** Important Note ** -- This Sipadan Island report remains online for historical purposes. By decree of the Malaysian government, all resorts on Sipadan Island, including Borneo Divers, have been closed since 2005, and were in fact dismantled and removed from the island. I am fortunate to have many fond memories of Sipadan, and eventually made 12 visits to that magical island. One may still enjoy Sipadan's amazing diving, but based on Mabul, or via a live-aboard. It is no longer possible to lodge on Sipadan Island. Ken Knezick
Sipadan Island Report
Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia
Borneo Divers' Sipadan Diving Lodge
Sub-headings, and hyper-links, in Ken's report include:
- Getting There
- Options in Tawau
- Monsopiad and the House of Skulls
- More Sipadan Resorts
- Borneo Divers' Sipadan Diving Lodge
- New Bath House - Upgraded Facilities
- What to Bring - Lots of Dive Gear and Film, No Clothes
- The Basic Program - What is Included?
- Dining for Divers - Meals at Sipadan Diving Lodge
- The Bottom Line is Bottom Time - Sipadan's Diving
- Adding Mabul to the Picture
- Sipadan Squirrels - The No More Rats Report
- Borneo Touring Opportunities
- The Wildlife of Sandakan
- Miri and Mulu National Park
- Kuching and Environs
- Choosing the Right Touring Options
- Final Reflections
- Addendum - Some Timely International Travel Tips
- Making Your Flight Connections Stick
- Interline Baggage Transfers
- Hot Tip for LAX Travelers
Getting There - For service, price, and effective scheduling when traveling to Asia and the Pacific Rim, Malaysia Airlines is hard to beat. Repeatedly ranking among the top international airlines, their equipment and in-flight service are excellent. If your initial destination is Sipadan Island, the best routing is to fly non-stop from Los Angeles to Taipei, with a change of planes for Kota Kinabalu, the capitol of the Malaysian state of Sabah. From "KK," catch a 45 minute connecting flight directly to the small coastal town of Tawau. From there you can continue on by car to Semporna, the jumping off point for Sipadan, or spend your first overnight at Tawau. Other options include connections from Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and various other gateways.
Options in Tawau - Rather than the exotic Dragon Inn, built on stilts over the water in Semporna, on this trip we elected to stay at the 5-star Marco Polo Hotel in Tawau. This commodious hotel costs a bit more than the more rustic Dragon Inn, but it's a far superior lodging, and breaks up the long journey from home at a more opportune time. Tawau offers an interesting night market just outside the hotel, and some good seafood food stall diving down along the waterfront. The next morning you should arise somewhat refreshed from the rigors of the flight, and better able to enjoy the two hour, scenic drive from Tawau to Semporna that precedes your boat ride to beautiful Sipadan Island. Of course the Dragon Inn at Semporna offers its own distinct charm, albeit a much simpler style of lodging. A benefit of overnighting at the Dragon Inn is the opportunity to walk through Semporna's floating market the next morning, before setting sail to Sipadan. Semporna's rustic market offers great photo opportunities and a face to face look at the simple life of in a small Asian coastal town, complete with the ubiquitous "sea gypsies."
Monsopiad and the House of Skulls - Another option might be to overnight in Kota Kinabalu, where Ron Holland, the discoverer and original developer of the diving at Sipadan Island, has a new business venture afoot. Ron is married to Ema Bajarian, a Kadazan princess who's mother is priestess of a former headhunting tribe (non-active they say...but we're sure that Ron is careful to treat his wife exceedingly well none the less). With the assistance of the tribe's elders, Ron and Emma have developed a tribal village tour where visitors can learn more about the Kadazan culture, history, music and dance. Named after a famous warrior and headhunter of antiquity, who is said to have taken forty heads, the site is called Monsopiad and the House of Skulls. If you are overnighting in Kota Kinabalu during some portion of your stay, this site offers an interesting and educational afternoon's diversion.
