I got my diver’s certification for two reason. First, I figured it was a good thing to do while in South-East Asia since it opens up many travel opportunities and I was going to be in an area where it’s quite cheap to do it. Second, I was 9 hours by bus from Sipadan, one of the best corals in the world (probably the best for the price I paid).
I’m quite happy I got certified and went diving on the East coast. The way Sipadan works is you stay on an island about 40 minutes from the mainland for the night (Mabul island, home to some great small marine life) and the day you’re boated out to the coral for 3 dives. It’s only about 30 minutes away, so it’s a quick trip. I organized my trip with Billabong Scuba based on a recommendation from a Dutch couple I ment in Kota Kinabalu. I’m happy I did. I stayed on a barebones guest house on stilts on the sea with crystal clear waters. After a day of diving, everyone hung out on the patio facing the sunset eating, drinking and talking. Great relaxed times.
What can I say about Sipadan? Since it was only my 7th to 9th dive, I don’t have much to compare it to, but I’ll say that it was definitely one of my top 10 dives ever. Seeing your dive buddy dwarfed by a coral wall going down 700m (I think that’s how deep it goes) while massive schools of fish swim above you is a magnificent sight. I’ll also admit that swimming next to large turtles and small sharks is pretty cool too.
Even without the diving, going over to Mabul island was great. It was such a relaxing time. Divers tend to make for pretty laid-back people too. A good group to hang out with.
After my second day of diving, (first day was around Mabul island, second was Sipadan) I went back to the mainland with a fellow diver to catch an overnight bus to Kota Kinabalu so I could catch my flight to Bangkok in the morning. I didn’t sleep to well, but that was to be expected. I’m not very “compact”. But bad night’s sleep was the least of my worries. As we got off the bus, I discovered that my bag was wet. Wet with what you ask? If I had to guess, I’d say the person with the boxes next to my bag was transporting som fish and they didn’t quite seal the box as well as they should have. So here I am. 4am, tired, sore and stuck with a 15kg bag that reeks of fish.