Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sabah Adventure - Venture into the Lost World of Sabah

Soon it was time for some more adventure.  To the Lost World of Sabah - Maliau Basin it was!  Actually I was the one who suggested it, after reading about it on the Net.  Turned out, this place is a little remote and extremely expensive to get to.  Because of its remote location, it being a conservation forest and I'm guessing the road that leads to it, it costs a ton to hire a 4WD into the place.  Yes, a 4WD is required because of the road. 

It took alot of effort to try and contact them to arrange for everything, but we managed!  Yes, the email address is, the number to call is +6087 742 100, but please be patient as they may not get back to you in a instant.  We decided to go for a 3D2N trekking plan, and stayed 1 more night before the start.  OPting for DIY, we just paid for the nightly accomodation (RM78 per pax per night), ranger fee (RM150/day) and conservation fee of about RM150/pax.  We opted out of meal service (that would have cost us about RM390/pax/day more with porter's help or RM150/pax/day without). The 4WD cost RM650/way from Tawau to Maliau, or RM800 from KK to Maliau.  Yes, it is expensive to get to Maliau, and unfortunately it does not have dinosaurs.

And so, it was a 5H drive from Tawau to Maliau... And the ride became really exciting when we actually reached Maliau gates for the drive into Agathis Camp.  Yes, from Maliau information centre, it is 8KM to Agathis Camp, where you start the hike.  Although it is only 8km, we soon understood why it would take 1H.
Happy sitting in the 4WD while it's being stuck in the mud
Because it rained, the road was bloody muddy and really bumpy.  Halfway through, we got stuck in the mud partly because our driver forgot to engage 4WD.  And so we were there for quite some time stuck in the mud, thinking of how to get out of the trouble.  Then, they decided to start humping the vehicle.  By humping, I mean standing at the back, and started to jump, hoping to get the vehicle unstuck.  The 3 guys (JJ and Edric + another guy from Maliau) did a fantastic job!!

By the time we got to Agathis Camp, it was pitch dark outside.  We settled into our bunks (much like stretcher beds), made a simple dinner of stir fried noodles with vege and slept.

The next morning, rise and shine and waited for our ranger.  Harthrow was his name (at least it sounded like that) and we started after 9am for the 7.5km trek to Nepenthes Camp.  It was alot of uphill for the 1st 3km or so.

There were some ladder climbing, but after 3.5km, it was generally flat trekking.  But mind you, those blood sucker scumbags also known as Leeches were ruthless!!  They just kept on sticking to your shoes, and we had to stop every now and then to flick them off.  Yes, we didn't get those leech socks, damn it.  But at the end of day 1, I was leech-free!!! THe same couldn't be said of Edric...

The camp was pretty nice with bunk beds...And the view is good.  After some snacks and rest, we decided to climb up the tree top (33m) for a bird's eye view!  The climb up was a little tiring, but it felt good up there...

After some rest, we proceeded to Giuluk Falls!!!  Unfortunately, Tacob Falls was closed to visitors as the road leading to it was in need of restoration.  So it was only 1 falls for us.  The falls was only 500m away..which was near...

Unfortunately, we were not able to go to the bottom of the Falls, so was only at the middle...
We reached Giuluk Falls!
The Falls was nice..But the water was cold... Shivering when I tried to go under the waterfalls

The falls is quite amazing ... Edric then climbed up the ledge, a very dangerous move considering if he slipped, that would have been the end of the story...
The boys went for a swim at the top of the waterfalls while i sat and waited.  BTW, the water is a little red in colour because of the rocks and minerals...

A group of Malaysian doctors and researchers were also at the Camp site that night... And it was a candle light night because there were no lights/electricity for lights.

At night, we played Heart Attack with Harthrow and we were damn loud!! Shouting and laughing.  Harthrow thoroughly enjoyed the game!!  And edric was too slow....

The next morning, we started early, at 7am to do a 13-15km hike all total to Ginseng Camp, including a 4.7km route to Maliau Falls.  As usual, those leeches were ruthless...  We saw some Pitcher Plant along the way..
At the cross junction, we left our bags hanging on a branch and headed off for the 4.7km walk to the Maliau Falls.  Halfwy through, the trek seemed to be demolished by fallen trees and branches...
With Harthrow's parang, we hacked our way through and arrived at the Falls!!  Yes, I think this fall.  It's big and the waterflow is fast and furious.  It was hot and sunny so it was nice to be able to dip in the water.
But sure enough, the water was really cold... We made our way nearer to the Falls where there was an area ok for swimming and dipping...  Then we wanted to make our way even nearer to the Falls and try to see if we can actually climb up the ledge and walk behind the falls.  Who knew, the current was TOOOOO STrong.  Especially when we swam closer to the falls, it was really too tiring..Drinking water and being pushed.  It was a task to swim to, and even harder to swim back...

