Sipadan and Mabul, Malaysia

After hearing that Sipadan diving is one of the best in the world, I decided to take a flight to Tawau then catch a mini bus to Semporna to hopefully get a permit. Semporna is a pit hole of a city. For three days I waited for a permit. I was extremely lucky to get one. 120 permits are issued everyday for snorkelers and divers, but many people plan months in advance, so space is limited. I talked to many people who were unable to get a permit. Again, I was extremely lucky!

Semporna is not a place you want to stay. The town is so small and there’s not much to do if you aren’t out snorkeling or diving. The local woman can be extremely rude, the men cat call you constantly (even when you are covered up), and the street smells of sewage. Oh and trash is EVERYWHERE. I stayed a total of 5 nights here, but Sipadan was worth it!! I have to stay there two nights before my flight to Bali to meet up with Mandy and Meagan. Eeee, I really can’t wait to see them!

Back to Sipadan. It is a protected island, so you cannot stay overnight there. In fact, they shut down a resort in order to preserve this place. I’m very glad it is protected because I’ve never seen so many turtles in my life. These turtles lay their eggs on the island and they really own the water.

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People are not supposed to walk around, but I got away for a bit and got to check out the island. It was incredible.

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Roll call of our dive group: Oscar from Spain, James from Australia, Roslee, the Malay dive master, and of course me!  We dove 3 times around Sipadan. Barracuda point was the first and it was excellent. We saw many turtles and White Tip Reef Sharks. Oh and a maneray eel.

When we first got into the water two turtles were mating and another male was biting the male.

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The lasts dive was Turtle Cavern, which has a cave where turtles go to die. We were able to go into the opening, but you have to have special training to do further cave diving. The cave felt ominous even though I couldn’t see any empty turtle shells.

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We also saw a huge school of fish.

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After each dive we got to hang out at the island.

Once we were done with our diving, we headed to Mabul Island, which is right by Sipadan.  This island is overrun with shacks on stilts and a couple of nice resorts. I stayed at Scuba Jeff Home stay for two nights. The room was very open, so my mosquito net made all the difference for a comfortable stay.

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From the deck we saw rays swimming at night and turtles swimming in the morning.

I dove once in Mabul and it was so lame. Nothing could really compare to Sipadan.

There was a Swedish couple, a French couple and two dutch girls that also stayed at the home stay. They were great to talk to, so I’m really glad they were there.

I have to give some cred – all the under water pictures were taken with either Oscar’s or James’s go pro camera. Thanks guys! I got lucky to have you along for the ride.

When i get the chance, I will upload videos that they also took.

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Pulau Kecil, Pulau Perhentian, Malaysia

From Phnom Penh, I took a flight to Kuala Lumpur then caught a connecting flight to Kota Bharu. As I got off the plane, Catherine, jumped  out of no where to greeted me. I wasn’t sure if she’d be able to make it, so it was a pleasant surprise.

Many Malaysians stared at us when we went to the night market. We were the only foreigners there. Malaysia has a lot of Muslims who wear the head dress and wear covering clothing or burkas.  Catherine and I were covered up in pants and t-shirts, so we wouldn’t draw attention, but they still stare because they aren’t use to westerners. We got Roti Canai, which is like a tortilla/pancake, one with bananas and another with chicken.  Both were delicious! This has become my favorite Malaysian dish especially with the curry sauce.

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Roti Canai yummyness!

The next afternoon, we shared a taxi with a Canadian girl, whom we met at the hostel we stayed at, to the pier in Kuala Besut to take a speed boat to Long Beach on Pulau Kecil (the small Perhentian island).

We were taxied in from our speed boat to the island.

The beach is beautiful! Such bright blue water. Even if you just walk out on the water you can spot several little fish.

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Long Beach

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Fishes

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Deep blue and light blue

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Crab

We decided to stay at Panorama because we heard good things about their PADI program (diving instruction) and they gave us a package deal with our room.

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Beer and homework is actually not a bad combo

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Left to right: Catherine, me, Jesse (instructor) and William (my new Dutch brother)

We had 4 days of both theory and hands on instruction. First we had Wayne as our instructor then we had Jesse. Both were great instructors. The first dive site was at 10m at Batunisan, which is right in front of Long Beach. We saw so many fish! Triggerfish, clown fish (nemo), snapper, longfin butterfish, parrot fish. There are no pictures because I didn’t want to have to fuss with my camera. I already had a bunch of other equipment to worry about, but that is OK because Jesse our instructor filmed our last two open water dives with his go pro.

The second dive was at 11.2 meters and was at D’Lagoon which is a short boat ride away. There were way more fish and coral.

The last two dives were about 18 meters. We saw all the same fish as before. No sharks, sting rays or turtles. Boo. But at least I am now certified and can dive anywhere in the world! Plus, it was in those last dives I felt very comfortable under the water.

Here are some links to the videos. I’m in pink and Catherine is in blue.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhuHpZj1zDs&feature=youtube_gdata_player

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zj4hATudro&feature=youtube_gdata_player

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOnmn1ATOpw&feature=youtube_gdata_player

http:// https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VA1CIRRKk_I&feature=youtube_gdata_player

We celebrated our cert with a bottle of Orang Utan (money juice/Malaysian whiskey) with coke for 20 ringet, which is about $7 USD. It tastes like vanilla coke with a little kick.

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On the other side of the island is Coral Bay, which is a quick 5 minute walk. We swam out to a floating dock where it has a great view of the maze coral below.  We swam back to shore to watch the sunset.

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Floating dock on the left and little island on the right

At night there’s a fire dance show. I’ve seen this before, but these people were tearing it up! Catherine and I swam almost every night and one night we watched the fire show while in the water. It was awesome! We were the only ones in the water and it cooled us down!

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Igbal and Amin, locals we met, were supposed to go on a hike to the windmill with us, but they were late, so Catherine and I decided to find it on our own. We just followed the power lines which was actually hard to find initially. At the top by the windmill there was an excellent view.

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View from the windmill

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Bathing suit, tennies and backpack

Tons of swallows were flying around in the ocean wind.

Next we hiked down to D’Lagoon which is a beach on the other side and only accessible by boat or by the hike. There was only a couple there, but other than that the beach was ours.

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I almost forgot to mention the animals I encountered. A giant fruit bat, a huge monitor lizard and a huge sea eagle.

There was a giant fruit bat that would fly to and from a tree in front of where we stayed. It was about the size of a full size seagull. At first I thought it was a nocturnal bird, but then I saw the shape of the wings.  It flew with perfect precision, definitely nothing like a small bat that flies sporadically in all directions.

There was a monitor lizard that gave us a visit.

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Catherine taking a pic of our friend

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That is a big water bottle btw

I don’t have a picture of the sea eagle, but I witness it catch a fish from the ocean. At first u thought it was a big toy plane taking pictures of the ocean. It was massive!

Off to Kota Bharu to catch a flight to Tawau so I can dive in one of the worlds best diving spots, Sipadan.