Dare To Feed The Sharks? Yes, You Can Do It At Pulau Payar Marine Park
Pulau Payar Marine Park covers two nautical miles off four little islands - Pulau Payar (the largest), Pulau Kaca, Pulau Lembu and Pulau Segantang. None of the island is inhabited, except by on-duty officers of the Fisheries Department, who enforce the law.
Fishing, either for hobby or commercial, is strictly prohibited around the islands. There is no accommodation on the islands. However, camping is allowed with permission from the Fisheries Department at Alor Setar, the capital of Kedah state.
There are many endangered species of fishes and marine organisms live within the sanctuary. Measuring 2km long and 1/4 km wide, Pulau Payar is the most popular of the islands as its sheltered waters are ideal are for snorkeling, diving and swimming.
The best time to go is during the inter-monsoon period (March to October). Seas may be quite rough during other months. Pulau Payar can be dived all year round. The weather is the hottest, and the visibility are at its best from April to June, and in October. Visibility is an average of 10m, but can go up to 20 to 25m.
You can get to Pulau Payar Marine Park from the Kuah jetty point by catamaran or speed boat. The catamaran services operated by Langkawi Coral, takes about 45 minutes to get to Pulau Payar Marine Park while the speed boat takes an hour.
Remember to book a day before your planned trip at the office of the Langkawi Coral at the Kuah Ferry Terminal. The cost is around RM220 per day. For this price, the company will pick guests up from their respective hotels, provide lunch and the use of their reef-viewing platform. All their snorkelling equipment is also at the guests' disposal.
Island and Sun at Kelanas in Kuah provides a similar service, for RM150. This price does not include hotel transfers and they will take you to Pulau Payar Marine Park in small speedboats.
You can have a close encounter with up to 25 black tip baby sharks and actually feed them at the Pulau Payar Marine Park centre. Usually, the "shark caller" would start getting the baby sharks towards the beach by breaking little fishes and let some of the blood into the water. In a couple of minutes, you could see the first baby shark circling in the middle of the crowd followed by four, five or even 10 more depending on the day. Other meat-eating larger fishes would also follow suit in a matter of seconds.
Still afraid of the tiny sharks? No worry - you can either stand on the jetty platform to get an overview of the sharks or you may stand in the water. If you want to stay in the water, just make sure you bury your toes in the sand when the sharks arrive. Don't freak - the sharks won't go for your legs but in water, your toes look like small fishes to them and they might try to catch it.
Coral life is a mixture of hard and soft corals. Pulau Kaca is a favourite for easy, shallow wreck diving, with dozens of sunken fishing trawlers providing refuge for a variety of marine animals. The Pulau Payar group of island offer the best diving along the west coast.
By scuba diving or snorkelling, you will enjoy the sight of colourful fishes darting playfully in and out of the corals. You will be amazed with many exotic fishes and various seashells, shellfishes and slugs that are scattered all over the seabed.
If you do not dive or snorkel, you can still view the panoramic scene of the treasures offered by the marine kingdom without having to get wet.
You can do that at the spectacular sights below the surface from the large floating platform (Langkawi Coral) moored off Pulau Payar. The platform is 49 m x 15 m.
Coral Langkawi also offers glass-bottom boat rides to selected sites of coral gardens; a platform for introductory course in scuba-diving; and a wading deck for swimming and beginners' snorkeling. It is also equipped with a dining area, a snack bar, and a sun deck for sunbathing.
Facilities include gazebos, picnic tables, barbecue pits and restrooms at selected areas. There is also a Visitors' Centre that provides information about the marine park.
THE BEST DIVING SPOT IN LANGKAWI
The best diving is to be found from the western tip to the southern and eastern portion of Pulau Payar.
Coral garden is located on the western tip of Pulau Payar. This dive site features both hard and soft corals along the island's rocky terrain with depths from 5 to 18 metres.
Visibility averages between 5 to 15 metres. Huge boulders carpeted with dendronephthya soft corals offer numerous crevices that attract marine life seeking refuge from predators. Fish life is abundant, with damsels, fusiliers, lionfish, schooling jacks and occasional huge groupers.
This dive site located towards the southern end of Pulau Payar. It is home to small schooling fish nervously darting about due to the presence of numerous groupers.
You can see that hard corals dominate the seascape with the reef top gradually slopping down to about 15 metres to the sandy bottom. If a slight current is present, a drift dive is the best approach to this site, but watch out for spiny sea urchins.
Situated towards the east of Pulau Payar is some easy wreck diving off Pulau Kaca.
You can find dozens of sunken fishing trawlers, creating artificial reefs around Pulau Kaca .
This rocky topside topography gives way to hard coral growth at 5 metres and slopes to a sandy bottom at about 18 metres. You do not need any bearing to locate the wrecks, as you can see the scattered vessels in almost any direction.
Coral blocks on the sandy bottom are inhabited by abundant small reef fishes, mollusks and nudibranchs. Try to maintain good buoyancy, as the sandy seabed is littered with sea urchins.
This twin rocky outcrop is located 13 kilometres towards the west of Pulau Payar. Pulau Segantang features steep rocky terrain plunging into the sea to a sandy bottom at 20 metres.
Here, you can find nurse sharks, barracudas and jacks. While swimming, you may be ocassionally intruded by curious fusiliers. You can find hard corals and sea fans on the slopes between 15 to 20 metres, as well as lobster, moray eels and mollusks.
Pulau Payar is one of the best diving sites on the north-west coast of Malaysia. If you've done your share of snorkeling and would like to go deeper into the ocean, East Marine has an Introductory Dive program which is especially catered for first timers to experience the feeling of swimming underwater the water with school of fishes and colorful corals.
Other scuba training courses certified by SSI, NAUI, BSAC and PADI are also conducted by East Marine on a daily basis. You can call 04-956 3966 for more details.
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