I was pretty excited when I came across this Rig a few months before I left for my trip. I totally had to stay there because I was traveling solo and although they looked beautiful, I didn’t want to stay on an overwater bungalow at Kapali by myself. I read that the rig was for those serious about diving… I wanted to see how true that statement was.
My first impression, I was quite impressed. I mean, check out the bar and gear staging area. Totally spacious, great showers, great racks for drying gear and it was clean and organized.
I had booked a sharing room because it is quite expensive to stay on the rig, but I do not think they were booked full and got my own room. I sadly, did not take pictures, but if I could add any major criticism, it would be that the rooms definitely could use refurbishment, everything was just worn and old. But hey, I was here to dive, and not sit in my room, so life goes on.
They also had a great sun deck and this is where I would hang out and read when I wasn’t diving and watch the sunsets:
WiFi was good on every level of the rig the entire duration of my stay. Food was buffet style, more catered toward Chinese tastes, but there were several options, so no complaints there.
They also will make espresso at the bar for a cost, I think it was $2 and it was K-Cups I believe, but it was nice to have if you were cold after diving sometimes. But there was always free tea, water and juices out between meals as well.
They had good boats and ribs, and the home reef wasn’t too bad either, although I only got to dive it once because I didn’t have a buddy and another night when I was able, the current was so strong it swept a Japanese woman away and they had to go rescue her.
Of course, I had to do the famous lift jump off the dive rig while I was there. Once on the platform, you really realize how far it is up from the water…. yeah….
Yay, Sipadan Diving! CNN rated as Sipadan’s Barracuda Point as the #1 Dive spot in the world in this article. Which is why I came here, to see what “the best in the world” is. Some people tell me I have it wrong, since I only learned to dive five months ago, I’m supposed to be diving crap locations so when I get to good, I appreciate it more. I disagree. Every year, the ocean becomes more overfished, more coral gets bleaches, more reefs are destroyed by tropical storms and more sharks get killed for their fins. I want to see what the best looks like now, because in ten years, it’s going to be a lot different picture.
So here I was, straight from diving Tubbataha and Palawan in the Philippines and Sipadan diving location #1, Barracuda Point. As soon as we jumped in, there was a pretty good current going, and the group of Chinese men and I were off into the blue for a good workout. I actually appreciate a good current because it always brings in the pelagics. First, we saw tons of Bumphead parrotfish:
White tips, families of Jacks and sea turtles as well, but I’m spoiled just coming off diving Tubbataha so didn’t take any pictures of those on this dive… Then of course, the Barracuda started pouring in: Second dive we went to the Turtle Tomb, but they wouldn’t let us really go deep in it, but here are some pics anyway:
It was also white tip shark mating season, so that was quite exciting watching them chase each other around the reefs:
We also saw a leopard shark on one of our dives, but it was way too deep to get a good pic with my GoPro and it was towards the end of our dive, so I couldn’t descend at that point either.
I also saw some other interesting things while diving in the Sipadan/Kipali/Mabul Reefs:
Blue Spotted Ray
White tip, Sea Turtle, Angel Fish
All in All, Sipadan had a great mixture of nice reef, great visibility and a good variety of sharks, sea turtles and other marine life that are hard to find all in one place. If Sipadan diving could have thrown in a whale shark, it probably would have been my favorite dive location of the year.
**I should mention that there is now a security issue with the Abu Saif boating in from South Philippines and abducting tourists from Sabah area. Sipadan island had armed military men on it with M16s, and one was “accidentally” discharged in the water while I was there. There are also coast guard patrol vessels and Seaventures had armed guards on the dive platform as well. So, if this type of situation makes you nervous, you may want to reconsider or check into the current safety situation in the area. //I.A.
I was picked up at the Sandakan Airport by the River Lodge’s driver. On “my program” he was supposed to take me to a bat cave, but he said it was filled with cockroaches and guano and that I would probably be happier going to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, so that’s what we did.
I arrived just in time to watch the feedings, but thought it was lame that they fed the orangutans, there were humans in every picture and you were pretty far away from them as well. So I walked back to the car. As soon as I got close to the visitor center however, I spotted this guy and was able to get some great shots:
Then we were off to the deep wilds of Borneo, what I have always been told some of the last impenetrable rainforest left on earth. What I found instead however, was miles… and miles… and miles of palm plantations.
I learned that 80% of Borneo’s Rainforests have been de-forested and replanted with Palm Trees to make palm oil, and only a few small pockets of rainforest remain. I was hoping I was headed towards one of those pockets.
After two hours into central Borneo, we were almost at the hotel, when the driver announced he wanted to go into the local village if it was ok with me and see if there were any pygmy elephants. Yes!!! I said, let’s go. So we went into the village and drove around. There was definitely signs of elephants around, disturbed brush, footprints in the mud and dung… as well as black burnt tires in the village because the villagers hate the elephants and will do anything to keep them out of the town. My driver spoke to a couple of men and boys in town at the café and they said they all came down from the hills last night and were very close to the town, which is why they burnt the tires, to keep them away. Hmmmm… Well at least there were signs of the Pygmies.. that was hope.
I arrived at my hotel on the Kinabatangan River and it was pretty dead with not much going on. They said if I wanted to go on my jungle nature hike I could, so I was all in. There was a wonderful bird tower at the lodge, which I climbed and got this view of the Kinabatangan River:
But I didn’t see any elephants from up here either, much less any birds, nor any signs of monkeys… hmmmm….
We continued on the “nature trail” and I got to see the huge Merbau tree:
There was one other couple at the lodge as guests and after freshening up after my hike, we set out on our evening Kinabatangan River cruise. I was specifically looking for pygmy elephants, but would take whatever wildlife I could find.
We did see a few Harems of Proboscis monkeys and some normal monkeys, but the Proboscis were too far way to get a good picture of the noses that they are famous for.
We didn’t see any alligators either… we saw one hornbill and the 2 harems of Proboscis monkeys and that was it. For being “wild Borneo” I felt it was more like “boring Borneo” I’d rather be somewhere else. Very sad. The most interesting thing on the river cruise was these Palm Oil plantation workers and their children doing their laundry:
That night after dinner, the lodge did come get me to tell me there were wild boar outside… yes! However, I quickly realized that they had baited them in with fruit.
So my venture into Borneo was not the wild rainforest experience I was expecting. The driver knew I was disappointed so suggested we go to Proboscis Monkey Labuk Bay so I could see some proboscis Monkeys up close. Sure, I’ve come this far, why not.
Well there were a lot of really cute Silverlip monkeys everywhere:
As well as a hornbill:
And several harems of Proboscis Monkeys. Proboscis monkey men have the nickname “lonely bachelors” because of their very iconic noses
Borneo Rainforest experience was pretty much a total bust. It was so disappointing especially due to how they are advertising it for tourism. While I believe tourism IS NEEDED, to aid in keeping the deforestation down, the government itself needs to do more to protect these areas, educate the locals and encourage more wildlife habitat.
Now I’m at the 4 Points Sheraton in Sandakan…. drowning my sorrows about the deforestation of Borneo in an infinity pool and pumpkin curry. nom. 😉
Here for a night before I head of to dive Sipadan, which is argued to be one of the best dive spots in the world. Hopefully that isn’t mythical as well, such was Borneo.