Mabul Dive Sites - Pulau Mabul, Sabah Borneo
Rainy season is between mid December and mid February so bear in mind if you're thinking of getting away during Christmas. The nice thing about going during these months is that the crowds are manageable. Sometimes it may just be you and the divemaster on a dive - no rush, no hassles. We went in early March and although the vis wasn't too good and currents were pretty unpredictable plus the rains would catch up on us from nowhere, it was great for muck diving if micro is what you want. Good diving months are from months April till November. Best diving months is in July and August.
The currents can be unpredictable and divers must at all times stick close to the divemasters. There have been cases of lost divers, only to be found a distance away or not to be found at all..
Seaventure Platform Wreck Dive
frogfish. pic courtesy of Moti Uttam
Perhaps early March was a bad time to dive at this particular site or we just picked the wrong day to dive. The surface currents were rough but the underwater currents were worse. Visability was perhaps some 2m at most and we had to descend using the buoy and rope. As we were descending by rope, I could see the other divers in the group were hanging on desperately and they were at right angles to the rope as the currents threatened to drag us away. As we got down to the seabed, at about 12m, the currents slacked and we were able to regroup and made our way to the large cement blocks and twisted metal at the bottom.
We found that the concrete debris was the perfect place to start. There were frogfish of different hues.. yellow, black, red and then a couple of large crocodilefish lounging on metal rods. A shoal of batfish were resting in what seemed to be an old construction cage and large moray eels laying in wait in rusty metal pipes. Nudibranchs were scattered all over. clearly visible even in such low vis. As the currents started up again, it brought in a school of mackerels, a shoal of fusliers... However, we couldn't stay down anymore due to the current and had to ascend before time. For those of you not familiar with current diving, it may be good to dive in protected areas first. One diver had such a rough time in the currents, that she came up in tears. Diving in the north sea, in the red sea or anywhere else non tropical is indeed an experirnce but do make sure that you're comfortable enough in our waters before taking on more challenging dive sites. Do a couple of refresher dives..
ghost pipefish. pic courtesy 0f Moti Uttam
This is a great place for muck diving. A short boat ride from the Sipadan Water Village jetty to the site. As we back rolled off the boat, it wasn't much farther to go down to the sandy bed. A bit of orientation by our divemaster and we were off. It was a sea of nothingness, just sandy bed as far as we could sea. As we moved along, a banded sea snake slithered past, then a lonely longhorn cowfish which my buddy was ecstatic to find. Just a short distance down there were a few mantis prawns marching its way to the unknown, moment later a lone 1.5m barracuda sliced through the murky water looking shiftily at us. But one of the greatest finds were a pair of flamboyant cuttlefish; one slightly bigger than the other but they're only about 2inches in length, it's a wonder our divemaster spotted it. The changing of colours were spectacular. If you get to dive at Mabul, tell your divemaster that you need to take a pic of this creature. By the end of the photo shoot, you'll find that each pic can be passed off as a different creature - its colour change is dramatic to say the least. The only thing you may have to watch out for is the scorpionfish or the stonefish, it's so well camouflaged in the sand that I almost elbowed one as I knelt down to observe a patch of corals.
seahorse, a beautiful specimen. pic courtesy of Moti Uttam
At 6am, the wake up call was unfair. A 7.30am dive just doesn't cut it especially waking up to a cold, gloomy morning. My dive buddy decided he had to catch up on some sleep after having flown halfway around the world just to get wet. When I got to the dive centre, I found that everyone else had decided to forego the dive too. So it was just the divemaster and I , which was GREAT! Our quest of the day was to go look for the illusive seahorse. Certainly was a difficult task. We found hawkfish, loads of nudibranchs, fire gobies, all the usuals - butterflyfish, wrasses, triggerfishes, the odd lionfish here and there, a small group of young striped catfish and a particular red gorgonian fan. The red fan was what we've gotten up at such hour to look for. It took the divemaster some 10min to find what I've been dying to see all this while. A microscopic seahorse. It had exactly the same colouration and even knobbly bits as of the sea fan. Looking through a magnifying glass . it was the most magnificent creature ever. A mythical creature nonetheless. Unfortunately after a further search, we found no more than that one so let's hope that there are more there so the creature doesn't die out soon.
the ribbon eel
As the name suggests, it's a garden of eels. From afar, they can be seen swaying in the gentle current. As divers near the area, the eels quickly retract into their tiny tunnels. But if you stay still long enough, the eels will pop up again. The depth is generally from 5m to 25m. It can get deeper here but the fun really is in the shallower waters where the alien world lives.
There are little crevices and holes where each is a lair for some creature. There are numerous goby species, lots of juveniles from different species - some with no resemblance to the adult; starfishes, one or two crown of thorns were spotted but still manageable.