Scuba diving in Sabah

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July 11th 2009
Published: July 17th 2009
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Scuba time Borneo

Goodbye to "Mr Fantastic!"

AJ and I arrived back in KK, and a day later we left each other. His two month sojourn in South East Asia had come to an end and he had to get back to Hanoi to catch his return flight to ye olde Europa. It was the end of something special...a good travel companion, if not maybe my best friend, definitely someone I can trust and rely on. Oh, and laughter, lots of biting acerbic wit and laughter. Ha! "This is fantastic!" As I left the hostel at 5.30 in the morning for my bus to Semporna he even got out of bed (his second fave place) and gave me a farewell hug. It was akin to me putting listening to his pregnant baby - the bloody giant Dutchman.

Bus journey

Puking, that's all I can remember from this journey. Puking, the sound of puking, and whole families puking in unison.

I had decided to go to the world-class scuba diving place on the island of Sipadan, or rather get to the nearest mainland town and sort out a scuba diving trip. However, as had happened in Mount Kilinabaru, there was limited places and a waiting list to actually dive there. What. A. Ball. Ache. I was already ambivalent about doing any more diving, the cost involved (30 GBP) per dive and also, I was weary of doing the same thing just to see some (admittedly cool) underwater marine life. However, Sipadan was meant to be one of the best places in the world to scuba dive. So, what ho!

Thus began the puking. The winding mountain roads had the family next to me, taking turns at puking into little plastic bags, first the little 7 year old and then the head-scarved mother. Then the father took the other child to the seat behind and they then took turns. I was on the ginger so felt fine, but I had to look away because of the smell and the noise, pretty distressing. The air coniditioning was on Arctic mode, so me in my flip-flops and shorts wobbled up to the front of the bus to get them to turn it down.Tthe Malaysian waxed-hair-like-a-c*nt EMO wannabe (My Chemical Romance was blasted out of the bus speakers for everyone to appreciate) and the bus driver said emphatically that nothing could be changed, so off back I went muttering to myself.

The 9 hour bus journey was cold and smelt of vomit and the urine filled toilet at the back. Nice. Semporna was marginally more interesting. I went to a hostel over the bay, but immediately regretted that because if was like a barracks on a pier, huge wooden rooms but 10 minutes of walking to get to your room!

To Sipadan or not to Sipadan?

I went to the main congregation of scuba operators to check out prices and availability. The first day I was happy to do the Mabul Island scuba, everywhere I went was booked up solidly for the (holy reverence please) Sipadan.

I was told there was a place to go to Sipadan in a few days time, but I didn't have that much time, I wanted to go on a river jungle trek at some point. So, I was left pondering what I should do, was it worth waiting for Sipadan or skip it and get some jungle instead? I needed someone who had done Sipadan if it was worth doing or not. Of course who walks in but Karen,the Albertan I had met briefly in KK whilst staying at the Step In Hostel. She had just come back from a trip to Sipadan, but unfortunately had had to cancel her trips that day because of an ear infection she'd developed.

Anyway, as happens with people you connect with, I get the low-down on Sipadan (overrated) and life story (divorced, travelling and America residing) and agree to not stay at the Dragon Inn barracks that night but secretly crash in the dormitory of the scuba operator. One strange thing, though, for whatever reason, she's getting daggers from women in the town, and in particular the cafe we're in. Serious stares from waitresses and appalling service, not sure if it's because she's well endowed in the bosom department or that the waitresses are all women and they look very Proletariat-Dyke-esque. I'm wanting to say something, but put it down to the usual surly Malays I've come across a hell of a lot more in Sabah.

Diving on Mabul

So that's settled it, I'm not dong Sipadan, its a bit overrated and not worthh waiting if I've done some diving at Pahrentians. instead, the next morning I go to Mabul Island for a day's diving. I get on a speed boat with some Froggies and experience one hell of a rough and dangerous trip. The boat is speeding over the water and bumping up and down, as if it's going to flip to one side, in fact, one dodgy wave and we're all flipped. The bumping up and down, are hurting my back and my arse and I'm holding on to dear life and my teeth. When we fianlly arrive at the island, I'm utterly relieved and aghast at how cheap safety is so lax here.

I'm not impressed by the rickety shack-like Billabong dive operator that is on stilts over the water. Grubby, run down and basic. The breakfast is eggs and coffee, but if you're doing some diving for a few days, as Karen was, she got sick of the same thing day-after-day. Oh, and there's nothing to do other than dive, no DVDs, no games, no books, just you and the sea.

I get to with my dives, three for the day, we get on a boat with some others, one annoying scroat from LA, who went to uni in Boulder - clearly a rich kid and I let him know that when I was in Boulder they were called trust-afarians - his face changed a bit at that. One dive instructor is English, the other one is a mixed race (Chinese and white?) and has this posh Lowlands Scots accent, clearly educated in a good school somewhere up that way. The dives are boring if I'm honest, very little coral, some cool fishing boat wrecks but nothing to write home about. I did get to see a massive shawl of fish that surrounded us. Plus, I saw my first sea turtle who swam down to sit in the sandy bottom and looked at us serenely.


In between dives I got talking to a red-bikinied cutie from San Francisco, who I had already heard about. Kazza had told me to look out for an American girl who was hot, but that she had also told her that she was a stripper, but didn’t want anyone to know about it. So, there’s me chatting to away to this lass in a bikini, very easy on the eye and when she says she works in a bar, I suddenly realize that this is her. Anyway, it was fun talking to somebody that nobody knew was a stripper and smiling at my privileged position as she said she worked in a bar.

Back in the life aquatic we were at some coral wall, that wasn’t that impressive and the strong current made it difficult to stay put in one place. Cue, more experienced people and instructors to start bossing me about (even after having done 9 dives) in case I strayed off. I decided this was enough diving for one trip so back on the stilts I cancelled my next days’ diving and asked to go back to Semporna. However, they thought I was staying at their “resort”, I was sorry to disappoint them, but there was no way I was intending to resort to that place. But, the boat had left already and I was stood there whilst people from my dives were talking dives, dives, dives but also must have known that I was wanting to leave. They were just not entertainment enough for me. In these sorts of situations you need a goody wide mouthed Lanchasire lad.

But, the boat had left already and I was stood there whilst people from my dives were talking dives, dives, dives but also must have known that I was wanting to leave. They were just not entertainment enough for me. In these sorts of situations you need a good wide mouthed Lanchasire lad. And I didn’t have one.

Leaving diving paradise

Anyway, a boat was arranged but I would have to pay 150 Ringgit for the pleasure, despite it being their mistake. Anyway, I got on it and thus proceeded the second nightmare boat ride.

It was a thin boat with a motor engine at the back and a man standing on the back. I’m sat on the floor of the boat holding onto the sides as we speed across the ocean. I did not enjoy it, the bumps and “flies” we had when we hit constant waves shuddered my whole spine. I was genuinely frightened that we were going to flip and so I angrily demanded that he slow down. He didn’t want to but only did when he saw me make the sign of the cross and hold on to the side of the boat as hard as I could. What a trip, pretty hairy but he clearly wanted to get to Semporna before darkness, my watch decided to fall apart at the violent shuddering...

Additional photos below
Photos: 10, Displayed: 10


Sunken boat - SempornaSunken boat - Semporna
Sunken boat - Semporna

Metaphor for trip...?

17th July 2009

I guess its better to see pic of stripper than sunken boat.
19th July 2009

sunken boat metaphor for trip. stripper pic would be slightly inappropriate!

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