Yeah, diving!

Trip Start Aug 24, 2009
Trip End Jan 19, 2010

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Flag of Malaysia  , Sabah,
Sunday, December 13, 2009

Semporna's a bit of a hole... but just off the coast are some pretty incredible islands. The most famous, Sipadan, can only be visited by a maximum of 120 divers a day and is a bit pricey but you're meant to be pretty much guaranteed to see sharks and other diving-gems.

First day I went out on a snorkelling trip to Sibuan island - a beautiful place just a few hundred metres long and shaped like a tear drop (with a miniature army 'base' at the 'wide' end, but we'll ignore that). The trip out to any of the islands takes you past hundreds of small buildings
on stilts in the middle of the sea - presumably places for the men to
fish from during the day. The snorkelling at Sibuan was incredible - dense coral reefs with ridiculous numbers of species of fish - and turtles! I just saw one on my first hour trip along the island, they seemed to avoid me after that. There are probably about 50 people living on the island, miles away from any mainland civilisation. All the kids run around naked generally enjoying life, jumping off tall stilt-based buildings into the water or going round the island on a dugout canoe. Tough life.

The next day I decided to do the Discovery Dive course - a day of diving for novices without having to do any of the serious certification-stylee training beforehand. I was one-on-one with an instructor who taught me the basics (how to breathe... how to pop your ears... how to say everything's okay, or not...), took me into the water for 10 minutes practice, and then guided me along the reef. Had issues equalising my ears to start, but got the hang of that and then took over pretty much all the basics by the end of the day - a great intro to diving and I'll probably end up doing the PADI course in the near future now... not enough time to do it here unfortuantely.

Saw a few turtles thanks to the instructor's keen eyes on the first dive, and some other crazy fish including some I'd never have seen if it wasn't for her pointing them out just a few inches away. The second dive took me past, round and over a few artificial reef blocks, by which time I'd just about managed to work out the whole buoyancy balance technique. More crazy fish.. and then a third dive (after a massive lunch at the resort's restaurant) where I saw another 5 or 6 turtles, a few of which were just an arm's length away. A pretty good first day of diving!

In the interest of remembering what I've seen once the names disappear from my memory... they included crocodile fish, green turtle, hawksbill turtle, bat fish, box fish, scorpion fish, king fish, razor fish, squid, triggerfish...

Ate a mammoth meal on the last night with the PADI crew who I'd shared a boat with the last couple of days - Giles's sea cucumber dish wasn't too great, but the rest was amazing - even I couldn't finish off the piles of squid and prawns that were thrown at us. Perhaps they gave us massive portions as they felt bad for making us sit next to the celebrating chinese party on the next tables..?
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