Trekking to Borneo

Sorry for the delay everyone. Life, travel, work, etc keeps getting in the way… It’s about time I finish up the Malaysia blogs.

After my 36 hours in Kuala Lumpur it was off to the airport for the trek to Borneo. For a little background, Borneo is an island east of Peninsular Malaysia and made up of three countries: Brunei, Malaysia, and Indonesia. I was headed to a small island off of the Malaysian part called Mabul.

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Getting to Mabul…

As most good travellers do, I made sure to check the travel advisories from the US Dept of State and the Australian equivalent.

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Thankfully I was only headed to the area deemed “Reconsider your need to travel”. I promptly ignored this. I mean it was only some civil unrest and a kidnapping or two… I wasn’t going to let that deter me from the # 1 dive site in the world and a significant “tick” off my Bucket List. Also, I’d prepaid the trip. Too late to turn back.

From KL, you fly 3 hours to a tiny airport in a town called called Tawau. I’d booked my 1.5 hour car ride from the airport to the port town I was staying in in advance. I was only mildly relieved when I arrived to find two rough-ish guys waiting in front of the airport with a sign that said “Mr. Jarrett”.

Besides thinking my hired airport shuttle guys were going to rob and murder me, the ride was pretty uneventful. It was dark so not much to look at. Instead I tried to make out their conversation while faking listening to music. As a precaution, and to fight boredom, I was tracking our drive on google maps on my phone. If we went off path I was more than ready to pop open the door and tuck and roll from a moving car to “safety”.

As it turns out, they were really nice and brought me right where I needed to go.

I had a night to spend in the port town of Semporna which I’d been warned was pretty dodgy. I wandered around for a bit, but there really wasn’t much to do beyond play pool and hang out at the bar attached to my guesthouse. So, I had a few beers with some other travellers and split a hawaiian pizza.

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As an aside, all of the rooms at the guesthouse were named after different reef creatures. I got the barracuda room. A far cry from the 5 star in KL, but comfy and pleasant.

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I signed up for my diving with Scuba Junkies who are one of the more well regarded shops in Mabul/Semporna. They own the guesthouse and bar as well as an island resort. The rest of my trip would have me based on Mabul Island.

We started off the morning loading all of our stuff onto little boats and heading the 45 minutes to Mabul .

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Since Mabul is such a small island (you can walk the perimeter in about 35 minutes) many of the nicer resorts have built their accommodation using overwater bungalows. Pretty cool.

One of the resorts is actually a converted oil rig.

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A bit gimmicky, in my opinion.

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From the second you arrive, it’s pretty obvious that this place is about one thing: Diving!

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From site charts to gear galore. For me, a version of heaven.

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I notice these pictures all look cloudy and gross, but that’s just the tropics. It was truly shorts and t-shirt weather. Thankfully, the sun came out soon after and I could get some better shots.

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Tee Mabul Beach Resort is on the right with their manicured private beach. To the left is a shanty town for the local nomadic people that live off the sea. A bit striking at first but they all looked happy.

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The resort was immaculate.

They even have a turtle hatchling program and sanctuary.

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I ended up with this private bungalow that sleeps 3 all to myself.

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 This is how you go on holiday!

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I’ll write separately about the diving since I did 3 dives that first day. So for now, I’ll just say that I really enjoyed my little patio and the view was even better from the upstairs resort bar.

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Up next… diving in Borneo.

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