More snorkelling

Trip Start Oct 19, 2006
Trip End Apr 05, 2007

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Flag of Malaysia  ,
Wednesday, February 21, 2007

(Christopher wrote this entry.)

  Having heard that the best snorkeling in the world is in the Sulu Sea off the east coast of Sabah, we headed to Semporna to squeeze in one more swim with the underwater galaxies.

The bus ride from Sandakan was memorable only for the videos.  We watched the same hour of Troy twice because the disc got stuck.  That was not so bad.  But then came the music videos.  We saw a concert video of the wildly popular (in most of the world except the US) 1970s band Boney M (see for more).  And then came the Malaysia karaoke love songs.  We saw the same ones over and over again so many times we started singing along quietly to ourselves.

We stumbled off the bus into the arms of a staff person from our hostel and soon gratefully crashed in our "Clown Fish" room at Scuba Junkie.  When we went back to the dive shop to make plans for snorkeling, whomelse should we see but our friend Sara from Bangkok, whom we had also run into at Uncle Tan's!

The best island for snorkeling and diving is Sipidan, but the permits were all sold out for several days so we settled for Sibuan.  After getting our snorkels and masks, we ate pizza at Scuba Junkie's cafe, surrounded by more Americans than we had seen in weeks.  We decided the sudden influx was a result of the Chinese New Year holiday.

Wednesday morning we rode the boat 45 min. with several other divers and snorkelers (including Sara and her friends) out to Pulua Sibuan.  Sibuan is hardly more than a lucky bit of rock nudging enough above the coral to collect dirt and grow some palm trees.  We arrived at high tide and waded out to the end of the sandbar tip of Sibaun where the picture looks like the end of the world.  We picked a spot in the shade and lathered up in sunscreen.
50m from the shore beyond the shallow coral, we swam with angel fish and saw huge fields of black spikey sea urchins.  There were more clown fish and parrot fish and lots of other fish whose names we don't know.  Before lunch as the tide was going out, we waded and swam/crawled carefully over the coral which became more and more exposed each minute.  By the time lunch was over, the tide had gone down several meters and pink coral rock ringed the island on three sides, extending for a kilometer on one side.  We gingerly walked around the island on rocks only dry at low tide.  The coral was so wide and exposed we couldn't get to the deeper water for snorkeling, so we packed up and went with the divers to the "Drop Off", hoping to see turtles. We did see one distant turtle and a small manta ray, along with a huge school of angel fish and  tiny silver jumping fish.  It was particularly neat to be at the drop off as the returning tide allowed fish access once again to the coral low tide left dry.

Going back to the jetty we began to realize the missed spots in our sunblocking and knew we were in for some days of recovery.  We managed dinner at a nearby seafood place and crawled into bed with the aloe lotion soaking in.
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