Thursday, August 26, 2010

More Sandakan touring - Thursday August 26, 2010

We awoke again at sunrise to capture a few images but the clouds were creating a lot of over cast and not cooperative but this place is amazing never the less. After a 7:00am breakfast we walked around taking a few more macro shots before departing at 9:00 going back the the 10:00am Orangutang feeding. Afterwards our guide J.R. tooks us to the War Memorial. The memorial park is a park dedicated to the men who survived the POW camp during WW2. The history as well as the lesson of what happened in Borneo during that time was really moving. We are both glad we got a chance to see it and experience just a small moment in history. We once again returned to the Saba Hotel for lunch and then a tour of the beautiful Buddist temple. The first thing we noticed upon our arrival is what looked like Nazi symbols all of the temple. Our guide J.R. said no in fact it is the Nazi sigh backwards and according to the Buddists this is a symbol of peace. We will have to show you the pictures of that. We both find that very interesting. Finally our guide took us to Agnes Keith house. She is the novelist I have been reading while I have been here in Borneo. The book the land below the wind is the book I had mentioned in my previous blog writtings. Her our is so amazing and you can feel her spirit there. I hope to read her further novels and hope to obtain a copy of the 1950 movie of the second book entitled " Three come home". Which is the continuing story of when her and her son where captured by the Japanese at put into a POW camp. 

Right at this moment it is 5:21 p.m. on Aug.26th and we are sitting by the pool at the Saba Hotel again waiting for our transfer back to the airport for the first of our leg home. We will continue the blog in Singapore tomorrow where we have a full day of shopping/resting before the 2 long haul flights home.

Rain Forest to Sandakan Town - Wednesday August 25, 2010

We got up at sun rise to go out and shoot some pictures of the rainforest lodge before breakfast. The lighting was good and we had a great time walking around listening to all the jungle chatter. After breakfast we got our gear together and departed for a two hour boat transfer to Sandakan. Once we arrived into the Sandakan port we were off to the Sabah hotel for lunch where we departed ways with Torsten, Stina, Steve and Caroline. We were off to the Orangutang Rehab facility for the 15:00 feeding. Seven showed up for the feeding and Alicia was more than entertained. After the feeding we went next door to the Sepolok Nature Resort and checked into Chalet #4 and rested for the rest of the day. We did not even go to dinner as we were both very tired.

Borneo Rain Forest - Tuesday August 24, 2010

We awaoke at 05:00 to get ready for a morning river cruise leaving the dock at 06:00. We went down river for more monkey encounters and spotted a hugh 4 meter crocodile longer than our boat! The captain Arceo did not want to have anything to do with him due to his enormous size! After floating around Ox Bo lake we put our Wellies on for a short walk about through the jungle. Richard our guide showed us leaches as well as elephant dung along the way. Once we reached the end of the trek we both had leaches on us. Alicia's was planted on her butt and Steve found this quite amusing that she took it right off and was not afraid. Yes, these leaches were still on the outside of the pants!

After going back to the resort we had breakfast and got ready for a boardwalk nature tour at the Sukau Rainforest Lodge with Winston Marshall. He is a 73 year Englishman raised in Burma. He had some stories for sure!!!

After the walk we went back to the resort for lunch and a little R&R beofre the afternoon river cruise at 16:00. Much of the same wildlife we saw yesterday was observed again today.

We returned to the lodge for dinner and and in prompt to show put on by the staff complete with a fire dance. We pepared for another 20:30 night cruise seeing more creatures of the night along the river banks.

