Sun, Sea & Sipadan

Spent four days diving off the Malaysian Borneo - an island noted for its pristine beaches and thriving coral reefs. Sipadan island -  Peggy organized the trip; so it was just pay, pack and go.

It was great fun meeting up with the bunch of ex-LGs. Lame jokes reigned and mostly targeted at Ying Chye, my ex lifesaving instructor hehehe. There were quite a number of us - TY, Jao, Peggy, LuPing, KeenMun, JweePin, RuoWen, WeiInn, PoKoon, Ken, YingChye, BeeHua, and Hendra. Dinner on the first night in Semporna was RM800 for 10 of us LOL.... I remembered back in the Kota Kinabalu days we ordered a steamed fish which cost close to RM300. Justification: holiday is also when you splurge, right?

Top two sunset photos taken in Mabul, photos not quite chronologically arranged here. Mabul was where we stayed, but before that, we were in Semporna, which is in mainland Sabah.

Ingenious way of hanging fish to dry right where the air-conditioning vents are.

Evening market of fresh catch from the sea.

Next morning we took a boat out to Mabul island, where we spent the next three nights in Big John Scuba, Mabul. Oh my. It felt like a wave of deja vu upon arrival... The bad sort. We were booked into a dorm which felt stuffy and beds were hastily strewn on the floors. Some sheets and pillows had a damp feel to it and best part was there were 13 of us in that dorm, with only two toilets to share!

I was feeling quite stressed out, didn't like the place, didn't like the toilets (cannot lock; cannot flush - must use a little pail and patiently fill it bucket by bucket, dump into toilet bowl to flush). There was barely place to move and as I was one of the last few to enter the dorm and chope bed; the last couple of 'beds' available are strategically located in front of the toilet .

Anyway I later found out that we were being charged RM70 a night per person for the dorm (regardless how many people are inside that miserable place), whereas if you had opted for the private rooms, it's only RM90 per person (again, rates per pax, not per room, which makes zero sense!!). So I thought, why the hell would I want to save RM20 and get so miserable? I requested for my own room - it wasn't anything fancy but at least I have a bigger bed and my own toilet!

By far, it was the worst dive operator I've ever had the misfortune to spend my holiday with. On all our boat dives, the boat was crammed to the very limit: 13 of us divers plus an additional 2 other divers plus 5 snorkellers; on a 4m boat -.- It's unabashedly profit-oriented and not to mention a downright inconvenience for us to move around in what restricted space available on the boat, especially when gearing up!

Pfft... On the plus side, the diving was pretty cool. Visibility wasn't that great but as what a fellow diver said; poor viz is like a covered woman. Mysterious, it can be sexy as she slowly unveils what's beyond the unseen. Great vis of 40m and more is about as sexy as a completely naked woman; you see everything within a glance and take it in as it is; without anything left to the imagination. Fhwoar....

Anyway we met another diver who said that she's had viz as far as 40m, but during May-July. Hmm... Sounds like another invite to Sipadan, eh?

Really, really pleased with my secret photo editing tool. Pictures are quite blue from the settings and also the 'sexy visibility' but with my powerful weapon; pictures are presented the way they should be; with justice!!!

Top and bottom shots - one day in Sipadan.

Permits into Sipadan island is limited to 120 divers a day, as a control measure by the government. Finally they are doing something right Out of the four days of diving, we only get a day's permit to enter the Sipadan region and dive there. Not saying that the other dive areas surrounding Sipadan island are not nice, they're just equally beautiful, if not better!

One of my favourite shots:

Nudi branch :) (don't ask which species; slap u)

One of the dive sites we went to is called the Barracuda Point. And my, strong currents we have there. My mask was vibrating hard and I was clinging on to my pointer as hard as I can without slipping. Another diver had to hold on to support me as I tried to take pictures hehehe. The other time the current was harder than this was when I dived in the Anambas islands. We went down with a rope attached to the bottom and that felt like we were riding motorcycles, with our hands tightly clinging on to the rope; current pushing strongly against us. Would be a truly scary moment if you get dragged off by the current.... Great memories -.-

But amidst struggling with the current, we were rewarded with a great view of a gigantic school of barracudas. I had the trickiest of a time twisting my arm around to take a shot while holding on to dear life.

