Published: August 16th 2012August 16th 2012
Wednesday 15th August, 2012
I was up and about early this morning to get ready and have breakfast before I went diving. The minibus picked me up at about 8.20 and there were already four people on it. It turned out that one of the couples had both been teachers and they lived at Whitley Bay! Small world! They were with their son and his partner whom he'd met in Middlesborough but was originally from Singapore and they both lived there now. After a short journey a chap got on with his two children. He lived in Hong Kong but his daughter and son lived in Henley with their mother. The four from Whitley Bay/Singapore were going snorkelling and the family were all going diving. It was just a short ride to the marina where our speedboat waited to take us over to Gaya Island where Dive Downunder is located. Waiting at the jetty were some of the interns who would be responsible in turn for leading the diving throughout the day. We were soon speeding along towards Gaya, a journey of not much more than 10 minutes. The island looked quite large, was mountainous and covered in trees. The
usual 'official' hut was between the jetty and the island to collect the conservation fee from each passenger of 10MR. This was already included in the dive and snorkelling packages so we got waved passed straight to the dive centre to get our kit. This didn't take long but anyone who hadn't dived before needed to fill out the relevant paperwork and provide proof of diving qualification. As I did this the Malaysian lad doing my paperwork caught sight of my previous dive log at Ellerton and in particular a water temperature of 14 degrees. He asked me if it was right and I said it was and that I'd been wearing a dry suit. He repeated again, 'One, four? Fourteen?' as if I must have made a mistake. I assured him it was correct and he said he'd never dived with a dry suit. No surprise really o)
As soon as everyone was ready we were briefed about how the day would run and then in particular about our first dive which was to be about a 10 minute boat ride to North Sulu. We were assigned buddies, mine was Sam, a young lad from Bradford who was
an intern for the diving company. We were shown to our boat and then took the short trip as we kitted up. On the way out to the dive site a different chap came and sat beside me and we had a good chat. He was the owner of the company and said that although he did more managing now he still preferred to be out diving. We chatted about dive sites in the UK and he said he thought the ones up North i.e. St Abbs and the Farnes were the best in the country. I said I'd signed up to dive off the Farnes in September and he said it was the best time to go as the seal pups were just the right age to be inquisitive but big enough for parents not to be too concerned about us being near them. He explained a little about the internship and how it worked and said that they accepted divers with any experience, saying that you could go 'from zero to hero' with his company. Who knows, maybe something to think about for the future!
Once there, due to the nature of the boat we did backwards
entry off the side into the warm water. Once in the water we buddied up and descended down to the reef which was almost at 20m. I'd just bought a new dive computer before coming out so I was relieved that it kicked straight in as I got into the water and started to record the dive. As I did my check to see if I was properly weighted it became apparent that I wasn't and that I was not going to get down, a couple of weights were added to different pockets and eventually I started to descend. It's a pity floating wasn't an Olympic sport - I think I'd be a contender for a gold medal! The visibility was between 10 - 15 m and the water temperature at the bottom was 30 degrees. A far cry from chilly Ellerton! We spotted a large green turtle just sitting on the bottom and some blue spotted ray. There were also a lot of the usual suspects, tangs, parrotfish etc. All too soon we were down to the minimum air and had to return to the surface and back on the boat. The boat took us back to Gaya where we had a SI of about 40 minutes and then headed out again, this time to Extension Reef. This dive was probably the best one of the day, reaching a depth of 19.3m and seeing a large green turtle almost immediately. We hovered close by and watched it as two cleaner wrasse cleaned its shell, as soon as we left it another diving signalled to say that there was another turtle nearby and we all made our way to have a look at this. This one was slightly smaller but again was being cleaned by a couple of wrasse. This time was saw some clams and again all kinds of other species, again all too soon the dive was over and we came back up via a 3 min safety stop and back onto the boat. This time when we got back to Gaya, lunch was waiting for us. It seemed like it was a running joke that every day the same meal of rice, chicken and veg is served. As it was my first time I really enjoyed it. This time our SI was about 1hr 15 and then we headed back onto the boat again to Coral Garden Reef. This dive was much shallower at about 13.6m and consequently the water was a little warmer at 32 degrees. This time we saw stingray and a couple of blue spotted rays but no turtles this time. Because it was a shallower dive we were down for longer - about 45 mins. The last part of the dive was between 5 - 6 metres so we were able to carry on swimming as we did our safety stop.
Once back to Gaya we got changed and then sat down with our buddies to record the dives and get log books signed etc. My computer had logged the dives beautifully and meant that it was a much easier task. We left the island by speedboat at around 3.45 and I was back at the hotel by 4.30, tired out after having such a wonderful day. I'm now really looking forward to diving again next week.
Once showered etc we decided to have a wander into KK to get some tea. Neil hadn't eaten all day so we found a place inside one of the many shopping centres before returning back to the hotel. We were both really tired and were in bed by 10.30!
Thursday 16th August, 2012
This morning we didn't get up until after 8am and went straight down for breakfast. We had decided that we would take a taxi and go to Tanjung Aru Beach - Neil had done some research yesterday and had been told that it was a stretch of about 2 -6 km (depending on who you talk to!) of beautiful beach. We only had to wait a couple of minutes before the taxi arrived and whisked us off on a 10 minute or so journey to the beach. When we got there at about 10am it was absolutely deserted and stayed like that all the time we were there. We walked along for a little while and then set up our pitch and went about listening to music and generally chilling out in the sun. Neil kept going for a wander and I had a walk a little way further along at one point too. After a couple of hours I went into the sea to do some snorkelling but couldn't really see anything as the sea was kicking up some sand. The water was beautifully warm, just being in a tepid bath and the feeling of floating around next to a totally deserted beach was fab. After a while I came back in and spent a little longer in the sun before going back in again for another swim. Just as I was walking back in I spotted and jellyfish and was really pleased that I hadn't bumped into it when I was swimming or worse still stood on it!
By 3pm we had had more than enough sun and caught a taxi back to our hotel via a shop for ice lollies and cooling mango juice and then went to the rooftop swimming pool at our hotel and I swam for about 50 minutes. We met a nice Chinese couple and Neil had a good old chat about China and its good points and bad with the man. Apparently they did have Facebook at first but now it has been banned - although we were assured that proxy sites could be used to access it. A bit like the kids at school really! After our swim we got ourselves showered and ready and went to book some trips for the forthcoming days - talking the lovely man down in price a little of course! Tomorrow we are going to see Mt Kinabalu and visit the Hot Springs, it's another early start at 8am so we'll have to be up by 7ish. Neil has just informed me that he is off to buy 2 pieces of cheesecake from the restaurant so I'd better get my backside into gear and get back up to the room before he devours both pieces!!!