Mabul to the Jungle - Monday August 23, 2010

We awoke to the last day sounds of the ocean this morning knowing the second part of the journey was near. We knew that the departure would be before the 7:00am breakfast so we made a couple of peanut butter & pinapple jam sandwiches and drank some strong coffee before departing for the Semporna jetty at 06:30am. Our captain got the dive gear on the boat and we were off on the 45 minute journey back to the shore.
as everything awoke.
Upon arrival to Semporna we were greeted by Igide of Borneo Eco Tours and we were off for a 4 hour drive through the jungle to the Sukau jetty on the Kinabatagan River. Once we arrived at the river it was only a 10 minute boat ride to the Sikau Rainforest Lodge. Everything was going good however we were concerned that we were being transfered over to the neighboring property since the Sukau Lodge was being renovated. Tina had already confirmed this and we were good with it prior to departing the US. Anyways we had lunch there at 13:00 and wisked off to the Proboscus Rainforest Lodge about 5 minutes up river. This place was absolutely amazing! All the comforts of homeand the grounds were emaculantly clean and manicured.We were briefed on the property requirements and to be down at the river at 16:00 for the evening river cruise looking for critters and monkeys.

We got settled in and went down to the river for the cruise and met our newly wed Irish friends Caroline and Steve and Andie from SF, CA. We all hit it off right away and formed a unified bond immediately. We all took off down river and found the Proboscus monkeys and numerous other makack (sp) monkeys as well.

We returned back to the resort and cleaned up for dinner at 7:00pm. River prawns the size of lobsters were on the menu and was I in heaven or what???? These prawns were the size of lobsters! After dinner we went out at 20:30 for a night cruise looking for more critters. This was pretty univentful with a few flying fox and kingfishers roosting in the river trees. It was a long day and we turned in at 10:00 after the cruise.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

August 22nd Better day!

Well it looks like Greg ate something that did not agree with him as after 24 hours of being in bed he is know back on his feet and we where ready to dive again today. We spent out last day doing 3 dives at Mabul Island. They where fantastic as we spent the day taking pictures of Crocodile fish, clown as well as we got a very rare treat, we actually got to photograph a sea moth, which according to our dive master is something very exciting. I took several photographs that I hope come out.

We have such a great time working on our underwater photography with different ports and lenses. We also celebrated after the final dive that we had accomplished a whole week of diving without one flood or camera mishap.

We are in the process of packing up the dive gear as well as the photo gear for our next part of our adventure. We are heading into the rainforest in the morning and we are not sure if there will be internet connection so you may not hear from us until we get back into civilation but keep checking as will try and keep everyone updated for the next few days.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

August 21st Sick Day

Well you know it was going to happen sooner or later, well today was the day. We did not dive today as Greg woke up with a bad stomach bug and my ears are completely blocked so we sat out today. You know you can plan and take vitamins and work out 5 days a week to build up your stamina but it still finally gets to you.  Greg has been in bed all day and since I can not hear anyone I layed in the other twin bed reading a book entitled " The land beneath the Wind". The author Agnes Keith ( an American) married to a Brit, moves with her husband to Borneo in 1939. The book tells of her adventures into this new life as well as the people and lives she interacts with during this time. It is very interesting in the fact that alot of things she has encountered back then still holds true today while we are here. On our last day we hope to visit her house and have high tea.

 We have one more day of diving tomorrow if we are up to it and then Monday morning we are off to 4 days in the rainforest to observe the wildlife there including, elephants, monkeys and of course the famous orangatangs. As you can well image I am very excited by that as they are one of my favorites.

Well I guess more tomorrow as we hope all goes well and I hope all is well back in the old USA...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

2nd day diving Sipadan - August 19 2010

Wow that is all we can say about today's diving..... Greg and I spent most of the 4 dives playing in bait balls of  jacks as well as looking at so many turtles that we lost count. To top it all off it must of been circus day today because the clown fish where everywhere playing hide and seek in the anemone's, they are so adorable. I can see why Disney chose them for the Finding Nemo movies....

We unfortunatly did not have anyone who spoke much English on the 4 dives but again once we got underwater hand signals work great and again we could all communication. It is so funny a great of New Zealands and 1 Canadian got off a boat and just like 2 fish without their school Greg and I wanted to join them as they where speaking our language....

It is 4:30 p.m. here and after a day of diving we are ready to take a nap and clean up the photo gear for another day of diving tomorrow .... We are having such a great time here I can not recommend diving here more!!!

If anyone from HUPS is a trip here, it a macro/wide angel dream...

