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Published: August 5th 2018
PORTRAIT OF A BUMPHEAD PARROT FISH
Wicked teeth, used for chewing sand and coral. These big guys, four feet long and two feet high are not bothered by all the divers.
SEMPORNA - IT FEELS LIKE HOME
When I got to Semporna I checked in with Scuba Junkies. I dived with them before, on both trips. They were full up, no space on the boat and no Sipadan ticket, but Dave did allow me to leave my luggage in the extra room till I found a hotel and a dive store with space for me. The problem was this was really “High Season.” Everyone was full up. For a minute it looked like I might get a space with Seaventures…the Dive Rig located in the middle of the sea off Mabul Island. Wow! That would have been awesome. But they also were completely booked.
I checked with at least five dive operations with no success. Finally I decided to cross the bridge to the other side of the bay. The first dive store, Sea Sports and Tours, said yes. They had tickets to dive Sipadan! I couldn’t believe it. It would be a thousand dollars for three days, three tanks a day. I was confused, but I jumped at the chance for a day in Sipadan (usually you get one day for Sipadan, and two days for the other islands,
THIS IS DIVING?
Oka, she had the sexiest dive suit I have ever seen. Her boyfriend/husband? was a free diver in camo and three foot fins and a camera with a huge wide angle lens...he only took photos of her. Cute, and classy hand positions.
Mabul, Kapali, and Mataking.) I still had two days of medication to go and I wasn’t feeling too strong. Hasnah, who worked the desk, wanted the money immediately to confirm my reservation. She found me a driver, and I went off to My Bank to get some cash. I waited inside the bank and when it was my turn, the banker said, just step to the side and use the ATM? Really? And it worked. It was a lot of money to carry around. I was glad I had a driver.
When I got back to the dive store and paid my bill, Hasnah asked me if I had a hotel. I said no. She called around…this was really High Season, and she found me lodging. The driver took me back to pick up my luggage and deposited me at the Cube Station Hotel…one of those packing cases hotels. I love them. The two young men at the desk gave me two big lockers because I had so much luggage, and they carried my big, heavy bag upstairs for me. I was still struggling with low energy. Unfortunately I had to move to another hotel after two days because
Lots of divers and lots of turtles.
there were no vacancies in the women’s dorm for a few days. After the two days I could return. These two days coincided with my first two dive days. There were also problems here…dive July 29th
…then take a day off, which was good for me of little energy. And dive again on August 1st
. I was still puny, with a sick stomach and the hundred day cough so I was having trouble getting the schedule straight, but in the end I figured it out. I had two relaxing days just visiting with other tourists and watching the world go by. Then I had to change hotels. It wasn't easy.
In the lobby of the new hotel, the only place with wi fi, a Chinese family with three young daughters wanted to take my picture. I agreed. Then I ran up the stairs to my room and got my phone only to learn it had no charge. The older girl also had a blank battery. I rued the problem and the mom asked if I couldn’t take a photo with my computer. I said I didn’t know how. A Chinese gentleman came over and showed me how to
AMAZING SCHOOL OF BUMPHEAD PARROT FISH
They defecate all the time, but it is only sand...it can really cloud up a photo, though.
do it. It was wonderful. He was amazed I didn’t know this simple procedure. After all I was from Seattle, home of Google, Amazon and Microsoft. Afterward we were talking and I coughed. He said the other name for the cough was the chicken cough and I shouldn’t eat chicken or eggs and I should drink hot lemon tea with honey and refrain from iced drinks because the hot weather and cold drinks on throat tissue was harsh. This makes a lot of sense, but this was the tough part because the restaurants in Semporna all make great smoothies. And he said I should get some Benedryl and spray my throat every three hours, and drink plenty of water. I was grateful for his suggestions and followed them to the letter. It really nipped the cough and gave my throat some relief. And I had no phlegm while diving.
You would think going to the hotel would be a bit of a luxury, after the limited space in the cube hotel. This was not the case. I had stayed at this hotel, The Holiday Dive Inn, on a previous visit and thought it was OK so I paid for
Only, these sharks are pussy cats...they just lie on the bottom, I wonder if there is a warm current here, or cold...I didn't see any cleaner fish.
two days, sight unseen. My room this time was grungy, and had a strong floral smell. After trying to rest there for half an hour I realized it just wouldn’t work. I went to the front desk and asked for another room. It was slightly better. I used the toilet and it didn’t flush. At home I would fix it, but I wasn’t going to put my hands in this toilet tank. So they gave me a key to another room that had electrical problems and they told me not to touch the light switches but the toilet worked. So how bad is it to walk down the corridor to the other end of the hall to go to the bathroom? Not much of a problem, except there were no lights in the hall. Maintenance was waiting for batteries. Luckily I carry a headlamp so I was able to not fall down in the hall.
I charged all my camera batteries, and slept poorly, worrying about missing my driver in the morning. I woke early and went looking for breakfast. My go to restaurant was closed. I found a Cantonese restaurant that was open and the owner persuaded me
SIPADAN IS A CLEANING STATION
...but this turtle is just getting a good scratching.
to try their spring rolls. I like spring rolls. I watched the young woman spread batter on a baking sheet, then sprinkle it with a few green onion bits, and insert it into an oven. She gave it a few minutes, then scraped the wrap up into a glutinous wad and put it in a basket with a tablespoon of soy sauce. It was gross. I tried but I could not eat it. On the other hand the hot lemon tea was very good. So I caught my taxi and went to the dive store without any food.
It is an hour and a half rough, bone jarring, boat ride to Sipadan. I was going to get to dive Sipadan! I was so excited. I was grinning most of the way. There were two other divers, both less experienced, but good divers, nonetheless; Larry from China, and Audrey, from Germany. She was traveling by herself for a year and was very enthusiastic. Our first dive was on a deep wall. The dive master, Ralph, told us to stick together due to possible down-wellings, strong currents that pull you down toward the bottom, and the dives would be 45 min.
Of course I need a photo of the school of barricuda.
long. I was a bit disappointed, at a hundred dollars a tank. I always came up with a third of a tank of air left. But I was still a bit sick and I thought perhaps it was better to be a little more conservative.
The second and third dives were at Barricuda Point. Nothing really prepares you for this dive site. Thousands of trevalli, jacks, sharks, turtles, and bump head parrot fish. Big fish. In the trevalli there was a grouper at least six feet long. And there were huge schools of barricuda. Most of the photo opportunities were wide angle and this is not my forte, but I had fun changing f-stops and ISO’s. My new magnifying lens for the viewport was a huge help. I loved inching up to the resting sharks and getting close-ups. Then I realized I should be taking some video also but all my videos on this day were less than a minute. One of the problems was there were just too many divers, even though there are only one hundred twenty tickets dispensed for the whole island each day, most of the divers were on Barricuda Point.
We had a
JOLIN AT SIPADAN
I helped her climb down off the pier and get in the water. Ten years old and four days of dive training. She was tired.
really good lunch between dive two and three. Unfortunately it was chicken, chicken and rice and egg. But the vegetables were delicious and enough to stave off hunger. And there were small bananas. We had a nice rest and I had time to change my battery, just in case. I hate the miserable message, that flashes on the screen when you least want to see it,”charge battery.”
Audrey and I had a moment…never talk politics, religion, or fish conservationism/shark finning. I agreed to disagree. Purists! And I managed to survive the bone crunching ride back to Semporna. I barely made it up the stairs to my room, where I collapsed on my bed. I awoke late and played "charge the batteries" most of the night.
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