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Sipadan Island, Sabah, Borneo

Written on: Monday April 16th, 2007

A journal entry from: Southeast Asia

Semporna Islands National Park, in the southeast corner of Sabah, is classed among the top l0 dive sites in the world.  And there we were, the splashing snorkelers among the serious divers, equally awed by the abundance of stunning marine life.

Our "dive resort" (1 star...maybe) was on Mabul Island, 36 kilometers off the coast. Built on stilts over the water, it was part of a village of Bajaus who traditionally lived their lives on their boats, only coming to land to sell their fish. Many now reside in stilted villages built along the shores of the islands.  We spent our days snorkeling various sites around Mabul and one day on the dive boat at Sipadan Island, famous for its clear water, coral shelf and near vertical wall.  The island is now off-limits for resorts and the number of visitors per day is strictly regulated. It's a bit of paradise, a limestone pinnacle which rises 600 meters from the seabed. A coral reef surrounds the island which suddenly plunges into dark depths below. As you snorkel "the edge" you can touch more giant green sea turtles than is possible to count, see lurking white-tipped sharks and hunting barracudas, swim in the centre of schools of circling jack fish, and view an amazing variety of tropical fish of varying sizes, shapes, colours and behaviours. The many types of sea coral, sponges, and anenomes with their differing colours and textures are hidden spaces for all kinds of lurking creatures - all within a few meters below us.  It will be difficult finding a place to snorkel that will surpass this experience. Perhaps learning to dive is the next challenge...