Excursion: Thai Similan Archipelago and Sipadan Malaysia

The Quintessential Marine Explorer Junkie

Freedive Excursion report by Club PR Officer, Intrepid Traveler and Social Media Queen: Luna

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Koh Tachi Similans Archipelago, Thailand

My short trip to the tropics in early April 2014 was divided into two weeks on three of the Top Ten best beaches/Islands of South East Asia. The first week was in Thailand and the second was in Tawau of Sabah in Malaysia Borneo. It was horrible. 😉

Arrival: Khao Lak, TH

The first stop was in Khao Lak, an hour and a half north of Phuket Airport. Khao Lak wasn’t always so charmed. It was hit hard by the 2004 Boxing Day Asian tsunami, which pounded the coastline and claimed more than 4000 lives.

Here we took a snorkelling trip to the Virgin Island (Koh Tachi). Compared to others, the cost is quite high (2500 Bth/81$) for a day trip in Thailand. This is one of the newest island of Similans Archipelago so maybe that had something to do with it. This trip was alright!

Although external conditions were sunless and choppy, visibility was fantastic. We saw many sea crates, schooling trevally and much more.

Island Hopping: Koh Lipe, TH

Arriving on Koh Lipe, the last island in the south west of Thailand which sits geographically next to Langkawi island, Malaysia.

There’s a big suggestion not to travel around Thai’s New Year (Songkran) which is between 12th-16th April every year. Too many Thai tourists and not much labour.

The traffic on the ferry was congested and slow. It took a whole day just getting there. Apparently life is all about the journey, not for this girl stuck on a ferry for a day wanting to be not on the water, but in the water. On the bright side, Koh Lipe is full of astonishing corals and sea life. The photos say it all to the viewer, but being there, it’s like standing on stage next to the lead singer of your favourite band in the middle of a 100,000 strong crowd concert.

Now! Malaysia is Where It’s At!

The major highlight of this adventure is Mabul island and Sipadan island which is known for a tornado of Barracudas, Trevallies and Humped Head. Flying from KL to Tawau in Malaysia Borneo then you have one hour car ride to Semporna.

For any kind of diver, this is the main town where you will find hundreds of dive operations and accommodation either on Semporna itself or in Mabul island which has a one hour boat ride.

I was staying at Billabong home-stay (no, I’ don’t have shares in this place, well, not yet!) which is on the budget side of Mabul island. The characteristic of this Island is quite encouraging for freedivers.

Around the perimeter of the island are “drop offs”. From 10m toward 20m and then 60m and it goes forever. This time I joined a snorkelling trip with Scuba Junkie company to get dropped at the best spots.

The boat took us to the Lobster Wall, Water Bungalow and other site, which I don’t remember, because I was in a deep blur of big blue. We did quite enjoy the lobster wall. It is a wall drop off to 20m and 200m.

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Scuba Junkie Jetty, Mabul Island, Malaysia Borneo

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Lobster Wall, Mabul Island, Sabah, Malasysia

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Water Bungalow sunset, Mabul island, Sabah, Malaysia

 

It’s not all Cocktails and Dreams

There’s things you have to keep in mind in this wild water. We had a lot of attacks from the territorial triggerfish and Schooly Jellyfish. I did manage to keep my carbon fins alive but Steffen my buddy got a bite on his fin which was quite funny. I meant.. really! they are dangerous!!

The best spot of all time must be the Water Bungalow. The site of a clear and pristine aquamarine blue. This is a paradise, plenty of marine animals, more than 500 species were found here on their artificial reefs. It is a white sand seabed at 20m and found plenty of pink jellyfish and lots of schooly juvenile fish here. For a second I thought I got transported by midnight express to Palau’s Jellyfish lake. The tornado of Barracudas and Jacks, The overhang with 600 M depth of Sipadan is not to be missed. You will need to have a permit of diving in advanced like 2 or 3 months prior. It’s limited !!

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Jellyfish in Mabul Island

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Blue Water at Water Bungalow, Mabul Island

 

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Water Bungalow Artificial Reef, Mabul Island Malaysia Borneo

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Jellyfish in Mabul Island , Malaysia Borneo

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Steffen upside down Mabul Island Malaysia Borneo

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Jacks Storm Sipadan, Malaysia Borneo

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Barracudas Storm Sipadan Island, Malaysia Borneo

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Schooly Barracudas Sipadan Island, Malaysia Borneo

Homestay Chalet

Our home stay was humble even though we have booked a “Comfortable Chalet”. It is an air conditioning unattached on the edge of sea bungalow. The sewer system directly to the sea was daunting. Electricity from 6pm to 6 am made your life uncomfortable. But after all we are here only for diving. As long as we can sleep 8 hours we were happy.

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Billabong Homestay Mabul Island Malaysia Borneo

 

 

 

The Wrap

Even weeks later, I’m still living in a big blue dream from the excursion. If I could, I’d drop everything right now and land in that “Chalet” without electricity and the unique sea-sewer and go freediving.

Sipadan and Mabul were the ultimate highlights and worth the trek to get there. So much so that I’m now dumping my camera and housing and going hell for leather on some new Olympus magic.

Lucky it’s winter, otherwise you’d be burdened with a king tide of underwater photos.