Malaysian Borneo: Diving Mabul and Sipadan

From River Kinabatangan we had a pretty easy journey down to Semporna (where we were heading to Scubadive).

The driver who had collected us from Sepilok, took us from the river to a lay by on one of the main roads where ‘his friend’ one of the local coach drivers picked us up on the local bus which was going to Semporna. This took about 4-5 hours.

When we arrived in Semporna, our main mission was to go and try to find Sipadan diving passes. If you have researched anything about Sipadan you’ll probably know these are pretty difficult to find, and there are loads of rumours about certain dive shops and whether the passes are legitimate or not. Also most of the diving passes come with accommodation packages as well, so anyway it was all a bit of a nightmare trying to arrange.

So we set off from the bus, sticky, sweaty, tired….the usual! and now semporna is not exactly the most glamorous of places which surprised us considering its the gateway to one of the most highly regarded dive spots in the world. There is a lot of poverty and as soon as we started walking through the town young children were clawing at us for anything, even the water I was drinking.

We traipsed around a load of the dive shops and eventually decided what to do….I won’t go into every boring detail but in the couple hours of walking back and forth we had to go through a fish market and by the harbor, anyway I started to feel really rough and starting throwing up on the side of the street. Danielle was really good, and checked me into the closest hotel which had a private bathroom sent me upstairs and carried on sorting out booking the diving trip! I was pretty useless in all of this.

But the next day we headed off to the island of Mabul where we were staying in the ScubaJunkie resort for three nights. Luckily I was feeling a bit better, and it was my 26th Birthday woop! I was too ill to dive that day but we just chilled out which was nice.

55925B55-79A6-4A4F-BB13-DC09AC8F73AF

40A8E2DC-EC6F-4D60-8B4D-99DFC2C62FDF

IMG_4978

original_url: 94B8E89C-7D78-4EE8-A7F9-88FFFDAF18BE

IMG_4987

So the next day we started our PADI Advanced open water course. We wern’t really planning on doing this but as we really wanted to enjoy Sipadan it was recommended as its quite a deep dive (with the open water you can only go to 18m but with the advanced you can go to 40m).

Our instructor Phil was really great, and again we were lucky as it was just the two of us in the group. In this course you learn a lot more about buoyancy, getting your weight right, navigation and you get to pick a couple of specific dives. We picked the night dive and drift dive. The night dive was terrifying and I almost had a panic when we first went into the water, but I clung to Danielle the whole time and survived!

WBAW2236

After three nights, when the course was finished we went back to Semporna and stayed in a hostel for a couple of nights.

We had managed to find a Sipadan pass but not with accommodation which meant we had to stay in Semporna and get the boat from there. The company we used were a ‘local’ company, so run by Malaysians. A lot of the dive shops are run by Chinese, Brits, Americans. It was really good, a tad dis-organised but all the equipment was decent! and we had a great guide who spoke really good English.

HHCK1387

MEZU8004

GXBW1675

DHWX4270

SGKB2270

BVWO6286

OVEP8091

From one of the most beautiful (underwater) places in the world to Kuala Lumpur. Follow us on the last part of our amazing journey. 

Advertisements

Top 10 Things To Do in New Zealand

Ok, we tried to give these some kind of order, however it was just impossible.  We tried nearly all of these things, however couldn’t go to Kaikoura due to there being an earthquake a week before we arrived.

New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places on earth and we felt well and truly spoilt   when going to see some less spectacular sights around Austral Asia and South East Asia.

We recommend to do New Zealand and Fiji LAST.  New Zealand is best to visit around February/ March if you want warmer weather, otherwise be prepared for the rain.

Don’t forget to check bookme.co.nz as you may find trips cheaper, especially if you book in advance.

 

1. Bay of Islands (North Island)

2. Cape Reinga (North Island)

3. Abel Tasman (South Island)

4. Milford Sound (South Island)

5. Hobbiton (South Island)

6. The Coromandel (North Island)

7. Queenstown (South Island)

8. Tongariro Alpine Crossing (South Island)

9. Rangitata (South Island)

10. Kaikoura

  • Dolphin swimming
  • Whale watching

NZ North: Tongoriro and Wellington

Day 8: Tongoriro

Tongoriro National park. Long walk (6:45 hrs). No words. It speaks for itself, check out the stunning pics. $35 NZ for the shuttle bus to/from your hostel, you may find a better way of doing this as we just did it through stray who don’t always offer the cheapest option but always the easiest!

