Once again as diving is not everyone’s ‘bag’, so rather than string it out with four posts I have decided to do a single post but a bit bigger to try to explain what happened but I make no apologies for including a fair bit more about Sipidan okay, none whatsoever … lol .… but I think when you read you will understand why.
Diving Day 1 – Today we were to be diving Bohaydulang Island in three different places, the island itself was beautiful a little paradise in itself but this was not why we were here – let the Hughes’ see the fish! – Dive 1 – the viz was not great – but we saw a couple of green turtles one big one resting on the coral, one small one swimming – crocodile fish – lion fish – purple nudibranch (harlequin) – but had a bit of blood in the mask so I need to keep an eye on that. Dive 2 – viz a bit better – dropped my weights from 7kg to 5kg and coped fine – saw a large crocodile fish – some more colourful corals and a big school of yellow tailed snapper. At dinner, before the last dive, we had the chance to go snorkelling while some trekked the big hill on the island – for me the snorkelling was even better than the diving as there was a lot more to see – huge shoals of small fish with a couple of big trevally and barracuda patrolling them, a couple of nudibranches, lots of very nice corals and some pipefish – very good all round. Dive 3 – lowest viz of the day – lost a diver (a young Singaporean lady who was more concerned about doing her own thing than buddying up so I had very little sympathy) – there were also a couple of Indonesian ladies who seemed to be part-fish as they were using up so very little air!
Diving Day 2 – As yesterday’s dives were not 100% viz there was even more riding on today, our first dives at the great Sipidan (Trumpet fanfare!!). It was quite a fair trek out to the island as well, the big question was, was it going to be worth it? Dive 1 – The very first dive was to be Barracuda Point – I had read this to be world class diving and I must admit we saw more life in the first five minutes than a lot of locations we have spent days at! There were lots of Turtles and Reef Sharks and whilst the turtles were on the move some of the sharks seemed to be sleeping so we got quite close to them. As the name suggested there were the huge schools of barracuda circling but also next to the typhoon they were creating, a school of Jackfish were also having a go at catching the eye by mimicking them.
Here we went along the wall and then up onto the reef where the colours were, because of the visibility, really vivid and this was only the first dive. I had tried dropping down to 4kg in weights which worked okay but did take a bit of getting used to. Dive 2 – This one was at the Drop Off – a somewhat ominous sounding name but once again it delivered on sealife. We went into Turtle Cave and resting up in their was a White Tipped Reef Shark. It was on this dive that the current caught both myself and Liz out a bit – I was still on 4kg – and it nearly forced me to the surface. Liz had a lot of trouble kicking against the current and had over exerted a bit so at dinner she was quite poorly. Once again there was a huge school of Jackfish circling again trying so show off like the Barracuda – Barracuda do have a more menacing look about them though! Dive 3 – The last dive of the day was at The Hanging Garden even here there were schools of Jacks and Barracuda and more Sharks and Turtles but here the coral is also magnificent and it was almost a drift dive so a lot easier on our tired bodies too but all in all it had been a very good day’s diving – visibility never less than 25m and on the first and last dives it was closer to 30 to 50m in places. On our dive boat we met a young Italian woman called Elizabetta who lived in Australia and she was very impressed when we explained our little adventure and has since befriended Liz on Facebook and we also met a guy called Dave from the North East of England but working in Dubai – me and Dave had a beer together after me, him and Liz all went for a meal but it sounded like he was getting some grief from his Filipino girlfriend who he said was very jealous though I am not really sure what of as I am not that great a catch!
Diving Day 3 – After yesterday’s performance how would the second day at Sipidan be – well it was only even flipping better, wasn’t it!
Dive 1 – after our divemaster circled the area we had been diving yesterday he plumped for the other side of the island so we started off the day at South Point and here there were loads of Reef sharks and they kept coming in one after the other and when they were not present the turtles would come in on the chorus – brilliant! There were a lot of quite different fish from yesterday more Unicorn fish and the usual suspects, the Clown Anenome fish as well. Dive 2 – back to Barracuda Point and they did not disappoint neither did their competition the Jacks, on this dive though we also saw a lobster hiding under some rocks and an Octopus that we saw change colour when we disturbed it. There were also a couple more sleepy Reef sharks this must be where they go for a rest. The final dive (Dive 3) was to be our last dive at Sipidan so were hoping for more of the same but we got far more than we expected. As well as all the usual suspects and corals we also saw more reef sharks and turtles, a couple of green moray eels getting all loved up – intertwining and all that but the pride of place – only a whale shark. The first we heard of it was the dive master going like mad tapping on his cylinder then it came into view it was magnificent in itself but also as it uses its whole body to swim it looked amazing in the water as well as it seems to glide rather than thrash about. Later when we asked our dive master about what we had seen (had it all been a dream … lol) he informed us the shark was just a baby at 9m! Even he was impressed though as in the few years he had been diving it was only the fourth time he had seen a whale shark at Sipidan – the place that keeps on giving!
Back at the dive centre when we got changed I made sure I had a photo with our dive master who I renamed ‘Dr Dive’ for choosing to dive Hanging Garden the same dive that we had done the day before and with such excellent results.
Diving Day 4 The final set of dives were to begin at Bandayano Jetty – Dive 1 – this was a bit more of a challenging dive for myself as the valve on my BCD was not working properly but only malfunctioned once I had got into the water. The dive master asked if I wanted to carry on the dive which I did and although I had to be a bit more considered with my buoyancy everything was fine. We saw not only turtles on this dive, some big specimens too, but also quite a few different coloured nudibranchs – these are quite strange as they appear to do very little but are very colourful whilst doing it. Dive 2 – was on Timba-Timba and here at least my BCD was now working. More big turtles were on offer here as well as a blue spotted stingray, a couple of lobsters and another crocodile fish but best of all was a cuttlefish whom we upset that changed colour and squirted ink at us! We had dinner at a place that was nothing more than a white-sand sandbar in the middle of the clear blue/turquoise waters – amazing place to dine at even though it was only a sandwich it tasted far better for the setting.
Last dive of the day – and finishing off our Sipidan experience – was at Timba-Timba, Sweet Lips alley/straight and as well more (bloody … lol) turtles we also saw the very strange frogfish, another lobster and a couple more nudibranchs – an all round good end.
Well after all that was it all worth it? Of course it bloody well was! The visibility at Sipidan alone is worth the money – everything you see you see far clearer – and diving here on such a package is really not all that expensive. We have probably seen more variety of fish than all our other previous dives put together, and in such a location and with such visibility both mine and Liz’s diving seems to be improving as well – at last. I do hope this will not turn me off all other dives I do not want it to be the yardstick by which I judge all other dives because this is certainly not the norm and somehow that makes what we have done even better. The Geordie Dave said to me ‘see you next year’ and I sincerely hoped that I could be here in a year or some time later at least to visit Sipidan once again.