Sipadan with Scuba Junkies

Trip Start Jun 05, 2007
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Trip End Jan 06, 2009


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Flag of Malaysia  ,
Monday, May 19, 2008

Arrived in Semporna on the 19th.  Our drive passed by one massive palm plantations but even with the little scenery we had an eventful mini bus ride.  We were jam packed and moving fast when 15 minutes from town we came to a screeching halt on the side of the road.  Our little weighted transport had a flat.  The entire load had to maneuver themselves out and onto the road.  We sat around waiting as the driver worked away.  Everyone was patient and more than willing to return to the cramped seats for the remainder of the drive.  They were even nice enough to drop us off right in front of our dive operator.
Due to limited room, we had to take a VIP room.  Air con, en suite and a TV controlled by the front desk.  All in all pretty nice but while you are in the middle of a movie, you never know if someone is getting bored out in the lobby, if your unlucky the channel switches to a screaming Malay announcer on some incomprehensible game show just before the climax. 
After dropping our bags we met up with our buddy Tero who would be diving with us on Sipadan the following day.  We had heard that the town of Semporna was not all that interesting and were on the verge of settling at the bar when something in our travel guide perked my interest.  Semporna had an extensive floating village that continues to grow, it includes a mosque and is connected by boardwalks. 
We followed a stream of locals out of the small center of town without any real idea of where we were headed.  Everyone was smiling and saying hello.  We were offered some fried bananas and continued.  Just as it seemed we may not find what we were searching for, I saw the top of a blue mosque.  We walked towards it and found a small boardwalk going out to sea.  There were many houses on stilts, all different shapes and sizes.  Everyone came out to say hello and we were invited to continue with smiles and children following us.   We got to the end and saw that the island across the way had more floating villages and there were even houses way out in the middle of the water. It was quite impressive and seemed like a great way to go, with the cool breeze and the gentle lapping ocean.  There were a lot of fisherman out on the water speeding by, the sun was beginning to go down, kids were playing soccer and volleyball, women were cooking dinner, I cant say I found Semporna lifeless at all. We walked back into town, had our dinner, a few drinks and retired.  There had been rain all day but tomorrow the sun would shine for our trip to the island of Sipadan.
The morning boat ride took us past the floating villages and some green islands.  We continued out into the middle of the ocean.  Sipadan is an island with coral shelves that descend into the deep blue.  It goes from 20 meters to 600 or more almost instantly.  The island looks like it is floating in dark blue.  The small ring of bright aqua and strip of sand is a great contrast. Once a big time resort, the thatched wooden buildings on the island are now home to the Malaysian Navy.   They are stationed out there to keep the pirates away and make sure this jewel doesn't find its way into the hands of the Philippians or Indonesians.  Since the island's fame for world class diving there has been a lot of arguing as to which nation owns it.  Malaysia keeps a good grip on it.
Our dives were fantastic.  There were turtles and sharks swimming everywhere around us.  Huge schools of every type of fish filtered past us, not to mention the wall of every type of coral imaginable.  There was so much to see it was hard to focus on one thing.  We also dove into the deep blue, which gave you the feeling of floating in space, unable to see a bottom or a top.   The sun kept us company all day and my only regret was we had to go back to shore.  I wish we could have spent a few more days exploring,  it was definitely the best diving  I have ever done.
Tom and I agreed that it would be great to stay and maybe find a space in one of the stilted houses, start working on our Malay and dive master.  But for now we were continuing our journey.
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