On my first three day break away from being an orangutan mother, I stole away for a slice of island life and a chance to take a day’s taster course in scuba diving. Discovery Scuba is an opportunity to see how comfortable you feel diving before committing to a full PADI qualification.
After a five hour bus ride and an hour on a boat, we arrived at Mabul island, Scuba Junkie Beach Resort at around 3pm. Just in time to check in and go snorkeling! 🙂
The next day was Discovery Scuba Day!
The first dive was in confined open water off of the jetty in Mabul Island. It provided us with the most basic training that we would need to enable us to scuba dive; breathing, equalising, clearing our masks and the hand signals. On this dive we saw a number of shipwrecks*, a blue spotted stingray, a green turtle, clown fish, sturgeon fish, a school of trumpet fish and a bluestripe snapper.
The second dive that morning was out in the open water by a little reef called Froggys. This time we saw more green turtles, Moray eels – which I’ve always had a fear of (they just look nasty) and the instructor was holding onto me whilst trying to take a picture on my friend’s camera and the current was pulling me in close to it… I kept thinking if it goes for me, I’m going to lose my sh*t woman! Not okay under water for multiple reasons – titan triggerfish, 2 spot snapper fish, chocolate chip sea stars and the most impressive for me was a broadclub cuttlefish.
The third dive was optional but I loved it, I was ready for more so after lunch, off we went into the big blue. This dive was espescially fun because we learnt how to go into the water out of the boat backwards and we were by a great wall of reef with the ocean floor deep beneath me. Not being able to see it through the murky water was a strange and exhilarating experience. There was a reasonably strong current on this dive too which made for an interesting experience for us newbies!
We dived with Scuba Junkie and stayed at Scuba Junkie Beach Resort, run by the dive company, and I was really impressed. Both the dorms and the bungalows were attractive and affordable (approx £120 for two discovery scuba dives, 2 nights in the dorm and all food included) and Scuba Junkie do a lot of great conservstion work. They run clean up sessions both on the beach and in the ocean weekly, they collect all rubbish and recylables and take it back over to Semporna on the mainland frequently, they give the locals who live on the island bin bags so that disposing of their rubbish is easier for them and they don’t pump their waste into the ocean. The resort is also built far off of the beach as it is a turtle hatching island. They even have a turtle hatchery on site and there was a nest there when we stayed but unfortunately no little ones were born during our time there. There is a problem on the islands off of Borneo with locals digging up turtle eggs and selling them as they are a delicacy. However, as a deterrent, Scuba Junkie now give locals 1000 Malaysian Ringett (just under £200) to report a turtle nest to them so the numbers reported have increased drastically.
I was all set; new hobby discovered, ready and willing to take some classes, learn a new skill and discover a new world. I felt like Ariel (although far less graceful). I had dreams of swimming with my favourite animal the great white shark, visions of diving the barrier reef and returning to Borneo for Barracuda Point off of Sipidan (currently the number 1 dive site in the world). That was until what has become known as….
….the death of the ear.
My ears felt a little strange on the bus journey back from Mabul Island but i do get eczema in my ears and I thought maybe that was just inflamed. It was a little sore and hurt a bit when I swallowed and coughed but nothing serious. I decided if it was no better by the weekend then I would go to the doctor then.
Rotation 3 was jungle trekking. I’d woken up with a slightly sore ear but didn’t think much of it so I proceeded with my week as it should have been. Jungle trekking, leech dodging, popsicle making for the babies, cleaning the big cage and providing the little ones with leaves to practice their nest making skills.
That night I woke up in the early hours of the morning in agony. I couldn’t hear out of it properly and the ear canal was very swollen. I decided I didn’t care how much it would cost, I had to get my ear sorted as soon as possible. I went to the doctor the next day. When he looked in my ear he told me that if i had left it any longer my ear drum mght have burst! He said it was a very serious infection and prescribed me two oral antibiotics, some antibiotic ear drops and some painkillers.
After five days, I still couldn’t hear properly which, to be frank, was freaking me out so I went back for another appointment. When he looked in my ear this time he assured me that the infection was clearing, although slowly, and he performed an audiology test to ensure that the hearing loss was only residual due to infection as opposed to permanent damage, which it was! Phew! I got the all clear and was also told I will be fine to climb Mt. Kinabalu as planned on our next days off.
It was such a shame to miss jungle trek week as I was really looking forward to it but of all the weeks, it was probably the best, at least it wasn’t a week hands on with the orangutans and we will have another jungle trek week before we leave! I did miss out on drinking from a jungle vine however so I will have to ask our ranger if we can repeat that treat and also, my friend and fellow team member got a leech in his down there square! Not sure this item will be so eagerly repeated for my enjoyment!!
* this was so incredible for me. As someone who loves a good ruin, wrecks of any kind are the same. Abandoned places and spaces speak to my soul and I nearly lost my regulator by dropping my jaw in awe when I first approached the sunken boat with its teeming schools of fish.