Thursday, November 01, 2007
I Thought Diving Was Suppose To Be Quiet and Peaceful!
Check out the Sipadan Malaysia photos at our photo website.
Before I tell you about our recent diving trip (yes, more diving tales), I have to share with you an experience during our last afternoon in Bali. We witnessed an honest to god, true cock fight. It was pretty much what I expected plus a little more. The only difference, was it wasn't held in a "cock fighting arena" but instead it was in the dirt parking lot of a Hindu temple. As we're walking down the street with our dive guide, Graham, he notices what is going on and pulls us in. Since we are very curious to how the local people live, we just couldn't pass up this opportunity to see a cock fight. The one bonus is Graham spoke the language so I could ask him all my trivial questions. One thing that I didn't know happened at these fights is that the owners of the roosters (sorry, I just can't bring myself to say cock over and over again) ties a 3 inch long sharp blade to the back of one of the roosters feet. When they fight they use their feet to kick and claw at the opponent. So here are these two huge roosters going at it, slicing at each other with these surgical blades tied around their feet. The first round took awhile, the roosters were just not interested no matter how much the owners tried to antagonize them, so it was a draw. The second one was over much quicker with the loser having his wing sliced off and his throat cut open. And in case you're wondering what they do with the loser rooster afterwards - they make soup! All this just as we're on our way to lunch.
Ok, onto Sipadan, Malaysia. Sipadan is one of those world famous dive destinations that everyone tries to get to at one point or another. Sadly enough, Troy and I were not overly impressed. (I think we're getting jaded.) But seriously, I think part of it was this time of the year the visibility was not so good which is always a drag. We both think that Indonesia was so much better no matter what excuses we try and make. But on the other hand, we talked to other people that have been in Sipadan in peak season and the place is packed, the dive staff is stressed and there are ten boats filled with divers that go out instead of the three boats that went out while we were there. Even though we are not able to time all our diving during peak dive season there are definitely trade offs to being at destinations in low season. But... we saw tons of turtles lots of white tip reef sharks and our resort was beautiful. The entire place, which can accommodate about 120 people, sits entirely over water, including the helicopter pad. There is only a small patch of sand that gets exposed in low tide and all the guests have their own individual bungalow with a private balcony. So much for being a budget backpacker!
Our first dive was not a great way to start the week. It was just off the house reef and is referred to as a "check dive" so the dive staff knows that we know what we are doing. Asking us how many dives we have and the last time we dived would have been just too much trouble on their part, so we participated in their stupid check dive. We actually saw some interesting stuff but that was only when we were dodging multitude of other divers and covering our ears from all the incessant tank banging:cling cling cling, clang clang clang, tink tink tink, klunk klunk klunk, quak quak quak. A lot of dive guides and divers, (Troy and I included) bang their tank with these short metal sticks that make great noise when you want to attract the attention of other divers. Some people have a horn that sounds like a duck, hence the quak quak quak sound. There were so many guides on the check dive that they each had their own personal beat they tapped out. Troy and I quickly realized that to get each others attention when we found something cool, our tank bangers would get lost in the cacophony of noise. We had to figure out a different way to get each others attention so made up our own noise. Think of Homer from the Simpsons when he says "Mmm... pizza, Mmm...donuts!" We decided to use this sound as the "mmm" travels very well and no one does it but us. Every time I heard it though I was hoping that Troy had found a pizza or box of donuts because since we are back in Malaysia again, the food is still shit!
For many years, there was a resort on the island of Sipadan itself but guests are no longer allowed to stay on the island. Today divers and snorkelers are only allowed to use the beach for a few hours a day. Part of the reason the resort closed is for conservation of the island and turtles that come and lay eggs there. Another reason is in 2000, 21 divers and workers were kidnapped from the island. Several were held for close to five months before being released. Today there is a small military base on the island and our resort, located 15 minutes away by boat, have guards clad in camouflage and armed with automatic rifles (although we noticed their guns didn't have ammo clips and camouflage doesn't work too well when you're not in the jungle). The security is more then welcome but it's kind of funny when you're getting ready for a dive, putting your wet suit on and these two guys walk by looking like they are about to go to war. Our room is also equipped with a heavy wooden bar to block the door and a red emergency button. Evidently if we press the button a red light outside our door flashes and the military come running. I wonder how many times guests have been drunk and pressed it just to see what would happen?
One morning there was a notice on the dive board saying "the military/army were going to be doing training procedures and to not worry or panic." This ended up being quite entertaining to watch. Between military boats zipping around our resort, a helicopter hovering over a small patch of sand to allow soldiers to repel down and scramble for cover with their ammo-less guns, to the commander or whoever he was using the reception area as his command post, it provided for some good conversation over lunch. Somehow I don't think this happens at the Hilton in Hawaii!
I know I didn't talk too much about the diving, but there is not a whole lot to share. Although there were a few dives that had thousands of schooling Jacks that looked like a slow moving silver tornado. That is until the divers came in with their cameras causing the fish to scatter for cover. Also, like I mentioned before the turtles were everywhere and very cool. You could just see the look of annoyance on their face when divers would get really close to take a picture causing the turtle to wake up and swim off. You know they're cussing, saying all kinds of obscene things because their sleep was interrupted. Sadly enough I don't think Sipadan will be on our list of places to return to especially if the food continues to be bad!
Next up is two months in Micronesia which no one can find on the map. But if you really want to see where it is, click here. Basically it's a four hour flight south east of Guam and was a very important area during WWII where a lot of battles took place so there are tons of wrecks to explore!
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