So I took a week off...to go diving somewhere else. Well there are still a millions places I want to dive really, so it makes sense to do so on holidays. It is a bit weird to pay for diving now, but hey, it was worth it. So I went to visit a friend who works in Malaysia, north Borneo. Home to the world famous island of Sipadan and a bunch of other islands around. I was promised good diving. Overall, that's what I got.
This is for my Mom, red circle up on the right that is where it was!
I got to dive around the island of Mabul and a few other islands. It turns out to be a paradise for small stuff and muck diving. (A short explanation for the non divers is required I suppose. Muck diving gets its name mainly from the sediment that makes it mucky, amongst other crap lying at the bottom. Bottom consists mainly of sand/sediment, a bit of dead coral, sometime a bit of live coral, and random shit that mankind threw in the water. You might remember that my dive trip in Lembeh last year. It's when I really fell in love with small stuff).
After a boat and a couple of planes I am in Malaysia for the first time in about 10 years. Let's go back here a little bit: Malaysia, and more precisely the Perhentian islands, is where the dive bug really got me in 2004. Before that, I had done my first dive certification in France aged about 15, then a couple of random dives here and there over a decade, and that was it. Until I met tropical water and amazing underwater life. In 2004, I am visiting Thailand and Malaysia in one trip, meeting up with my friend Agnes who lived in KL at the time. We went to the Perhentian islands for the weekend, I got my face in the water and saw my first shark (also mentioned here for those of you who haven't read this) and a bunch of awesome cool stuff, the dive instructor who did my advance course was amazing underwater, and suddenly all I wanted was to dive more and to be as good as this guy and to stay underwater forever. Since then, it's been a growing addiction, until I finally decided last year that this is what I wanted to do everyday. In a way, my first trip to Malaysia 10 years ago ended up changing my life for good almost a decade later.
Anyway, back to my story!! So after getting all settled in Semporna (the noisiest and smelliest place I have seen in a long time, I was not too impressed with it honestly), I am off to the first day of diving three dives a day for a week. We get in the water and for the first five minutes I'm like "where is the good vis, where are the colours, where are the schools of fish?" (I am so spoilt with that on Lembongan). That is until we find a bunch of cool stuff like scorpionfish, stonefish, octopus and a lot of cool nudibranchs. So after that first dive when Jason asks "so, how's that?" I answer that it's pretty good. And then we do dive two and three and he finds me more nudibranchs, a robust ghost pipefish, a leaf scorpionfish, an ornate ghost pipefish, more pipefish, more octopus and shrimps and crabs. At the end of that first day, I am sold to diving in Mabul. And I am not even mentioning the usual cool fish: eels, a lot of batfish, massive groupers, etc.
The first few days will be just like this and only getting better. I see the first hairy squat lobster of my life, which is really nice. I see some orang-outan crabs which I love, I see a lot of BIG frogfish which are really cool, more pipefish, lots of shrimps and other little stuff. I spot a lot of stuff as well which always makes me happy because It makes me go "yay I spotted something cool". I got really excited about finding a ringed pipefish but Jase didnt seem to think it was that cool, he might be spoilt with pipefish. Also for the first time in a while I have time to use my camera a lot and after a few useful tips I feel like the pictures are getting a bit better, which is nice. (Yeah I know they still don't look that amazing, but I'm trying!)
And then, on that same dive, on day 3, I fell in love with the flamboyant cuttlefish. This is one of the most beautiful things ever. For those of you who knows what a cuttlefish is like when it swims, it is so cool already. Now imagine that so much smaller, and going from black to white with purple, yellow and an infinity of variations of those. Amazing. I got to see them twice during the week: after the first sighting I just wanted to go back to that same dive site and find them, so we did and my guide nicely let me just float there for 10 minutes watching that cuttlefish doing its thing. Just mind-blowing.
Finally, I got to dive Sipadan, which in everyone's idea seems to be the highlight of the area. Well, it was good, but it wasn't amazing. I think the poor visibility was the main reason for it. You get to do wall dives all day, you know it's dropping down to a few hundred meters below your fins...and you can see only about 10 to 12 meters away. So frustrating. When you KNOW there are big stuff below and you can't see a thing, even swimming out in the blue away from the reef. As everyone told me to do, I was also expecting a LOT of fish. Lots of sharks, lots of schools of stuff, etc. I got sharks, which is ALWAYS super cool but I didnt get plenty of them. All whitetips, no grey reef sharks as expected. Lots of turtles that I got, some of them really big so that was nice. it seems they dont get fished that much around there because I saw a LOT. Schools of fish....well I didnt see the hundred of jacks, I did see a big school of barracudas...snorkeling after the dive because the vis was so poor we didnt find them diving. The shallow parts of the reef all around the island was beautiful however. So well, all in all, Sipadan didnt blow my mind as I was told it would. I can see how it can be amazing on a day of good conditions though, and maybe a bit more luck.
On the last day I got to dive again a little wreck that I did earlier in the week, which is cool because wrecks are cool and I dont get them at home. And I also found a little bright yellow shrimp in a bright yellow feather star which was really hard to spot and learnt it's called a crinoid partner shrimp and they are probably in every feather star. Doh. I think you always learn stuff about fish, in the end, unless you are some kind of super brain that can retain all that information about the billions species there are in the ocean. (You know, the oceans, the most diversified area of the planet in terms of wildlife, until we will kill it all). All in all, a very good week, which was also filled with very nice food, I had the best bloody steak (as in the steak was bloody, not a figure of speech here) I had in a long time. I miss steak. Now back to work on my little lovely island, until a couple of days before Christmas when I take off to Australia for a few days. Not working a lot in December, me. Oh well, I will work more next month I suppose!