It has been a while since I joined a photography tour, so when my friend Ella and Imam asked me to go to Tawau, Eastern part of Malaysia over the long weekend of Good Friday, I agreed and bought my ticket immediately. From Singapore, I had to fly to KL and took an Air Asia flight the following day to Tawau. This time, I didn't have to worry about itinerary as it was all planned and I simply had to follow the group; there were 9 of us. From Jakarta, there is an alternative route to reach Tawau via Tarakan. Once landed, we were picked up at the airport and were taken to Samporna, an hour drive from Tawau, and spent a few hours for lunch there before we were taken by boat to Maiga island.
As we were reaching the island, we could see the turquoise water of the sea turned into crystal clear water where our accommodation awaited. It's a wooden house owned by the locals. The three ladies in the group were assigned to the smaller house nearby where there was no furniture other than a folded mattress for the owner of the house. I was lucky
as my friend, Dini, brought along her air mattress big enough for the three of us. There was no electricity during day time.
We spent our afternoon admiring the beautiful waterscape at our door step, while the kids, in the absence of TV and gadgets, were jumping around from the pier to the sea as part of their afternoon past time. Some were willingly demonstrating their salto capabilities on the beach while we started clicking our cameras. Nearby, we could see a few wooden stilt houses of the Bajo tribes. According to Imam who visited this village a few years back, these houses moved, and its numbers changed too. I can't stop thinking about their life as to how they got their clean water, etc and if their kids go to school at all. In the evening, we got a treat as we were served fresh seafood, consisting of lobsters, prawns and fish, for dinner, all were caught fresh from the sea. Pleased, some of us decided to call a quit for the day, while some went ahead to capture the beautiful sight of the beach in the evening. As we started to doze off, we could hear the
kids were still playing outside till late night.
The next morning after breakfast (and barely shower), we headed towards the Botgaya Island where a lot more Bajo tribes lived. They are also known as sea gypsies as they are nomads, live from one places to another, scattering in the Southern and Central part of Sulawesi and Northern part of Borneo. The main livelihood of the Bajo people are fishing. Some also made a living from collecting seaweed. I could see some boats were filled with household items such as pots and pans, and even stove! As our boat got nearer, a few of them immediately jumped into the sampan (a small wooden boat) paddling towards us, and some with kids either on their arm or behind their back. They were waiting for the allocation of dried tapioca, consumed as a staple food. Some young and old folks covered their face with "Bedak Dingin" or white face powder shielding them from the sun. Interestingly, the Bajo language is quite similar to Tagalog, but in this island some can converse in Malay.
From Botgaya, we headed towards Bohay Dulang where we had to climb a 600 meter above sea level
hill. With the heat and high humidity level, 600 meter climb became unbearable and we had to have a few breaks along the way. Our efforts were worth it as we got a good glimpse of the area which resembled Raja Ampat, with its islands lined by turquoise water.
Our next destination was Mabul Island, a famous scuba diving destination, frequently used as the base to go to Sipadan. We stayed at Arung Hayat Mabul Resort, which is a budget resort primarily for divers. I didn't realise that Mabul was "the gate to Sipadan" until I visited the neighbouring resort, called Sipadan Mabul Resort, a full board diving resort. I was told if we are to stay in this resort for one week, we were given a 'guaranteed' one day dive to Sipadan as the daily number of divers is limited by the government to only 120 divers. Drooling, I decided to keep it as a dream for my future trip.
I didn't realise that it was the same island that got a kidnapping incident a year before, of which victims was only released a month before our visit. Apparently, there had been a few kidnap cases in
the past few years in the area; no wonder I saw armed guards at each resorts (I even saw one going up to the top of Bohay Dulang). Interestingly, I just found out that a year before my friend, Imam, with a group of photographers were in the area but they were not able to climb Bohay Dulang due to the clash between the kidnappers and the locals.
It was such a short trip as we had to head back to Kuala Lumpur the following day and caught another flight in the morning back to Singapore. Would I come back again? you bet, but next time would be for a scuba diving trip to Sipadan, and I'd like to visit other Bajo tribe villages in Sulawesi too! Anyhow, this is one of those trips which made you realised how lucky you are for having a simple thing such as hot shower.
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