A date with another world

Jump off the boat, quickly, there is another world down there. Remember to equalise your ears. Start descending. Two green turtles, a few white tip sharks and a big grey reef shark. Remember to equalise your ears. Look over there, a huge school of barracudas and more sharks. Yes, there is a strong current too. A giant trevally, another shark. One thing at a time please! It has only been a few seconds since we left the surface!

sipadanbarracuda

An underwater party

If wildlife photography was tough, underwater photography takes it to a whole new level!

Off the south east coast of Malaysian Borneo lies Sipadan. Rising 600 metres from the seabed and with more than 3000 species of fish and hundreds of different corals, this tiny island is often voted as one of the top 3 dive destinations in the world and, having been protected from fishing for more than 20 years, it boasts some of the richest food webs on planet Earth.

Spending the night on the island is not allowed and so we chose the tiny island of Mabul, a short 30 minute boat ride from Sipadan itself. And guess what: Mabul offers some amazing diving as well. Let’s get wet.

mabuljetty

Fish come in all sizes. On the smaller end of the scale, tiny shrimps, pigmy seahorses and flamboyant cuttlefish. A little bit bigger, and therefore easier to spot, anemonefish, aka Nemo, gracefully dance in their preferred hideout.

mabulnemo

Supersized star fish share the sea bed with tiny nudibranches. Although nothing is what it seems when it comes to size: here, lions (lion fish) are smaller than frogs (frog fish).

sipadanlionfish

mabulfrogfish

Social life is important too, with species like jack fish and bumphead parrotfish coming together in big numbers in a display that, on its own, makes the trip worthwhile.

sipadanjack

sipadanbumpheads

There are underwater creatures that seem to be on steroids. Blue lobsters with antennas longer than a barracuda and giant groupers that would laugh on the face of your worst nightmare.

mabullobster

mabulgiantgrouper

A story about turtles

A least one green turtle greeted us on each dive and we probably saw more than a hundred of them over the course of ten days in Mabul. This is what happens when humans don’t mess around with the ecosystem.

sipadanturtlecloseup

But fate had something else in stock for us.

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Watching those little things going into to the open water was something special. Only a few of them will survive their first few years but those who do, will return to this very same beach to breed. Is Nature not wonderful sometimes?

sipadanturtlewhatsup

And one about sharks

Sharks are incredibly important. Both directly and indirectly, they control the population of all other species in the ocean. Without sharks, the whole ecosystem will be put in jeopardy.

Elephants kill more people each year than sharks do.

White tip sharks and grey reef sharks are abundant in Sipadan and boy they are beautiful. Coming so close to such an efficient predator is an enormous privilege.

sipadanshark

Sharks are dying. Or rather, we are killing them. And despite how well documented this drama is, it is not hard to find shark fin soup in our restaurants. Unfortunately, as Rob Stewart once said:

“[…] everyone is busy saving the Pandas.”

Coming up

We go in search of our cousin, the orangutan, and some pretty special elephants in the Kinabatangan River.

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