Published: August 15th 2011August 6th 2011
I first heard about the islands of the Celebes Sea from a scuba instructor at Eco Dive Center a few months ago. He told me it was the best diving in the world. Sipidan and Mabul are the kind of places that are really hard to find on the map, which is exactly why I wanted to go. It is the most remote place I’ve ever been. We flew into Tawau Malaysia Sabah Borneo. Which has one run way upon which the plane makes a U-turn to get back to the single gate airport. Then a Scuba Junkies driver took us to the dive shop in Semporna. Then we had to wait for a boat that could take us out to Mabul which is normally a 45 minute ride but there was a storm and the waves were big so it took a little longer.
Even though it was cloudy and raining, it was obvious we had found paradise. Mabul is where all the resorts on Sipidan relocated after it was declared a national park. Most of the travelers who venture this far out into the blue are divers, my people. The Scuba Junkies Mabul Beach Resort functioned more like a
summer camp than a resort. The dining hall fed us at certain hours buffet style on long wooden benches. It was easy to make new friends. There was a white board on the wall that listed the names of divers going to each nearby island the following day. I made friends with a couple from Ireland. The guy asked me why Americans don't travel. It's a strange thing to have to speak for an entire country but it happens all the time in places like Mabul. I didn't have an answer for him but I made a mental note to form my own questions about people's countries as a request for an opinion. It is an interesting question but clearly I'm not the one to ask.
We spent one day (3 dives) diving Kapalai and Mabul, which were bursting with sea life much of which I had never seen. Nudi branches, peacock mantis shrimp, branded sea snakes, stonefish, leaf scorpion fish, cuttlefish, ghost pipefish and many more. We saw a grandma sea turtle that had to be at least 6 feet long. Each table in the dining hall is equipped with a much needed four page laminated fish id book
to aid in diver dinner conversation. At lunch on our first day of diving we were informed that two permits had opened up for Sipidan for the following day. Typically you need to get a permit to dive Sipidan months in advance which I had done but then had to change the days of my trip, therein losing the permit. Having accepted this and moved on, I was ecstatic that I was going to get to dive Sipidan anyway. Thank you universe!
There are more photos below