The team photo is starting from the back the old fella, Paul from Chorley, Catherine, David the Aussie, Apple, Yvonne, Fei, Foo, Richard, C Y and Chuan in the trunks at the front. Back to the blog.
We are off to Sipadan first thing today. Mid Reef is to be our first stop, but turns out to be our 3rd. On the way there some dolphins are spotted, so we power over and stop to watch a while. Then there fish spotted leaping out of the water and a flock of frigate birds above them. The guess is the fish, possibly tuna, are feeding on smaller fish that they have herded to the surface and the frigates are taking advantage of it. It is a really good sight. The diving has not started yet and the day is already a success.
We finally make it to Mid Reef after checking in with the Army/Marine post on Sipadan and the now very enjoyable with lots of banter back roll sees us above a beautiful coral garden. Down we go, over the edge to the wall and it's sharks and turtles all the way. At one point there are 6 to 8 reef sharks patrolling behind a big old tuna. It looks like they are stalking it, but I think they are waiting to pick up any scraps, like the frigate birds. I spotted one reef shark, but couldn't tell if it was a white tip as something had taken the tip off its dorsal fin. There's a big old Napoleon wrasse hanging around here too, there must be some fun or feed around here. At last I spot a scorpion fish, I have been looking every dive. For some reason these masters of camouflage attract me. I looked around to see if there was anyone around I could show it to. Only Richard is close enough. I signaled him and he heads over. I look back to point it out, where the bloody hell has it gone, I'd picked out a marker too. I found it in the end, chuffed with myself. Back to drifting along and a few yellowtail barracuda hover above, then a school of jacks appear as we round a corner, they are circling tornado like, this is nice to watch, so I did for a while. Then I drifted out from the wall a bit, into the blue to get a bigger picture view and it is even more impressive out here. This dive is as good as Barracuda Point. I hang around at the back of the group, checking out the anthias and just sauntering along doing my own thing. It is good to be confident enough to linger at the back and good for the ever watchful Richard to be happy with me there. He came along and complimented me on my buoyancy, which was a very nice boost. I guess he is a good teacher, No!! I know he is a good teacher. Another beautiful dive comes to the end of the air. The vis was brilliant, which goes a long way to making a dive even better.
Back on to the idillic Sipadan for our mid-morning snack and the obligatory break. Paul was on this island 23 years ago when it was possible to stay on it and there was only about 12 of them, the only people on the island. That would be a tremendous experience. I took a stroll along the beach for a few snaps and got talking to a smashing Irish lass, too smashing, I burned my napper as we stood there chatting. Back to the boat and the bitter sweet experience of another dive at Sipadan, but alas the last for a while. South Point the destination this time, the furthest away dive spot around the other side of the island. Over the side we go again. My pressure gauge has an air leak, I pointed it out to Richard, who signalled that it is only small. He's right, but for peace of mind, I set work fixing it. For the doubters in my family, I did too, whilst swimming along at about 15 metres down, so stick that in your pipes and smoke it.
The vis has dropped since the first dive, but it is still wonderful, plenty of turtles or sharks. I love trying to drift up or down to a cruising shark, but they tend not to hang around too long, unlike the friendly turtles. There are butterflyfish, angels, anthias in abundance. The butterflyfish include regals, emporers, banded, all sorts again. Paul demonstrates how to play Superman with the anthias by shooting his arms out towards them and they disappear in an instant into rocks and corals, only to reappear a longer instant later. This is up in the coral gardens about 5 metres, as this is the safety stop of our last Sipadan dive. Sad but brilliant. I have had a time of my life. I hope I get to dive here again. Time will tell. Yvonne invited me back in July, or asked Richard to, once she found out I was around this part of the world a while longer, but I should be in Australia by then. It's back to the rig for some dinner, with the only sighting on the way back the usual flying fish, still brilliant.
I can't believe it's our last day diving. It may be a good thing, to allow all the experiences to sink in. They can become mixed together with the dives coming so fast. I log sighting in the wrong dive, if I don't do my log the same day and still then sometimes.
