OCEAN QUEST

DIVING WITH PURPOSE

Pulau Songsong
An island that the world has almost forgotten Pulau Songsong is a small archipelago consisting of four island. This group of islands is located just off the coast of Yan, Kedah. A beautiful beach littered. Swaying palms and lush greenery that could be on the postcards yet laid in neglect. Pulau Songsong, Pulau Bunting, Pulau Bidan and Tukun Terendak are uninhabited islands and is still rich with marine as well as terrestrial species. Corals here are in the phase of recovery. Budding and healthy it is an area worth rehabilitating.

PROJEK57

PROJEK57 is created by the local free diver group FREEDIVHER. This initiative commemorates the 57th year of the nation’s independence. One part of their itinerary includes marine conservation. This is where Ocean Quest is involved in putting together coral propagation programs, talks and presentation. Few members of PROJEK57 took the Ocean Quest 3T Course. 3T stands for “Train the Trainer”. Pulau Songsong is selected as one of the many venues that PROJEK57 will visit as part of their initiative.


Exploration
This project begin in December 2013 and continues through the first quarter of 2014. On our first exploration to Pulau Songsong we discovered that the island is littered. Its swaying palm and greenery is undisturbed. The island is surrounded by shallow reefs on gentle granite slopes. Several species of hard corals and soft corals is in the phase of recovery. Water sampling from the sites reveals that it is ideal for coral growth. We did two dives at the intended coral propagation sites during the exploration but did not begin the program until January 2014. Besides the environmental assessment we also made observations pertaining to the tourism infrastructure in that area. The port where we took the fishing boat for this expedition is nothing to support tourism. First the depth of water and tidal range hinders transportation to and from Pulau Songsong. Other ports is either too far or too expensive to operate from. Because rarely anyone would hire boats from the main jetties to Pulau Songsong the operators are opportunistic. Their price are too exuberant for us to match. In the end we concluded that Pulau Songsong has high potential for the tourism and diving industry but there are no infrastructure. We are needed here for the environment as well as the community. A perfect setting that will give us enough grounds to work and build.
Developments
As the people of Yan wondered what we are doing here we have already gathered enough reasons to pursue our seemingly crazy idea. To our knowledge in the recent months there has been few diving center emerging in the state of Kedah. PROJEK57 use the services of the budding local operators for their expeditions and programs. During this periods we also conduct talks and presentations about our initiative and its potential to the dive centers. The local diving community showed up for our talks and are very supportive of what we are doing. Now there are three dive operator in Kedah that is actively teaching and conducting dives in Pulau Payar and occasionally Pulau Songsong.
The Project
As a community and conservation project we have several guidelines to follow. Unless there are none, we must use the local services as much as we can. Our participants are homestead at a local house. In the coral propagation project we use local boats provided by the fishermen and equipment from the local dive shops. Local dive services is almost non-existence and we understand that this is common in all underdeveloped places. Once we are stuck in the mud for four hours because the boatman miscalculated the tide. These experiences are to be expected in expeditions going off the beaten track like this one. By packing enough food, drinks and sense of humor we survived the ordeals with a smile on our face.
Coral Propagation
The PROJEK57 / Ocean Quest coral propagation projects in Pulau Songsong runs from December 2013 until March 2014. Coral Broodstock from the nearby reefs is collected for propagation. Unlike other projects where we can easily find plenty of broken fragments here in Pulau Songsong we have to be very selectine and careful as the conditions here is still very fragile and it is in the phase of recovery. What we have recovered will be propagated and when these corals reached suitable size they will be fragmented and propagated further. This way we will not stress the existing corals on the reef. Coral propagated in Pulau Songsong comes mainly from genus Acropora and Montipora. In later stage of our coral propagation in this area shall include several species of soft corals.
Outreach
In the mid eighties I have seen what Pulau Redang is like before they become what they are today. That island consist of a fishing village and few deserted beaches. SCUBA divers first arrive and camped on the beach. There is no ferry to Redang those days and we have to hire fishing boats from Kuala Terengganu. The journey from Kuala Terengganu to Redang takes five hours. It is similar to what we are experiencing here when we took the boat from Yan to Pulau Songsong. The views and attitudes of people in Yan today is identical to the attitude of the people in Merang village in 1989 who are also coastal community and relied on fishing. Development and tourism change their life. Most of these people no longer fish to live and their attitudes and appreciation about the environment also improved. Pulau Songsong may not have turquoise waters like Redang but it is near Georgetown and Alor Setar. For the citizens of this city who cannot travel far in weekends Pulau Songsong can be their get away island. The combination of a beautiful beach, green island vegetation and shallow coral reef an inviting proposition for those living in the nearby city. The PROJEK57 initiative can help improve the lives of coastal fishermens besides promoting local diving industry. The PROJEK57 / Ocean Quest coral propagation helped improves the coral in the reef that forms the basis of our campaign.

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