Published: August 6th 2007April 9th 2007
We arrived in Semporna on Friday afternoon and had to go to the dive shop to get our kit ready for the next day. On our return to the hotel we discovered we had a new room mate, a rat that was busy crawling in and out of one of the other girl’s bag, nice.
In the morning she and her friend checked out after it had apparently crawled on her or touched her during the night. We however had paid for 4 nights upfront and were told at check in that there was a no refund policy if we decided to leave. Whilst it wasn't coming near either of us both Erica and I were happy to stay there.
We arrived at the dive shop nice and early and headed to Sipadan Island to do three dives. The island is famous for being one of the worlds best dive spots and it did not disappoint, it was amazing.
Our first dive was at a site called Coral Gardens, where we went to 21 meters. The minute I descended I saw a white tip reef shark, so I clutched my camera knowing it would be in
use today. there were plenty of grey reef sharks and white tips swimming about, not to mention about fifteen turtles just sat around chilling or swimming past you. There were the usual suspects including anemone fish, long tail banner fish, grouper and stone fish.
Our second dive was at Barracuda Point where we went to 20 meters, as you probably guessed we got to see plenty of the fish it is named after, in fact we saw a tornado of them, and it was amazing. As there was quite a current I held onto a rock whilst I watched them, my leg dropped for just a split second and I felt a terrible pain shoot through my left leg. I had touched some fire coral which I was constantly reminded of through out the dive by the consistent throbbing. We got to see plenty more turtles and reef sharks, as well as elegant fire fish, titan trigger fish, teira batfish and blue spotted sting rays.
Our third dive which was quite easily my favorite was a shore dive at a site called the Drop Off, where the water suddenly goes from 3 meters to about 25 meters. We
however stayed at around 18 meters. I enjoyed this dive so much as I got to get up close and personal with the marine life. I was about 3 meters away from a large white tip reef shark and touching distance away from several turtles, who don't seem bothered by your presence at all. In fact I think they enjoy the company, it was a truly amazing day, I don't think I will ever dive anywhere as great as this. It is an exceptional dive site, the coral is beautiful and full of marine life, just like being in fish soup. It will be extremely hard to beat this place.
In the evening we went to a BBQ before retiring to bed as we were up early the next morning diving again.
On Sunday we were due to dive in Mabul, which is known for its macro life. Unfortunately the two people who were supposed to be joining us got on the wrong boat which was heading in the opposite direction, so there was a change of plan.
Our first dive was a sore dive at Sibuan island, where we went to a maximum of 18
He was after everyones lunch!
meters. Unfortunately most of the coral was dead here but it was a good spot to see frog fish and nudibranches (look at the photos). We did also manage to see a hawksbill turtle, a green turtle, lion fish, bat fish, Christmas tree coral, mimic fish and many spotted sweet lips (not that many of you will know what I am talking about).
On our second dive we headed to Mantabuan Island, where unfortunately we did not et to see any mantas, boo! This was our deepest dive and we went to a depth of 31 meters where we got to see some wonderful black coral, which actually isn't black at all, most of it was white and some green. The look just like trees and it was quite eerie down there, the current was great on the way back, breathing in to avoid hitting coral as I was swept along, fantastic! We got to see trumpet fish, puffers, lots of different sea stars, and razor fish. Erica and I even got good at spotting nudibranches.
So our third and final dive was at Kumai reef where we went to a depth of 21 meters, the reef here
was on a slope and there was lots of coral that I could only describe as being like steps or even like stone flowers. There were plenty of blue spotted stingrays hiding under the coral, we saw a school of stripped cat fish, humphead bannner fish, jellyfish, more sea stars, turtles, puffer fish, and more nudibranches, I am beginning to love these little slug like creatures, Lee Woodcock, you'll be proud.
We were then heading into shallower water to finish our dive when in the distance we saw a dolphin, but it wasn't moving and was sat vertical in the water, which was quite disturbing. We approached it only to discover that the reason it was upright was because someone had tied a weight to its tail. Our dive leader quickly untied the rope in case it was unconscious and lifted it to the surface but we then discovered that it was dead, it had been stabbed, its mouth slashed and it also appeared to have been shot. I took some pictures as we needed evidence when we reported the incident to the marine police. Luckily we hadn't left the scene when we saw them in the distance and
we handed the dolphin over to them. Dolphin killing is taken extremely seriously in Malaysia, people are known to eat them and it was thought that the dolphin was weighted down in shallow water where it would be easy to find. They would probably have planned to return for it after dark when there was less chance of getting caught.
Nearby was a fishing boat which the police questioned as it was apparent to them that the dolphin hadn't been dead that long when we found it. they also questioned another on the way back. It was an awful way to finish two brilliant days.
Back at the dive shop we were asked to keep the identification of the shop anonymous in fear of repercussions but also if we would identify this problem to Sabah Tourism and the local paper. I also decided to contact any other societies which help protect these beautiful creatures.
On Monday we did very little, as we had been diving we had to leave it 24 hours before we could fly. There wasn't much to do and if it wasn't for the diving we definitely wouldn't have visited Semporna at all.
me and a turtle
The men here are the worst we have ever come across for staring and being sleazy. Erica used the phone one evening so I sat on a step nearby, to look out for her but also give here enough privacy. Every car that drove past slowed down to stare and comments were made, one jeep with men in the back even drove past me twice, the second time I wasn't so polite and told them to get a life (or words to that effect!). But what made Erica terminate the phone call prematurely was when one of the two boys who were hanging around the phone box exposed himself to her.
Tuesday morning couldn't come fast enough and we caught the first bus to Sandakan where we flew to Kota Kinabalu in the evening. The following morning we flew Kuching, in Sarawak.
There are more photos below