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.

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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!

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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.

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

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Vietnam: Saigon/ Ho Chi Minh City

The first night we arrived we decided it was time for a drink as we hadn’t had one in a while…anyway a few Long Islands later we were both extremely worse for ware and have vowed not to drink again 🙏. Local Vietnamese spirits are lethal!

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The next day we made it across the river to Dani’s friend Clair’s flat. She lives on the 29th floor and has stunning views over the city, after a tough day nursing deadly heads this was a glorious feeling! We bought ourselves copious amounts of crisps and pot noodle.

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So the main (tourist) things we did in Ho Chi Minh were the war remmenants museum and a day trip to Cu Chi tunnels. The war museum is a must if you’re there, it’s only 15,000 dong and gives an interesting account of the Vietnam with some really eye opening photography.

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The Cu Chi tunnels we are not so sure on, it was what felt like a really long day with not much time actually at the tunnels. It was over a two hour journey from HCM. It was good to see the surroundings and try to understand what it must have been like but it was quite pricey ~180,000 dong (bus and tunnels entry fee) and a long trip, the museum in the city centre was much more informative and you could get a much better feel of what really happened. The Cu Chi tunnels tour was interesting but much less informative…if you have a penchant for small spaces though you’d love it! you get the chance to crawl through one of the tunnels, Danielle got half way before freaking out, but I couldn’t even go in 😦

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Whilst staying with Claire she took us to two lovely restaurants, one aimed at the expatriates; pretty classy food with a price tag to match. We had a lovely ‘English style fish and chips’ which was perfect after being away from home for so long! The other one was a Thai restaurant.

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