50

15672612_10150788627679978_4091109476795343835_n

IMG_8850

JYNT1772

RIZK5588

32

Day 9: Wellington

Capital of NZ. Smaller than Auckland.  It has a more creative feel here rather than the business feel of Auckland.  It’s known for its museums, music and film production scene (Lord of the Rings of course…. aghhhhhh).

It was very wet and windy here, had to go out and buy a new rain jacket and long trousers (NZ is expensive so be prepared for the weather before you arrive).

Day 10: South island commences

Early ferry to the south island. Everyone (but us – too busy sleeping) saw dolphins swimming next to the ferry 🙂  The scenery was amazing on the way in – it sets up the south island well.

NZ North: Lake Aniwheniwer and Blue Duck Station

In the afternoon we drove to Lake Aniwheniwer which is a cultural stop. A Maori family own a hostel and have close links with the local community and mori for their tribe. So in that afternoon they take you to look at some stone wall carvings and then to the mori where they welcome you onto the land by singing and everyone completes the hongi.

That night they cook a hangi which is a traditional meal cooked in the ground. This was pretty tasty; mainly the stuffing!

This one night stop costs $95 dollars so it’s pretty pricey but quite a unique experience.  If your tight on money, work out your alternate route (Rotorua to Taupo) in advance otherwise you won’t end up saving money. Unless you plan to hitchhike!

There were great (paid) activities you could do throughout the afternoon such as bracelet weaving, bread making, poi making and in the late evening eeling.

Can definitely recommend the bread making as it tasted so good ( its fried like doughnuts) and the late night eeling – used to feed the next stray bus so no waste.

83

95

84

86

91

15665589_10150788632249978_7730827142106221575_n

Day 6 AM: Lake Aniwheniwer day trip to a maori school.

This was a very unique and nice experience to share with the kids from the school.  Their school was fantastic and it was lovely to hear about their progress with their academic achievements because of the visits.

Day 7: Blue duck station (farm)

Quiet day just enjoyed being in the middle of nowhere.  Did a long and very muddy walk to a waterfall.

1A5A7FE4-1428-48F5-93B2-20B2BD8D2DF0

01D228D3-7C18-402A-84C2-2D754ED328FD

8FF0B56A-C8EB-49F3-84AA-5749B2AEC970

15726830_10150788629989978_7831549341965951683_n

64

523AD582-2EC4-480E-BE32-EFB8FC804C3D

 

15698357_10150788630199978_6526373126742957211_n

15726316_10150788630314978_7640714969692162472_n

D34038D0-4718-442E-BF74-150AD1F65428

—-

TIP

If you are not on the Stray bus it’s not necessarily worth the detour.  There are hikes there but we couldn’t do them due to the bad weather.

NZ North: Hobbiton and Rotorua

Day 4: Lord of the Rings tour on route to Rotorua

From Raglan we drove onto Rotorua. We didn’t have much time to do anything that night because we spent 3 hours wandering around Hobbiton – so fun. Definitely for everyone and not just the hard core LotR fans.

25DD3B06-6720-4CB2-ABED-DC1061257279

181

147

137DEA6E-6649-4C9E-9C23-55BA2F18E94A

F04E4BF1-2912-4435-BC07-7858639AD201

9AB927D9-7B70-40C9-8693-B357DCD42E0A

D28DDC00-017B-41D3-B753-547E6F2DA72A

615ECD0A-25F0-462C-A3B3-582A95504822

—-

TIP

Use bookme.co.nz for this trip

—-

Day 5 Rotorua

The next morning we went on a geothermal walk. It was interesting to learn about and see all the pools but the walk was a bit lengthy and sometimes difficult to hear the guide.

We tried to stay in Rotorua a bit longer as one night feels really rushed, however, the bus behind us was full so we had to stick on our bus.

