Scuba Diving in Mabul and Kapalai (Sabah, Borneo)

 Bright sunny day on Mabul Island (Scuba Junkie's jetty).

Bright sunny day on Mabul Island (Scuba Junkie's jetty).

1) Introduction
2) Scuba diving refresher lesson and skills
3) Muck diving
4) Dive sites
(Mabul and Kapalai islands)
5) The science of light and underwater photography
6) Sea life
7) Island life


Introduction

It was the knowledge that Sabah has a great wildlife biodiversity, and where Sipadan- a renowned diving spot is located, that piqued my interest in this part of the world. But that was just a spark to my decision to visit Sabah.

It was 9.30am. My dive guide Azhim had arrived on a boat from mainland Semporna. He conducted a refresher lesson of the diving gear, hand signals, and demonstration of 4 refresher skills that I'd have to perform in the waters before we proceed on with the fun dives. 

Scuba Diving Refresher Lesson and Skills

Lesson

 Diving (Scuba) gear. I've labelled the parts for the interested (which I hope you are because I'm going to bring you on a visual adventure of under the sea), and for refreshers like me.

Diving (Scuba) gear. I've labelled the parts for the interested (which I hope you are because I'm going to bring you on a visual adventure of under the sea), and for refreshers like me.

Primary Regulator (also known as the regulator or second stage), is where you take in air and exhale air from.

Octopus (always in bright yellow) is a standby in any case of an emergency of a faulty regulator, or for a buddy in need.

Inflator is to direct or release air into the BCD (Buoyancy Control Device) vest. Inflate when on the surface to keep you floating, and deflate to decent.

Submisserble Pressure Gauge (SPG) indicate the volume of air in tank and depth.

 


Skills

After that, we suited up for my refresher dive. I've raised my concerns about the gap since my last dive (2 years plus), and the confidence level of my mask clearing skill. Azhim had listened well, and proposed demonstrating (to me) and performing (me) the skills at 3m underwater first, then 5m underwater at the jetty's platform.

The 4 refresher skills that I have to demonstrate in the waters are:
1) Removing and replacing of regulator (confidence skill)
2) Sweep regulator recovery (emergency skill)
3) Mask clearing (confidence skill)
4) Buoyancy check (technical skill)

After I had passed the refresher skills, I felt glee and relief. I embarked on fun dives with a basic level of confidence, and trust that I have for my dive guide. Without further ado, we propelled to Froggy's dive site and I was introduced to the world of muck diving. 


Muck Diving

Muck diving is the term used to describe the murky or muddy surroundings at the bottom of dive sites, consisting mainly of sand, silt, sediment and dead corals.  - http://www.pulaumabul.com/

Mabul and Kapalai Islands are renowned for it's muck diving. Though from it's description above it may not seem exciting, but muck diving offers an abundance of exotic small sea life species ranging from shrimps, crabs, nudibranches, frogfishes, squids, cuttlefishes, octopuses and etc. A familiar word that keeps appearing to me when I'm in Sabah is, PYGMY. There are many pygmy species in the sea and on land, Sabah has the Pygmy Elephant (the smallest species of elephants in the world). And there we go, adjusting our eyes to see the macro and pygmy species. 

Muck diving was new to me, and I appreciated while diving in Mabul. I got to see and photograph a rich sea biodiversity to share with my family, friends, and on this website. I've rented the Olympus TG-4 camera with housing from Scuba Junkie at 100RM a day and I had lots of fun with it.


Dive Sites (Mabul and Kapalai Islands)

For this trip to Sabah, I've did 7 dives in Mabul and Kapalai (with dive sites repeated in search of exotic small marine life). 1 dive was at night, at Scuba Junkie's jetty to Froggy's and back.

Photo Credit: http://www.scuba-junkie.com/

Mabul Island:
1) Scuba Junkies's jetty
2) Froggy's
3) Awas
4) Panglima Reef

Photo Credit: https://divezone.net/

Kapalai Island:
1) Blackray Channel
2) Little Okinawa


The Science of Light and Underwater Photography

This is a realistic expectation of what would a scuba diver see underwater. Sunlight loses it's intensity when depth is increased thus a major hue of greenish-blue is seen here

 Read on to see more cute green sea turtles!

Read on to see more cute green sea turtles!

'Red nearly disappears at around 5 meters, followed by orange at 10 meters, yellow at 20 meters, green at 30 meters and eventually even blue at 60 meters.' - Dive Photo Guide

 Absorption of light underwater. Photo Credit: http://www.subaquacamera.co.uk/

Absorption of light underwater. Photo Credit: http://www.subaquacamera.co.uk/

Thus, either a red filter (attached to the camera lens), strobe lights (to produce strong flashes), or camera in-build flash (best use for close-up subjects), can be used to balance light. I'd often use a dive torch as my strobe light for additional light source during night underwater photography, and camera in-build flash for taking close-up subjects during day underwater photography. *reading on, there are albums of my works on macro photography (shooting small subjects at close range). During close up, the flash operates at a focused intensity, producing bright colour images of the chosen subject.


Sea Life

Turtles

Sea turtles are normally found 'parked' at spots on the coral reefs, seemingly resting. Green sea turtles and Hawksbill turtles are two species of turtles normally seen in the waters of Mabul and Kapalai islands. The characteristics used for identification of Green sea turtles are: A non-protruding beak, smooth-edged shell, scute (shell pattern) arrangements.

 Identification of turtles based on on it's beak. Left: Hawksbill turtle Right: Green sea turtle Photo Credit: http://www.redang.org/

Identification of turtles based on on it's beak. Left: Hawksbill turtle Right: Green sea turtle Photo Credit: http://www.redang.org/

 Identification of turtles based on scute arrangements. Photo Credit: http://www.redang.org/

Identification of turtles based on scute arrangements. Photo Credit: http://www.redang.org/

Character Inspiration (Crush from Finding Nemo)

 Crush from Finding Nemo should be a green sea turtle based on it's non-protruding beak and scute arrangements! Photo Credit: Pixar Wikia

Crush from Finding Nemo should be a green sea turtle based on it's non-protruding beak and scute arrangements! Photo Credit: Pixar Wikia

Sea turtles are shy. When approached, they'll either stay 'parked', or swim away. They cute and amusing to watch!


Shrimps and Crabs

They are often very tiny. I get to see them with my dive guide's trained eye.


Fishes

The clownfish family and sea anemone was pretty. Ornate ghost pipefish and frogfishes are the specials in Mabul.


Nudibranchs

Sea slugs in a variety of vibrant colours.

Character Inspiration (Shellos and Gastrodon from Pokemon)

 Shellos #422 Photo Credit: https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net

Shellos #422 Photo Credit: https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net

 Gastrodon #423 Photo Credit: https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net

Gastrodon #423 Photo Credit: https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net


Ray and Morays

There are many morays in Little Okinawa dive site, Kapalai.


Squid, Cuttlefish and Octopus

Commonly active at night. 


Island life

Food

Delicious. Balanced nutrition and taste (sweet and savoury).

Environment


It's Me, and my Diving Mates!

Visit the main page for more adventures on my trip to Sabah. *if you're viewing it on your smartphone, click on the picture, then the little black dot on the bottom right hand corner for a description of the picture.