Sunday, May 17, 2009

Semporna And Mabul Island

When we reached Semporna I checked in to my room at the Dragon Inn - situated on stilts above the water - a really nice setting! Then Mark and I walked out along the boardwalk so he could show me around, see the fish, and have an ice-cream!
When we got back to my room the others were resting, but decided they wanted to go out and check things out, and I took a much needed rest until Torben and Rosalyn arrived and we and the boys went out to dinner at the adjacent restaurant. It would be our last evening together, and I knew I was going to miss them all! It had been such unforgettable times for me here on Borneo!
The next morning we met for a very early breakfast, and then said our goodbyes and Rosalyn and Torben waved goodbye to me as I boarded the boat that was going to take me out to Mabul Island where I was going to go snorkeling, while they stayed in Semporna and celebrated Mother's Day.
The boat-ride took about 1 hour, and we saw lots of floating garbage on the way there - a bit disconcerting and sad, as this is supposed to be one of the top diving spots in the world - that is Sipidan Island is - it's further out than Mabul, but since you cannot stay at Sipidan most dive and snorkel trip start out from Mabul Island where there are several dive resort.
When we reached Mabul we got off the boat and there was coffee and breakfast set out - none of it too appetizing looking, but I grabbed a quick cup of coffee, I was tired from the long week and getting up early, so I really didn't feel super energetic, I must admit! When I inquired about the snorkel trip I was booked on it turned out that the dive master had a dive student, so I and 2 German snorkelers were just being dropped off, then the boat would come and pick us up about 1 hour later? I was not too happy with those news and told the dive master so - I guess my fear of being dumped in the middle of the ocean to float around for an hour turned out to be a bit premature, as they just sailed about 2 minutes around to the front of the island and dropped us off about 150 yards from the beach! We could well have gotten in from the beach I thought! (Maybe not, when I later walked that beach it was pretty unsanitary to say the least!) The visibility was not very good, but I could see there were lots of fish and also some live corals, with good visibility I am sure I would have enjoyed it more, even though there was a fair amount of plastic bags, etc. floating around also. The saving grace was a turtle that came gracefully swimming by and made my spirit lift!
When the boat came to pick us up, I was getting cold, even though the water is warm, but you do cool down even in warm waters, so I was glad to get a chance to warm up when we were dropped at the pier and I could have a warm cup of coffee. I met an American couple who had just returned from a morning snorkel also, but at a different spot, they had had great visibility, so at least that was a consolation to know. They were delightful and I really enjoyed talking with them - they live in Oakland, California, so we exchanged cards so we can catch up again at a later date - I felt I had met kindred spirits - travel spirits that is, and it was fun to talk with them about their experiences on their travels in Southeast Asia and India.
Unfortunately a thunderstorm was approaching as we were going to go for our second snorkel spot and I was told we would be dropped at the same spot due to the weather. I decided against it, and instead went for a walk around part of the island. There were traditional stilt houses- I think it's were Torben and Rosalyn just were given a house by one of her relatives - and then behind this little village were a couple of fancy resorts built on stilts out over the water - it was quite a juxtaposition - the fantasy version of a stilt village - and the real thing! Unfortunately the real thing comes without plumbing and in our modern days that's a problem, at least in my opinion! On this walk I also got to see the beach where we snorkeled earlier that morning - and let me just say I am glad I am a chicken and slowly crawled down from the boat instead of jump and swallow a lot of water, because I always get the snorkel and mask knocked off when I try to do it like the "real" divers and snorkelers!
As I walked along the long boardwalk out to the restaurants of the "fancy" places the water was clear, the sky black, and it was quite beautiful! I saw a number of big starfish - I think they are called "chocolate chip" - at least they look like they should be called that, as they look like chocolate chip cookies!
I treated myself to lunch at the one resort that would actually allow "outsiders" to eat at their restaurant - and then I walked back - the approaching storm had passed and the sky was clearing up, and the sea and the island took on completely different colors!
When I got back a lady had touched a dragon fish, so they needed some volunteers to go back with the boat early, and since I was tired, had to get up early again the next day to catch my flight, and I felt unmotivated and a bit grumpy, I thought I might as well volunteer - I will have to come back for a real snorkeling adventure sometime here, and get on a trip where the boat stays with us while we snorkel - I am just that kind of chicken!
On the boat-ride back I could really see how the tide had gone out, exposing many areas and locals were out there with their buckets and baskets collection crabs, mussels, and other critters for dinner I imagine! Many of the islands in this area are threatened by the rising waters due to global warming, and I fear many of them will have to be evacuated by the inhabitants in the not too distant future. I wonder where they can go?
I was glad to have the afternoon to get organized and ready for the morning, it also gave me a chance to at least explore Semporna a bit before dinner!
I was in bed before 8 PM, and the next morning Faizal was there bright and early to take me to my flight to Kuching. My adventure in Sabah had come to and end, and I have so many great memories and new friends here - I will always treasure these weeks!

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