My Mabul Island trip was one that I will always remember! Why?
It was a very random trip. Initially, me and XeRoZ planned to do our honeymoon in Mabul Sipadan Water Resort, or in Kapalai, which both, can be reached via Tawau Airport. Then after getting quotations from the resorts there, I felt abit 'sakit hati' (translation: heart pain) because it's pretty much expensive to spend 3 nights at the luxurious water village there. Then i crawled to him and say, "let's go get our diving license!!!", and he was like, "What about our honeymoon?" And i go, "nevermindlah, go diving more worth it!"
I was terrified by the idea of D I V I N G. I can swim and snorkle, but being under the deep blue sea surrounded by creatures that I've never seen before is intimidating! But I had always knew that XeRoZ loves adventures and he has been persuading me for like 3 years. And at the same time, I found cheap flight tickets and booked to Tawau!
Finding a dive instructor! So we went to MIDE (Malaysia International Dive Expo) as recommended by my good friend, Ange! She said she got good deals from there so off we went! She was right, the expo was packed with people who are passionate about diving. Prices were attractive too! There are many Open Water Dive Packages being offered especially in Perhentian, Tioman, Redang and some islands in Johor which I can't remember.
It was at one booth that I bumped into Malaysia Asia's David Hogan Jr. One of my first blogger friend who encouraged me to keep blogging when I was still new in the blogosphere. I told him I was looking for courses, and the good looking 'Angmoh' who was with him, told me that he do conduct courses in Perhentian Island. I told him that i had booked tickets to Tawau and immediately he pointed me to a guy, tanned skin, wearing a cap, speaking on his mobile phone like a boss. So, this was how I found my instructor, Benjamin Choong. The weird thing about Benjamin was initially he said he will email me the quotations etc. he said he was busy from the exhibition and travelling. So i waited and waited for his quotation, then i called to ask him about the details. Initially, I thought 'maybe i keep asking discounts, he don't like, so tak layan me'. So i 'patah hati' also lah, continue scouting for any instructors that willing to entertain us. But as time pass, I realized, Benjamin is really a busy and forgetful person. I'm glad to have him as our instructor. From 2 persons group, my gang enlarged to 7 people ( 2 Leisure divers + 5 students).
Woah! I hope I don't bore you with my lengthy introduction! Let's continue with the journey to Mabul Island. We took the morning flight and arrived at Tawau Airport at 10am. Something stupid happened to iLoo (XerOz's cousin) a couple of months back. He booked the wrong flight time and we all have to wait for him! We thought that we could go to Tawau town and loiter around, but as we 'Waze'd the direction, town is 30km away and taxi fee is RM45/way! Transportation is very expensive in Tawau yoh!
What else, we sat at the airport for 3 hours, studying our Open Water Course book.
After that, iLoo arrived and we departed to Semporna Jetty, which is a 1 hour van ride from Tawau Airport. You know sometimes in places like airport, there are some travel agents pestering you to take their packages? It's the same in Tawau airport, except that this time, i was the snobbish tourist. I approached one of them to ask is he the one fetching us, and he asked me where I'm going. I refused to answer because I didn't trust them. Then this particular guy went to ask all the agents around the airport entrance and at one point, most of them were helping to find who was our van driver. I was so touched by their helpfulness and faith in humanity restored at that point!
The journey wasn't that bad, the road was straight, and traffic was smooth that day. The van driver even stopped us at a sundry shop for us to get some cup noodles and snacks. Who knows, maybe the island is so secluded that there's no shops!
We arrived at the Jetty and was told by Benjamin to look for Anton. We were also given a photograph of Anton. So again at Jetty, a group of people came and ask us where we are going. I mentioned 'Anton'. Then they go "ahhh, yes, yes, Anton!" They pointed to a boat on the left and then helped me grab my bags and walked across the jetty to the boat. So helpful, I thought!
The funny part begins when the men that helped us carry bag asked us for 'tips' for carrying our bags! Walaoeh! Only 10steps and we have to give Rm15 for 3 of them!!! (Rm 5 each)! Then i keep looking at the boatman, i don't think he looks like the Anton that Benjamin showed. I feel panicked lah! But seems like my friends all said he looks like Anton so i let the matter rest lor. (Only at the next day I realised the boatman is not Anton). Motorboat engine started and vrrrooom we go! The journey to Mabul Island takes about 1 hour. But 1 hour ride fun because just 5mins off Semporna Jetty, you can see the sea in shades of blue, turquoise and aquamarine. In the middle of the sea, there are houses built on stilts.
We arrived at Spheredivers Lodge, and was welcomed by Benjamin. The lodge was build on top of the sea, and it looks very much like the houses of the locals there! It was a very basic accommodation, small rooms with 2 single beds, and an attached bathroom. Our rooms was the new ones being build last year so it has an attached bathroom. The older rooms do not have attached bathroom.
The water surrounding this lodge is crystal clear. From the top, I can already see seaweeds, starfish, sea urchins, anemonefish and a lot more. Turtles were friendly as well and they swim pass this lodge quite often!
Sunsets are amazingly beautiful! The sun here rises at 5.30am, and sets at 5.30pm. Fishing boats, tourist boats and kid boats were a common sight here.
I was too busy checking things out, that I didn't have any photos of the lodge during daytime. So i have to make do with the one photo that I took (at night!) hahaha!
This is the dining area, also the TV area (they have Astro here weih). Telecommunication signal is good as well. We can enjoy 3G signals throughout the island.
Our rooms are just across the dining area. Everything is made of wood and the whole floor will sway whenever big waves hit the lodge.
No dives were done on my first day. So we just jump down and do some snorkeling right in front of the lodge!
More stories on the next day! So stay tuned...