Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text:
The islands around Sipadan are not well known and yet they are worth a visit. I dive there almost every day until the end of the week, while waiting for my turn to go to Sipadan.
In the genre "appetizer", these small islands (Mabul, Sibuan, Mantabuan) are fantastic spots.
The island of Mabul
The main one, Mabul, is inhabited. Entire families of fishermen, more or less sedentary "sea gypsies", live there in wooden shacks on stilts, next to a luxurious resort for rich divers and longhouses rustic for low-budget divers.
The island is pretty, seen from the open sea, but for this first time in the waters of Sipadan, I preferred to stay in Semporna, even if it means taking the boat every morning.
Update : during my future trips to Borneo, in 2009 and in 2013, to dive in Sipadan, I will make a different choice, I will reside in Mabul to avoid this journey.
The port of Semporna is ugly, not very pleasant, I would not advise tourists in search of exotic postcard to stay there. But there is a semblance of modernity that I appreciate: internet access (although not very fast), electrical outlets to recharge the batteries of the camera, restaurants, hot water, market, etc.
Small annoyance in my quest for modernity: I receive SMS, but I can't send any. It's annoying, all the same... Hmm. I feel like a backpacker who's getting bored!
During my many dives in Mabul, Sibuan and Mantabuan, I am not disappointed. The dive-masters are competent and know the bottoms like the back of their hand. Every day I discover bugs that I have never seen before.
Highly sought after frog-fishes aka frogfish (antennae), indolent and shapeless fish, disguise themselves as a sponge and wedge incognito between two stones, leaning on their fins which have become quasi-paws.
Crocodile fish, kings of camouflage too, merge with the sand. And, again, there is a truly incredible variety of nudibranchs ...
A treat for the amateur photographers of which I am a part. You can also meet the classic tropical underwater fauna: batfish, moray eels, angel fish, clowns, parrots, etc. etc.
Between two dives, we decompress on the sand, the time to eliminate the nitrogen accumulated in the body and to take some strength.
Military welcome on white sand
On each island, there are soldiers, who control the boats' route sheets, the names and the number of divers. Security measures put in place by the Malaysian government since the hostage taking in 2000 by the Philippine terrorist group Abu Sayyaf (the divers held on Jolo Island had been kidnapped in Sipadan).
It's a bit funny, when you land on these cute white sandy beaches with their postcard coconut trees, to see guys in fatigues, some of them armed with an impressive machine gun, as a welcoming committee.
Bikini divers are the main attraction of the day for them... And of course the French are entitled to a little ironic football commentary. Thanks Zidane!