It had been ten years since we dived Sipadan, so we decided to try it again, even though January is sort of off-season for the place. Indeed, the occasional rain, overcast weather and cooler waters with moderate visibility made for non-optimal conditions. Also, Kapalai, Mabul and couple other islands have been hit by kidnappings by, we are told, Abu Sayaf from Philippines. Therefore there were few divers around -- although some of the slack has been picked up by snorkelers from China. The local government has stationed 24-7 armed police at these resorts. Kinda makes one realise the real costs of terrorism. But the silver lining was that we got to dive at Sipadan island four days out of the five that we were there. We stayed at the Mabul Water Bungalows (MWB); the bungalows are excellent, really nice rooms, heated water, a/c (although it was unnecessary most of the time), and even television and full time WiFi all over the resort.
The resort has its own dining area. Food is the usual buffet style eating, plenty of choices at all meals. Typical lunch and dinner had five or six dishes, including some westerns and some local; tons of excellent fruit, and some desserts. Dishes included seafood, beef, chicken and some vegtarian fare. The quality of the food I'd say was about average, but the variability in the quality a little on the high side. I'd say places in Indonesia like Scuba Seraya in Bali and Lambeh resort have much better food now than MWB.
The diving was very good. There are the schools of baracuda, jacks, bumpheads and loads of turtles in Sipadan. Mabul has decent macro and muck dives, as does Kapalai which is only a fifteen minute boat-ride away. Almost no currents made for mostly relaxed dives, albeit cold (water temp felt a shade under 25C). With the exception of the check-out dives (in the very large area covered by the artificial reef that is now the house reef), we were guided by two really good divemasters, a lady Deniah and a young fellow called King. The most interesting dive was in turtle cavern, which we did on the last day. It's treated as a specialized dive, so we watched a 30minute video and discussed the dive protocols the night before; we go down with an extra full sized tank clipped to our BCDs; hook the spare tank to the cave cord at the mouth of the cave, which is actually not really deep, around 22-25m, and then frog-kick our way into the cave. I was expecting to see perhaps 2-3 skeletons, but it turns out there are perhaps around twenty all around the cave. It does have a bit of a spooky feel to it, this dive. Really cool, and definitely worth the extra US$100 or so they charge for it. Not challenging at all, but special.
I've actually forgotten what sites we dived on whic day, so I'll just list the sites which we did. We dived two on the first and last days, and three or four on the other days. The itinerary was: HK - KL - Tawau (next time we should remember to stay at the hotel just next to the pier in Tawau); next morning, a 1-hour boat transfer to MWB. DIVESITES
Day 1 MWB house reef (two dives)
Days 2-3-4 Baracuda point (x3), White tip alley (x2), hanging garden, coral garden, South point, midreef
Day 5 Kapalai resort house reef (x2), Mabul lobster wall, Paradise 2 (which is basically the house reef of Water village)
Day 6 Sipadan turtle cavern, baracuda point
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