A piece of tropical paradise

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The diving at Sipadan is known to be some of the best in the world and I wasn’t disappointed.  There were more turtles than you could poke a stick at, massive schools of giant barracuda, ugly bumpheaded parrot fish and loads of colourful tropical fish.

Despite the limited number of permits to dive Sipadan each day (120 permits between 10 operators!), I managed to dive 4 out of the 7 days I had there.  Before I went, I was only guaranteed 2 days, but even waking up at 4:30am to fit in 4 dives at Sipadan before lunch was well worth it.

The staff at Sipadan-Kapalai resort were just fantastic, especially the dive crew, who were on hand to do everything for you from setting up your gear and putting it on the boat, to being ready after a jetty dive to take your fins with a smile!  I think that many of the crew took a liking to me, being the only single female diver at the resort at the time – one of the dive crew even tried to kiss me!

This place is just paradise.  I think I’ve found my annual holiday destination – I can’t wait to come back next year!

Sabah simians

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Just mentioning the word “Borneo” conjures up all manner of images from rainforest to monkeys to friendly, dark-skinned locals.  Especially monkeys, and Borneo is renowned for its population of curious orangutans and the just plain curious-looking proboscis monkeys.

Back in November, I managed to snag super cheap Air Asia X launch fares from London to Kuala Lumpur for only £198 return!  At this price, it was madness to think of not booking a holiday.  With the flight saving, I decided that I wanted to splurge and do a diving trip to Borneo, specifically diving Pulau Sipadan in the Celebes Sea – known as one of the best reef and wall diving spots in the world – and staying at the very awesome Sipadan-Kapalai resort.

With two days to pass in Kota Kinabalu, I went to the Klias Wetlands yesterday, which are 1.5 hours west of KK.  These mangrove wetlands are an ideal spot to see the hideously ugly proboscis monkeys.  These simians come out in the late afternoon and early evening to play, and we cruised along the river in a speedboat searching the surrounding trees for any signs of monkey movement.  We were lucky enough to spot quite a few proboscis monkeys as well as playful macaques, a monitor lizard sunning itself on a branch overhanging the river, and a fisherman with his catch of tiger prawns!

After a delicious buffet dinner, we headed out on the boat again as darkness descended to check out fireflies.  In the pitch black night, the fireflies light up the surrounding trees so that they are akin to Christmas trees – very cool.  What was not cool though, was being ravaged by hordes of mosquitos.  Despite slathering myself in enough insect repellant to ward off a plague of locusts, I still ended up with itchy red bites over my legs.

Today I escaped to the mountains to escape stifling heat and to check out Kinabalu Park, of which Mount Kinabalu is a part, as well as the Botanic Gardens.  I didn’t climb Mount Kinabalu, since I didn’t actually have any footwear besides thongs!  It’s also a two-day trip, so it’s definitely something to put on the itinerary for next time.  The Gardens were quite small but had quite a nice array of colourful flowers, including a few orchid varieties.

 

Then we piled on the bus to check out the Poring Hot Springs and canopy walk, which involved a fair climb in the rain to the canopy tower up broken rubble steps.  All in all, both the canopy walk and hot springs were pretty disappointing, with neither being particularly exciting or interesting, but it was nice to see a bit of the surrounding KK area.

The most interesting KK experience was my dinner last night at a random local restaurant with the menu written in Chinese on the wall, but a photo menu for dumb foreigners as myself!  From the pictures of pigs’ bladders and cows’ stomachs, it seemed like the restaurant specialised in stewed offal.  Feeling a bit fragile after a 13-hour flight from London and a 7-hour stopover, I went for the safe soup noodles option with sliced beef!

I might wait until I meet up with my parents on the 30th of April to try stewed animal innards – better to waste their money if I don’t like rather than mine!