Blog for 2010-06-16

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To Gaya

We woke up refreshed from our three day break and eagerly awaited the departure to Gaya. We had been eyeing up the island from the Kota Kinabalu waterfront the past few days. We hopped on the bus and were shipped to the harbour.
Sailboats in Kota Kinabalu Harbour
There, we hired our snorkelling gear and were quickly herded onto two speed boats. A shoal of colourful fish was relaxing in the harbour water, a taste of what we were to see soon after. The short boat ride to Gaya Island took no more than 15 enthralling minutes.
Over water transit to Gaya
Our surroundings were transformed from grey city colours to turquoise waters, bright green foliage and beaches in between. The sound of the speed boat,heightened our sense of adventure. We docked at Padang Point at around 11am and offloaded our bags.
Arriving at Padang Point
The main building is wooden and open air. The main hall where we will be having lectures has a beautiful view on the water and Kota Kinabalu in the distance. We then set up tents right on the beach, the waves less than 15m from our ‘door’.
Waterfront accommodation
Without much ado, the water was filled with pale happy people in disbelief that this was summer school. Eager to explore our new location, many of us put on our goggles and snorkels and scoured the clear water for marine life. We spotted many ‘L-fish’: they were about 10cm long, sand coloured, striped with yellow eye sockets and a little plump. Bizarrely they held their tail fin at a right angle to the rest of their body. Some were lucky enough to spot an eel. After enjoying tropical water for the first time, we ate a lovely, fresh lunch in the dining room (also on the beach).
Dining room with a view

After lunch we had an introductory lecture on Coral Reefs. We learned about the different types of reef, where they occur and the services they provide us with. Turns out that coral is basically a build up of calcium carbonate skeletons of the actual coral organism. We also learned that coral and algae live in symbiosis allowing the coral to digest its food faster and as a result grow faster.
Kota Kinabalu in the distance

We then left the beach and began to explore the reef. We had to split into pairs in a ‘buddy’ system. As we swam towards the reef more and more fish came into sight. Once over the reef, fluorescent patches of coral and patch life began to surround us. My favourite sighting was the clown fish coming in and out of their anemones Finding Nemo style. Soon after we left the water, rain started to fall on the island and we were happy that our tents were waterproof. Just as the rain stopped we witnessed a most spectacular sunset in between two islands. It was a reality check: we all thought about how beautiful this place was.
Life win

Dinner was a mixture of fishballs, tofu, hamburgers and fruit. The evening lecture featured Benoit Goosens and his experience with conserving and researching the Bornean elephant. The Elephant is from the Sundaland, is a unique species and therefore deserves conservation. Surprisingly, the Bornean Elephant likes to wander in the palm oil plantations because of shade, space and food. Although the Bornean Elephant is a tourist attraction, little is known about its behavioural patterns. We finished the night by listening to the Biodiversity of Borneo Choir’s rendition of the Kota Kinabalu song. Three times.