window on the seas fails to quench thirst for knowledge

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 March, 2004, 12:00am

After paying $143 for a tour of the Hoi Ha Wan Marine Park we were led by a tour guide to the park's small pier.

There we were divided into groups of about six, and led in turn aboard a 4.5 metre open boat for a 10-minute coral-viewing trip.

The boat's captain told us to remove a rectangular lid from the middle of the boat, and our window on the underwater world became apparent.

Under the lid were two holes cut on either side of the hull, with glass plates replacing the fibreglass. Bubbles and foam could be seen racing under the boat as we sped along.

After a five-minute journey, we arrived near a rocky beach where the waters were quiet.

A larger boat drifted past, with at least 10 people aboard, all leaning towards the centre with their heads down.

Passengers aboard another boat, however, were leaning overboard and peering into the water through glass-bottomed plastic buckets. Our boat was drifting over the waters in a depth of about two to three metres.

As we looked through the windows, we could clearly see brown, yellow and white hard corals. Countless jellyfish-like creatures floated in the water while hand-sized fish swam around the coral.

Curiously - for what billed itself as an eco-tour - we were given no introduction or explanation of what we saw. After about 10 minutes, we headed back to the pier and another group boarded the boat.