Sipadan

Up early again to get to the dive shop for the Sipadan trip. I thought I’d be diving with John and Mel, but it turned out they were doing Sipadan the next day and were off to Mantabuan instead. Sipidan is strictly regulated when it comes to diver numbers – no more than 120 per day. This is to ensure it’s not spoiled and is a good idea, though it can make diving there a pain if you don’t pre-book well enough in advance. At one time, you could holiday on the island but now the small resort plays host to the soldiers who protect it. Very little of the island can be walked on – one small beach, the jetty and the toilets.

Still, nobody goes to Sipadan to trek in the jungle. The 45-minute boat ride takes you to what is reckoned as being one of the world’s best dive sites. And having done three dives there, I can see why. The sheer volume and variety of creatures there is breathtaking, though be prepared for a few currents. At times it’s fun to just make yourself buoyant, curl up and let the waters push you past the coral. It’s like watching a film float past your eyes.

Barracuda spiral in a tornado. Turtles can be found in almost every rock crevice and eye you wisely before gliding gracefully past. Shark appear as a shadow above or below you – annoyingly very rarely at the same depth as if they just want some privacy. The number of fish species is too numerous to count and they’re all very blase about swimming around you. They see enough divers that you’re not going to upset them.

One word of warning, though – and this holds for every dive site – don’t touch the wildlife. Any of it. Coral, turtles, fish, nudibranches. Unless you’re trained, know what you’re doing and know for certain you won’t harm anything, keep your damn hands off. If I see anyone tugging on a turtle‘s flippers (and I’ve heard of this happening too many times) I’ll happily pull their dive mask off with no warning. Think yourself lucky I don’t rip out a regulator or turn off their air.

I know I’ve not written much about Sipadan, but you really have to go there to experience it. Even with poor visibility on the second dive due partly to rain, it was a hell of an experience.

Back at Semporna, I met up with Michael (my dive buddy from Switzerland) and Jenny (a Swedish student) for dinner while I also said goodbye to Mel and John. I really hope I get a chance to catch up with them again somewhere, though they’re working homeward now.

After walking Jenny back to her place (Semporna gets dark afetr sunset – not too many street lights) I popped into Scuba Junkie for a beer as I’d been told it was rocking on a Friday night. Well, not this Friday as they’d postponed things to the next evening for some reason. I had a couple of bevvies with some people I got talking to then walked back to the Dragon Inn around 11-ish. In truth, I was knackered. A good day and sadly my last here, but diving’s not the cheapest hobby and if I didn’t leave I’d spend far too much money!

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