More Sipadan Resorts - The island of Sipadan is tiny - you can walk around if in just twenty minutes - but at this writing Sipadan is home to five different dive resorts, plus two more on neighboring Mabul Island. There is even a floating jack-up rig recently anchored near Mabul that will supposedly also be turned into a dive resort. At least two of the resorts on Sipadan are operating illegally - but apparently "money talks." Some of these resorts cater predominantly to Japanese tourists. Another is operated by Chinese. There is some pricing differential - but you will learn that you do "get what you pay for." As a result, you will have to chose which resort is right for you. For many reasons, I have selected Borneo Divers Sipadan Diving Lodge as my resort of choice. Borneo Divers are clearly the most advanced, experienced, and best organized operators on Sipadan. They have the best resources, and the most complete physical plant - ie. refrigeration, kitchen facilities, showers, toilets, generators, compressors, water desalinization system, etc. Borneo Divers also have the only decompression chamber in the region, and most importantly, appear to be the most ecologically conscientious. The real question is - how many resorts, and people, can Sipadan's tiny ecosystem support, before the effects of humanity begin to take their toll?
Borneo Divers' Sipadan Diving Lodge - The Borneo Divers (Ron Holland, Samson Shak, Randy Davis, Clement Lee) literally discovered the diving at Sipadan Island, and over the years have developed it from overnight camping trips to a full service, fifty guest dive resort; celebrating the tenth anniversary of Sipadan Diving Lodge in 1994. The cabins at Sipadan are referred to as chalets, but perhaps are best described as "grass shacks on the beach." They are much improved from the camping days, but still relatively Spartan in design and accouterments. Remember back to summer camp, or perhaps your college dorm room, and you'll get the general idea. The small, thatch roofed rooms have 220 v. electricity, florescent lighting, and a big ceiling fan, but most still have no toilet or running water. The beds are narrow, and while I had no trouble sleeping after a day of four or five dives, loving couples will surely pine for double beds. (Fear not however, love will find a way!) Beyond that, there are one or two small cabinets, and a bed side table. With so little provision to stow your clothing, it's almost easier to work out of your suitcase, though my previous complaints regarding a lack of hooks on the walls and more clothes hangers do seem to have been acted upon. In 1996, Borneo Divers has been building all new two-story chalets, which do include a complete bathroom in the unit. Some of these should be operable by the time you read this report, so feel free to contact me personally for an update.
New Bath House - A great improvement at Sipadan Diving Lodge is the new bath house. Constructed in 1994, behind the main row of cabins, it is spacious, well lighted, and tiled throughout. The solar heated showers, flush toilets, and wash rooms are kept immaculately clean. I used to be obliged to point out that "solar-heated" often translates to "cold shower." However, on this trip thee was always hot water available, even after the night dive. Still, once the diving's done you'll appreciate a soak in a hot bath all the more, and the unabashed luxury of the Sandakan Renaissance or Kuala Lumpur Hilton, once you've returned to "civilization."
What to Bring - In point of fact, you'll need very little in the way of clothing at Sipadan, so pack lots of cameras, film, and dive gear, and just a few pairs of shorts and t-shirts, plus one light, long sleeved shirt or jacket. Comfortable footgear is important if you plan on doing some touring after Sipadan. I suggest a sturdy pair of walking or running shoes (wear these on the plane), and a good pair of "Tiva-style," waterproof sandals. But at Sipadan, remove your shoes on arrival and stow 'em, everyone goes about barefoot. The dive shop provides ample storage for your gear, and a 110 v. charging station for your strobes. It's preferable to bring your basic dive gear, but don't feel obliged to haul a bunch of back-up equipment, as Borneo Divers keeps a good supply of well-maintained rental gear on hand. Water temperature generally ranges from 80-84 degrees Fahrenheit, but if you intend to maximize your bottom time, I suggest that you do bring a light weight, full wet suit, or a good dive skin. A dive computer will certainly add to your dive time and safety.
