A blog from Blue Ventures Malaysia October-November expedition by Jane Westermann
Last Thurday, intrepid BV volunteers Roger, Nuria, Jane and Willem joined Katie on an overnight trip to Mukut, in the south of Tioman. Accessible only by boat, this promised to be a glimpse of more traditional village life on the island. Katie’s boat cruised us gently southwards, passing scenery ever more lush and dramatic, until the famous twin peaks, the Dragons’ Horns, came into view, towering vertiginously above the sleepy village. All was quiet on our arrival, as the villagers had spent the day on a community project, cleaning up the rivers and streams which pass through the village. Mukut has a splendid, high jetty, slightly too large even for Katie’s bum boat! Apparently the round-the island ferry doesn’t stop here, so the jetty was presumably built for a grander future when cruise liners might steam in packed with tourists eager for the delights of Mukut! Happily, tourism doesn’t seem to have arrived here yet, and the many holiday chalets dotted around the village lie empty.
Mukut certainly has an air of civic pride. Apart from the sparklingly pristine rivers, we also enjoyed wandering through the village admiring the flowering hedges surrounding villagers’ properties. Children were enjoying team games in the open spaces provided, and later in the evening a lively village meeting took place in the bar next to our huts. We, meanwhile, learnt how to eat kampong-style in the village café – eating without cutlery using the right hand only, not so easy when dealing with bony fish and gooey sauces. Roger learnt the art of betel nut chewing from a local granny, and spent a few hours brushing his teeth to remove the red stains!
The following morning we approached the village school with slight apprehension. How many children would we be teaching? Would they understand any English? Were the activities we had planned suitable? Would we run out of things to do? Happily the morning went well, and our students, girls and boys from 8 – 13 years proved to be no different really from kids back home. Probably the part of the morning they will remember will be the inevitable “Heads, shoulders, knees and toes” and fun games we played to let off steam after more serious stuff, learning about coral reefs.
Our conclusion from the morning – it would be nice to be able to spend a bit longer in Mukut, and deliver a more structured programme to the students there. It would certainly be a rewarding exercise for the volunteers, and Mukut boasts the added attraction of several walking trails into the beautiful forested hills behind the village. We rounded off our trip with two amazing dives off Bahara and Jahat. Beautiful soft corals and multi-coloured gorgonians, AND CJ saw her sharks and beamed all the way back to Tekek.