You know, as a proud Sarawakian, I hate to admit that the neighbouring state of Sabah seems to exceed us by a mile when it comes to adventure & tourist activities. I was told that the population of Kota Kinabalu is 300,000 but over 4 million tourists visit the place a year! That has got to say something about the place. I was in Sabah for just 5 days, and have to say, I was every bit impressed!!
Sipadan & Mabul Island Diving
First up, it was diving at Sipadan island. As usual, I was promised a huge variety of large sea life to see, including turtles, white-tip sharks, rays, moray eels, barracudas, jacks, etc etc. And for the first time in my diving life, whatever they promised, I saw them all!!! It was truly an amazing diving experience! Truly a visual sensory overload. It just sucks that I don’t have any underwater photos to show for it!!
Part of the reason for the plethora of sea life here, is the government’s effort in protecting it. I find that quite amazing, given the disastrous policies when it comes to protecting our ancient forests. So this is quite a refreshing change. The island itself only allows a certain number of people on it a day. If you book too late, you miss out. Unfortunately I was one of those that booked too late. However, one Asian guy happened to have cancelled his day dive. So, I was told to assume his identity for the day. Pretty cool experience being someone else, as I had to report my fake name and identification number to the police on the island 🙂
My diving buddy was an Irish girl (pictured top right), who only obtained her Open Water diving license a few weeks earlier. What I find surprising is the number of girls I met that are travelling alone, just like her! They are all comfortable backpacking in countries completely foreign to them, with “Lonely Planet” their only guide. What do you know? Times have changed.
As I was the only diver in my family, I had to spend a day just snorkelling with them. We managed to do that at Mabul Island, where it’s well-known for small sea creatures..
After a bit of lessons, from me, Moises & Roselind were able to comfortably enjoy the underwater world for the first time. In the process though, it has to be noted that Moises probably killed half the corals while he’s getting the hang of snorkelling 🙂
With Kota Kinabalu right next to the open ocean, seafood was definitely on the menu for many residents and tourists alike. I was indeed very surprised and ‘awed’ by their offerings! We went to “Ocean Seafood Village” which looked like a normal restaurant on the outside, but once we walked in.. we were absolutely amazed!
Think a massive open aquarium, where they display 100% LIVE seafood. You choose what you want from the hundreds of choices possible. I swear I don’t even know half the creatures on display!
Once selected, you proceed to the dining room, while you wait for them to cook your selected seafood. So, all the following seafood were still alive 20 minutes prior!!
They say Australian have good seafood, and admittedly, the only thing better about Australian seafood is they are bigger in size. Taste waste, I think KK seafood wins hands down.
Climbing Mt. Kota Kinabalu
I was suppose to do this alone, but somehow my sister & Moises decided to join last-minute. They enjoyed Sabah so much, they wanted to stay. But, this is not going to be an easy one at all. A level of fitness is almost certainly required, if you want to get up and down successfully. The peak is 4096m high, and we are going to do this over a 2 day hike, a total of 17km return trip.
To be honest, all 3 of us weren’t really prepared at all..
Level of fitness? None
Proper Clothing? None
Walking Stick? Don’t have one
Energy Food? None
Head Torch? None
In fact, my sister was so unprepared, she climbed the mountain in shorts! (as pictured). I was at least semi-prepared. Comparing me to my sister..
Surprisingly, we both made it all the way to the top. Moses did well on the first day. But by the time we got up to mid-mountain where we stayed, altitude sickness kicked in, and he was bed-laden for the 2nd day.. so he never made it to the peak.
The surprise of the day came, when I discovered my diving buddy that I went diving at Sipadan Island only 2 days earlier, staying in the same dorm as we did!! Talk about luck!
Along the way though, the constant battle going up is definitely not easy…
Our guide always tells us “200m to go”, when the next stop is approaching. But I can tell you, his “200m” is probably the longest 200m you’ll ever walk in your life. So, when we reached our accommodation at 6.5km, you have no idea how happy we were already…
We were suppose to get to the peak before sunrise, so that we get to see the ‘sun rise’. If you thought the first day was hard, the last 2.5km is harder!! We climbed in the dark at 3am, some parts involving ropes up steep sections. We made it to the top on time.. but no sun-rise, because cloud covered it. Oh well.. it was still an awesome experience being at the top though..
By the time enough sunlight was around, we still got some pretty decent photos of the rocky peaks. At this height no vegetation could survive at all.
Whilst going up is hard, I can tell you, going down is just as hard!! Since we’ve spent all our energy going up, the journey down took just as long since we are battling with legs that no longer have ANY strength left. It is truly a struggle you have to experience yourself to truly appreciate.
Seriously, this has got to be one of THE HARDEST thing I have ever done in my life. If you ask me, if I would do this again, I would say NO!!! But was it worth it? Yes!