm, but there was a strong current that day, and the journey was far from smooth. Haha, felt a bit seasick.

On the way, we passed by this rig, which Acai said is BIMA, a mobile rig. Apparently it’s got legs and can be moved here and there? That’s so awesome, am convinced it’s the same magic used for Howl’s Moving Castle. But then Sulhi and Airul said it’s a “convincer” whatever that is, less exciting than a mobile rig most definitely.

And here are a group of floating houses that looks like it’s about to topple over. New housing scheme? (It’s a workshed for a fish cage the Department of Fisheries have set up, although Im not quite sure what it is keeping in or keeping out).

We’re here! But we couldn’t find a place to “land”. Apparently the water was too shallow and so that means, we have to just jump to the water from the boat. After some drama (Should we jump from the north side of the island? Should we anchor here? Should we anchor there?) Eventually it was apparent that rocks were everywhere and we can only anchor quite a bit of distance away from the island. Ok fine by me, cause all this rocking is making me increasingly queasy. Ready to jump, suddenly I remembered that all my snorkel gear is in the other boat! FML. I absolutely cannot swim if I can’t see where I’m going. Feels a bit like driving with my eyes closed.

So as our boats stayed still in the middle of the sea, just about few hundred metres away from Pelong Rocks, rocking away. I was moments away from ultimate SEASICK SEASICK!!!! Ahhhhhhh!!! Bliak bliak. Cannot stand it, I need to get into the water!!! Boipren swam into the other boat and got my snorkel gear for me. Cannot stand to be in the boat any longer so fumbled to get my goggles and snorkel on, I immediately jumped into the damn water!!!!!

When I got in the water, I felt quite scared a bit. I’m not a particularly strong swimmer. I’ve only started swimming a few years ago and I’ve never really gone this far out in sea. I was suddenly hit by a realisation that I AM OUT IN THE OPEN SEA. Suddenly I was feeling regretful that I didn’t grab a life jacket while still on the boat. At least I don’t have to worry about sinking. Then I realised I was being ridiculous and I told myself I just needed to focus, relax. I had two choices, go to the nearest rock, a few hundred metres away, or go back on the boat and endure seasickness. Blech. It’s weird what goes on in one’s head sometimes.

I peeked underwater.

This awful photo is the first photo I took underwater. Omigosh! My camera is not good enough to capture the scenery! All the panic I felt only a few seconds before melted away. Everything quiets down. When you’re surrounded by the blue, time stops.

But yes the currents were strong, so I started of having this jellyfish in the middle of the frame, now it’s in the bottom. This is a particularly harmless species of jellyfish by the way, and there are so many of them all around. Err, don’t want to touch it but it’s great to just stare at them. They’re look so ethereal as they float and bob gently in the water.

Two cute blue fishies. They’re so lating so I stalked them a bit. I name thee Ziya and Dayana, after my two baby nieces. I had a little sketch going on in my head and the two fishies were talking to each other. Would’ve lasted longer but it was so hard to keep still with the currents.

Barnacles! I can’t believe Spongebob eats barnacles. They’re so sharp.

Random photo that turned out not blurry, unlike about 70% of all my underwater photos. Hahaha.

Another random photo.

Here’s something that looks like Chinese broccolli. Hohoho.

Awful photo but can u see two swimming zebras! I love! Stalked these two trying to shelter from the strong currents.

Rainbow fish! 😀

Lost in a blue coloured world.

Tired lah!

Rested on a rock formation.

View of Pelong Rocks from where I was sitting.

Boats damn far.

Here we are looking like an Abercrombie & Fitch ad. Rested for a while. Was glad to be on solid ground haha. But barnacles are so sharp!!!!

Snorkelled around a bit and the waves were getting bigger and currents felt stronger. That signalled the time to swim back to the boat.

Of course didn’t stop us from camwhoring. Haha.

Made it to the boat! TIRED!!! Legs felt like jelly.

Sat in front this time and felt absolutely no seasick. Never sit at the back to avoid seasick. See how I smile? It means I is not afflicted with the seasicknessitions!

Then our boat pilot Qawiem and Orange Boi (because I cannot remember his name) took us to their dad’s fish farm along Pulau Pelompong.

What quaint little fish farm! 😀

We parked and got down for a very chillin’ afternoon.

And yes, that is my Longchamp Le Pliage. Hahahaha.

We be chilling aiiiiiiiiight!!! Please ignore my chickeny thighs.

Waveboarding looked awesome! But I scared lah. But look at the water. Why Pelong Rocks not as calm as this one?

AWESOME VIEW OK!!! I have run out of words to describe! The sky alone is just SO beautiful.

Finally it was time to go home. Hijacked the boat from Qawiem muahahaha!!!

Funny thing happened on our way home, was stopped in the middle of the sea by heavilly armed Marines for a spotcheck. They say, GO HERE, DON’T GO THIS WAY. Apparently we were in a no-go zone. Made sense I guess cause there were quite a few cargo ships around, we would’ve easily been crushed by an incoming one. But yeah, hehehe.

Back on the mainland. Time to pay. 🙂

What an experience! I totally recommend a trip there to all snorkel bums. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of fishes and coral down there. Very diverse set of flora and fauna. I suppose it has something to do with the fact that it’s not developed for tourism. It’s a protected area for conservation, meaning no fishing is allowed there.

Although I’ve read blogs detailing big fish caught there. Hmm, don’t fish at Pelong guys!!!

Guess many are missing out due to the lack of development but I HONESTLY and SINCERELY hope it stays that way. I’ve read too many stories and seen too many beautiful coral reefs destroyed for the purpose of tourism. Sad.

Anyway, if you are interested in coming to Pelong Rocks, you really need to know how to swim! Just depending on the life jacket will leave you flailing about cause the water currents are so strong. If not careful, it can easily drift you out into the open sea. Or worse: throw you onto the crazy sharp rocks, like it did to my friend.

BE CAREFUL!

Best time to go is between March to August, in the dry season. Don’t go in July, cause it’s pretty rainy and will make the water turbid. Turbid means not very good visibility. Yes we went in March, but while it’s not rainy, it’s windy. Thus explains why currents were pretty strong. One friend said, one time they went there and the waves were swelling pretty high up to 2 metres! That’s scary! But another friend who was more lucky detailed a visit where the water was so calm. It all really depends on how lucky you are, cause it’s very difficult to gauge weather and waves and currents. So regardless of when you go, stay safe, stay calm, make sure u know how to swim and bring a waterproof camera. 🙂

Hope you enjoy this post. Cause I enjoyed writing and making it! Until the next island hopping post!

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