More tomorrow...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

August 18 2010 - WOW 4 dives on Sipadan

We started the day at 4:00am to get ready for a 5:30 boat departure to the nearby island of Sipadan. Although only a quick 20 minutes away by boat there is only 120 people allowed in the sanctuary daily. That includes the staff, snorklers and divers combined. The permits will be charged back to our room since this is monitored by the Malay government.

The boat ride at sunrise was uneventful but there are a lot of flying fish exiting the water as we wisked by. Once at the island we all needed to sign in at the main dock and then we'll be off to Barracuda Point for Dive 1. Upon entering the water we were surrounded by numerous jacks and bump head parrot fish schooling and moving around really fast. (Just like Leonard C. told us!) The reef on Sipadan is so rich in eco life and the shallows were simply amazing for photography. About 10 minutes into the dive we came upon our first schooling set of jacks. So we headed deeper below them to photograph but they never really formed a good recognizable circle but cool never the less. We were escorted by a team of batfish that pretty much stayed with us the entire dive. We saw 3-4 white tip reef sharks and some schooling barracudas as well.

The 2nd dive after a one hour breakfast interval was at Hanging Gardens were we saw more white tips and batfish by the hundreds and they would let you get so very close and were not shy like hose we saw over at Mabul. Bump head parrots, schooling jacks and large groupers filled the gamut here.

Dive 3 we went to Mid drift after another one hour surface interval. We saw more of the same and more sharks than the first two combined.

After lunch and a 1.5 hour surface interval we headed back to Barracuda Point for the final dive of the day. Again more of the same beauty observed as seen all day long. Alicia got short tanked and started with only 2560psi so we stayed fairly shallow to maximize her bottom time. There were 3 separate jack schools going on at one time for a feast of activity so no need to go deep anyways!

Once we got back to Mabul and looked the board for tomorrow we were scheduled to go back to Sipadan again on Thursday. Since Wednesday was due to a cancelation tomorrow will be our scheduled day but hey... Who's complaining, we're going back to Sipadan two days in a row!

More tomorrow the way Alicia fell asleep at 5:00p.m. and slept until 4:00 a.m. the travel had finally caught up to her and she also caught a cold as Greg loves to run the ac very high... We have since compromised so she can feel better and Greg can have a dive buddy....

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

August 17, 2010 ---- Siamil Island & Mabul

Yesterday was a little out of the ordinary in that we traveled by high speed boat north of Mabul for approximately 45 minutes to the island of Samil.

 After the 45 minute boat trip we embarked on dive site Dana 1 to find that Alicia's 60mm macro lens was set in the MF mode so no shots within 3' for her... Crap! We were greeted with more crocodile fish, blennies, another ghost pipe fish and the misc. reef critters we all know and love.

After the first dive we went to the beach for about an hour for surface time and had some coffee, water and sandwiches and of course to get Alicia's lens back into AF mode! The native moms bring down their children in hopes to have some sandwiches when all the divers are done. They did model for some photos which we will share later.

After leaving the beach Dive 2 was just around the bend from the first drop and it is simply called Siamil Island where we saw more  crocodile fish, nudibranchs,and a black frog fish. Alicia's camera was back to working as expected.

We were off heading back to Mabul for lunch at the resort... We cleaned up the gear and changed out the batteries and had a bite to eat before getting ready for the last dive of the day at 2:30.

Dive 3 was just around the corner from the resort called Paradise 1. The current would drift us towards Paradise 2. Once we dropped it was like a snow storm and the viz was less than 6 feet and not much to see. We did manage to see one of the largest hawksbill sea turtles that we've ever seen anywhere. Every bit as large (or larger) than Atlas at the Moody Gardens aquarium. Also we managed to see a black seahorse in the sand but with a lot of sand backscatter. As we moved down the reef there were some huge batfish swimming around in pairs as well.

After the 5 minute boat ride back to the resort we cleaned up the gear and changed out to a 10mm lens and off to the other side of the island for some over - under shots of star fish with the chalets in the negative space. After hat we cleaned up the camera gear and put the macro lens back on for tomorrow, took a shower and off to dinner.

