Call me Dan Cousteau

Trip Start Sep 12, 2006
Trip End Dec 21, 2006

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Flag of Malaysia  ,
Thursday, September 21, 2006

Hello, so having spent two days completing my Padi, i had to put it to good use. And what better way than to go to one of the best dive sites in the World. Thats right, i popped my diving-cherry at Mabul/Sipadan islands. Now since the dives in Mabul and Sipadan, i've met a few other keen divers along the when i told them of my first diving experience, they all have said i have ruined any other dives i ever do, as they will never measure up to Sipadan. Its that good a place.

As a good example of the kind of sea life you get around those islands, especially Sipadan, i think i saw the majority of the cast of Finding Nemo with exception of the Great White (Bruce was a Great White, right?). So you know how central london is famous for the vast number of pigeons. Well in sipadan, instead of pigeons, its turtles. Everytime i saw one swimming by, i had the impulse to go swim alongside them. Its just absolutely incredible.

So a quick run through of the three days. Tuesday morning, i fly from KK to Tawau and then get a transport bus to Semporna. We wait at the Borneo Divers office there for our boat. The weather was not good. It had been raining all morning and there was no sign of it stopping. An hour later on the boat we arrive at Mabul Island, where Borneo Divers has this really nice resort. Four companies operate there. One of them has there resort on a disused oil rig just off of Mabul Island.

So we have our debriefing, and as i'm a solo diver, i'm put in a twin sharing shalet with a really cool french guy, Frank. He had just finished working for the White Cross in Indonesia, working at the Tsunami affected areas (most people i had met by this time seemed to be charity workers who had just finished a project). We then had lunch and an hour after, went on our orientation dive. There was a big group of chinese divers from Hong Kong, camera'd up to the max. Now it being my first proper dive, i took it easy, having buddied up with the divemaster. I saw some amazing wildlife.

Second dive was at Paradise II in front of our resort. Again, i saw some great wildlife. But the majority was small fish. The occasional turtle. At one point, looking into the sea, i could see a school of fish swimming with a similar outline to barracuda. They were too far, and visibility was poor thanks to the rain. Near to the end, a school of fish were stationary in the water. Now there were thousands of them. And they did look familiar. But i dismissed what i first thought they could be, as they were small. So we swam through them, as they moved aside for us and then quickly got back in formation. They then went off swimming and i watched this endless line of them swimming deeper into the sea away from the coral.

The currents then got very fast, which indicated the end of the dive site. We emerged and got back onto the boat. I asked one of the divemasters, what school of fish we had just seen. They told me what i suspected they were. Barracuda. They were absolutely amazing. Very tranquil fish.

If only i had an underwater camera case for my digital camera so i could take some pics. So i rented a camera and case that evening for the next day, costing only 20 pounds including burning to cd after. I did try and hire a underwater video camera with diver, but he had already been hired for that day. Imagine, i could have been the star of my own water sports dvd (i realise that could be mis-interpreted).

After dinner, i found out i was going to Sipadan for the next day. I was really excited as govt regulations alllow a max of 120 divers to dive at sipadan each day, to help try and conserve the wildlife. Sipadan was in the news about five years ago, when pirates came onto the island and took hostages. My instructor had told me he was there that day and him and his group ran into the jungle and waited for the police to arrive. The pirates didnt release the last hostage until two years after being taken. Since then, they have closed all resorts on the island, and you are only to dive there now.

On the second day, the sun was out in full effect. It was at least mid-thirties and visibility was fantastic. On the first dive i saw so many turtles. Wherever you looked they were there swimming or resting on the coral. I think i even saw the TMNT. And then there were sharks. The majority were white tip reef sharks (in the Discovery channel's top 5 most dangerous, higher than great whites!) and there was the occasional leopard shark. But all of them were at least 1.5m.

Now as fascinating as it was to see the sharks, i was cacking it too. The majority of sharks layed on the coral and would swim away when you got close, not that i was one of the divers getting close.

During the 1st and 2nd dives, we found out we were going to barracuda point. Now having seen the little ones yesterday, i was really looking forward to seeing the bigguns.

As soon as we got down i saw a few big solo barracudas swimming and trying to feed on fish. Now swimming with barracuda and sharks you'd think you have to be most vigilant with them. But we were swimming with triggerfish, which are little orange bastards that are very persistent if they get hold of you. I was lucky not to get noticed, but i met a diver later that night who showed me his fin where a triggerfish had been biting into.
Back to Barracuda point. There weren't as many barracuda as i was expecting, i.e. i didn't see a single school. But i saw plenty more white tip reef sharks. The current was much stronger along here, and finning was not necessary, if anything learning to slow yourself within the fast current was needed, but me being a first timer, i was being pushed along, which didn't help when i would try to take pictures. When we got into the valley the currents picked up, and i was using my air up very quickly. At one point, i was being pushed forward and downward into the sea bed where a shark was laying. I had to really swimg against the current to stop myself from being forced onto the shark. Myself and another german went up slightly earlier than the rest as our air was low.

We did another two dives back on Mabul that day. The last was a sunset dive. I stupidly left the camera at the shalet as we went back to pardise II, where i had seen the mini barracuda. And surely enough, the school was there. Now the Paul the german, thought it would be fun to swim through the school several times. He then signalled me to, and i told him no.

Later after dinner, we watched the video that the cameraman had made for a couple. At the end of the barracuda point dive he had filmed this amazing school of large barracuda, swimming in a vortex. Annoyingly i missed this because of my low air. I was really pissed off.

On my last day, i left Mabul island, and was taken to tawau airport, where i had to wait approx 9 hours for my flight to KL. Tawau airport is tiny, with nothing in it. So i was really, really bored.

Arriving in KL i got a taxi to the centre, where i stayed at Equator Hostel ( This place had only been opened for 4 months when i stayed, but it was really good. The two owners were once backpackers themselves and had both worked and studied in england, so their english was really good too. The place was not too far from the petronas towers and was directly behind a shopping mall with a theme park inside.

I only stayed the one night as i was meeting my cousin Jen in Bankok for the weekend. This was only a couple of days after the coup, which i first heard about on Mabul.

Having done the journey once from KL Sentral to the airport, i was more confident about it a second time around and made sure i didn't get ripped off by the taxi driver to take me to LCCT.

Finally get to bangkok and spent the weekend with Jen and her friends. Went to A big market (i think chatuchak market?) and spent the afternoon with three girls shopping. Its been a while since i've been shopping with a girl. But with 3, J.C. I must say, that Jen's friend Christina was a killer bargainer. As i'm going back to bangkok later in the trip i reframed myself from buying anything except for a necklace and bracelet.

Bangkok appeared to be getting on as normal, even though a coup had just occured, but i think the locals were happy with it.
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