Seven NUS students sailed from Phuket, Thailand to Langkawi, Malaysia over the Andaman Seas from 4 to 12 January, the first NUS Seafarers voyage of the year and the first without the accompaniment of a faculty member on board. Together with the captain and crew aboard the vessel Four Friends, the students explored various points of interest during the exciting nine-day journey between the two islands.
The objectives for this voyage were threefold, said Year 3 NUS Business student Wong Li Ching, one of the student organisers. It aimed to provide the students with a respite from the hustle and bustle of daily city living and their fast-paced technologically saturated lives; time and space to reflect on the past year and set new goals for the year ahead against a scenic backdrop of the Andaman Seas; and the opportunity to engage in fun activities such as kayaking, snorkelling and caving.
“The Andaman Seas trip really offered me a once in a lifetime opportunity to see and experience things I never thought I would. We explored Thai caves, kayaked through hidden-away mangroves, visited uninhabited islands, saw sea nomads fishing for food, sailed through the night, climbed up a lighthouse, snorkelled in the ocean, trekked through a jungle, swam in a river, and did many other adventurous activities. These opportunities were all priceless experiences that I am grateful for,” said Douglas Allwood, Year 1 NUS Science student.
Setting off from Ao Chalong Bay in Phuket, the students dropped anchor at interesting points around Phuket, including stops at Phi Phi Island, Ko Muk, Tarutao Island and Ko Adang, where they kayaked and snorkelled as they explored caves, cliffs and the surrounding waters.
Upon reaching Langkawi, they headed west and toured Cenang Beach, as well as the completely uninhabited North-West. “We explored a stream tumbling down falls and rapids from pool to pool. The captain explained that such watercourses carve their steep valleys in the Macincang Formation, which are very ancient Cambrian sandstones — more than 400 million years old. These streams betrayed no sign of human interference,” recalled Li Ching.
The expedition was not just about new experiences but also about learning, said Douglas. “Each time we sat down to rest and started talking, there would be opportunities to learn; from one another and from our very experienced captain. These lessons included learning about the sea, sailing, caves, jungles, and perhaps most importantly, people. I always thought universities were the sole monopoly of knowledge, but having gotten a taste of the life of a seafarer, an explorer, I have a newfound appreciation for their culture and wisdom,” he added.
The organisers hope that the trip gave the students an appreciation for the simplistic nature of seafaring. “Our seafaring voyage involved the spontaneous exploration of many places of interest, such as rivers, ravines and islands…I hope that it has allowed the participants to step out of their comfort zones and whetted their appetite for more adventures!” said Li Ching.