So we are dry now, finally. After 52 dives by me and 55 dives by Cor over the last few weeks, we needed some serious dry land time to de-prune the fingers and toes and we are currently at her parents' place in Malaysia doing this.
For those not "in the know", we have been spending our time on an island off the coast of Borneo doing some scuba diving. During the three weeks, we completed our Rescue Diver course (apparently adequate care provided is better than perfect care withheld, who knew?) and dived the islands of Sipadan, Mabul, Kapalai, Siamil, Sibuan, Mantabuan, Timba Timba and Mataking, plus did a couple of pretty interesting night dives in the port of Semporna, where you really don't want to know what's in the water, you just look for the crazy little creatures that come out at night.
First the diving. In a nutshell we dived the number one dive site in the world a few times, plus did some brilliant diving at a whole host of other places. The diving was incredibly varied, with Sipadan having stacks of big fish schools, sharks (our friends) and more turtles than you could poke a stick at. Then some of the other islands were havens for small stuff like octopus, cuttlefish, camouflaged frogfish, incredibly cool nudibranches (which you will see from our pictures are an obsession of ours), plus some really weird things we have never seen before like sea moths (essentially a crazy-looking fish). There is no other way to describe it other than brilliant.
We stayed on Mabul with Scuba Junkie and they were great. The instructors, divemasters and staff all made our stay fantastic. The accommodation and food was really good, though we only spent time in the room to get much needed sleep. Scuba Junkie is a rare company that cares about the environment in which it operates, plus the community that it works with, something that pervades the attitudes of everyone there. Highly recommend using these guys if you ever go.
They run a stack of initiatives. Please support the Semporna Shark Sanctuary petition by following the link, signing up and posting it on Facebook. When you see firsthand the devastation caused by shark finning to the populations of these amazing animals, with 10's of millions of sharks being hauled out of the sea every year, having their fins cut off and thrown back to drown, you realise how insane and unsustainable the current appetite for shark fin soup is.
Scuba Junkie also have an innovative scheme relating to turtle nests. In the past when a turtle came ashore to lay its eggs, the locals would either eat the eggs or sell them to others for food. SJ pay the locals 10 ringgit per egg when a nest is found, and then their marine biologists carefully relocate the nest to a controlled location, re-creating the conditions of the nest, such as depth, shape and temperature.
On one of the nights we got back from a day's diving to find that one of the green turtle nests had hatched and we were privileged to hold a few of these amazing little creatures in our hands and help them on their way to the ocean. 111 turtles were released that night, and over 1000 have been released this year. It was AWESOME!
We met some fantastic people out there, and dived with some incredible people. Thanks to Rohan, Carys, Dave, Kev, Khai, Charlotte, Sofia, Ollie, Richbro, Astrid, Shane, Eric, Nas and Corey, plus Ann for those morning yoga sessions when we weren't too tired to get out of bed. And we never even mentioned Aziz and the rest of the band night crew - you guys rocked! Thanks also to those amazing people we met and dived with out there, Joachim and Cinzia, Sara, Luis and Sarah, and everyone else for making it such a special trip.
We were very tempted to stay on and do our divemaster course but we have other plans now that include climbing Mt Kinabalu in a couple of weeks, then a 9-day tour at the start of July from Darwin through Kakadu down to Uluru. The divemaster training might have to wait until the end of the year. We know a number of the DMs and instructors at SJ are keen to put us through our paces!
As usual, some selected pics are here, and the best of our 800 or so via the link on the right!
|Matt and his school of bumphead parrotfish|