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.