KOTA KINABALU: After serving Gayana Marine Resort for 15 years, the Raflessia—one of the resort’s longest-serving ships—was finally sunk to the bottom of the ocean to continue its service as a new habitat for the marine lives around the waters.
Before it was permanently docked due to old age and deteriorating condition, the Raflessia once served as a luxury yacht, used to take Gayana Marine Resort’s guests around Gaya Island for relaxing sunset cruises and private gatherings. However, it does not simply end right there for the Raflessia as she still had plenty of potential to serve underwater.
On top of being a popular holiday resort, Gayana is mostly known for its conservation initiative in Marine Ecology Research Centre (MERC), which was the winner of the 2008-09 Malaysia Tourism Awards for the Most Innovative Tourist Attraction in the ecotourism conservation category.
Malohom Bay itself, is home to three diverse marine ecosystems: coral reefs, mangrove forests and seagrass beds. Just as works of conservation interrelate to one another, MERC finds its purpose in recognizing the important roles in these three ecosystems and help preserve them for generations to come.
“We have positioned the titan next to another Vietnam boat that had been sunk many years ago,” said Lizio Mosigil, ambassador for the Resort’ MERC facility.
“The Raflessia was sunk exactly at the point where we intended it to land—at 16 meters below the surface on a flat ground.” Lizio added, noting that the Resort’s Dive and Recreation team has made sure that no coral around the surrounding area is affected during the sinking.
Gayana Marine Resort has sunken many older ships in the past in order to create ecologically-friendly artificial reefs that have become homes to thousands of marine animals. Before sinking, the Gayana Dive and Recreation team has made sure that all toxic materials have been removed from a ship. Then, large holes are also cut into it in order to provide access by fish and divers. In the future, the Raflessia is expected to become another underwater attraction for divers in Malohom Bay.
“Merely a few minutes after being sunk, the Dive and Recreation team already noticed schools of fish starting to gather around the boat, as though excited to see their new home,” said Lizio, “this will be a great diving spot for us. It can also make a good ‘free diving’ spot,” he added.
Lizio explained that the Gayana Dive and Recreation team, together with the MERC team plan to include the Raflessia’s story on their diving trail, starting from their underwater garden to the sediment runoff area, to the biorock where replanted corals are places, all the newly-sunken Raflessia.
“This would be a great story that links all our conservation efforts, that despite the challenge of sedimentation runoff, we are still able to provide an artificial living habitat for the surrounding marine life. It would be fun to dive inside the boat once we have all marine life gathered around,” Lizio concluded.-pr/BNN