Turtle power!

Trip Start Sep 09, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Malaysia  ,
Wednesday, June 4, 2008

After the climb we (Tom, Dave, Jen and I) had a week left before our flights to Bangkok so we all decided that a beach was needed. We headed for the Semporna area which is well know for its excellent reef life and dive sites.

We travelled over to a Island called Mabul which is inhabitted with floating villages and longboat houses, the community we walked through to get to our homestay accommodation was very basic and traditional, the locals were extremely friendly and ran out of their wooden homes to say hello to us.

After a flash storm Jen and I decided to snorkel off of the main jetty in search of turtles, which are supposed to be everywhere around this area. The current was extremely strong - or was it that my legs were still so sore from that climb?! We got in the water to discover a beautiful coral garden - pink, blue and purple with lots of colourful fish and Jen even saw seahorses! As the current swept us back to the jetty I was lucky enough to see a blue spotted stingray. He was very beautiful and it wasn't until after I'd been following him around and probably pissing him off, that I was told he was actually dangerous!!

That night the general hype and main talk between everyone at our homestay was about an island called Sipadan - apparently one of the best dive sites in the world! ooo! We saw some photos that another traveller had taken there and all of us instantly wanted a piece of the action. It turns out that Sipadan is so good and so well protected that only 120 people are allowed permits to go there each day and to top this off there is also a one month waiting list - boo! The only way to get around this is to talk to the locals and get them to pull a few strings so that's exactly what we did...

Sipadan Island is highly protected by patrolling armed military guards that can request to see your permit at any time - at gun point! As well as the army the island also has a Malaysian Navy war ship constantly monitoring it, warning off fishermen, huntsmen and Filipino pirates that have in the past been known to kidnap tourists for ransom!

The next day started early and I ran into the bedroom shouting at Tom to wake up - he was not amused, but when he realised that I was waking him for the big turtles that had decided to join us for breakfast he came round very quickly! The turtles were swimming around our jetty, bopping up for air and the water was so clear you could see all of them!
The rest of us (Dave, Jen, Natania and I) left Tom with the turtles and to rest his slightly swollen foot as we made our way to Sipadan...

The first site was called Mid Reef and we all got in the water at the 600 metre drop off at little nervous as we'd been told that hammerhead sharks had been spotted here a couple of times! We buddied up Jen and Dave, Natania and I for safety and its alsways better snorkelling with a partner. The fish were all very colourful and the coral was very good, but all I really wanted to see was a turtle.
The moment I saw my first turtle I was so so happy I even started to well up in my mask, they are just so beautiful and glid through the water really gracefully - I have been waiting a long time to see one and I couldn't of been happier.

The second site - Barracuda Point - was my personal favourite of the 3 we went too. We jumped off the boat and as you put your head under the water it was like the opening scene from 'Finding Nemo' the water was now clearer and the visablity was amazing. We saw so much at this site and there were so many turtles I simply lost lost count, everywhere you turned you could see them either gliding through the water, coming up for air or sleeping on the surface. I never realised that I had a love for these magnificint creatures until now, each one I saw stilled wowed me. It was then we saw the first shark of the day just cruising past, a little scary to begin with but we soon realised they were all harmless enough, even the ones that swam at us!

Natania and I perfected talking to each other under water and we could swim along chatting about what we were seeing. The drop off was a little daunting so we spent most of the time in the water holding hands! It was so much fun swimming alongside the turtles and I really don't think I would of done this if i'd been on my own, sometimes they were so close just an arms reach away.

Already feeling like the little mermaid and we still had one more site to do - Coral Garden.
This site really lived up to its name, the coral here was absoulety fantastic with lots and lots of colourful fish to look at. Sharks were everywhere at this site (white tip reef sharks) we began to get use to them until we saw the biggest one, nearly 2 metres this was scary - didn't follow him!

We came back from the Island and met up with Tom who'd been on a tea drinking, pus removing (see photo!) mission all day, he didn't need to ask me if I'd seen turtles apparently my smile said it all.........
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