November 14th, 2009 – by: kskillen
I could relive the past seven days over and over and over and overâ€¦.What an incredible experience its been to be in Semporna and diving. I am almost speechless for all that has happened here and yet I know I have to write about it, not just to blog, but to document what I saw and felt. I spent 5 of the past 7 days diving the gorgeous waters off the east coast of Borneo. I took an Advanced Open Water Scuba diving course. That took two full days of diving, lessons, homework and tests. I also took a Specialist course in Underwater Photography. It was AMAZING!! Learned about how to steady myself underwater, how to position myself for the perfect shot, lighting, etc.
Iâ€™m taking amazing photos after doing that course. Then I spent two days diving two FANTASTIC dive sites ï¿½ï¿½" Mabul and Sipadan Island. Mabul is famous for its macro life which means of course all of the little creatures. Sipadan is famous for having everything both big and small, think sharks and turtles at every turn, giant schools of fish, clear water and bright healthy coral. Then if things couldn't be better I meet and hang out with an amazing group of people, including the local dive instructors. We spend our days together diving some of the best sites in the world, on gorgeous seas, under clear skies and hot sun, and then spend our nights having drinks and great food, discussing our amazing day, lives and ideas. Perfect.
School of Jacks
My first dive at Sipadan, I drop down into the waters with my new dive buddies and as soon as my mask sinks under water my mind says Oh My God, You Have Got to be Kidding Me, Seriously!.
This place is teaming with life, its like Grand Central station in the ocean. Fish are EVERYWHERE! The water is clear, the visibility is amazing. All I can see is activity, fish of every size busily going about their days, my fellow divers and I wide eyed at the remarkable seen. We swim by healthy, huge coral, colours as bright as anything youâ€™ve seen. Colour so pure you canâ€™t believe the earth created it. And yet you can. In this place you canâ€™t help but respect the earth for how beautiful and intelligent it is. Its no wonder I love diving so much, it allows me to come inches away from the soul of the earth, its artistry and energy. I am humbled by my own insignificance and grateful for being able to have this human experience.
Leaf fish - weird eh!
My fellow divers are pointing everywhere, look at this, look at this, come here, look what I found.
Weâ€™re all doing it. Everywhere has an amazing scene and unique find. We dive to 30 metres and in front of us laying on the sandy ocean floor are black tip and white tip reef sharks. The biggest is about 2 m long. WOW!!! I steady myself and rest with them. My god my life is amazing. I turn to swim away, my new friend Chistine points to something just over a piece of coral in front of me, I swim over very close to the coral and peep over it. Well holy crap there is a huge reef shark RIGHT THERE. I canâ€™t help but 'jump' back in the water. Shocked and surprised. It doesnâ€™t move, just looks at me, like hey man just donâ€™t touch me or all eat your arm o.k. Ha! No problem!
Me taking pics
Dive two and Iâ€™m watching schools of barracuda dart around me.
Iâ€™m a witness to the weirdest macro life: leaf and frog fish, amazing colourful and odd fish that hid easily among the coral. We are lucky to find them.
School of barracuda
We drop in for dive three. Iâ€™m literally sinking amongst a school of yellow fin barracuda. WHAT THE FACK!!! It is the most remarkable experience. The water is very dark because Iâ€™m dropping down along a tight arc within the amazing coral wall. The shade of the arc creates a beautiful dark royal blue hue in the water, I feel enclosed by the reef and all around me are these incredible and huge barracuda. My friends are below me, their air bubbles rising softly to the surface, reflecting a white light into the dark water around us. Silence.
My breath slows, Iâ€™m trying to listen to the silence. A barracuda swims right by my face, comes right across me from left to right, my eyes widen. Later my friend Ben will tell me that at that moment my face stretched into a state of blissful shock! I think Iâ€™ve been that way for a week.
Black tip reef shark - one of many we saw
The dive is almost over, I wish I could stay forever. And then we happen upon an amazing site, a huge school of Jack fish. The jack fish are medium in size (say 12 inches long) and totally silver in colour. Their mama is with them, she is massive. She keeps a close eye on them, swimming in and out of her babies. My Dive Master (our dive guide) encourages me to swim into them, Iâ€™m all in.
I slowly float into the school and they surround me. I have no words for this. Iâ€™m face to face with hundreds of silver fish. Iâ€™m part of a school. I could stay here forever. We stay with them until our air nearly runs out. On our way out I swim through the school, I think if I smile any broader Iâ€™ll lose my respirator or drown. If my body could expand with the joy I feel I would literally implode, sending miniature tiny happy parts across the entire universe, dancing and sharing their bliss with everything, returning together to then dance all over again.
I take a day off from diving to get some rest, blog, email and relax. Then the next day we dive Mabul.
Dive one is on an artificial reef, and its awesome. We see a HUGE wrasse, it was like a swimming pig it was SO big. I find the biggest lion fish Iâ€™ve every seen, a leaf fish (amazing), a MASSIVE moray eel, a bumphead wrasse, more schools of jack fish. Dive two: As soon as we drop we see three stone fish laying side by side. They are quite a site! Like three puppies innocently sleeping together. We get close to take pictures. Look but donâ€™t touch. Stone fish are very poisonous. Divers often step on them or touch them by accident, thinking they are stones. There are stories of divers not getting the feeling back in their foot or hand for up to 8 months after a sting from a stonefish! A huge banded eel swims between my friend Louâ€™s legs. I thought he crapped his pants when he saw it.
School of bat fish - they are gorgeous!!
Too much! These type of eels look very similar to sea snakes which are incredible poinsonous, Lou had every right to jump. When we realized it was an eel we all laughed with relief. What a site, divers laughing underwater. The coral is amazing, huge, healthy, teaming with life. I love watching everyone swim, they are so graceful and beautiful. Then I realize I look just like them. Funny.
I just love this pic. My air bubbles rising.
I hate to say goodbye to this place, to my new friends, to this community. But I've found out that I can't get a permit to dive Sipadan for three more days. That is too long to wait. I didnâ€™t want to wait to dive there again.
I consider myself blessed that I got to dive there three times! Sigh. Time to go. Our group gets together the night of our last night, had great food and lots of drinks. We celebrate all we've done this past week!
The dive crew enjoying Phillipine rum - augh!