The Basic Program - Borneo Divers' program includes air transfer forward from Kota Kinabalu, land transfer from Tawau to Semporna, and boat transfer from Semporna to Sipadan. Airport taxes, the cost of the hotel overnight in Tawau or Semporna, and meals in transit are not included. Once at Sipadan, the basic package includes lodging, tax, three daily meals, three boat dives per day, and unlimited beach tanks, with the dive shop open for business from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Coffee, tea, and juice are available all the time and are free. Canned soft drinks, beer, and alcoholic beverages from the well-stocked bar are additional. Based on twin share, Borneo Divers' 1996 basic package prices at USD $1455 per person, per week. For additional nights, add $130 per person, per night, which includes lodging, meals, and diving. (For durations less than seven nights, subtract $130 per night from the $1455 weekly rate.) To my mind, the best duration is 7-10 nights. For an additional $375 you can ride in high-style, with round-trip helicopter transfer from Tawau to Sipadan, though this service has recently been unavailable. When you are ready to travel, I can confirm that for you if you are interested in arriving Donald Trump-style.
Dining for Divers - While the lodging at Sipadan hasn't changed much, the dining at Sipadan Diving Lodge has really improved over the last few years. A large, new kitchen has been constructed, with commercial grade gas stoves and ample refrigeration. There are two full-time chefs, one Chinese, one Malay, and a team of Filipino assistants to help with preparation and serving. Repeat guests and Sipadan aficionados will be intrigued to learn that Rambo is now the restaurant's maitre' d. All meals are served buffet style and no one will go hungry. Breakfast included pancakes or french toast, eggs over easy, sausage, and toast. There's usually also an oriental noodle breakfast. Lunch and dinner always included salad bar, rice, noodles, a variety of excellent stir fried vegetables, and often french fries, plus a choice of two entree's such as chicken, pork, shrimp, and fish cooked in a number of delicious fashions. In addition there was often also excellent tuna sashimi and/or ceviche in copious supply. At least once a week, the resort hosts an outdoor barbeque including sate (the Malaysian specialty of beef or chicken tidbits cooked on skewers over an open fire) served with peanut sauce. Rather than baked goods, dessert is a selection of delicious fresh fruits. Throughout the day there are biscuits, crackers, toast, peanut butter & jelly, coffee, tea, and juice, plus afternoon snacks. On this most recent visit, my group continually pronounced the meals to be excellent.
The Bottom Line is Bottom Time - How can I describe the diving at Sipadan? I could tell you that after more than 1,850 open water dives logged at the world's most renowned dive spots, Sipadan is still the best I've ever seen. I could say that this is my seventh time here and I still get excited about every dive. I could remind you that "In Depth Magazine," the consumer reports for divers, named Sipadan "The World's Best Beach Dive." Or I could just say it was GREAT!!!, with lots of exclamation marks, but I'm afraid that you would think its just hyperbole. So with the help of my dive buddies, I've tried to record for you all the marine life we saw in just our first day of diving on a recent trip to Sipadan. On our first day we sited and swam with:
Ten or twenty white tip and black tip sharks, at least fifty giant sea turtles (both green and hawks bill), some very big jack cravalle feeding on swirling schools of terrified chromis, schooling bar jacks, giant bump head parrot fish (balbometopon muricatum), exotic unicorn fish, a broad variety of beautiful anemones and clown fishes, at least three different kinds of lion fish, harlequin trigger fish, a big titan trigger fish building its nest, colorful crinoids, starfish, a swirling school of 500+ barracuda spiraling in the sunlight, squirrel fish, big eye, puffers, leaf fish, quartets of balletic Moorish idols, gorgonians, sponges, sea squirts, a broad variety of hard and soft corals, rainbowed fusiliers, goat fish, bat fish, banner fish, tridachna clam, silver pompano, lobster, parrot fish busily crunching coral, various species of grouper, damsel, and surgeon fish, Bennie the blenny, a racing-striped corvette nudibranch, hawk fish, pairs of fire goby, sweet lips, maguro sashimi on the hoof (big pelagic tuna), octopus, moray eel, a range of beautiful angelfish, many pairs of butterfly fish, a commensural relationship between a spotted shrimp goby standing sentry and a blind yellow shrimp busily maintaining their shared burrow, and "at least two million three hundred thousand"* golden, turquoise, and fuchsia fairy basslets flashing above the finger corals. *This unaudited accounting courtesy of a member of our group, a CPA by profession.
