Trip Start Oct 30, 2012
Trip End May 30, 2013

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Flag of Malaysia  , Sabah,
Saturday, February 2, 2013

Sipadan!  The very mention of the word makes divers drool.  A small island in the Celebes Sea surrounded by coral reel walls some 600m deep.  It was quite a different experience descending into the blue with nothing beneath me, but I kept my wits and did all right. 

A beautiful clear day, much appreciated after 2 mornings of speedboating in the rain.  Today we enjoyed beautiful views of the stilted homes and seaweed gardens.  Water so clear I could see the boat's shadow on the sea bed.  Flying fish jumped out of the water and seemed to go for huge distances before descending into the water again. 

Everyone talks about Sipadan.  Even Jacques Cousteau was quoted as saying in his 1989 documentary "I have seen other places like Sipadan, 45 years ago, but now no more. Now we have found an untouched piece of art."  So you can imagine we were pretty excited!

Unlike any of our previous dives, these were deeper with the coral wall rising straight above and below you.  We saw white tip reef sharks for the first time.  I knew that we would see them on these dives and I thought I would be scared.  However, the first one we saw I found myself so fascinated and excited to see them I just stared in wonder!  Sometimes there were family groups just camped out on the sandy bottom, content to stay put until one of us got a bit too close for comfort.  There were also lots of green turtles and hawksbill turtles.  They liked to sit at cleaning stations and have other fish clean off their shells for them.  At these places they're busy and don't move away when we come close.  The markings on their bodies and shells are just beautiful.  Other times they would be 'flying' overhead silhouetted against the blue.  Great schools of yellow tail barracuda blocked out the sun when we got to 'barracuda point'.  They did not do their typical 'spiral' for us on this day though.  Several lion fish played peek-a-boo in and around some coral.  There was also an emmense school of jackfish hanging out right close to the surface.  They formed a solid wall of fish from the surface of the water to the coral bottom.  The camera wouldn't even focus on them as it was just too much movement in the whole viewfinder  (these are the fish in Finding Nemo that swim around and give directions as a group).  They did move as one.  You could swim into their group, but it was like you had an invisible force field around you.  The fish would let you in, but kept equidistant away from you on all sides - above and below.  We were watching from outside and when one diver swam in, the school separated enough we could see a reef shark swim right out towards us!  They like to hang out and hunt for jackfish.  At this point, he didn't do any feeding, but supposedly when he does, you can hear the fish swim away!  They are so sudden and so fast that the collective actually sends out an audible shock wave through the water!

More surface intervals on coral sand beaches with so much blue in the water and sky to practically fall in...

On our last dive, we encountered a new fish:  the bumphead parrot fish.  These are coral eaters and are absolutely emmense!!!  After seeing the first few, I saw two more emerging from the blue and heading straight towards Brian!  I grabbed him to get his attention and he was able to stop in time for them to soundlessly soar right in front of us starting with those crazy eyes.  There must have been about 6 or so that just hung out in the shallows and we did our safety stop with them before finishing the dive. 

A truly memorable experience!

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