Day 113: Pulau Sipadan

Trip Start Sep 21, 2006
Trip End Jun 01, 2007

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Flag of Malaysia  ,
Saturday, January 13, 2007

I got what I asked for. Shipped over to Mabul Island for a day's 'muck diving' (low-visability, close-quarters, macro diving), I lucked out when a place became available on a boat bound for Sipadan. Problem is, the boat is full of novice divers from K.L. who bump into me and guzzle their air in minutes. Dives are restricted to 45 minutes max, and having to surface with gas-guzzlers, I find myself back on the surface with half a tank of air left. It's a new experience for me to be the most-experienced diver in the group.
It used to be possible to stay on Sipadan but two year's ago it was turned into an aquatic reserve. The former tourist chalets are now barracks for the army. Divers, limited to 120 a day, are allowed to eat their packed lunches and used the toilet there while behind 'No entry to civilians' signs, the soldiers play chess and pump weights made from coconut tree trunks.
Despite the restrictions and frustrations with my group, and general low visability in the water, I still satisfy all my longings for the dive. White-tip reef sharks are plentiful, as are large 1.5m-long green sea turtles; I see both of these from a shore snorkel, too, when I feel more vulnerable, beside the shark.
A turtle comes close enough for me to caress its shell. A manta ray is glimpsed gliding into the murk. After eight fruitess dives off Phuket, I finally get my leopard shark, a monster, resting on a sandy slope. A large school of trevally circle us. Great barracuda, two metres long, pause to get their razor teeth cleaned.
The corals at the sites we visit are not too bright, and there are few anemones, but given good viz, this dive site would be all it's reputation promised. I'll see what it has to offer again tomorrow.
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