Christmas Greetings from BB (and btw the weather can be amazing even if it’s officially monsoon!)…

The festive season has crept up on us and again I have to ask where time went. I have – yet again – seriously neglected the BB blog – so before everyone leaves their desks and chucks their blackberries aside I thought I would give you a quick rundown of affairs on BB and tell you that the weather and sea CAN be amazing over the monsoon (when most of the other islands have shut down for the season). These pics were taken just last week.

And we could even see the coral quite clearly from the boat – something which is generally not the case from November to February.

Elswhere at Batu Batu we are into serious countdown and get-moving mode with opening year 2012 hurtling towards us at breakneck speed. We still have the April Fool’s date etched in our minds but have decided that this will be a soft-opening phase for guinea pig friends and associates willing to forgive BIG in exchange for time on an idyllic island paradise. We will announce a full-public opening date as soon as a few more hurdles have been cleared.

So to recent events. Our jetty should be being piled as we speak – but two weeks ago the barge setting off for Pulau Tengah from Endau carrying the piling materials got stuck in the mud on the river bed just off mainland and a waiting game was played for a few days whilst everyone sat patiently and waited for the tide to rise high enough to dislodge the beached barge. We are also currently loading two further barges to carry all the rest of the construction materials including interior finishings (plaster board, built-in wardrobes), our kitchen equipment (!) and everything to build BRISC on our long beach.

To BRISC – I can actually unveil that we have a new name for BRISC. BRISC was too common – google and you’ll see – (perhaps one of my favourites being Bus Route Information System for Chennai City…). But I’ll save the new name for a post of its own – and for when it is officially registered with the Malaysian companies’ commission. On the (for now we’ll call it) BRISC front – we have John (dive professional and more), Lali (permacultur-ist) and Simon (naturalist) all joining us. Look forward to a programme of nature-based experiences, protection projects and flourishing herb and vegetable gardens. Watch this space for updates on how this all goes.

We were recently on the island with Lightcraft KL – who by the way managed to drive from KL to Mersing in 3 hours!!! – minds buzzing about lighting, effects, colours, placement. We tried out some LED lighting in the restaurant – which was much warmer than I was led to believe and amazing how much light a 3 watt “bulb” can give. We are just waiting now for their complete proposal to arrive!

Dominic Sio our “design man” also joined us and saw the island for the first time – more creative mind-buzzing, brain-storming, styling and fabric and colour sorting. Oh and we have our new logo thanks to Dom. Again not 100% finalised but look here for a taster.

http://issuu.com/stimulimagazine/docs/bb01

Night night. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Hopefully 2012 will be a great one for all!

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Sam@Really Savvy joins us on a trip to Batu Batu

The internet is an amazing place that allows us access to all sorts of people that you would never otherwise meet. And thus I met Sam Tyers, fresh off a 15-hour flight, in an Australian bar on Robertson Quay one Friday evening to talk about Batu Batu and responsible tourism (we had emailed each other photos so that we’d be able to pick each other out amongst the Friday-night-post-work crowd). After a couple of drinks, I invited her to join us the next morning on a mish-mash trip part-family-holiday-part-Wild-Asia-reconnaissance-mission to Pulau Tengah. Three days of snorkelling, attempted reef-mapping, jungle-trekking and children’s entertainment ensued. Read about her experience and her thoughts on Batu Batu here.

Sam is the founder and owner of Really Savvy, a roaming responsible tourism consultancy. Describing herself as “location independent”, she has worked and lived in Thailand, Indonesia and China. Sam holds a masters in Advanced Environment and Energy Studies and is also a qualified dive instructor. “We were founded on the belief that travellers shouldn’t have to choose between sustainability, quality and fun when they go on holiday – they can have all three!” a sentiment that we share wholeheartedly. We hope too that our responsible / ethical aspirations can be realised. Thanks Sam!

Bali Trip Part 2 – the things I forgot to mention…

The problem with starting a post after dinner and finishing it half asleep – is that you forget to put in everything you meant to. So here’s – Post 2 on Bali – the things I should have mentioned/shown and didn’t.

1) Pictures of Tony’s House/Shop – Naga Mas.

2) The lovely fabric / umbrella shop near Ubud. They have such a variety of fabric and it’s so attractively colour-arranged – I had to show you a picture.

AND – I also wanted to show you the parasols below. I’m not 100% sold on them yet – I’d thought plain canvas traditional parasols would suit Batu Batu’s style – but honestly – these are growing on me. Any opinions – let me know! I’ve included some pics of the Amans in Bali which use these very parasols (Amankila on top, Amanusa below).

3) I wanted to tell you about a dinner we had one chilly(!) evening in Soori with Jen and Mathieu – an Alaskan-French diving-and-much-more couple. They motorbiked all the way from Sanur (no mean feat in the dark on those roads) to meet and have a chat about BRISC (BB’s reef and island study centre). In the summer they dive, and for the past few winter seasons, they ran Morino Lodge – a ski lodge in Japan which had in fact been suggested to us by Hans – my ski-school classmate. Anyway, over a large but slightly too dimly-lit meal, we navigated our way around unknown but tasty food and talked diving and pranayamas and trees and organic vegetable farming and islands and boats and skiing and english lessons and more. Jen and Mathieu are currently working on liveaboards in Bali – but will hopefully make a trip out to Pulau Tengah in August to have a look-see.

