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November 23rd 2007
Published: December 8th 2007
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Now the fun begins! I found the Scuba Junkies through my last hostel, and they had the brilliant insight to open a hostel, attached to a bar and restaurant, across the street from their dive shop! I arrived in the Scuba Junkie Triangle at about 6pm, and have to admit, I only left the triangle once in the first 72 hours! So even though the hostel was my cheapest ever - about $4/night - they still made sure I spent every other dime with them as well! I signed up to finish my open water dive course the next day, and my course instructor found me in the bar that night to talk about the skills I would have to complete and go over the rest of the theory. His name is Steve and he's an awesome teacher and a lot of fun! We ended up just finishing the theory and exams that night and then I was totally ready to wrap up certification the next day! I was a little nervous about two skills in particular - the mask removal and no mask swim. I had gotten quite a bit of water up my nose when I tried it in a pool a few weeks earlier, so i had a mental challenge to overcome! (Water up your nose 6m under isn't too convienient....but as Ajey taught me, every problem can be solved underwater!)

We had compass navigation skills in the morning before we headed out (so NOW I can finally use my compass!) and our first dive was a beauty! We headed over to Mabul island and as soon as we got in, I started getting stung by jellyfish! I was on the surface waiting for Darren (my dive buddy) and Steve, and stuck my face in to see the jellyfish and it was about 8in diameter right in front of my face! AAAHHH! Hurry up you guys - I want to descend! 😊 We sat on the awesome sandy beach floor next to an artificial wreck and did our final skills testings - and i passed with no problem! I was so excited about my no mask swim - i nailed it! I also had to remove my scuba gear underwater, which was actually quite fun, and of course prove my underwater compass navigation skills! After we all finished our skills with impressive accuracy, we had some time to check out the fishes - and spotted my new favorite - the juvenile harlequin sweetlips! its this teeny tiny fish that looks like the lionfish (with white stripes and long wavy things waving everywhere) so it looks like its always dancing! Yeah, dance party fish! We did two more fantastic dives that afternoon on the reef and saw tons of turtles, schools of fish, crocodile fish, and what I really really wanted to see - a blue spotted manta ray! Awesome! That night I went to dinner with Tom and Darren - and thus began our scuba junkie bonds - once we found out we all loved electronic, techno, house music , whatever you want to call it - we all love it - it was never the same! That night the dive shop staff had an S(cuba) and J(unkie) party and they were all in costumes of things beginning with S&J! it got crazy, they were playing games, had contests, and all around good times going all night!

The next morning we got up early for our ULTIMATE DIVING EXPERIENCE - to Sipadan....always listed in the Top Ten dive sites of the excited! Sipidan island is a reef with an 800m dropoff on one side and a 2000m dropoff on the opposite side! Tom was planning on leaving that morning, but at breakfast we convinced him to dive ONE MORE TIME with us ! YAY! Except when we got out to sea, the waves were RELENTLESS and the bet I had with Andrew on which side of the boat would get soaked became a moot point after the waves grew to about 4m (taller than the boat on each side!) and most of us were wearing our scuba masks to keep water from getting in our eyes! Darren started puking off the back of the boat - I joined in about an hour later! We even had "how to puke in your regulator" underwater lessons, Just in case! We got to Mabul, and from there it should have been about another 15 minutes to Sipadan....except the waves were soooo crazy it took 90 minutes! And they made us put on our wetsuits and lifejackets - fully expecting someone to go overboard! GREAT!

We finally got there, and of course when we got underwater the visibility was c-r-a-p from all the motion in the ocean, but guess what!?!? WE LOVED IT! The first dive was a drift dive and for the first 10 minutes we were CRUISING along in this current, probably 20mph, and darren and i were doing our preplanned dance party moves and just cracking up at the fun and crazy feeling of being completely weightless and out of control! Andrew was doing flips in front of us and there were turtles and sharks looking at us like we were nuts! 😊 Then we swam out of the current and up over the reef and saw some amazing coral and fishes - but absolutely the highlight was the current ride! AWESOME! We ate lunch, Darren and I still pretty pukey - although I did eat something because I was determined to do the second dive! The second one was again, not much to see, but an experience and a half!!! We went down to 22m right away along the dropoff shelf, and started to swim into a great abyss of NOTHING! you couldn't see up, down, left, right, didn't matter = you were floating, weightless, doing somersaults, just hanging around, in SPACE! it was soooo amazing! we went down to turtle cave and darren and andrew went in with a torch and i hung out outside the cave - i knew i'd freak out if i went in there! the boys said it was scary but cool - i'm OK, thanks! that night was trivia at the bar and me and Scuba Steve and Darren and Tom and Andrew were on a team and came within 2 points of beating the staff team (who win every week!) but they gave us their prize anyways, and we spent the next two hours trying to drink the awful Raffelsia lickquor (that cost about $2, yeah) that we won!

the next day was Thanksgiving, and since Darren and i were flying the next day, Darren, Tom, Andrew and I decided to hang out around Semporna (the town) and be thankful for SCUBA gear! (Two Brits, and Canadian, and me - they really took to the holiday, I must say!) We ended up having an amazing day of lounging around town, being absolutely the loudest people in every establishment, laughing hysterically at EVERYTHING (these boys had some great stories!), and then heading back to the Scuba Junkie triangle for our noodle thanksgiving dinner and to plug in the Ipod to Tom's miniature speaker set and listen to the daft punk live set while playing cards! We set up on the balcony of the hostel and were having a blast playing cards, and of course having dance parties, as well as watching the aaaammmmzzzing lightning storm off in the distance! At about midnight, we ended up being scolded by an old french guy "THIS IS NOT A DISCOTHEQUE!" (Um, yeah, it's a hostel that costs $4/night...what were you expecting?!?!) but the staff was cool and let us move to the bar next door, plug in our ipod there, and continue the fun! (Like that's better? Now I have an ACTUAL stereo system and speakers to listen to all our favorite dirty house music!>!>) All in all, a most fantastic Thanksgiving with a few new friends that I will never forget!

I'm sure you also note the lack of pictures - thus begins my photo protest. I've been spending tons of time underwater lately, and that leads to very few pictures! I've thought about getting an underwater camera housing, but now that I've dived with others with cameras I see how it's a HUGE distraction and you miss so much of the dive experience because you are spending so much time trying to get the perfect picture! Hope you still enjoy seeing shots of me and my new friends!

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