Borneo, briefly …

Plans change. It’s fair to say that when we left Manila we hadn’t planned too far ahead – criss-crossing Cebu by buses ferries and taxis had put paid to that. But in our heads we were anticipating exploring the island of Borneo, diving the Sipadans of course, but also exploring this large island of mountains rivers and rainforest, before heading down through the Indonesian archipelago in July and August. That was the plan.

But suddenly we found ourselves a bit worn out and run down, lacking enthusiasm for another ‘travel day’ or the energy to research and plan ahead. The complexities of organising diving in the Sipidans hadn’t helped.

Due to permit restrictions (only 120 divers allowed per day) the major dive operators insisted on three days of local dives before they would take you for a day’s dive in the marine park. The costs and logistics were looking prohibitive. In the end we sorted three days diving, one local and the other two on the Sipidans, and booked into a hotel in Semporno, despite warnings to get out of there as soon as possible (dangerous and dirty we were repeatedly told).

A one hour Grab car ride (like Uber) through massive palm oil plantations found us slowly bouncing and shaking over the congested unmade roads of downtown Semporno trying to find our lodgings. We were attracting attention as the only foreigners in the narrow, hustling market streets behind the bus station and began to wish we’d splashed out on an island resort away from all this. In the end our room was clean and comfortable and the locals were kind and helpful, so our stay in town worked out fine.

Our first day diving with Scubaholics with a dive boat from the local jetty went well, easy enough dives, well within our limits. But then Anne developed mild but worrying symptoms that could be related to decompression illness – tenderness and a slight rash around her midriff. We contacted DAN (Divers Alert Network) for medical advice and they told her not to dive if she had any symptoms the next day. So I dived the first day without my buddy, not good 😞. With no symptoms the following day we dived together again, wonderful diving with an abundance of sea life, turtles and sharks wherever you looked, along with bump heads, barracudas, jacks and beautiful coral. Great diving and great to do it together.

And that’s when, on the journey back to Kota Kinabalu (minibus, local flight and taxi that got lost and dropped us in the wrong place in the dark) we began to ponder where we were so to speak. Seven months in, we’re just a bit tired of being on the road. We’ve not spent more than a week in one place and we need to catch our breath, cook some meals, go walking, relax and recharge.

So tonight we fly to Bali. The plan is to find a place (with a kitchen!) and just hang out for a month doing the normal things. The immense variety of Indonesia awaits us, but we’ll get there when we’re ready.

That’s the beauty of wandering.

Semporna. Houses on stilts, with kids cooling off in the water and the Mosque behind




On the waterfront at sundown



Heading out to Sipidan on a dive boat was entering a different world.



The dive boat above and a world teaming with life below

We’ve spent nearly a week just outside Kota Kinabalu talking and thinking about what’s next. We also had some stunning pink sunsets.


Feeling that sympathy ebbing away …




Mount Kinabalu National Park

The prospect of climbing Mont Kinabalu was rapidly abandoned, two days for the ascent and descent with the mountain shrouded in cloud for most of the day (plus 34 degrees of humid heat and tropical storms). Instead we headed to the national park, hiking through the rainforest and and a rope walk above the canopy.

Mt Kinabalu was an ever present backdrop, constantly changing in the light and cloud.

Kinabalu from 40 miles away


Terraced farms in the valleys below




Walking through the rainforest, bursting with life …





Gum tree. Popular with locals who burn the bark to repel mosquitos
Everything grows on something else






Anne looking cool outside her comfort zone!

So, we’re off to Bali. Haven’t been there since 1983, so advice and comments welcome.

Click ‘follow’ below to keep in touch 🙂

6 thoughts on “Borneo, briefly …

  1. Hi Anne and Niall. Your photographs and travel tales continue to impress. What changes have begun in Britain in your absence! Several terror attacks and now the tower bl9ck fire in wedt London and I think the beginning of the end of people sitting back and accepting they are powerless to do nothing. I think the Labour election campaign and the rise in stature of Jeremy Corbyn has really had an impact. People are now really comparing him and May to such an extent that I think he’s days are numbered and I expect a other election on the horizon. I’ve joined the Labour Party a first for me in a lifetime! There’s a lot to be fought for at home now and I want to be part of that. As for now I’m in sunny Sicily with Callan for just a week recharging and taking in the vibes in this beautiful island. I Hope you find a place to rest up in Bali. Miss you lots you two! Lots of love Annexxx


    1. Thanks Anne. Lovely to hear from you. We are both a bit shocked about all that has happened in London and UK since we left. The response has also been inspiring. Miss you and our home town heaps. Hope you have a great break with Callan – it looks lovely.
      Love Anne and Niall xx


  2. Hi Anne and Niall, it’s nice to be able to follow you on your trip a little bit. Easy to see why you feel the need to take things slow for a while and make yourself feel at home somewhere. You surely haven’t picked a bad spot for that, I’m sure you’ll make a lot of new friends in Bali. We found people to be exceptionally friendly and relaxed (if not to say: slow) there. Take care, looking forward to read more about your adventures soon (while dreaming about retirement 😉

    Your pool table mates from Modessa Island, Philippines


    1. How great to hear from you two 🙂
      I guess you are now back in Germany planning your next adventure? Modessa seems a long way away now. As you will have seen in the blog, we met up with our daughter in Palawan (she became the pool champ) and then travelled around the rest of the Philippines, doing some great diving.
      We’ve found a lovely spot in Amed to relax for a while – did you ever get there? We have a little kitchen, and we’re doing some cooking and chilling out, planning the next stages of our trip (Gilis, Lombock, Komodo) over cups of tea and cold Bintangs.
      Have you any plans yet? And are you going to be doing some more diving? I can give you details of the people in the Red Sea if you’d like.
      Hope you continue to enjoy the blog. If you click ‘follow’ on the bottom right hand of any post, you’ll get an email when it’s updated.
      Keep in touch, we must plan some more pool sessions 🙂 🍻


  3. MyDarling ones can’t wait for you to get here I have so much to ask you & get your help with I am just all at sea with so many things.I love you loads and look forward to Friday. Much. LoveMumXX from my iPad



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