I never intended to become an addict: “I’ll just try it, see what all the fuss is about”. That’s a common justification by all addicts, isn’t it? It starts out innocent enough, and before you know it, it’s all consuming. You think about it night and day. When & where can I get my next fix? And as with most addictions this a particularly expensive habit to support. My drug of choice? Diving. Although Gudang Garams come in at a close second.
I had troubles at first, for sure. There was my little “freak out” in Koh Tao, then there was the divemaster-bitch-from-hell in Bali that made me doubt whether or not this was my thing. But like all good addicts, I kept coming back for more, and then, before I knew it, I was hooked.
The feeling of weightlessness & the silence is so peaceful. The world that inhabits the sea, is a magnificent place. And there is no feeling like hanging out in the blue. At first I was only interested in the “Big Stuff”; sharks, mola molas, sea turtles, (there is still something about a turtle….) manta rays & barracudas. Those things are cool:I am still awestruck when inside a school of big fish and manta rays & a mola molas are definite show stoppers. But on Mabul I discovered “macro diving”, or finding joy in the little critters. There is a seemingly endless amount weird and wonderful stuff that is less than a centimeter big. Stuff like nude branches, oranguntan crabs, frog fish, razor fish, banded pipefish & bubble coral shrimp. I saw some very weird & rare things like a flamboyant cuttlefish & a blue-ringed octopus. I was extremely lucky. I love poking my head into small crevices & gaping at the all the weird & wacky little guys of the sea. It’s an amazing & stunningly beautiful world and I am enchanted by it all.
So now my current obsession is figuring out where & when I can dive next? The red sea?Micronesia? Sulawesi? Central America? the Andamans? And list grows with every diver I meet who says “you absolutely must dive THERE”…… It seems all addicts find comfort in the company of other addicts in order to justify their habit.
But now I am headed to India, where there is precious little diving. I just hope the withdrawals don’t kill me.
Mabul is an island off the east coast of Borneo, near the town of Semporna. Unlike Sipadan, which is a national marine park & protected from fishing & has strict permit use laws, Mabul has some problems. The “locals” are not malay but filipino refugees whom the Malaysian government doesn’t recognize as citizens. There is no infrastructure on the island such as trash pickup, so everything gets chucked in the ocean. There is some help from dive resorts who provide eco education, provide trash bins, and do monthly reef clean ups. But it is a steep learning curve. The locals have little interest in sustainable fishing practices & shark finning is common. Work is being done to try & get Mabul park status, but so far the Malaysian govt is slow to react.
Because Sipadan is a marine park, there are only 120 permits per day, including snorkelers. I applied for my permit in July & got one for September 3rd. Dive resorts get them by lottery & ours, scuba junkie, gets 7 per day.
Sipadan is home to some odd 3000 species of marine life. The coral is simply spectacular. Turtles are abundant, both green & hawksbill. There are white tipped & gray reef sharks, huge schools of trevally, barracuda & bumpheads. This is “big stuff” diving at it’s finest.We had a great sipadan day, I was clearly the odd man out as our boat had 5 divemasters, 3 rescue divers & me. (next step: rescue diver) We had all become friendly during the week at Mabul, so it was a relaxed & comfortable group. The perfect day was completed by a steak dinner & red wine. Really good, actually.
I hope to make it back to Mabul & Sipadan someday….. but for now, Mother India awaits.