Saturday, April 11, 2009

East Coast Adventures Part 2 - Mesmerised in Mabul

The next morning I woke up at 5:12 a.m. 

I remember the time well coz I looked at the time on my phone. I had set the alarm for 6:30 a.m. actually so I don't know why I suddenly awoke. Switched on the TV and watched something, hoping to fall back into slumber. Couldn't really so I just sort of drifted in and out of sleep till my alarm rang, which I continued to put to snooze for 5 times before I finally got up.

Took shower, packed up and got ready to check out. Sorted my stuff to bring to the island and the rest I left in a plastic bag; to be held in safekeeping at the reception till I return later. Then I went to Restoran Al-Nafisah for a quick breakfast (Maggi goreng, again) since we were to report at the dive shop at 8 am. Stopped by the grocery store for some snack items and went to wait outside the dive shop. Got a packed lunch of tuna steaks and rice. The rest of the divers started gathering too, all were foreigners with serious diving gear and pretty nice tans. I guess they've been here for a few days already. The Sipadan group went off first, followed by mine to Mabul. I was the only non-diver; I registered as a snorkeller although I hadn't planned to.

Leaving Semporna..

We left at about 8:40 am from the jetty nearby; we had onboard four divemasters for the divers. The boatman was to take care of me. I found that very funny. The boat ride took about 45 minutes; as we left the coast the sea began to turn a clear turquoise; and then I saw the island from afar. Against the bright blue skies, the sight was amazing for me.

Almost there..from afar.

The divers got their final safety briefing and got changed into their wetsuits. A French guy was doing his advanced PADI, and one girl was doing her open water. The rest were fun divers. As they jumped in, I was left to decide whether to snorkel there at the shallow reefs. I told the boatman that I was not actually feeling good. True coz the boat ride and fumes from the diesel gave me a slightly nauseous feel and a headache. I asked to be sent on shore if possible? And I can swim from there later once I felt better.

French guy and divemaster just after jumping in.

It was alright apparently, so he kindheartedly boated all the way to other other side, dropped me off at the common jetty with many words of comfort and telling me not to worry and they'll come by later to pick me up. I told him not to worry for me, I'll be alright on land :) I then walked slowly along the long jetty, soaking in one of the most awesome of surroundings I've ever encountered.

Just after arriving - pic on jetty with the island and beach in the background.

The skies were truly blue. With wisps of pure white cotton clouds that looked like someone had painted them on, in the perfect spot on the canvas. 

And I don't think that, that particular shade of blue can be reproduced in any paint factory anywhere in this world.

The waters were crystal clear in a shade of turquoise. Yeah, the sea was sparkling green, not blue. Tufts of mossy green seaweed here and there, almost like blemishes I thought.

My O.P.I. ped feet on the sand.

The sand was blinding white. I wanted to touch it, hear the light crunch, feel it go squish between my toes.

Look at the skies.

The coconut trees gently swaying. Tall, graceful, natural.

The villagers all going about their daily chores. Their little village huts which looked as basic as basic can get. With a little touch here and there of an effort to decorate, and make it look more presentable. Men repairing their boats. Womenfolk on the verandas.

Kg Bajau, left of the jetty; my little hut at the entrance.

Shrieks of laughter from children playing in their own little world. Some half-clothed, the younger ones naked. Oblivious to the world outside. Saying hello to strangers, probably the only English word they know, and running away in smiles.

Adjectives were turbo-tumbling in my mind and I tried to find the perfect one.

View of the jetty and rig, from my little resting hut.


In those few minutes that I have stepped foot on Mabul, I knew I was going to enjoy just being here. Yes, I can be here, and do nothing for the day. Just watching, and listening to the world go by. Find my solace in solitude.


Ha, I'm getting sentimental. Rewind and let's start again.

Jetty pic - with SWV and sunbathers in the background.

View of jetty and rig far out.

So, having set my mind to explore the island, I walked into the nearest village area, and just observed and nodded to the villagers going about their lives. Some were shy, going inside once they saw me. One thing I noticed was that there were a few enterprising houses which were selling souvenirs (shells and the lot) and also local snacks and drinks. I walked slowly, just seeing and imagining their life. Reaching the end, I turned around and caught sight of a group of villagers having coffee under the shade of a tree. I walked over, said hello and engaged in small chat. They shared that this is what their weekends were like, very laid back and since there were not much to do, they spend time in conversations. How nice. I bade goodbye shortly and continued back to the jetty area. 

Village houses.

Kids in the sea at all times of the day.

One of the souvenir shops - this one is my favourite because.... has this wildly gorgeous thriving shrub of hot pink bougainvillea...
..and under it, dried sharks jaws and a full bodied dried fish. Cool, eh?

I forgot my flip flops on the boat and by this time, the sand was getting hot and it was not even 11 o clock. I walked back to the village entrance and sat myself on the small hut outside, with a direct view of the jetty and sea. The Seaventures rig was right in front. A few more jettys to the left; I could see boats arriving and departing, most likely shuttling the divers to the dive sites. Sipadan Water Village (SWV) was on the right side. Sipadan Mabul Resort (SMART) was just behind the village just now.

Lying under my hut - spectacular views.

