After the 6 dives at Mabul, Kapalai, and Sipadan islands, we decided to take day 4 easy and not go for any extra diving sessions.
We checked rather early at 8am, had some breakfast and went for a short snorkeling trip instead.
Uncle Chang’s Sipadan Mabul dive lodge
At Uncle Chang’s, a 3-dive package is priced at RM 560 for Sipadan and RM 260 for Mabul/Kapalai. Extra dive at Mabul is priced at RM 150, and snorkeling at Mabul is free of charge if you’re staying there.
Rental per day for snorkel and mask is at RM 15, and there’s another RM 15 for fins too. It is important to have both items for snorkeling, as Gun found out the hard way by over estimating his ability to swim without fins. We had to cut short our expedition due to tiredness as the dude did not wear a life jacket either.
giant blue clams, star fish, and lotsa neon colored fish, Jen & Lynn
After diving, snorkeling can be a bit disappointing. While it is still beautiful, the variety of fish at shallow depth tend to be a lot lesser, and we are limited to one breath per short dive to the bottom to get a closer look.
around Mabul island, a beautiful mess
After coming back to Uncle Chang’s, we still had 3-4 hours to kill before the boat ride out of Mabul. Irene, Lynn, and I decided to walk over to the other side of the island to get some souvenirs.
On the island, you really do see the way hardcore poor of Borneo lives. Kids below schooling age normally doesn’t even wear anything, and they seem quite content to be running around naked and be peeing whenever they feel like, even in front of you. Houses here often consist of only one room, with a window that can’t really be shut and a frame that doesn’t’ really have a proper door.
Oh, they do have electricity, but only at night.
Nemo Island Shell Fish Shop
To support local economy, we went to Nemo Island Shell Fish Shop to get some souvenirs. As the name suggests, they sell mainly seashells here, anything from RM 5 for a big one to RM 20-30 for those that are more intricate. The lady gave us discounts without us asking first, probably cos we look like really nice people.
There were a couple low quality t-shirts for sale too, with one printed “KLCC”.. heh.
Mabul island to Uncle Chang’s dive lodge
After we went back to Uncle Chang’s with our purchase, Lynn and I went on the island one more time to kill another hour or so, this time soaking our legs on another private resort’s swimming pool. No one came to disturb us, I guess we really did look like nice people.
I took a video on the way from Mabul to Uncle Chang’s, the few jokers: Lynn, Irene, Jen, Gun, and Chan appeared in this short video. I wanna go back there, now!
I didn’t know I was going on my 3rd diving trip this 2-6 February until about a month ago.
It was Irene who mentioned that she’s going to Mabul/Sipadan with her sisters and 2 other guys, since she sounds like a crazy person who is fun to hang out with, I decided to tag along despite not having met anyone face to face prior to this trip, Irene including.
rather refreshing to be flying a non-budget airline for once
So I logged into both AirAsia and MAS for flights to Tawau and decided to take the non-budget route since the price difference was not more than 10% in this case.
RM 434 paid for the return fare, including 20kg luggage allowance, pretty delicious meal (the nasi lemak is just as good as those served on Air Asia, and comes with Ferrero Roche too).
Tawau to Semporna, at Dragon Inn
When I reached Tawau at 11+ in the morning, Irene, Lynn, Jen, Chan, and Gun had already been waiting there for some three hours after flying from KK. We chartered a van (RM 250 both ways) to our destination for the day – Semporna.
The 90+ km journey from Tawau (nearest airport) to Semporna took just over an hour. Instead of lush pristine Borneo jungle that I had envisioned, it we were greeted with rows upon rows of palm trees with the occasional village houses instead. Not a whole lot of visual treatment going on.
Semporna, at the lion’s lower jaw
Semporna is often the stopover town for divers and travelers alike heading to Mabul/Sipadan islands. Located at the southeastern corner of Sabah (the lion’s lower jaw), Semporna has a population just over 100k, with a rather tiny town center that isn’t even as big as SS2 in PJ. You could walk the whole downtown area in 15 minutes or so.
the view from Dragon Inn Floating Resort
We checked into Dragon Inn Floating Resort to spend the night. Since there were 6 of us, we chose the dormitory style accommodation for the night to give everyone a chance to chill together. At RM 20 per person per night it was really cheap, but unfortunately the lack of air conditioning proved to be a major problem not for being too warm, but for having too many mosquitos making a feast of us.
Speaking of mosquitos, here’s quiz from Lynn (answer at the bottom of the page): What’s the difference between a mosquito and a fly?
Umai – a traditional Sarawakian delight
Irene brought a packet of Umai all the way from Kuching for me (thank you very much!).
Umai is a traditional Sawarakian food that is best described as a sort of raw fish salad. A packet of raw fish (white fish) that is pre-marinated with lime juice and onion that is served by mixing with red chili, fresh lime juice, and probably some salt and pepper.
Give it a few tosses ala yee sang style and you’re ready to roll. It was actually quite refreshing, kinda like the cross of Japanese salad and Chinese yee sang but with a heavy lime juice taste and a hint of spiciness. I liked it and would try a fresh version when I find myself at Sarawak next time.
dinner at the restaurant by the bridge
For dinner, we took a short walk from the resort and settled upon the little restaurant by the bridge that connects town center and the resort. The vegetable was okay, spicy squid rather tasty, and the venison somewhat tough and forgettable.
We sat under the sky with a gentle breeze brushing our hair, waiting for the next day’s diving excursion at Mabul and couldn’t care less if dinner wasn’t exactly impressive. It was less than RM10 per pax anyway.
Next up – Mabul island.
Answer to Lynn’s quiz: A mosquito can fly but a fly cannot mosquito!
Since my very short business tripto Kota Kinabalu would not allow me to visit anywhere, I thought it’d be a good time to sneak in a session of photo taking instead. I reached this East Malaysian city at around 5 something in the evening, and went straight to the Philippine’s market after checking into the hotel just directly opposite it.
As I were taking pictures with the somewhat big camera, quite a few people were pretty intrigued by the activity and actually posed for the camera. This particular kid by the harbor was a little shy and would not stare straight to the camera.
This trader was a little intrigued by me snapping a picture of him. This image is quite a contrast to the busy pace of the market.
puffer fish on the block
I had never seen puffer fish being sold in wet markets at Peninsular Malaysia. The box shaped fish looks almost unreal if not for the fish monger in the background.
sunset by the harbor
As Kota Kinabalu faces west with nothing but the vast span of South China Sea and a few small islands, the sunset can be quite a sight.