100

87

94

00FA0E5F-3FE0-40E7-AA2F-C283E859DD6B

—-

IMPORTANT TIP

Before you get on the Stray bus have your route completely sorted with all the buses booked in where you want to have extra stops because unless you’ve got months to play with, time starts to constrain you to the same bus. We loved our bus, the people and the driver, Lolly, were great, but we did get a but stuck!

 

Indonesia: Bali – Ubud

Ubud

That eve we booked another uber *successful* to our hostel in Ubud. This cost us 100,000 IDR. The hostel was lovely ‘Dormy Inn’ but a little bit out of the way so we rented a scooter the whole time which was great for us as Danielle is a confident driver but if your not so keen maybe stay somewhere closer or ask about taxi hire. Our friends hired a car for 400,000 IDR (2 people) for the day to take them round to all the attractions they wanted to see.

In Ubud we went to the monkey forest, 40,000 IDR, which we really liked. It’s a nice little walk as well as just being to see the monkeys. I was really scared about being attacked but didn’t need to be; if you don’t provoke them or have any food they won’t come near you.

1BF1AE94-093E-4359-94B6-E3B0D67EA814

2FEC3FF1-A3AE-4016-B693-95A7159F21CF

27B33979-415B-4C17-9E4B-A33A4AC8729B

70FE1BB8-DE97-41B0-B7AC-5617F6D65054

FAE9AA10-D0E8-4C02-BA67-8D87BF41FF7A

In the afternoon we went to the trawangan waterfall. It was a fantastic scenic drive to the waterfall passing through jungle, rice paddies, hidden streets and dodging all the dogs! This was the best bit of the trip as the waterfall itself wasn’t really anything too special (this may be us in spoilt traveller mode as we have seen so many stunning things now, hopefully not!). The water was pretty murky so we opted out of the swim and it was just so busy.

165

After this we drove in convoy (at the waterfall we had met up with Katie, Charlotte and Daryl) to a silversmith. This was very cool as we got to see the ladies making the jewellery and then went into the shop for the finished products. Obviously they tried to sell us stuff but they let us walk around and have a good look and let us leave with no problems even though no one had bought anything. We then drove onto a local market where there was lots of clothes/local food. Whatever you do in Indonesia make sure you barter for everything, even if you think you’re taking the piss with the price, your not and try it anyway.

148

151

164

CDBCE205-5E6C-4A1A-9186-396136A89D75

Next day we got the hostel shuttle (60,000 IDR pp) back to Denpasar airport and flew to Lombok. We had heard the weather was really bad for the boats going across to the islands so thought we would try this instead. It was only a 30min flight but travelling took most of the day with the faffing and the journey from our accommodation on both sides.

Off to Lombok!

Vietnam: Halong Bay

From Hanoi we went to Halong bay on one of the ‘2 day, 1 night’ organised sleeper boat tours. We paid $69 USD each for this. It included; bus transfers to and from Hanoi, one night on the boat, one breakfast, two lunches and one dinner, entry to the cave, pearl farm and kayaking. The boat we were on was called ‘Golden cruise’ and was classed as deluxe. The quality of the boat and food was ok, it’s hard to tell without having seen the other boats! But we would advise go for the best standard you can and then try and haggle to the price you want. Looking back we may have paid a bit too much but we would do it again, it’s a really fun trip. Try and get to know the people on your boat, and take advantage of the free beer! We got chatting and completely forgot and then the free beer hour was up.

70644828-0E9A-4587-98EC-347FDC272FFD

3CC9B094-6F88-48BB-A622-76205ABF02C0

332

010FB290-0FFF-4946-8E27-F718FE17EA14

B48AFB4E-974B-46F7-B155-BEF5D3D8EE85

0EAF9744-BD3E-43F3-ACF5-8887EB818D25

6E9CE818-3219-47EB-9D6C-CDE4187EF1AF

121

The kayaking was my favourite part, we went through a little archway into a secluded bay and saw a load of monkeys 🐒 swinging from the trees 😄.

YKFH0499

OGNJ2915

Back on the boat we also did a mini cookery lesson, making spring rolls :).

62ABB363-3C58-4AD3-B194-4BB155D5DB62

86B18C36-B1D2-44CA-8019-009B71304FE4

We arrived back in Hanoi about 1800 and went straight back to our travel agent to book a tour to Sapa. We’d heard some good things from other travelers so wanted to fit it in.