At the hut, a few men from the village came and joined me, they were waiting for the boat to come in. I said hello first and we started chatting. More about them than me, I asked : what they did on normal days, what about weekends, what everyone does, what about the children, did they have a school, is there a place to eat, which place is the best to stay on the island, what happens when the weather is bad, is there any rainy season, how often do they go over to Semporna, what language they speak on the island, do they feel safe, etc etc. One of them, Renie, asked if I wanted a walkabout around the island, he could show me around. As this was my initial plan anyway, I agreed, but had to wait till the my boat came in to get my flip flops and also to officially inform the divemaster of my plan to stay on the island till end of the trip.

White sand, green sea, blue skies.

The boat came a while later since the divers need to have a break in between dives; Divemaster Ice came on shore to rest a while and I managed to let him know, which was alright by him. I then had to walk on the blistering hot jetty to get my flip flops from the boat (cooked soles, anyone?)

I'd like to have this kind of sky every day..

With happily covered feet, Renie and I ventured to the left side of the island first, there are two villages on Mabul; this one is Kg Suluk, the other Kg Bajau. I saw their houses, their little groceries shops (these are aplenty), the school, the cemetery, the wells (fresh water from underground wells are available here), the other houses on water, little pots of flowers here and there. I also quickly had my packed lunch at a simple eatery there. Just next to it, barefoot kids were playing skipping and some sort of hopscotch drawn on the sand. Ah, the carefree life..

Kids at play.

Boatmen at work.
A budget place to stay in Kg Suluk.

Boats; idle in the sun.

We passed by Borneo Diver's Resort; nice, they even have tented options if you wish not to stay in the chalets. The police base is also there; the island is guarded 24/7.

Reaching the other end, it was the grounds of SMART. Wow, high end, now I know why they cost so much. Beautiful, I like.

I fell in love with this view.

The chalets in SMART.

This hammock has my name on it..

View of SMART's reception/main building..

If I ever stay in SMART, I'd want this particular chalet,... I can wake up to this in the morning.

Then it was to the SWV, on water. We had to take security passes to go in, went to the gift shop where I bought a tee. Pink. I seem to end up with this colour quite often now.

Jetty to SWV. Love this tree there...

A tri-lingual reminder to keep clean.

View to the right of jetty.

View to left of SWV jetty.

By then, we were back to the little hut at the entrance of Kg Bajau. Renie had something to do and I wanted to rest so he told me to go wait at the new Scuba Junkie lodging that was not fully ready yet. My boat had come in again for their second rest; Mr French guy came on shore to walk around the village and take some pictures. I could see he was really soaking this in too.

This villager caught a 15 kilo tuna; pic taken as soon as he alighted his boat and reached the beach.

One of the sections of the beach facing SWV which had concrete barriers/wave breakers.

I like Scuba Junkie's new lodging place (not sure of the actual name yet), perfect location and was already carving plans for my next trip. I slapped on some more sunblock, chatted with the staff (RM80 + 3 meals? Unbeatable price), and wrote and read. Reflected. Daydreamed. Thought about things and people and stuff. Replayed some chapters of my life.

On the steps of the scuba junkie's main building. I have many feet shots :)

View of the lodgings on the left; beach and jetty straight ahead.

I walked around again after resting, this time to sit on an bench under a short shady tree on the fringe of the white beach. The few guys earlier came by again, waiting for the supply boat to come in. I didn't get it earlier and didn't ask to clarify in case I offended them; they were providing labour to carry things from the boat to shore. 

Posing, in the hot afternoon sun..haha..

Went to the water's edge and wished I had prepared myself to bathe in the sea. Alas, but always a next time I told myself. 

In the water..

Later, I went back to the little hut and decided to nap. Wrote a bit. Renie came back and we chatted again. He had with him a chainsaw to cut up a tree that had been swept in from the sea. By this time it was late afternoon, 2 -ish, and children were swimming and jumping in the sea. Seems that it's a normal thing for them to do at this time of the day.

Napping at my hut.

Time passes by just like that.  Just after 3 p.m., my boat came in for the final time so it was time to leave. Bade my farewells and thanked my unofficial host, promising to return. Return, I will.

The journey back, very speedy and hair was in knots!

Reached Semporna in good time (why is it that return journeys are always faster?). Retrieved the rest of my belongings, changed my tee and freshened up a bit, and felt a little bit hungry. Decided to have an early early meal in place of dinner, so walked over to have Maggi Goreng, again. Then I walked back to the bus stop, got myself a bus that will drop me off at the airport, left just after 5 pm. 

Guarded; 24/7/365.

While waiting for the van to fill up, I saw three fully-uniformed military men on their green Land Rover, armed with a machine gun, on guard, on duty. The town is patrolled 24/7, ever since the hostage incident in Sipadan. I didn't expect to be as surprised as I was, maybe seeing it yourself gives a different feeling than just reading about it.

I was extremely sleepy along the journey, feel asleep a few times and kept getting woken up by sudden jolts and bumps. Reached airport after 6 pm; boy I've got 3 hours to kill. Spent time reading, and tried to nap as well, unsuccessfully. Thank God, Air Asia decided to depart 30 minutes early at 9 pm, I guess all 50 passengers were already there and had checked-in, why wait? Smart decision, captain.

So that was my Mabul story. I found today that I have a slight tan, despite slatherings of sunblock. I forgot my neck though so that's a bit painful to the touch today.

I will return to Mabul one day soon. 

Found one more place for my solace in solitude. Where I can run away to, and do nothing.

Listening to : Details in the Fabric - JM feat. JM
Reading : Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant.

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