Possibly the best SCUBA diving site in the world.

Trip Start Jul 31, 2009
Trip End Sep 07, 2009

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Where I stayed
Borneo Backpakers Semporna

Flag of Malaysia  , Sabah,
Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sipadan Island is one of the the worlds most famous dive sites, and justifiably so.  The marine life here is simply staggering, with sharks, turtles and barracuda all being the norm.

There's only 140 people allowed on this island per day, including snorkelers, so there's a 2 weeks waiting list to go diving here.  This was something I had no idea about, but once again Lady Luck stepped in to help me along the way.  Rok and Jasna had booked a days diving a couple of weeks ago, and then went out into the jungle where they met us.  Unfortunately, Jasna didn't enjoy her last couple of dives, took a little bit of a panic attack and so didn't want to go again.  Fortunately for me, I was ready to take her place. :)

The island itself is about an hour and a half from the mainland by speedboat.   It was squeaky bum time when Rok and I arrived because the island is so well protected it has a small military base on it to make sure there's no-one there that shouldn't be.  Like me.  Everyone had to sign their name beside the approved list of names, and as a solider stood over me with his automatic rifle, I just squiggled something beside Jasna's name and hoped no-one noticed.

We had our first of three dives around 9am, and that one dive was better than all three at Mabul.  I finally saw my first shark!  I'd swam with sharks before, but that was at Sea World in Australia, so they don't count.  These bad boys were in the wild, had tattoos and carried flick knives.

The clarity of the water was astounding, and the colours and variation of fish incredible.  There were only 7 of us diving this time, so unlike Mabul you didn't have people kicking you in the head every 2 seconds.  Over the three dives I probably saw about fifty sharks, mostly White Tip Reef sharks, but on the second dive a Grey Shark swam past us.  This thing was massive, and suddenly I remembered why they are top of the food chain and not us.

On the second dive we went to a spot called the "Turtle tomb" which is an underwater cave where turtles swim in, get lost, then die trying to find their way out again.  Obviously I'm not stupid enough to go into the cave... well, not that far into it anyway.  We swam in about 20 metres, past a sign with a skull and crossbones on it warning divers to stay out, swam until it was pitch black and the darkness enveloped us.  It was genuinely creepy, just floating there in the blackness, not being able to see your own hand in front of your face.  I've done a night dive before on the Great Barrier Reef, but at least then we had torches.  This was something else, and the really cool thing was when I turned around to look at the entrance of the cave, the black silhouettes of the other divers against the eerie green backdrop of the ocean.  Beside the warning sign there were buoys weighed down, and when looked at from this angle, they looked exactly like floating skulls, placed there to warn people against entering.  Scary stuff.

Probably the most amazing thing about Sipadan is that it rises 600m from the ocean floor, almost vertically, so there's a wall beside you going straight down into the darkness below.  Swimming along beside this wall gives an incredible feeling like flying, and for a second you feel like that prick Superman.  As I was floating along this wall of coral, a giant turtle came swimming out of the blue, and passed right underneath me, almost within touching distance.  This is one of the coolest moments of my life, and I am never going to forget it. :)

Not long after that another moment of utter coolness happened.  We came across a school of barracuda, about 20 of them, just floating there enjoying the warm current. Then swam around us for a minute, then took off.  Barracuda travel in schools until they're a bit older, then the go off on their own and that's when they become dangerous.  Well, I hope so anyway.

So that was diving in Sipandan.  Rok got some awesome video, so please check that out. The Grey Shark is on here, the barracuda and the scary ass cave.  And about 50 White Tips. :) This was easily the best dive I've ever done, and I just want to thank Rok for helping me out so much.  It's handy when your dive partner is also a Divemaster. :)
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