Tapping the reef

After six consecutive days of diving in the pristine turquoise waters of the Celebes Sea, you could say that I’m going through a little bit of withdrawal. So much so that I, someone who usually hates playing any kind of computer/iPhone game including Angry Birds, Plants vs. Zombies and the like, have downloaded Tap Reef 2, a mind-numbingly pointless game where 3D fish and turtles swim around in an artificial reef and wait for me to feed, pet and even breed them (hey, it’s a form of exercise).

So far, I’ve got Edwards the red snapper, Dolores the green sea turtle, Walton the jelly fish and Barr the Atlantic cod (pre-named, of course) swimming around in my reef, and for some odd reason I’ve also got an aztec pyramid in the background of my reef. I’m still waiting to earn enough sand dollars to trade in my common sea creatures for some of the more exotic breeds that I saw in Malaysia like the toothy Titan Triggerfish, you-cant-see-me Painted Frogfish or maybe the cute as a button and doe-eyed Black Blotched Porcupinefish?

The game is actually a little like a tamagotchi from the ’90s, prompting you when the fish are hungry and/or lonely, or when they’ve matured into adults for breeding. The only thing different is that when the fish die (which hopefully won’t happen to mine), you can actually resurrect them with some points or cash, but I haven’t figured that part out yet.

Meet my fish!

For now, Tap Reef 2, with its eerie background music and somewhat annoying underwater bubble sound effects, is (sadly) the closest thing I have to being back in the deep blue sea swimming among schools of jackfish, barracudas, sharks, bat fish, puffer fish, corals, sea turtles, etc… Oh, by the way, the app is FREE so if anyone out there is interested in or already playing it too, let me know, we can cross breed! 😉

I’m a coral mutant

So, I’ve spoken to a few other divers about my “ocean revelation” and I seem to be the only one who’s become this affected by all the fish and underwater creatures I saw. While everyone raves about how awesome diving is, not too many emerge from the water with a new life mission: to save the ocean…and the world!! (OK, one thing at a time.)

I’m not exactly sure why I’m this moved either, since I was the one going, “What’s wrong with the ocean?” just a few weeks ago. It was only when my knees started itching that I realised what might be going on.

When I was diving, I couldn’t quite control my buoyancy, which meant that I was either hovering near the surface like a hot-air balloon or dragging my knees along the corals or ocean bottom as a disapproving turtle watched on.

When I came back on land, I found a bunch of small scrapes on my knees and legs that started to itch like mad when I returned to Hong Kong. Not knowing what to do, I self-diagnosed myself with Google and found out I had a coral rash, which meant that bits of coral had actually embedded themselves into my legs, spreading into my bloodstream, my brain, and slowly transforming me into a half-coral-half-woman!!

OK, fine, maybe it’s just my imagination but it definitely explains what’s going on, doesn’t it? (For the record, my legs are back to normal now and look nothing like coral — PHEW! — but I’ve still got coral on the mind.) I’ve even booked my next diving trip already, yippy! 🙂

Turtle Love and How to Save the Ocean

It’s true… I have seen the light TURTLE! 😀

Make that turtleS to be exact, as there was definitely no shortage of them during my diving adventures in Malaysia. Other than the majestic whale shark, seeing a turtle was on the top of my wishlist for the trip, and that was already fulfilled on the first day of my trip while snorkeling just a metre or two off the shore of my resort (and s/he was the biggest one yet at 1.5m wide)!!

From that point, it could only get better, and boy did it ever. Learning to dive is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done, and I can’t recommend enough to anyone who hasn’t yet tried it. It’s not just an incredible feeling to be breathing underwater, being ‘neutrally buoyant’ or the thrill of going into the deep. For me, it was about discovering a whole new world that I had completely taken for granted before seeing it for myself.

If you ever get a chance to see all the extraordinary wildlife that exists underwater, you’ll see that living on land just doesn’t cut it anymore. Underwater, I came face-to-face with all sorts of creatures that I never even knew existed, like all the different coloured nudibranch, boxfish, bumphead parrotfish, wonder octopus (rarely seen, but never forgotten), and the list goes on and on. Think about it – is there anywhere on land where you can come thisclose to wild animals (without getting eaten up for lunch)? OK, maybe at the cockroach or butterfly farm, but that’s just gross :p.

A brilliant nudibranch!
Cute lil’ boxfish

After swimming with the upside down razorfish, having staring competitions with the disapproving green turtles, and playing hide-and-seek with the oddly cute polka-dot boxfish, I’ll never call a fish boring or stupid again (and I’ll be thinking twice before I order fish!) And while it was extremely fun to be in their world, it also broke my heart to see how innocent they were and how hugely affected they are by the way we humans live. Not only was there plastic garbage littered around their beautiful coral reefs, but I also learned that sea gypsies were using dynamite to kill everything in sight and sell the corpses to evil fishermen.

Funny how a few weeks ago, I was telling people how I just didn’t get why ocean recovery was important; now, I can’t stop talking about how we need to do something about it. If you are also wondering why, here’s the reason in a nutshell:

On the surface, the ocean may look calm and serene. But, beneath the surface is a different story. All around the world, our oceans are in crisis. Overfishing and fish slaughter continues to put endangered species at risk and pollution from land-based sources is turning the oceans into a dumping ground. 

What this means is that in just a few years, there will be no more (clean) oceans for us to dive in, no more wildlife to admire, not much food left for humans and even worse global warming since we won’t have the oceans anymore to regulate the planet’s temperature and weather.

I know it’s a bleak picture that no one wants to talk about, but I just wanted to share a few simple things we, here in Hong Kong, can do right away to help slow down the demise of the oceans:

  • Stop buying plastic water bottles (Watsons, Bonaqua, etc.) and install a filter on your tap instead
  • Don’t go on cruise ships (they dump huge amounts of waste and sewage into the oceans, not to mention all the fat people and tacky shows on board)
  • Use less aluminum foil, plastic wrap and switch to re-useable tupperware
  • Even better, bring your own re-useable container if you’re buying any kind of takeaway
  • Take shorter showers
  • Please, please STOP eating shark fin, even if you didn’t order it (not only is it cruel, it’s toxic too) 

Of course, there’s a lot more that can be done and I’m still trying to come up with something more substantial, so if anyone out there is reading this and has any ideas, just shout!