One of my very favourite things about working on Batu Batu (staying in luxury hotels for the good of the job aside) has been meeting so many great people who pop-up from all over – through forums, random dive sites, FB, friends of friends. And with internet and social networking sites – it’s been so easy to make contact. When I lived in London and had no real need to network, I hadn’t realised how easy it was to find all these nice, highly competent people to potentially work with. It’s really been a revelation and a bonus…

Dave Bakewell’s Birds and Rock Pools

I wanted to point you towards a blog post by Dave Bakewell about a long weekend spent at an evolving Batu Batu with ourselves and some other friends from Wild Asia last month. Dave is a Wild Asia Associate and “birder” / bird specialist / enthusiast / expert based in Malaysia and has taken some great photos of birds in-and-around Pulau Tengah. He’s also taken some very good pictures of the island’s tidal reef or rock pools (all taken from above water). Do take a look – Dave’s post has the actual names and descriptions of the birds so I’ll leave you to investigate further there.

I’ll post more in the not-too-distant future about the weekend and the birth of BRISC (Batu Batu Reef & Island Study Centre) – a very exciting project! Until then – enjoy some of these lovely photos (stolen from Dave’s blog – thanks Dave!).

And one last pic of the BRISC founding team leaving the Pulau Tengah (as Reza points out – shame that Dato CJL was taking the picture and didn’t get into the pic or we’d have had 3 generations of BB/BRISC).

From left to right: Rastam (one of our head-builders), Mei, Dave, Chew, Mathieu, Cher, boatman, Winelyn, Dada, Shiya and Reza.

Some recent highlights… hatha yoga, polished concrete and refugee camps

It’s been well over a week since I last posted – I don’t know where time goes… We’ve been busy talking to and meeting all sorts of people over the last couple of weeks. Here are some highlights:

We met with a polished concrete supplier from KL who might be able to do our terrazzo flooring and gorgeous concrete rendered walls for our villa showers. Like this… And we get to choose the colour of the render – now to decide what to go for to match our cream terrazzo floors, amazing stone bath tubs and wood exposed roof (not to mention the turquoise sea views from the huge glass windows) …

I had a great email yesterday from Lang in Sydney. I hadn’t mentioned this in the blog as yet – but Pulau Tengah was home to around 100,000 Vietnamese refugees or the “boat people” from 1975-1981 when it was a UN Refugee Camp. Many Vietnamese refugees who landed up in Malaysian territories were sent to Pulau Tengah where they lived until they were allocated a new home country (mostly Australia, US, Canada, France). I had always assumed that Pulau Tengah must carry terrible memories for the refugees who spent time there – a part of their lives which they would rather not remember. HOWEVER, I have been lucky enough to be in contact recently with a few people who spent time there and realise that some have very happy memories of the place. It’s well captured in this post by “Bao” on this blog.

“I first stepped on Pulau Tengah beach with my bare feet. But I always think this island as my second bithplace. Now looking back I think the time I was on this island was the happiest time of my life – what I did all day was eat, sleep, swim, chase after the fish, rock crabs,study English, miss home ,and dream about life in America in my little tent at the northernmost end of the island.”

Do take a look at the full post – it’s so interesting. In fact, I will write more about Pulau Tengah 1975-81 in a post of its own. And add some more photos. But for the moment, here is one that Lang Lang sent yesterday and said I could put on the blog. Thanks Lang!

I’ve also been thinking about turtles this week. Well – turtles deserve their own post too (!) but to be very brief – there are 3 species of turtle (all either endangered or critically endangered) who live in the waters around our island and land on our beaches to nest. However, turtle eggs are a local delicacy (“sangak sedap” – or “really delicious” – in the words of a local boatmen when I asked him about them a couple of weeks ago) – and so they get poached – and the turtle population continues to decline. We’re scheming with our friends at Wild Asia to devise a plan to stop the poaching both on Pulau Tengah and the surrounding islands (all of which incidentally lie within the protected Johor Marine Park!). I’ll keep you updated.

And today, I spent an agreeable afternoon with two very nice gentlemen talking about coral reefs and dolphins and whale sharks and clear waters and desert island picnics. Bryan and Sha set-up their sea sports / land adventure company (wind surfing, kite surfing, sailing, snorkelling and all – here’s their website) just up the coast from Mersing and chanced upon our island when they took some clients snorkelling a couple of weeks back. Trusty Chew (our man on site) gave them a tour of Batu Batu, and apparently they fell in love with our tropical island. So we met up today to pick each others brains and think about ways of spreading the word that this very lovely corner of Malaysia is deeply undiscovered and well worth visiting.

Oh yes, and I also spoke to my yoga teacher today about the best kind of yoga to teach on a tropical desert island… Probably hatha (on a wooden open air deck with views out to sea) – but if anyone has any better ideas – let me know! Until next time.