Semporna had some really tasty seafood but not a whole lot more going for it and after one night in the Scuba Junkie (the same company I dived with in KK) dorm I jumped on the morning transfer to Mabul. Mabul is a small island near some of the best dive sites in the world and we did not have time to catch our breath before heading out for our first taste. I was on a boat with a nice group and was diving with three other dive masters so we enjoyed two relaxed dives, with a break for coffee and cake of course, before Lunch.
The lunch is included in your four day package and I went in expecting a rice heavy ration pack but the food is really good and there is as much as you want (and then slightly more). After lunch I chucked my bag in the dorm room before heading out for the final dive of the day. After three nice dives around Mabul Island it was time for more coffee and cake (I want to make sure I fit in all of my old clothes when I get back to the UK) before a quick snooze on the beach before yet more food.
After dinner I headed up to the bar to have a few beers with Patrick (Austrian I shared a dorm with in Semporna) and Ted (one of the guys I dived with). We enjoyed a few beers before heading down to the beach where the local guys were enjoying a fire, a singsong and some punchy Filipino rum. I called it a night around midnight after a brief attempt at fire dancing as I still had three more days of diving ahead and it would be a lot less fun with a raging hangover or first degree burns.
The next day I headed out to Sipadan Barrier Reef for a couple of dives before returning for lunch and another dive around Mabul. Today I was diving with an Aussie instructor called Heath who worked in Koh Tao and his friend Bella who was also a divemaster. In the evening we were conducting a very thorough post dive debrief (having a few beers!) when the manager came up to let us know that the turtle nest had hatched and they would be releasing them soon. In the wild lots of turtles get picked off by predators as eggs or on their first trip to the water, this coupled with the locals penchant for turtle eggs means the odds of any one turtle making it the 20 or so years to return to the island and reproduce is about the same as England winning the world cup anytime soon. To give the little fellas a fighting chance Scuba Junkie run a scheme where they pay locals as rangers when the discover a nest and then relocate it to a safe place before releasing the babies when they hatch.
We went down to watch as they released over 100 baby turtles into the sea and I adopted little baby Kenneta and released her for the short walk into the ocean. My sister is due to have a baby girl any week now and I am sure that all my readers will agree that Kenneta is the only sensible choice for a name however just in case her and Mark do not make the obvious decision I thought I would ensure there is at least one Kenneta in the world.
I was up at 6am for my third days diving for the highly anticipated trip to Sipadan. As Sipadan is such a popular divesite and they only issue 120 permits a day Scuba Junkie squeeze in four dives while you are there. All four dives were great with so much life and diversity underwater that you almost become nonchalant to the sheer number of sharks and turtles. Heath and I had managed to fashion a working GoPro between us (he has a leaky housing but a working camera so we used his camera and my housing) and we have shot some pretty decent footage although it is fair to say Heath was the more natural cameraman with my videos all ending prematurely (I will not make the obvious inappropriate joke as my Gran reads this but feel free to add your own). We had a great four dives (naturally with plenty of food in between) but I am led to believe that Sipadan can be even more breath taking and I had some problems equalising the pressure in my ears towards the end so maybe I will have to return one day.
The final days diving was another day trip this time to an island called Siamil. It was another fantastic day of diving having seen dozens of Devil rays on the first dive and a really interesting muck dive to finish the day. A muck dive is where you have do not dive on a specific reef and instead look around for smaller interesting creatures in the sand/silt. I really enjoyed floating along with the current stopping to inspect anything unusual. Our divemaster Kye had an insane ability to spot things that I completely missed (if there are not turtles or sharks as far as I am concerned the reef is dead) so I was very pleased when I spotted a stick pipe fish and pointed it out to Kye only for him to spot a baby one hidden in the rock that I had missed. The highlight of the dive was definitely a flamboyant cuttlefish which is a small cuttlefish that changes colours and patterns like some sort of living underwater disco light. It served as a reminder of all the cool things I have seen diving and the diverse, alien and unusual life under the sea (and I don’t just mean my instructor Tony).
I realise this blog has been one out of my Dad’s instruction manual constantly harping on about food (although he would have provided a full breakdown of costs in comparison to the UK) but after each day our dive master Kye would walk up the trees as if taking a stroll along the beach and cut down some fresh coconuts to enjoy with the heaps of other food provided.
That evening we were transferred back to Semporna and after some tasty prawns for dinner and with little else to do Patrick and I went over to the Scuba Junkies bar and got stuck into the beers. We headed to bed after the barmen had shut the bar and refused to serve us any beer to take away (something about not being able to serve beer once the fridge was turned off). I woke up the next morning and Patrick and I had some more seafood for lunch before getting taking a local bus to Tawau airport where he flew to Kota Kinabalu and I headed off to Kuala Lumpa.
As I have already visited KL and ticked off most of the tourist attractions I had a nice relaxed day yesterday wondering around the city. I visited the central market again which unsurprisingly is still full of overpriced tourist crap, my favourite example was somebody selling “vintage Malaysian glasses used once upon a time by local Malays” the vast majority of these glasses were the same coca cola glasses that you get in a Wetherspoons back home.
I am about to check out and then spend the day in KL before flying back to sunny England in the early hours of Saturday morning.
See you soon!