Wednesday, January 19, 2011

26 Dec 2010 - Dive 4 to 7 at Sipadan!

Dive 4 - Coral Gardens (Sipadan) 

Dive: 73
Duration: 47mins
Avg Depth: 12.2m
Max Depth: 20.7m

Finally the dive that I've been so looking forward to. So excited am I for my first dive at Sipadan island that I actually forgotten my fins! Phew.. I'm very sure I took the fin and placed it beside me. Then I proceed to defog my mask, clipped off my camera, mask on, reg on and here I go with a backward roll. Woohoooo!! Ooops... Wait, where's my fin??? Haha.. I think in mid air while rolling in, I can almost hear someone shouting in slow-motion, "Fiiiinnnnnn...."! It sure was embarrassing and there isn't a crevice I can hide my face in. Phew.. With that red faced moment behind me, I started the dive. Soon upon descend, I saw a jellyfish in midwater and grab a couple of quick shots before continuing the dive. I'm glad I did as that turn out to be among one of the favourites pix from the trip. :)

Jellyfish  at Coral Gardens (9m) - Sipadan, Malaysia
The initial part of the dive started with quite a bit of finning/drifting along the wall until they came up to the shallows before the end of the dive. Visibility was better than the day before but wasn't exactly great. Occasionally we did see a passing reef shark or turtle from above or below us. I was almost somewhat disappointed having not seen anything after all the finning until we came up to the shallows. That's when things starts happening. At one point we saw a school of barracudas passing through. Not the swirling tornadoes and also, it happened too quickly for a decent shot. Then finally I have my first close encounter with a free roaming reef shark. It was initially lying there on the bottom while we approached. It took off while we lie in position, waiting for it to return, and it did! Not a big fellow but it was a nice encounter.

Whitetip reef shark  (Triaenodon obesus) at Coral Gardens (10m) - Sipadan, Malaysia

As we're ending our dives, we also saw the famous train of bumphead parrotfish passing through. It was a distance away so again, no chance for any nice shots by the time I fin into position. Unfortunately that was the only sightings of the bumphead for this trip. There's also some folks snokeling around where we ascended. 

Dive 5 - Hanging Garden (Sipadan)

Dive: 74
Duration: 51mins
Avg Depth: 13.7m
Max Depth: 22m

2nd dive at Sipadan. It was again mostly finning/drifting along the wall. The least interesting dive among the four Sipadan dives. My memory card came up almost empty. There wasn't a single pelagic, shark or turtle that I've caught. OMG, how can this be happening? No turtles at Sipadan? I hope I won't be the joker who never saw a turtle at Sipadan. What I heard from those who were there previously in Sipadan, the number of sharks and turtles encounter was very much lesser this time round. Indeed, I've heard previously that people will stop pointing out the sharks and turtles at Sipadan as they soon got sicked of them being around everywhere. Now I'm eagerly anticipating, where's all the sharks and turtles? Keeping my finger crossed that my luck will change for the better in the next 2 dives there.

Dive 6 - Barracuda Point (Sipadan)

Dive: 75
Duration: 53mins
Avg Depth: 11.9m
Max Depth: 17.1m

Oh yes, the famous barracuda point in Sipadan. This has to be it! But nope, still no barracudas after all the finning. But this was definitely more interesting than the previous dive. I was getting desparate. Saw a shark at a distance and I just take a snap, never mind if its just going to be a crap shot. Then finally I saw a big school of big eye trevallies and a school of another fish. As I was way behind, didn't really have time to adjust and get a decent shot. In the end I just opt to take some video of it. Still finding it hard to do a decent wide angle shoot on my current setup anyway. Then further down it gets really interesting. Before me, I finally saw a numer of garden eels for the first time! Always wanted to see and get some shots of them. But that's not all. Gosh! Now, beside the eels is a resting turtle. And behind the turtle is a resting white tip reef shark.  It's such a torture deciding which to shoot. Phew. There's a little current slowly picking up and it's getting a little tricky to stay still for the garden eels. After a while, I just couldn't resist the turtle and shark pair. It's the closest I've gotten yet to a white tip that has totally ignore us. Oh boy, I need a wide angle lense!

Spotted garden eel (Heteroconger hassi) at Barracuda Pt (16m) - Sipadan, Malaysia

Dive 7 - Drop Off (Sipadan)

Dive: 76
Duration: 53mins
Avg Depth: 12.6m
Max Depth: 20.7m

Reluctantly, it was the last and final dive at Sipadan island for our trip. Our group has opt to drop in at the drop off and fin towards barracuda point. There was quite a bit of rubbish where we jump in. And right where we descent, there was a school of jacks. But for some unknown reason, the group seems to have totally ignored them and continue descending. Didn't have a chance to fin towards them for a shot. Damn! First destination was to the entrance of turtle tomb. The sea has taken its toll on the famous "No Entrance" signboard that everyone seems to have a pix of, The words and the picture of the skull on the signage has mostly faded. We stay a while at just the entrance area before continuing our journey towards barracuda point. Along the way, I chanced upon a titan trigger fish. It was busy feeding on corals and I guess it wasn't nesting. Thus I slowly inch forward for a shot. Even though it wasn't aggressive, I was still ever ready to put my fin out in case it decides to charge at me. That fellow just gives me the creep. Phew. Also saw a turtle in a nice pose on a rock. Just like a gatekeeper to what I'm going to see next!

Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas) at Barracuda Point (13m) - Sipadan, Malaysia

Was quite disappointed that the dive is finally coming to the end and I've still not saw what I was very much hoping for, the school of swirling barracudas. Then just at the very end I saw the DM signaling to us.. Tornadoes!! Oh yes!!! The DM pointed out into the blue. Far ahead I faintly saw another two divers in the distance already. My air show just about 50 bars remaining. Grrrrr.. What the heck, it should at least last a while for a little rendezvous with the cuddas before I am totally out. And off we go charging out into the blue. And then there it was, right in front of my eyes, the swirling barracudas! The feeling was just so magical! I slowly inch closer and closer to the tornado wall, alternating between photos and videos. The adrenaline rush seeing the barracudas zooming pass me was just awesome. And then it just magically happens! Momentarily the wall seems to have opened up and there I was right inside the wall. Checking the video after the dive, that moment lasted just a couple of seconds but while I was engulfed, time seems to have come to a total standstill. The couple of seconds feels like an eternity. Sensing that my air is low, the barracudas made a quick exit and it's time to come up for my safety stop, ending the dive with just merely 10-20 bars remaining. I must say the barracudas have more than made up for all the earlier disappointments, making the trip a truly worthwhile experience for me. 

Schooling blackfin barracudas (Sphyraena qenie) at Barracuda Point (12m) - Sipadan, Malaysia

A compilation of some of the underwater actions from the Sipadan dives is found in the attached video except for the last portion which was taken sadly on the last diving day but that's another story to be shared later.

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