Borneo, part of Malaysia, is a big island divided in three coutareis (Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia). The capital of Borneo is Kota Kinabalu (aka KK) presents its main atraction - the Kinabalu volcano. Lots of travelers come to KK to climb this volcano, so the city is well prepared to respond to this situation. Apart from the volcano, there are some islands to do great snorkel, some jungle and river tours.
Our goal was to do some snorkel at Sapi Island, just a small boat ride from KK, go by plane to Sandakan to go to the Sepilok Orangutang Rehabilitation Center and after flight to Semporna and catch a boat to Mabul Island to do some proper diving.
When we got to the airport, beside what we read, the taxis (here you say teksi) were more expensive then we were expecting. We were supposed to spend 15myr (ringgings) from the airport to the city center, but then the driver said we needed to buy a ticket, but then at the ticket counter they said that at that hour it was even more. So we end up paying 45myr (around 10€) instead of 15… and a liter of gas costs 0,30€.
The day after, started by trying to get to the islands to do some snorkel. The price at the hotel was 170myr/each and when we got to the pier, the cost went down to 33myr, but someone told us not go with them as they sometimes leave turists at the island alone, making them spend a lot more to come back to KK.
So, we end up going to a River Cruise instead to see the big nose monkeys and the wild life, in an old woodden boat, very similar to the one in Anaconda movie, with 3 more couples and some cookers cooking for us. At night, all the fireflies come for a dance in the trees making a really nice show for us to see.
But we really wanted to go snorkeling, so on the next day, we gave it another try. Went back to the pier to go to Sapi and Mamutik Islands and when we got there, we saw paradise on earth. Cristal blue waters, a dense jungle and lots of birds chirping. Without waiting any longer, we dove in and saw lots of fish, completely scared of all the Koreans talking loud. They actually bite their heels, trying to scare them away.
Semporna is a village with dirty roads, broken buildings and bad services. We had to sleep one night here, because the last boat was earlier than the time we arrive here.
Our hotel was one of the best hotels in the area, but still, it was really bad… moths inside the room and geckos singing all night long not letting me sleep, worms on the floor, mosquitos trying to drink our blood… but at least, the sheets were very clean with a restinga area and a kitchen.
The boat on the next day took us to Mabul Island, one of the most beautiful place on earth. The turquoise waters, the long piers above the water with little indonesia inspired decorations and temples here and there, children with sunbited skin, big eyes, with huge smiles on their faces, always trying to strike a pose to ur camera saying “looks, looks!” to see the picture after we took it.
Mabul is filled with Sea gipsies, a comunity without nacionality, passport or ID that live on these islands, by the sea, building their houses and lifes sustained by fishing and pottery. As they can’t leave, because they don’t have any identification, they live their lives focusing on the day to day. They work at the hotels and hostels, some make dive courses to be a dive guide, others just fish and work at the beach, making canoes.
The dives here are amazing! We saw big changing colors squids, barracudas, shrimps, jacks, clownfish (Nemo), crocodile fish, scorpion fish, frog fish, flamboyant cuttlefish, juvenil harlequin sweet lips, boxer shrimps, nudibranches, box fish, star pufferfish, huge turtles, lion fish, groupers, trompet fish, porkupine fish… and all the colours of the underwater world which turns everything into something unbelievable!
Our hotel is in the middle of the jungle, our room is a woodden house next to the commom areas with a resting place, a kitchen and a diner place where we can read “fish are our friends, not food!” but still serving pork, chicken and veal!
Try to visit Kapalai and Siamil, two desert islands with monkeys and paradisiac beaches, Cast Away lookalike kind of sceneary.
After Mabul, we went to Sepilok, to visit the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center. We stayed at a quite good hotel, the Sepilok Jungle Resort, just a few minutes walk away from the Center. We decided to make a night tour as well of the day visit and it’s a must do! The night animals are way diferent from the day ones and you are able to see vipers, spiders, moths, catterpillars, etc. During our day visit, the orangutans (oran-gutan means man of the jungle) come for feeding and play, and some even come to you to play. Please, be carefull with your belongings, as they can be curious and take them. Some people say that they see you are distracted and pulo your pants down! Bam, your naked! Surprise!