During our surface intervals, we saw a large flight of Imperial pigeons, swallows, a kingfisher, herons, tiny yellow finches, and soaring sea eagles. Terrestrial curiosities included baby turtle hatchlings scrambling into the sea, a giant coconut crab climbing up the tree just outside the dining hall, a monitor lizard sunning on the side of the dive shack, and from the end of the pier, a manta ray leaping completely clear of the water. Right now, as we await dinner, my buddies are down the beach with a flashlight watching a flight of fruit bats feed on the nectar of flowers blooming in a tall tree above their little own grass shack on the beach.
Yes...that's what I, and the eight divers on my boat, had seen by the end of our first day and just the first three boat dives of our trip. The three buddies that accompanied me on our first beach night dive also came face to face with sonambulent turtles, seriously big bumphead parrot fish, and opportunistic lion fish feeding on the small fishes blinded by our dive lights. Best of all, once I convinced my buddies to turn off their dive lights, we were surrounded by sparkling schools of flashlight fish lighting up the reef in an ethereal, nocturnal dance that defies description. That's why I love Sipadan...and why it's worth the grueling trip and the Spartan accommodations. The diving is just plain wonderful...the ambiance is totally laid back and relaxed...and who knows what surprises and diving delights tomorrow may bring?
Adding Mabul to the Picture - The island of Mabul is a 25 minute boat ride from Sipadan. Closer to shore, it houses a military base, a large sea gypsy village, and two dive resorts, Sipadan Mabul Resort, and Sipadan Water Village. Borneo Divers is now including in its normal program, two-tank trips to Mabul. The underwater environment is quite different from that of Sipadan, in great part due to the years of fish bombing to which the reefs of Mabul have been subjected. It's not wall diving, and you won't see any schools of fish, turtles, sharks, or other pelagics. You will see an intriguing array of the reefs more unusual creatures - cuttlefish, mandarin fish, eels, juvenile batfish, nudibranchs, frog fish, pipe fish, razor fish, etc. As a result, Mabul is a favorite of macro photographers. If you are interested, just let your divemasters know and they will be glad to include Mabul in your Sipadan diving itinerary.
Sipadan Squirrels - Some years ago coconut rats scrambled off a supply boat onto Sipadan Island and established themselves as part of the environment. Cats and traps have been employed to reduce their number, but they were best controlled when in a stroke of publicity leger-de-main, the rats were renamed Sipadan squirrels. My advice to guests in this regard is that you keep absolutely no food in your cabin. This includes candy, granola bars, vitamin supplements, etc. If you've brought food items, just keep them in the fridge behind the bar in the dining room and you can get into them whenever you like...but the squirrels can not...and they won't be attracted to your room in search of free eats. Fortunately, it seems that eradication efforts have been successful. On my most recent trips (1995, 1996, and 1997) I did not see squirrel one, though we have been awakened in the early morning hours by the passionate howling of a pair of cats, obviously taking a break from their patrol duties for a more amorous pursuit.
Borneo Touring Opportunities - Following my various Sipadan trips, I've taken the time to extensively tour Kuala Lumpur (it's a fabulous city with myriad diversions available), as well as to visit many of the attractions of the states of Sabah and Sarawak. I've enjoyed the excursion to Sandakan to commune with my relatives, the Orang-Utan at the Sepilok Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Center, and have traveled up the Kinabatangan River to spy out the elusive proboscis monkey, the greater hornbill, and even the shy and diminutive mouse deer. To expand my knowledge of the region, I've also had the pleasure of visiting Miri, Mulu Caves, and Kuching. At no time have I been disappointed. All of these tours are most interesting and well worth the time - it would be my pleasure to assist you in customizing an adventure tailored to your particular interests.