2 more dives this afternoon, around Pulau Mabul close to the rig. The first at Lobster Bay, or some similar name. This turns out to be the most exciting of the trip. I spotted a red fire goby early doors, then Amir finds a stonefish, even more of a camouflage expert than the scorpion fish I spotted earlier and more venomous. Paul had us do a group concentrate on the boat to try and make an eagle ray appear, but we only see blue spotted rays. Yvonne got the blame because she didn't know what an eagle ray looks like, so must have had the wrong thoughts. There were a couple of moray eels and a lot of nudi branches. You had to be quick to spot them as the current picked up as the dive went on, so the drift became a good old pace and very enjoyable, unless you wanted to stop and look at something. It is a great feeling to drift along as if motorised, suspended in the water. We started to go up above 10 metres and now the current was ripping through. The only way to stop was to grab a boulder. I grabbed one and it came away. Chuan gave me a nudge into the current and I grabbed another and hung on flying like Superman as the current lifted me up, but I had a good grip. Just as well as C.Y. came heading my way. I grabbed her leg and she grabbed a rock. Eventually we were all there, like 10 Supermen or Superwomen hanging onto rocks. It was a real buzz. I could feel my regulator shuddering in my mouth with the current ripping through. This was a different safety stop, hanging onto a rock, checking out the coral garden and its inhabitants. For grabbing C.Y., I got a mention in her log as a drawing. She has the most original dive log I have seen. She logs highlights of dives by drawing them. Thanks for the mention C.Y. I am honoured. After the 3 minute safety stop we let go of our rocks and drift up to the surface, where it is flat calm. I don't understand that, it is beyond me. That's probably no surprise to you.
Back to the rig for a brew and biscuits. The boatcrew and Amir are hard at it swapping gear while we have the easy life. So to another bittersweet moment, the last dive. Yvonne and C.Y. do some leaping of the hoist, they are the big kids of the group, then it is over to Paradise 1, where we met the current the other day. It now seems a mere ripple after the earlier dive. There is no current today as we drop over the side and head down to be met by a horned cowfish. I'm sure it's the one me and Chuan saw the other day. I picked out a couple of banded pipefish hidden under a coral and then a waspfish that looks like a piece of seaweed. It is bigger than the one we saw on the night dive, but these are good spots for me, I'm not the best at spotting the small stuff. The leaders find 3 ornate ghost pipefish, then David an octopus. I spotted a big old turtle out in the murk, so set off to check it out, but he was having none of it and buggered off. Then a cuttlefish, they are nice to watch, shimmering and changing camouflage as they hover. The vis is getting decidedly soupy as our last dive draws to a close. Sad, but just what the doctor ordered.
Thanks Richard, for the invite and the tender loving care. You not only made me feel like Superman, this time I looked like him at one point. You are passionate about your diving and caring about your divers. I hope your life is always as happy as mine. CHEERS!!
There was talk of a night dive, but it has been substituted by a visit to Mabul after the dive is over, before we head back to the rig. It was good to walk around and see the villagers. There are a lot of kids there and they all seem to be having fun. Richard came to rescue me from some of them after a handout, but I had it under control, being a Grandad, I have that scowl that travels the world, it means "that's enough. Pack it in." A bit of shopping in the local shop/huts and it's back to the rig for the last time. Tonight is barbecue night and it is held on the sundeck. What a beautiful place to eat, we should have been up here every night. The weather is great, the company perfect and I even had a few beers. Richard gave an end of jaunt speech and I got a special presentation of a PADI T-shirt. A very happy moment. I am Richard's oldest student, at 54. He is very proud of me and I am chuffed to bits at the presentation.
One of the staff is giving it rice on the guitar. He has a great repertoire and must have played for hours. Paul moved over to assist and greatly amused our group with his singing and dancing, we were well impressed.
People started to drift away, so I found a deckchair, faced into the wind and chilled watching the stars. I sent some texts to the kids and sat a very happy man.
Paul came over and we sat and did the chinwag bit, it was a great night. We called it a day at midnight and left the crew still singing away, but now in Philipino.
THIS IS A GREAT LIFE.