July 5: Up at 4am. We are so tired! Arrive at Tune Kuching hotel at about 8:30am. Pete is so out of it that he dropped his camera at the hotel and is wide angle lens broke. Tragedy but at least the camera still works. Drop our bags and set off to find the Bako park tourist office to see if we can stay in the park. We can't. :( We grab a cab and are there in about 40 minutes for 40RM. Then a boat to the park. Arrive at the mangroves where the tide was out and the mud was covered with mudskippers and wee crabs. We do 3 of the shorter hikes since we're pretty tired from getting up so early. We spot our first proboscis monkey proudly on show in a tree near the HQ buildings. The first hike was short but straight up to a viewpoint. The second was the busiest trail as it's on the map as the 'best' trail to see the monkeys - we did see a few. The last trail was to mangroves and we ran into about 30 macaque monkeys on the way back. Got some great shots and video. Feeling tired and lazy after our park day so we ate in chinatown for about £5 and went back to the hotel to crash at 9pm.
July 6: Bako Park again. This time the longer waterfall trail.
July 7: Sleep-in free-day in Kuching. Breakfast at the After 2 Kiosk where we can get dim sum buns. Found a good bookshop in the Tun Jugah center called Popular Book Co. So picked up the next 2 'Dragon Tattoo' books. Did some general looking around for a wide angle lens for Pete but no luck. Wound up back at After 2 for beers. The cafe was over the road from a cinema so we figured sitting in A/C would be good for a couple of hours. Saw 'Knight and Day' for 5RM each. Cheap! It was better than a UK cinema experience which isn't really hard to beat anyway. Then had dinner at the Living Room for thin crust pizza and a bottle of sauv blanc! Cool restaurant with a really chill back garden area. Hooray!
July 8: Back to KK. Arrive around 2pm and head out to find the Mt K office and look for a lens for Pete. Turns out climbing mt k is about £200 per person and it's booked up until the 25th of July which we don't really want to hang around for. We'd rather spend the money on diving. Tour books say you can do the climb on your own for cheap but it turns out the 'cheap' parks passes are sold to tour companies who sell them on to tourists like us for 100-200% markup. Forget it. (im kind of relieved anyway since mountain climbing is not my thing.) So next we go shopping for a wide angle lens. Pete picks one up for £70 cheaper than the one he bought in England. Result! Off to Texas for internetting and beer.
July 9: Free day in Kk. Turns out not so free as we spent from about 9am to 1pm reserching and booking flights around the philippines. It wasnt as easy as we thought to get the route we wanted but we booked flights to boracay, malapascua and Bohol (Cebu city), Palawan and back to Singapore via manila. We do a little shopping later in the afternoon where I pick up a couple of cute tops for £20. Ate super cheap BBQ pork on rice for dins.
July 10: Wake up super early for a flight to Kapilai dive resort. After a flight to Semporna and a 45 minute boat ride out, we arrive at the resort around 10:30 and are diving at 12:00. Nice! Got 3 dives in that day. The first reef dive was great. They've sunk wrecks around the reef and we saw batfish, parrotfish, eels, loads of butterflyfish, giant cod and grouper, pufferfish, boxfish, you name it. Second dive at Mabul island was full of turtles. They were everywhere. Third dive was on our own on the house reef. More of the same. We are schedueled for Sipidan tomorrow 5:30am start. Our room is huge with a big balcony over water. We open up all the shutters and windows so it feels really airy. Nice big bathroom too. Best part of our 'floating' bungalow is the huge green turtles that grazed under our balcony every night. We went to sleep to the sound of the ocean and the turtles coming up for air. The resort is first class. Food is good and the dining room has a cut out section down to the sea where there are tons of lionfish and blue spotted rays having their dinner.
July 11: Up at 5am for Sipidan. First dive is at 6:17am. Unbelievable day of diving. Dozens of shark on the first dive at 25m. Turtles everywhere as well. The amount of fish is amazing. Huge schools of batfish, bannerfish, angelfish. As we come up to the reef, as massive school of bumphead parrotfish move through our dive group. It's like a rush hour highway of huge parrotfish. So glad pete has pics and video of it all as the abundance and beauty of so many fish is hard to describe. The next 3 dives at Sipidan are just as exciting but not as dramatic as the first dive. Was very difficult to get out of the water when I still had 70-80 bar left and could have stayed in for 15 more minutes. The reefs at the end of each dive in just 5m of water were amazing. Gorgeous, colourful coral, loads of fish and turtles just hanging out. Even the photos and video won't do it justice.
July 12: More diving! This time a sleep in until 7am. 3 dives on Danawan, Mabul and Siamil islands plus we did a house reef sunset dive. Our guide is San-San who is really good at spotting the micro stuff + he has a magnadoodle slate so he writes down what to look for. The first dive is a sandy reef where we see a sea moth (didn't know they existed!) and an octopus really flashing its colours. Our next dives he finds us a flamboyant cuttlefish and I spot a horned cowfish. We also see loads of turtles and the othe usual suspsects on the reef. On our sunset dive, San finds a mandarin fish for Pete. He is so small and beautifully colourful. Got lots of pics.
July 12: Our last dive day :( but we still get 3 dives in as we're not flying out right away. Our early house reef dive isn't very exciting as we were just trying to go for depth and somehow after seeing so much great stuff in the past two days i think we've become harder to impress. We do see the biggest potato cod ever and lots of harlequin sweetlips. But the odd batfish, titan triggerfish or moorish idol just isn't as exciting after yesterday! Our second boat dive to Mabul was great but we missed seeing a few things due to a very beginner diver with no skill or buoyancy control who would just kick up sand and ruin all the spotting for everyone. She kicked a ribbon eel that we all wanted to see. She was a total liability and were happy to see the back of her. Our third and final dive of the trip was back to the house reef which turned out to be fantastic. After not seeing a turtle all day, we had one last one to see us off. He was coming in for a sleep. We also spotted a giant banded sea snake, loads of eels, a small clown triggerfish, all the usual beautiful reef fish and a pair of differently striped butterflyfish which are my favourite. So long Kapilai, we miss you already! So we wouldn't have to cut our diving short due to flying, we tranferred to Singamata resort. Basically it's the low-rent backpackers version of Kapilai. No big beautiful rooms with big bathroms. Singamata is shared bathrooms in small but tidy rooms. Our first dinner was a laugh in comparison too - fishhead curry! Ewwwww.
July 14: Lazy day at Singamata. We find the floating hammocks and chill out reading. Pete started the second dragon tattoo book yesterday and is almost finished already.
July 15: Another lazy day. Started out nice enough weather but soon turns stormy by lunchtime. The rain is so heavy that it fills up large plastic garbage cans in just a few minutes. It's still warm enough though. We spend the day reading, watching movies on iPods and snorkeling.
July 16: More laziness at Singamata. Hot sunny day. Pete and I are both engrossed in our 'Dragon Tattoo' books. Joseph has been watching movies on the ipods for 2 days now. We're all chilled and happy.
July 17: Leave Singamata on 10:30 boat to head to Sandikan and Sepilok orangutans. Arrive in Semporna and do ome internetting and get some lunch before our 2:30 bus to Tawau airport. We get caught in a MAJOR mid-day tropical rainstorm. Mega thunder and lightning. We are drenched!We only had to walk about 3 block but got so soaked we actually had to towel off and change our clothes before getting on the bus. Arrive at the Sepilok Jungle Resort in plenty of time for dinner. We can't get over how tired we are considering we've only been lazing about in the heat for the past few days. I can now understand how tropical third world countries are very s l o w and sleep a LOT! We eat and get to bed by 9:30. Party animals!