The Wildlife of Sandakan- Departing Sipadan in the speed boats, its a 45 minute ride back to Semporna, followed by a scenic two hour drive south to the airport at Tawau. From there, connect with the 40 minute flight to the bustling port city of Sandakan, at the delta of the Kinabatangan River. You will be met at the airport by a representative of S.I. (Special Interest) Tours. Its owner, Roland Ng, was instrumental in the creation of the Sepilok Orang-Utan Refuge, and he became the first operator to bringing tourists to meet the elusive Orang-Utan. You will be transferred to the beautiful, 5-star, Sandakan Renaissance Hotel for a night of post-Sipadan luxury. Air-conditioning, a hot bath, and a fluffy Turkish robe are all the more appreciated after a week of "roughing it." The next morning your guide will pick you up early for a tour through Sandakan's sprawling wet market. This is an excellent photo opportunity, as well as a chance to see how the Malaysian people conduct their daily lives.
From there, you'll be driven 30 minutes out of the city to the 250 acre Sepilok Orang-Utan Refuge, arriving in time for the Orang-Utans daily visit to the feeding station. These animals have been reintroduced to living in the jungle, but their wild diet is supplemented by a feeding of bananas and milk. You'll watch the Orang-Utans appear out of the trees and converge on the feeding platform. They have no fear of man, and you will be cautioned to hand onto your hat and camera, less they become a toy for these playful primates. Photographers equipped with a fast film, flash, and long lens have the chance to create a very special wildlife portrait. Photo tip: Unless you possess a very steady hand, a tripod will certainly add to your chances of success.
You can visit the Orang-Utans in just a one night stay...but if you have the interest, and another one or two nights to spend, I encourage you to stay and partake of S.I. Tours' "Kinabatangan Adventure." This exciting tour takes you to a remote region of the Kinabatangan River, where you will see wild Proboscis Monkeys clamber through the trees, crash through the thick underbrush, and forage for crabs along the river bank. After overnighting at Ben's River Lodge, you will set out at dawn in native canoes, along a narrow river tributary and into Ox Bow Lake. This remote backwater is home to a broad array of exotic birds and wildlife which you will view both from the boat and a mushy but rewarding hike through the jungle.
Miri and Mulu National Park- From the airport at Tawau or forward from Sandakan, via Kota Kinabalu, one may also make the one hour flight to the coastal oil town of Miri in the Malaysian state of Sarawak on the Western side of the big island of Borneo. (Update - a new flight service is coming online, which will provide service from Kota Kinabalu directly to Mulu.) In Miri we overnighted at the beautiful five-star Royal Righa Hotel, where again, after a week of diving, soaking in a hot bath was quite a simple pleasure. Early the next morning, we boarded a nineteen passenger Twin-Otter for the 35 minute flight to Mulu, where we were met at the airport by our local guide and transported to the Righa's new, five-star, jungle hotel, the Royal Mulu Resort, set on the bank of the Melanau River. After checking in to our very comfortable accommodations and changing into our "Indiana Jones gear," we set off for Mulu National Park.
Our first adventure involved a three mile hike along a plank walk that snaked through the boggy rain forest. Many large and beautiful butterflies flitted across our path as we explored the ancient virgin rainforest, the world's oldest. Along the way we marveled at a giant millipede that curled up into a shooter marble sized pill bug, inch-long ants, a spider's bigger than George Jensen's hand, and an ancient burial cave with human bones. Horn bill and other exotic bird calls filled the air as we espied lizards, spiders, glow worms and other exotic life forms, until our pathway brought us to the entrance of Deer Cave, the largest cave passage in the world. There, a dimly lighted path led us deep into the heart of a massive subterranean chamber where water cascaded from high above into a rushing underground river which flowed off into the darkness. In addition to the otherworldly beauty of its mammoth stalactite and stalagmite formations, Deer Cave is home to a six million bats, and another three million acrobatic swiftlets (purple martins). A highlight of our day came just at dusk, as we watched in awe as literally millions of bats swarmed out of the cave, taking flight on their nightly quest for sustenance. One of the bats principal foods is mosquitos. If each of the six million night feeders takes twenty mosquitos, that's 120 million less annoying blood suckers to bedevil the warm blooded amongst us. Perhaps that explains why I was never bitten by a mosquito the entire time I spent in the rain forests of Mulu.
