Life on the rig

Trip Start Apr 16, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Malaysia  , Sabah,
Friday, December 4, 2009

Ever since we took up diving on Koh Phi Phi in November we've been hearing about Sipadan and what an awesome dive site it is, so we decided to fit a trip there into our itinerary to see for ourselves. We booked a 2 night 3 day trip with Seaventures, whose base is a converted oil-rig situated about 30min boat ride away from Sipadan island just off the east coast of Borneo. Beautiful Sipadan island no longer takes overnight visitors due to the local govenment's efforts to protect the island and reefs, and also because a group of divers were taken hostage there about 10 years ago by Philipino terrorists, so in place of luxury bunglows the island's sole inhabitants are those from the Malaysian army (must be a tough assignment).
Neither of us have ever seen an oil-rig let alone stayed on one, so we had no idea what to expect. As the boat came into sight of the rig, the gravity of our decision to stay on this metal monstrosity suddenly became apparent. We looked longingly toward the Water Village on the nearby Mabul island and its stilted over-water bungalows and wondered if we had made the right decision (we had read reviews of floating rubbish beneath those pretty bunglows). Once we boarded we knew that we had made the right choice. The whole experience is very cool, it's just like living on a massive boat. You have to get on an open platform lift from sea level (like those you see on construction sites) in order to get on and off the rig, the vast open deck is divided into a dining/sunbathing area and a diving gear storage area. Our air conditioned ocean view room (difficult not to have one) was very comfortable, not that we spent much time there.
Diving was awesome, over the three days we were there we did 9 dives altogether including one solo dive (just us without a divemaster!) on the house reef (i.e. the legs of the rig) and 6 on Sipadan island, which was an amazing place to dive. We had roughly 20 metre visibility the whole time we were there, depsite it being the rainy season, imagine what it must be like in March/April when diving conditions are meant to be at their best. We saw big schools of barracudas, jackfish and bumphead parrotfish, endless amount of sharks and turtles and many many more colourful things that we can not name. The best dive was probably the 'Hanging Gardens' where we just gently drifted along a wall gaping at the coral and fishes, and every few metres discovering a turtle asleep in a small cave. Some of them were enormous.
The rest of the time was spent relaxing on the open deck enjoying the sea breeze and ample amount of food and drinks provided by the ever helpful and friendly Seaventures staff whilst trying to identify all the fascinating underwater creatures we had seen with one of the marinelife books from the Seaventures library. After 3 days we reluctantly got on the boat to be ferried back to Semporna then onto Tawau where we were to stay for 2 nights before boarding a Singapore-bound flight.
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