The Travel Diaries: A Scuba Junkie In Borneo

The wild under water World is something I had never before looked into or particularly been that interested in and then I did it and couldn’t get enough!

Scuba diving is addictive, I was constantly thinking about where and when I could dive next after completing my PADI and I was very sad to leave Semporna, Borneo because there were so many other dive sites I wanted to explore.

I went to Semporna as I had booked to do my PADI Open Water Certification.

I had been told by numerous people that this was one of the best dive sites in the World, well Mabul and Sipidan are, they are islands about 1-1.5 hours from Semporna, which is on the mainland. I didn’t really know the meaning of what a best dive site was at the time, the reason I wanted to do my Open Water was because Scuba Diving had always intrigued me and it was also a bit of a challenge because it was one of the only things that I had a of a fear of.

Arriving in Semporna, 11 hours after I set off from Kota Kinabalu, I wondered what I was doing.

Semporna isn’t the most welcoming of towns, very different to what I have experienced before. As I got off the bus a man approached me asking where I was going, to which I replied “the Scuba Junkie Lodge”, he said he would give me a lift for 5 ringgit (about £1), couldn’t say no to that considering I had no idea where to go, my phone battery was dead, it was 8pm and very dark. All was well and he got me to the lodge safe and sound. I checked into the lodge, my room was great, a private double with aircon for £13 a night. I put my bags down and headed to the bar downstairs to get some dinner, I was so hungry after not eating all-day and desperate for a cup of tea. I usually like eating the local food of wherever I am but that night I just wanted a good ‘western’ dinner and lucky for me the Scuba Junkie Dive Bar serves a variety of ‘western’ delights from pizza to toasties and so I had a toastie and some chips with a cup of tea, of course! After eating I went straight to bed, as I was up early to start my Open Water course.

The next day I was in the Scuba Junkie office at 7:15am registering, it was really nice that all of the staff were English, felt really at home. I met my teacher, Gav and we started straight away. My first day was all theory, learning all about scuba diving, the do’s and don’ts, you basically watch 5 DVD’s and answer some questions in a book provided by PADI and after each DVD and Q&A session you do a quiz. This is then followed by a final exam after the 5th DVD. I’m not going to lie, I struggled a bit, it wasn’t easy having not been in a learning environment for quite a long time to all of a sudden having to take in a lot of important info and then answer 50 questions about what you have learnt AND you can only get 12 wrong! Luckily I only got 9 wrong so I passed the theory part.

Tuesday was my first day in the water.

We were on the boat at 8am heading for Mabul, which I was really excited about. Mabul was beautiful, I have never seen water so clear! I got into my scuba gear and Gav gave me a run down of what we would do, I had to complete a number of skills during the two practical days, some which I wasn’t too excited about like having to take my regulator out and then find it again whilst under water (this really isn’t that bad). Anyway, I managed them all relatively without any trouble and on my second dive had some time to explore the underwater World, seeing about four giant turtles and nemo (officially called a anemone clown fish) in his anemone and a black ghost ornate pipefish, which is very rare to see and something that a lot of divers go to Mabul to find. Oh and a great barracuda! So, after the first day I had completed the first of my practical and had a taste of what scuba diving was like, I was excited for the next day.

Wednesday we went to an island called Sibuan


I thought Mabul was beautiful, this place was amazing. It was something off of a postcard, I knew these places existed but never thought I would get to go to any of them! Borneo was very quickly becoming one of my favourite places on the planet! I had to complete some more skills, I had to skin dive, which is just diving under the water with a snorkel on, spinning round and then clearing it when you reach the top. I had to also remove my BCD (buoyancy control device, the thing that holds the oxygen tank ;-)) whilst under water, this I struggled with. It was ok because I always had my regulator in so I could breathe but I kind of forgot how much the oxygen tank weighed and well as I took it off it tipped me all over the place, I managed to eventually get it firmly on the sand though and put it back on without too much struggle. Apart from that I wasn’t too bad and I passed, wahoo! My fourth dive was great because it was more of a fun dive so I followed Gav around and he pointed out all of the amazing species and I also managed to spot a hawksbill turtle, an endangered species!

After completing each dive you fill out your dive log book where you write down what you saw during your dive, this was one of the best bits for me, I loved discovering what I had seen and learning about all of the new underwater life that I didn’t know about before. I was extremely spoilt being able to complete my Open Water in Mabul as it is one of the top dive sites in the World, so it wasn’t difficult to fill my log book up quickly.

After my week in Semporna I had done 7 dives and was desperate to do more

I had been lucky to see some amazing marine life and wanted to now see some big stuff, like sharks! The best dive site in the World is Sipidan but it costs a lot to dive there (about £140 for 4 dives) and its unlikely you will get a spot on the boat unless you book in advance. I tried but I failed which was probably good as my budget wouldn’t have quite covered the cost although I still would have done it anyway! It’s ok though, as it is just an excuse to go back and I am 100% going back to dive there again and again and again!

My experience of diving was one of the best of my life and I feel like I have found a hobby I truly love, swimming around like a fish exploring a whole new World and learning something new every time you do it. Also, when you stay somewhere where everyone shares a love of diving, you feel part of a new community and it is great to chat after a days diving about what you saw and other peoples experiences all around the World. I would highly recommend Scuba Junkie, they were faultless and I am officially a Scuba Junkie!


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