Bunch of local children are quite a menace in the vicinity. They come floating in two little boats and pretended to sell all sorts of useless things like fishes, tissue, etc. They refused to go away and when you decided to give them some food/ money, the children in one of the boats take them and then scoots/paddles off while the remaining children will wail their hearts out in frustration to the world's unfairness. It's actually quite amusing to watch them when they perform the bail. It's obviously fake and you catch them sometimes steal a look in between wails.

Serenity.... View through a real-life aquarium.

An ex-jack up oil rig in the middle of the ocean. It has now been converted into a resort, with its star feature a platform lift that lowers the diver (all geared up) into the water. Which is pretty cool, minimum effort trying to lug your equipments to the boat, gearing up while the boat sways side to side (sometimes vomiting in the process). I'd like to come back and stay at this rig next time .

Hehe... Had some fun with the photo editing tool :P I don't think it's very obvious, aye?

My preferred subject to photograph are small little things (hopefully the type that don't move too much too!). Definitely seriously thinking of getting a macro wetlens, just to get better resolution and easier focusing too. I think I said the same thing the last time I went diving though. Ok, die die have to purchase one NAO!

This is a Pikachu nudi branch. Well, here are a few Pikachu nudibranches. Three to be exact, spotted on three separate dives. Po Koon was quite upset that she missed all three sightings! Lol. So, just to rub it in, I compiled all three separate finds on a picture and tagged her hehehehe. Needless to say, she wasn't very pleased.

Now, if I have a macro wet lens, I needn't have to zoom, zoom, zoom and crop, crop, crop!

And last but not least :P, one of my favourite dive sites around Sipadan - the Mataking islands:

Even before diving in, the clear waters took my breath away - reefs are shallow enough for snorkelling.

Did a wreck dive, approximately 20-27m deep.

Place where they used to poo-poo before the boat sank... I actually would really like to dive a big, massive wreck (I hope you hadn't been expecting me to dive a massive toilet). Like one of those gigantic cruise ship where you can go into the cabins, explore the insides of the ship and to imagine yourself in the midst of the past grandeur of it all. I think that would be really cool :)


Tiny little shrimp resting on corals. Photographing wee shrimps are fun too. Much more features to focus on. But garh! MACRO LENS!!!

The usual lobster-red faces and bodies usually evident on Day 2. But this is Day 5 already kot.

Before the start of our third dive, I spotted this giant fish underwater (bottom photo, we were still floating on surface, just about getting ready to dunk). It seemed to be a reef resident here, haha. 

Finally when we were diving, we spotted the giant barracuda. It's at least one meter long and it's quite strange for barracudas to be on their own, as they're usually in a school. As in a school of fish, not a school, school. Erm. Right.

I am quite proud of myself this trip, truth be told. I realized that I have somewhat obtained a rare gift of spotting small sea creatures . I spotted a number of nudi branches and this top spiny leaf fish. It wasn't even moving and looked like debris. I did a double take when I saw this obscure little thing (only 5cm long).

One of my favourite shots in Sipadan - well the whole lot are my favourites, otherwise they won't be making an appearance here.

And finally, just the one photo of Big John scuba from the front. One the left is the boat landing area - the high and low tide differs as much as 1 meter here!! Then next to it, a chinchai place for hanging your wetsuits, etc. The right section is where we dine. Food here is not bad, but not great either. 

Breakfast is usually some fried mee with fried sausages and some fried eggs. Kopi bancuh sendiri. Lunch is an economy rice affair, fried fish, stir fried vegetables, pieces of chicken, etc etc. And I always have mine with some cili padi with dark soy sauce, lime and chopped onions yum yum yum .

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