Day 243: Something Fishy

Sat. 13th April 2013

Amazing coral formationsThe pace is distinctly (and thankfully) less frantic now we have completed our climb of Mount Kinabalu. We are now into the rearranged part of the Sabah trip. Originally, the itinerary took us east to Sandakan (more jungle), Sepilok (orang-utans) and Turtle Island (turtles duh!). However, a few weeks ago some insurgents representing the ‘King of Sulu’ staged an ‘invasion’ on the east of Borneo and so both the Malaysian and Australian governments have issued travel advisories for the area and Intrepid have had to rearrange our itinerary. A shame but better to be safe.

I recognise the mountain in the background. You'd have to be nuts to climb it!Today, we are off snorkelling in a cluster (archipelago?) of islands off the coast of KK that comprise Tanku Abdul Rahman National Park. Our first stop is at the local dive shop, Diversity Borneo (getit?) in order to rent some snorkelling kit. Whilst we’re there, another group arrives for full scuba kit and I look at them wistfully (though, truth be told the cold that Janet kindly gave me hasn’t fully cleared up and so I couldn’t dive in any case). Still, snorkelling is good and it is another opportunity to get the underwater housing for my camera out and to improve my underwater photography skills.

From a fish's perspective!The boat leaves from the pier at Jesselton Point where we first landed in KK all those days ago (a fortnight!). It’s a reminder that there is more of KK that we haven’t seen yet. We’ll have to fit all that in on our final day after the end of the Intrepid tour and we’ve said goodbye to the others. It’s a bit of a squish as we load onto the dive boat for the trip out and there is a crush of similar boats all loading up with people. We had been warned that it might be busy as the islands are popular with the locals and it is the weekend. (One of the shocks for us when we get home will be keeping track of days of the week and weekends and suchlike – best not to think about that yet.)

Giant clam - open and ready for business!Our first stop, though is off the shore of Sulug Island where we jump in off the boat. It’s quiet here at least and we have the water to ourselves and even better the water is warm and clearish (15m – 20m visibility). Its very relaxing just floating on the surface admiring the shapes and colours of the coral – as well as the classic ‘stags-head’ coral, there is ‘brain’ coral and flat-topped coral. The latter, in particular provides great hiding places for fish and so I duck down and see who is hiding there.

Sea SlugI’m getting better at setting up my camera for underwater photography and particularly to get the white (i.e. colour) balance right. There is still lots to learn though in terms of getting the camera in the right place and held still in order to take the shot (let alone in persuading the fish to hold still and smile for the camera). Its even harder taking photos whilst snorkelling than diving – I’m so buoyant that as soon as I stop swimming down (e.g. to hold the camera still) I start floating to the surface. Even though the water is only a couple of metres deep, it is no easier to be steady whilst on the surface as I am bobbed up and down by the waves and rocked to and fro by the surge.

Brown clownfishI am pleased, however, with some of the photos such as the sea slug, the giant clam and the brown clownfish (yes, it really was this non-Nemo colour) protecting its anemone. After a couple of swims off the boat from different locations off Sulug, we headed to Mamutik Island for some beach time and some lunch. Here, it really was busy and we found all those people who we had seen leaving Jesselton Point this morning. Still, we did manage to grab the last picnic table in the shade but on the beach and made ourselves comfy.

Leopard FishAfter lunch, there was time for one more snorkelling trip. Janet ummed and erred about whether to come or not but decided that if she didn’t, it would turn out to be the best session of the day. And so it turned out to be. There was much more variety in both coral and fish and hence a lot more to see. The highlight was this large Leopard Fish who would periodically pop out from under the flat coral and hold still long enough to allow us a quick photo.

Busy on the beach at Mamutik Island. Note the mountain in the background.Once we’d finally tired of snorkelling, it was a quick trip back to the island to pick up those who’d opted for sunbathing rather than snorkelling and then the short ride back to Jesselton Point and bus back to the good-old (well good-ish, quite old) Shangri-La hotel. We are certainly glad not to have long bus or boat trips today. I think we all feel better having had a relaxing day with sun, sea and beach.

Sunset over KKWe are treated to another glorious sunsetIn the evening, after another glorious sunset watched from the top of our hotel, there was to be more fishiness. We opted out of the group meal and instead headed towards to waterfront wanting both to see some more of the sights and also to find a restaurant where we could order something that contained neither rice nor noodles. (When we get to South Africa, I am going to exclusively eat juicy steaks and drink red wine. Only a couple of weeks now!)

Fish in tanks waiting to be picked in a Chinese restaurantWhat we found was firstly a Chinese restaurant that specialised in seafood. We’ve all heard about the restaurants where you point out the fish that you want and they then take it away to be cooked on the spot. Well that was taken to a whole other level with tank after tank in 4 or 5 rows filled with prawns, lobsters and fish of all sizes (up to massive Groupers). We also found an Italian restaurant with tables out on decking by the waterfront. Even better, Johnny, Heather and Stuart were there and so we joined them for a chat, pizza and pasta washed down with wine and beer. A great end to a day that had been topped and tailed with fishiness.

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