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.
Heading out to Sipidan on a dive boat was entering a different world.
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.
Walking through the rainforest, bursting with life …
So, we’re off to Bali. Haven’t been there since 1983, so advice and comments welcome.