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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Malaysian Borneo: Sabah and Mt Kinabalu

We arrived in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah and went straight to our hostel to dump our bags then out for local food. This part of Malaysia had a real mix of cuisines, mostly great cheap chinese and indian food. We then tried to plan what we were doing for the next couple of weeks, after a lot of research we decided on four main loctions; mt kinabalu, sepilok, river kinabatangan and sipadan. Before we left Sabah we were so lucky to be able to go a meet up with Nova, who works in Rustic Borneo, We had first met Nova all the way back in Vietnam when we did the Sapa trek. She really helped us plan our Borneo trip. So after chatting with her, we collected our bags….a cheeky pizza hut and went to the bus stop.

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Mt Kinabalu

From about half a mile from Rustic Borneo is a bus stop with  load of different shuttle buses going to a load of destinations just shout out your destination and someone will point you in the right direction. It was about 60ringit and took 3 hours to get to Mt Kinabalu.

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We stayed at a hostel called D’villa Rina Ria Lodge it was a very basic room with bunk beds squashed together but all you needed for a night and the views from the restaurant area were incredible. Danielle also wants me to write that the room was really cold and there were massive spiders in the bathroom….but we were in the mountains!

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Now we couldn’t afford to do the summit trek as its around 300GBP and you have to book it 6 months in advance but there are a load of trails in the park you can do, these were really fun rainforest treks!

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