Now They Swim with the Fishes

Now They Swim with the Fishes

Please note – if you didn’t get a chance to read about Kevin’s new volunteer position, please take a minute to view my Generosity page and CLICK HERE.  I’m starting my journey back to San Francisco in about three weeks, so it’s getting close.  Even if you’ve just enjoyed our blog, a small donation will really help out.  Just $10 will get me a night in a dorm room in Tajikistan and help keep me out of debt.  I hope it’s not too much to ask.  Thanks!


Our hotel in Sepilok was nice enough to shuttle us to our bus stop, but they go us there a half hour early.  Normally not a problem, but the bus stop was just the side of the highway with no shelter, shade, or seats.  Still wouldn’t be a big deal, but that day it was close to 100 degrees with close to 100% humidity.  Brutal!  It sounds like a short wait, but by the time the bus came we had sweat dripping from our brows.  The bus was mercifully cool and we were almost happy to spend the next six hours on it.  After spending the last week in the hot and humid jungle, we couldn’t wait to get back to the beach for some world class SCUBA diving.

Before we could take the morning boat to the island of Mabul we’d be staying on for the diving, we had to spend the night in Semporna.  We had heard that it wasn’t a nice city, but didn’t really take it too seriously.  When we got off the bus, we had to dodge piles of trash right in the bus parking lot, and the whole city was pretty much the same way.  It was almost India dirty.  If there were cows walking around and pooping everywhere it would have been pretty close.  We found it quite shocking as the rest of Malaysian Borneo has been quite clean and well maintained, relatively speaking.  At least it was just a night.

The next day we took the boat to Mabul, dropped off our stuff, and immediately got on a dive boat.  We did three dives the first day and they were great.  We saw not one but two cuttlefish, which was one of my goals as I’m fascinated by the way they can change not only color at will, but also shape and skin texture.  Truly amazing cephalopods.  We also saw sea horses, lobster, turtles, crocodile fish, frog fish, monkey fish, and many others.  BTW we didn’t have an underwater camera so all pictures are from the interwebs:

Crocodile fish
Turtle and coral reef

It was really nice to see some areas of living coral and its dependent sea life when so much of it has been dead on our previous dives in Hawaii.  Who knows, at this rate there might be no living coral by the time we get to go on another great adventure.  Well, at least our nation’s current administration is responsibly addressing the issue of climate change (D’oh!).  We did take these above water pix of the island:

Mabul 3
Mabul 4
Our bungalow
Mabul 2

On our second day our new divemaster was obsessed with the minutia, so we saw tons of little shimp, different types of nudibranch, worms, tubes, and even a sea spider.  Our next dive was at the base of an old oil platform that was converted into a dive hostel.  Among the pylons were large grouper, parrotfish, and angel fish.


Our third day was the big one.  The whole reason we booked this dive trip, and in fact even went to Borneo in the first place, was to go to Sipadan Island and marine park.  It’s one of the best dive sites in the world and has been on Jen’s bucket list for years.  As a dive instructor, she has unusually high standards.  You can only get a permit to dive there for one day, and we were happy to even get that as they sell out way in advance.  Our first dive started off nicely with 3-4 gray reef sharks at the base of the coral reef, and a stately large devil ray, but then the divemaster headed out into the open blue ocean looking for more big fish.  Apparently, he got lost because we spent the next half hour swimming around the open ocean seeing nothing but plankton and the occasional jellyfish.  Luckily the boat was able to find us when we popped up way off of the reef.

Devil ray
White tip reef shark

The second dive had an amazing beginning as the first thing we saw was a school of humphead parrotfish.  They were huge! About 4-5 feet long and 2 feet high with big eyes and teeth.  They looked quite confused to see us swimming alongside them.  We were unable to enlighten them regarding our unexpected presence.  We drifted along a reef wall for the rest of the dive and spotted 4-5 white tipped reef sharks (4-5 feet long) and as many green sea turtles (2-3 feet).

Humphead parrot fish

Our final dive was another drift along a huge reef wall with massive fan coral and many other types of living coral and fish.  We passed by the entrance to a huge cave (not allowed to enter), saw more sharks, turtles, triggerfish, and others.  Right at the end we came upon a huge school of jack fish, and I followed Jen right into the center of them.  They swam at us and by us for about 5 minutes; there must have been many thousands.  After a while it became quite surreal to be surrounded by nothing but seemingly the same exact fish everywhere you looked.  Very neat experience.


Now we are off to the Philippines where we hope to get in some solid lounging before returning home.  I know it sounds like we are on vacation, and we are of course, but more accurately we are travelers rather than vacationers.  That means we are generally on the move every few days to see new sights, have new experiences, and frequently walk a bunch of miles each day.  Our last chill beach time was a few weeks in Goa in January, so we feel we are overdue for some relaxation.  No climbing mountains, walking through jungles, or exploring villages.  Well, maybe a little exploring.  And maybe one more dive.  But definitely lots of hammock time.

And beers.  Being on a budget, we’ve only had a handful of beers all year.  Seriously.  I know it doesn’t sound like the Lindos you know, but if you know me well, you know the only thing I value more than beer is staying out of the office.  The best way to keep traveling is only spend money on the absolutely essential.  That means small basic food (sooo many meals of fried rice or noodles), cheap crappy accommodations, and, sigh, no beer (or any beverages besides water in my case).  No spending on anything else, for that matter, except necessary costs for travel and attractions.  However, we hear that the beers in the Philippines are about half a buck, so we’re going to splurge a little.  Nice.

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