Back on land, after what seemed like a never ending swim (which in fact was probably only 10min or so), we decided to do jumping shots!
I'm the floating nun on Maliau Falls

Mario Brothers jump
It was pretty cool and we did some really good jumping shots!

We stayed till well after 1pm, spent about 2H there, basking in the sun, and made our way back sensing a bad weather coming. 

Then it was back to Ginseng Camp where there was absolutely no electricity.  Candles were lit, wood was burnt to start cooking.  Halfway through my bath, the water stopped.  Turned out the pipes leading from the waterfalls were blocked.  So ended up had to collect water from the watertanks outside to continue the bath.

We made noodles soup and sat down with Harthrow for a romantic candlelight dinner.  Through the night, Harthrow taught us a Malay song, a love song, something along the lines of loving you to the same degree comparable to the height of Mt Kinabalu (which means alot alot) - "Dingi Dingi Gunung Kinabalu, Dingi __ Sayang Sama Kamu,......" Ok can't really remember the last 2 lines...

The last day, we woke up slightly late.  And I was really tired and feeling down...  The walk back was alright, and only 7KM.  But my energy level was suddenly down...Still we managed to be back at Agathis Camp around 11am.

Took a short shower, and headed off with our Driver Mr Kami.  We paid RM600/way to get to Keningau.  It would cost the same to get to Tawau, but it will be RM800 to KK.

We survived!!!

The muddy 4WD..

End of Maliau Basin trek.  No dinosaurs or prehistoric animals, but it was a good trip still!  3 leech bites and some scars.  Edric had to hack off the back of his Addidas Kampung shoes.  Serve him right for buying 1 size smaller instead of getting the white colour one.  Vainity cost him his feet!!!

Throughout the 4D at Maliau, we only met a Dutch on the 1st night @ Agathis Camp, the group of Malaysians @ Nepenthes Camp and no one else.  We saw elephant dunk along the way but no elephant spotting.  Heard monkeys but no see.  And the most commonly spotted life form - Leeches.
We added ourselves to someone's banner..Hey we are all from Singapore!!

Sad story, when we almost reached Keningau, we got a call from the travel agent where we booked our rafting trip.  The trip has been cancelled due to a landslide which destroyed the train tracks.  Meaning the group could not get to Pangi.  So no more rafting and we decided to plan for somewhere else.  Still we stopped at Keningau and took the public bus back to KK (RM20/pax).  2H drive and towards KK, it was coastal drive which was pretty scenic. 

Checked into AKinabalu hostel back at KK, sooo much better hostel than the Borneo backpackers.  At least the sockets do not burn/electrocute electronics.  And the feel is soo much nicer.  At RM25/night, hey, only RM5 more expensive but it was a lot better.  We went to the night market for dinner and stuffed ourselves with Mee Goreng (seems like we eat that every day), chicken wings (JJ and Edric devoured 15 in total amongst themselves), grilled tuna and octupus and Mango shake, watermelon, coconut.  Sooo full after.  Then we walked around a little and the 2 boys went back for dessert while I stared into space, dreaming about the bed.......

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sabah Adventure - Time For Diving!!!

After the 1st week of mostly land activities (rain excluded) and loads of walking, it was time to change gear and get in touch with the ocean. Sun, sand, sea - 3 of my favourite words. Afterall, I'm a beach babe kinda person! Throw me at a beach/sea anytime!!
Our next stop was Uncle Chang. It took us sometime to find the office @ Semporna (hidden next to the entry to Dragon Inn) and then it was a long wait for the boat to depart. Well due to the fact that we were waiting for 1 Swiss to withdraw money, so it was about 1hr wait for us, under the HOT HOT SUN!!About 30 mins later, we approached Uncle Chang's diving center, at Mabul Island. It is constructed out towards the sea on stilts. Nice and simple, rustic wooden accomodation for which we paid RM60 per pax per night (include all meals). Lucky us that we booked WAYYY in advance cos the rate went up to RM70 when we checked in. Also, the diving rates went way up as well! Note of advice, if you want to dive with Uncle Chang and want to go Sipadan, book months ahead for your spot. If not, u will end with no spots or wait a few days or 1 week for an empty spot (which was what some travellers were doing - wait wait wait). We paid RM560 for Sipadan dive (3 include eqpt), and it went up to RM640 when we checked in!We checked into a dorm room of 4, but we had no roomie so we had the room to ourselves! Went to explore what little there is of Mabul island..Which is not much.
We had to walk along broken planks to the end, it was rather scary as they don't look particularly steady
There was a jamming & singing performance on our 2nd night there. The singer was not too bad, and he even sang Mandarin and Cantonese songs!! All based on written phonetics though..1st diving day we went to Sibuan and Mantabuan. Very very far away and took us 1hr to get there, after departing late as well (no surprise). Sibuan island was amazing! Small with white sandy beach. There is a very small village on the island. It felt like a secluded island getaway. Like! It was RM300 to dive there, more expensive as you need to get permit. Edric was the only non-diver in our group, so he went snorkelling for RM150.
Me @ Sibuan. It's small but i like the island
Had a little time to walk around the island a little bit, under the sorching hot sun...
And of cos time for some photo taking on the beach...
One of the must do beach photo - True StoryDouble whammy of handstands!Split in the air..Chicken feet!
And here we go..Jumping again
Did 1 dive @ Sibuan and 2 dives @ Mantabuan. Micro-diving so all the small things. Lots of nudibranch though...
Water was slightly chilly but manageable. Photos of the marine life!
Perfect photo captured in a snap! Seems like he's hanging for his dear life
Can u see what I'm seeing? It's a squid
It was more interesting @ Mantabuan, though the Mantabuan island is nothing to shut about.. And of cos, we saw turtles!!!
Huge Turtle!!Blue Spotted Stingray! They catch this and sell it for RM2 each!! Yes, the boatman comes to Uncle Chang every morning!