While at dinner we were approached by one of the dive masters to see if we want to go to Sipadan tomorrow as there was a cancellation! Ah, YES! So we scurried back to the dive shop and moved our gear over to Boat 1 Big... We're going to Sipadan tomorrow! We then headed back to the room to re-gear up the cameras back to wide angle. Alicia will be using the 17-70mm lens and Greg is gearing back up with the 10mm super wide. Off to sleep around 8:30 - 9:00pm. More on Sipadan in the next chapter!

Monday, August 16, 2010

First full Day of Diving on Mabul Island

Hello everyone from Mabul Island. Right know it is 4:51 a.m. and since the internet connection is best this time of the day and our body clocks have yet to adjust we are updating this blog. Yesterday we stated our first dive at 8:30 a.m. with a dive on Mabul Island called Lobster Wall and then at 11:00am at site Cleaning Station on Kapalai and finally at 2:30 for a final dive at Eel Garden 1 back at Mabul. 

All of the sites where fabulous we saw crocodile fish, eels, numerous turtles, Nudibranch and the creme de la creme was the Harliquin Ghost Pipe Fish at the Cleaning Station site.......and last but not least tons of Clown Fish..... Even though there is a lot of backscatter in the water, we are having such a good time diving and shooting pictures as there is so much to see. We can see why divers from around the world come here.

At this time we appear to be the only Americans here at the resort so far with only a few Brits so we are only able to communicate with each other and the locals, that is until you get below the sea and all of sudden we can all communicate with hand signals which is really interesting. It is almost like the Tower of Babel for those of you familiar with the Bible.

We are still waiting our turn to dive the famous Sipidan as only a few individuals get to have that option per day due to the permits administered by the Malaysian government. We hope to at least dive it once during the trip. If you do get the permit you start at 5:30 a.m. and are gone all day with 4 dives and breakfast and lunch while you are in between surface intervals.

More tomorrow about our adventure....

Greg and Alicia

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Wow... The Good... The Bad! Sunday 15-Aug 2010

We made it to Tawau without incident and had to pay the 7 kilo sur-charge for baggage allowance. What do you expect with the low budget airlines these days... Anyways with the extra $35 worth of luggage we were off to Borneo!

As we arrived at the airport and collected the bags everything was intact and we were off and then all we had to do was find the guy from Journey Adventure World that will get us down the road 1.5 hours to Semporna. Sounds easy, right? Not... No one there to pick us up :( after traveling for 2.5 days! Bummer... Anyways we had to hire a cab for the trip which at 10 pm locate was uneventful yet too bumpy to sleep we made it to Semporna around 23:30 local time. We were concerned that the hotel would not have us scheduled for that stay since the transfer was not scheduled properly. However, alas we were into the Seafest for some much needed sleep!

We got up Sunday morning for breakfast wondering... "What's Next?" since we did not have a briefing as to where and what time we would get picked up for the boat transfer to Mabul. So after breakfast we decided to take a walk down by the pier to see if we could find the dock for "SMART"  (Sipadan Mabul Dive Resort) departures and guess what? We were in luck... It was literally right across the street from the front door of the Seafest! Sweet! We talked to the captain of the boat and he said be back here at 9:00am... He did not have any names but knew he was picking up four passengers that morning. This looked promising...
We ended up departing around 9:30 from the port in Semporna around 9:30 as we waited for the other to passengers that did not show. Finally we were on our way to Mabul and yes the captain at this point had our names which made us feel a little better about the entire trip.

The fast boat ride to Mabul took about an hour and as we arrived at the dock we were greated by a dive master and some welcome drinks of mango juice. He gave us the orientation of the resort, we signed our waiver papers and told us to be back at the port at 11:30 for the first orientation dive! Wow, we thought we'd take today to recover from 2.5 days of travel and get the underwater housing ready! Nope, not on Mabul! They require everyone to make an orientation dive to verify everyones skills so we were off to the "Fish Sanctuary"  which is the "House Reef" made of old man made piers from older construction and was pretty cool in itself. The dive was approx. 45 minutes and we saw (to name a few) a crocodile fish, frog fish, batfish, morey and chain eels and many other species all in less that 45 feet of water. The visibility was pour (less than 40') with alot of particulates in the making photography a challenge. The DM told us that this is coral spawning season and that is what we are observing.

