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29th December
written by Justin
Tropical Paradise

Tropical Paradise

For Part Two of my Last Big Thing, I wanted to make great use of our scuba certifications from Thailand and go down into the deep again.  This time it would be off the eastern tip of Borneo.  I wanted to go to the world-famous Sipadan site, a volcanic island that drops down to ocean depths of 800 or more meters in a very short distance, but didn’t plan ahead enough to go.  Sipadan is now under regulation, and it appears that the best scuba shops don’t get nearly as many permits as some of the shops that are, say, generous to the local government.  We wanted to go with Scuba Junkie (no relation to Scuba Junction from Koh Tao) which had a great reputation and a beautiful island resort at a great price – but they couldn’t get us permits for the famous spot.  So we dived beautiful Mabul Island instead, and while it may not have had huge pelagics in town it did amaze us with beautiful wildlife!

The Dive Boat

The Dive Boat

We saw several species we’d never seen before, and done a drift dive which was a new experience as well.  It was amazing to be diving just for fun, with no requirements of any kind, just to look out for new things.  Highlights included:

  • Harlequin Ghost Pipefish (Amazing fish, well-camouflaged)
  • Lionfish
  • Sleeping Sea Turtles about 6 feet long and 4 feet wide!
  • Cuttlefish
  • Peacock Mantis Shrimp
  • Giant school of big-eye trevally swarming right over and around us
  • Cleaner shrimp cleaning my hand
  • Huge puffer fish
  • Crocodilefish
We had about 6 dives there and they were all really cool!  And the beach resort was comfortable, the food was delicious and the staff were really professional and nice.  We had a brilliant time!
There was one really unfortunate side to all this – the trash in the ocean.  Our island was a 45 minute boat trip one-way, and each time the boat had to stop twice to remove garbage from the engines.  It was really horrifying!  We don’t see the impact of trash very often – it’s usually well hidden out of sight, but here it was heartbreaking to see garbage the whole trip out to our island.  As you can see the water is pristine – but when you find oil cans, plastic bags, food waste, and all sorts of human rubbish floating and sunk in the water, you realize just how much we’re trashing the earth.  I hope that when we get home to the States we can adopt a lifestyle that reduces how much we dump into our oceans and landfills.

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