Mabul – 12 May

Dive 3 of the 5 Advance OW course dives was a deep water dive. Still with Albert (a Catalan guy) as instructor and Jacky (a Swiss girl) as apprentice dive master. My colleague in the AOW course – Juul, a Dutch guy – didn’t participate as he had already done this. Still no camera with me, as again the focus was on the stuff to learn. First time I went deeper, to about 30 meters depth. In fact the way of doing it is not much different than with more shallow dives. But it offers more possibilities for future dives! Not so restricted by the depth barrier.

Second dive was done at what they call ‘Artificial Reef’. It’s in fact a series of structures and boats sunk on purpose, so that life would develop around it. And you can definitely call it a success! What a variety of things we saw: lionfish, clownfish, harlequin sweetlips, snappers, scribbler filefish, trevally, yelloweye cardinalfish, giant frogfish,  all kinds of pufferfishes, raccoon butterflyfish, a school of jacks, pipefishes, octopus, crocodile fish, Moorish idol, etc… And no, I don’t know them all by name! Luckily we have expert instructors and identification booklets :-). As it happened, this was also the first dive I brought my camera, as this was the Underwater Photography session of AOW.

The last dive of the day was also the last one for the AOW certificate. I choose Fish-ID. We again went to a site nearby Mabul – it’s amazing how close everything is here! On the Andaman islands (India) we always had to take the boat for half an hour; here often two to five minutes, if we are not diving just in front… This site also had plenty of fish, and again I could bring the camera. Focus was not on pictures though, but on the observation of the fish characteristics. With the completion of this dive (and some quick questioning by Albert before lunch) I am now official owner of an AOW certificate. Hurray!

After dinner we looked at a Nat Geo documentary about underwater Malaysia that was in première today. The docu focused on 4 sites: Tioman (mainland), Layang Layang, Lankayan & Sipadan. For the Sipadan part the makers made use of the services of Scuba Junkie last November. Yep, the same guys where I am staying at. So the manager came on screen as well, which of course caused some hollering of the people looking at the docu now. Compared to the other operators around here the fundamental difference is that Scuba Junkie uniquely focuses on the diving itself. The others offer more comfort (swimming pool, etc) but who needs that here? And they are much more expensive! Mind you, Scuba Junkie still offers decent comfort as well, good food, etc… so it definitely is still a pleasant stay. And they are just the best ones regarding the diving itself, including the safety part.

Layang Layang & Lankayan are also in Sabah, but they are just too expensive. Tioman is on the mainland, so it is an option for when I pass by there…

Today I also met a nice Flemish girl here: Inge is from Hasselt and has also taken a sabbatical from work. She is now working as Dive Master in this Scuba Junkie resort for the last 9 months or so, and she would prolong her sabbatical with another year. Yep, some people are lucky they still fall in the old system, allowing them 5 years off!

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