For the second stage of my tour I was taken down to Mabul Island which is located off the eastern coast of Sabah, around 45 minutes boat ride from the town of Semporna. The continental plate that forms the base of many west Asia countries like Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore drops away somewhere in between the journey, much of the reason why deep waters are found around the island of Sipadan. As I arrived the afternoon sun was already beating down on the powder white sand beaches of the island, despite the obvious topside beauty I was keen to get in the water as quickly as possible. We started with a dive on the house reef of Borneo Divers, our guide swiftly found a black warty frogfish and an abundance of other oddly shaped and brightly coloured critters which seem to like the metal structures set by the local dive teams to act as an artificial reef. The reefs themselves were pretty good but I get the sense that diving around Mabul and neighboring Kapalai is about the small stuff and there is plenty of it – it all works pretty well considering the abundance of pelagics and larger life that you can find at Sipadan. And so early next morning we were given the green light to dive Sipadan (wisely so the government have restricted numbers to maximum 120 people per day), it’s a quick 30 minute boat ride to the island, then sign in and you are pretty much good to go.
Our first dive was at South Point, a wall/sloping fringe reef dive which steps down more gradually than other areas around the island. The reef was colourful and in pretty good condition, with little current I get the sense that the dive was a little more quiet than usual but we had plenty of turtle sightings, the odd cruising white tip shark and a curious but slightly shy Napoleon Wrasse. Our 2nd dive was far more eventful and surely met my expectations for diving Sipadan, Turtle Cavern is located in the northern bay and you guessed it has a large entrance to a winding cave which has claimed many lives of turtles who become disorientated and run out of air, not to mention the odd diver. Today wasn’t a day for entering but we did have a good look around and spent time with a large school of circling jacks mixed in with white tip sharks and surgeon fish, further up the island the wall drops away dramatically and the topography became quite spectacular with platforms at around 80 meters and further plunging wall sections – a thoroughly enjoyable dive.
Barracuda Point has earned it’s right as one of Asia’s premier dive sites, after a surface interval on the island and a quick snorkel with a bunch of boisterous Bumphead Parrot fish we dropped in and were met with a huge school of jacks which were balling together at around 10meters, this is probably the largest school I’ve seen and I’d have happily spent the entire dive with them. The reefs were also spectacular here with ridges and plateaus blanketed in hard and soft corals, throughout the dive we saw more turtles and white tip sharks than I’d care to count finishing the end of a spectacular days of diving.
Below is a video I took of the schooling sharks, jacks and trevally. In my next blog post I’ll be traveling to Kota Kinabalu and exploring the highlands and rainforest of northern Sabah and Brunei