We got back to the dock and had one hour or so (14:30) to have lunch and back to Eel Gardens with another group. (we must have done well enough for the DM to put us in another group for the second orientation dive.) Eel Gardens was on a slight sloping sanding base with lots of muck critters with a steady 2-3 knot current and we were really Jonesing for our camera on this dive! So many macro shots and no time to set up the rigs... This dive lasted about 63 minutes with tons of air left in the tanks but hey, your in Borneo! We got back to the shore and cleaned up the gear around 16:00 and Alicia decided she needed a nap! But only for one hour... NOT! Three hours later we stumbled out for dinner around 20:00! After dinner we tried to connect up to the internet and it seemed that we were not able to connect due to the high volume of activity so were not able to post here. We went back to the room to set up the housings for tomorrow instead and give everything the critical attention needed to help avoid any accidents. We turned in around 23:30 Sunday evening after a full day of activity. It looks like while on Mabul we will be posting early in the mornings while everyone else is sleeping since connection opportunities are far better then.

More tomorrow as we will actually have cameras in hand and we will be diving 3 tanks around Mabul and Kapalai Islands.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Hello from Kuala Lumpur

Well we have arrived into Kuala Lumpur and there is no room at the inn, so here we sit smelling bad in a airport with no air conditioning on the equator but hey only 1 more flight to go before we have a 2 hour bus ride to our hotel.... We are in really good spirits considering we have not slept.... at this point we are just slap happy so everything is funny. We are debating on whether we should give in and have a Starbucks or just be sleepy so when we actually hit the bed we will be really ready....

More tomorrow from Mabul Island our dive destination for the next week....

Arrived in SIngapore!!

Hi everyone! We made it to Singapore and are awaiting our next flight in 4 hours to Kuala Lumpur. The 2 flights coming to Asia where nice Singapore Airlines Rocks..... We did not feel we needed to take a room in Singapore as we did not feel to bad so we decided we will wait until Kuala Lumpur to see get a room and rest for awhile before our final flight to Tawau at 6:00 p.m. local time.

I will send my next entry from Kuala Lumpur this afternoon.....

Alicia and Greg

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Less the 24 hours to go!

Well the bags are packed and at the door. We are finishing up those last minute items. Our flight departs at 5:40 p.m. and our dear friend Adolpho is taking us to the airport at 3:00p.m. Our pets are going to be very well taken care of by Greg's mom and stepdad and we want to thank them for that. Our flight will be stopping in Moscow and as all us know there seems to be a hugh problem with smog in that part of the world. I have just checked and right know it still looks to be on time. For those of you who are interested our flight will takes us from Houston to Moscow and then on to Singapore. From Singapore we have a 5 hour layover and then on to Kuala Lumpur in Malyasia where we have a 6 hour layover. Finally we fly to Tawau Malyasia where we are transported for a night in Semporna Malyasia and then in the morning of the 15th we will be transported by boat to the island of Mabul. Here is a link to where we will be diving.

More from Singapore once we arrive

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

2 days before we leave to Borneo!

Well the bags are all packed and just a few last minute tasks to do before the flight on Thurs. We where laughing this morning about how we can not bring anything back with us because we have no room as everything is packed tighted and right at the weight limit. We are even using our photo vests to put items in. This should be some adventure.........

Monday, August 9, 2010

Borneo Adventure: Borneo Adventure

Borneo Adventure: Borneo Adventure: "Good morning everyone! 4 days until our adventure begins and we are 95% packed. We have to much dive/computer gear and not enought room in t..."

Borneo Adventure

Good morning everyone! 4 days until our adventure begins and we are 95% packed. We have to much dive/computer gear and not enought room in the luggage with trying to keep them within the airlines restrictions.  As promised I will be using this space to keep everyone abreast of the trip as it goes so if you are interested please bookmark this site.

Once we are at our destination I will start blogging unless something of interest come to light.....

More from Borneo