A hawksbill turtle
Spending X’mas in Sipadan was perhaps the best break of 2008. After a year of major changes – moving from Spain to Singapore, travelling in Africa, and short trips around tropical Asia, I urgently needed a break from everything. Just time to sit, relax and clear my head alil.
Thou it didn’t feel like X’mas, with the tropical heat and the oceanic setting, we undoubtedly immersed ourselves in the beach bummer lifestyle both of us adore. Everyday was breezy and carefree – waking up to a stunning sunrise by our simple water chalet, diving the deep waters and swimming amidst turtles, then napping away on our verandah overlooking the sea in the evening.
Looking out on our verandah
On our little piece of haven in Sabah, we found heaven. Truth be told, I had been swaying in the seabreeze and getting high on the smell of saltwater too much to even realise that I was still on earth.
Tons of untouched islands dot the area – we dived around Sibuan Island where we found 3 turtles playing hide-and-seek under the coral reefs, and clown fish mingling around with the sea anemone. As we reached the shore of Sibuan Island, some 3-year-old boys stared at us, stark naked and smiling in puzzlement. We were told later that they were Filippino immigrants who’d taken refuge on this previously uninhabited island, living on their own catch from the sea, and basic rattan huts they’d thatched together themselves. Inhabited by perhaps only 20 of them, Sibuan is an unspoilt, rustic island that had managed to escape the clutches of tourism, as yet.
the children of Sibuan Island
clownfish playing amongst the sea anemone
Schools of batfish
For every diving enthusiast, Sipadan is the Mecca, and the ultimate answer to paradise. It’s what dive worshippers have been looking for. Blessed with rich biodiversity, you can find over 500 species just of coral and 3000 species of fish around the reefs of Sipadan. From the intimidating white-tip sharks to abundance of hawksbill turtles, Sipadan is one of the few sites in the world where you are guaranteed a visual feast of marine life. Luck was on our side as we were almost caught in a whole school of trevallies as they swam in coherence with one another. A turtle even swam so close to me, like he wanted a cuddle. I just stared straight into his eyes, and said hi to my new friend.
turtle amidst the colourful corals
school of trevallies
What makes Sipadan a world-famous dive site is its majestic drop-off that seems to cascade down to endless depths (700metres). Sipadan Island is only 14 hectares in size, encircled by vibrant coral gardens, which are cut steeply vertical into the deep sea. The drop-off is where you can find incredible diversity and density of marine life, and the most popular dive sites like the barracuda point, and white-tip avenue.
I had the most fun with this interesting group of divers – all middle-aged Malaysians who had funny tales to share and a heart of gold. They were there to calm my nerves and share their precious life experience with me.