Poor Edric, snorkelling was abit shit there! And he only snorkelled twice, sitting out the third. And by the time he was done with the 1st snorkel, his bad was burnt badly!

2nd day - the BIG event - SIpadan!! Was there in 2009 and was amazed by the clear water and marine life! Was looking forward to it. However, the day didnt start out well as it was cloudly and loomed of rainy weather. It didn't really rained though and the weather kinda improved a little and was sunny by the 2nd/3rd dive.As usual, we had to get down to register. Limited permits given out each day so everyone has to fight for it!I think Sipadan island was much nicer in 2009.. Now, seems like not so nice. Maybe I've seen much better beaches/island, maybe Sibuan was too amazing..But just didn't get that 'wow' factor now.
There used to be a big board that says Sipadan on the beach but now it's goneYou know me, I Flashed Sipadan..And then I jumped
Poor Edric's red back..It started peeling badly a few days later...
We went to South Point, Barracuda Point, and Turtle cave.South Point started out not bad..Saw turtles, sharks (reef sharks) and they were everywhere that by the 3rd/4th, it was like 'oh hi turtle, oh hi shark'. Still I chased them to capture them screen.
I've always wanted to do that!
Our DM was Jay and he is one funny guy. Lots of stunts from him. After south point, we sat in boat while they were trying to find barracudas and jackfish. Amazed by the boatmen's sights, they can just see the fish from above and spot where they are! @ Barracuda point, we met with a big school of barracuda swimming past! No twirling barracuda but at least we saw them..
Attempting to get swallow the little creature hehehe
Surfing on fins under water
Then, it was jack fish spotting! It was a BIG school!! When the boat man spotted them, immediately we asked Edric to jump in (only snorkeller, no need to gear up) and he did! We followed in with our tanks and wow! Amazing!! Surrounded by them
I have jack fish on my mind....
Then we swam towards turtle cave. Totally had no intention of going in the 1st place, hence no one had torch. LUckily, one of the divers had 1 tiny torch. Better than nothing. Nothing much to see, but it was just really exciting to swim into a dark dark cave, where you literally can't see a thing!
That's the cave entrance, marked by skulss of turtles
And when we came back out, the jack fish were still there!
That's edric diving down for like 5sec to get a shot like this!
Edric got a 10min diving lesson from his SM (Snorkelling master). He put on the gear and went diving to 1.5m for a bit.. Hehe, now he can say he dived in Sipadan!
Edric in his scuba gear just under water..haha
How was Sipadan? It was good, really good! For someone who has not dived often, it is really good. JJ loved it. But for me, I think I was and still am slightly disappointed. Maybe because it was sooo good in 2009. We saw a lot more things, the visibility was alot clearer. And I guess it was the 1st time wow factor. We were in a school of moving parrot fish for almost 5mins!! That was amazing! And the turtles we saw were bigger. I even saw a manta ray! But still, Sipadan is a must go! Before it gets worse....

If you have time, spend a few days diving. If you don't and just want to go Sipadan, Uncle Chang offers 1 day booking. Alot of other operators require you to dive at least 2-3 days with them before they give you a Sipadan permit, and that is just 1. With Uncle Chang, as long as you book wayyy in advance, you can book more than 1 day of Sipadan, or you can just dive 1 day Sipadan with them!

We had a small episode on our way back to mainland. Well not us, but Chinese on board our boat. Our departure time was delayed from 430pm to almost after 530pm. And because a group of divers were not back yet. And the group of Chinese waiting were getting real impatient and angry, and started complaining about them. And when that group came back, they were dilly dallying, taking photos etc etc, wasting our time and that pissed off the group of Chinese waiting. FYI, both are Chinese. Then the group waiting started to vent their anger and they started quarelling on the boat. The whole thing was quite amusing actually. Then Caucasian couple on board got pissed off that the BF shouted at them "Fuck off, just go". It would probably make several hits if it were taped and posted on youtube!

After 2 days of relaxing, it was off to Maliau Basin, the Lost World Of Sabah.....