Our experience was not yet completed, as we then had to trek three miles back to park headquarters in the gathering darkness. Fire flies, glow worms, and lightening bolts outlined our path, to the accompaniment of a cacophonous symphony of frogs, cicadas, and bird calls. We quickened our steps, but a torrential, tropical downpour overtook us, and the last ten minutes of our hike saw us engulfed in jungle darkness, totally drenched, and quite literally, singing in the rain. Back in the shelter of the park canteen, we savored our enlivening experience over a cup of strong hot Malaysian coffee. Then, when the rain abated, we clambered down a slippery dock and into a native wooden long boat for the ride back to our lodging. The boatman's searchlight etched our shadows along the twisting river bank, as lightning and thunder flashed and rumbled off into the distant jungle, making a fitting end to our first day of Mulu discovery.
The Miri/Mulu region offers many such exciting diversions. Our group also visited Long Cave, Young Lady Cave, Clearwater Cave, and the beautiful King's Chamber in Wind Cave. With more time and physical exertion, one can also visit Sarawak Chamber (the world's largest subterranean chamber, capable of housing forty Boeing 747 aircraft wing tip to wing tip), Niah Cave with its prehistoric wall paintings and the collection of edible birds nest, as well as the massive, blade-like Mulu Pinnacles. There is also the opportunity to interact with the indigenous native peoples who live a nomadic existence along the Melanau River. I highly recommend this Miri/Mulu extension for those interested in geology, wildlife, and indigenous cultures.
Kuching and Environs - After Miri and Mulu, our next stop was Kuching, the capitol of the Malaysian state of Sarawak. This is a wonderfully accessible city with much to offer. There are excellent five-star lodgings available. I can particularly recommend the Riverside Majestic, and the Kuching Hilton. Your first excursion should be to the Sarawak Museum. Here you will find an eclectic collection of artifacts from Borneo's diverse wildlife, peoples, and cultures. From there, it's worth the ½ day trip to the Sarawak Cultural Center. While perhaps somewhat contrived, it does offer a look at the lodging, culture and life style of seven different ethnic groups. The cultural show that completes the afternoon includes beautiful native dress and talented young musicians and dancers.
The next morning we made a day tour to Baco National Park, requiring a 45 minute drive northeast of Kuching to Baco Village. There we boarded a motor boat for the thirty minute ride to park headquarters. It quickly became evident that Baco is for serious hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. Our walk took us through mangrove and lowland dipterocarp forest onto a beautiful boulder-strewn beach. While we had been tempted with the opportunity to view proboscis monkeys, we actually saw very little wildlife on our hike, but did enjoy the lush and varied foliage. On our return to park headquarters, we relaxed in the canteen over soft drinks and a light lunch, and here the wildlife found us. A troupe of long-tailed macaque monkeys appeared out of the underbrush and boldly approached our lunch table.. While the inexperienced among us grabbed for cameras, our experienced guide, Roland Ng of S.I. Tours cautioned us to gather in all our belongings lest the monkeys make off with them. He was quite right, as at a neighboring table a guest quickly lost his box lunch to the primate pirateers, while the rest of us snapped photos at point blank range. Before the macaques had departed the scene of the crime, we had an even more unusual visitation. Out of the underbrush appeared a formidable wild boar. Dubbed bearded pigs for their long snout and bristly facial hair, this big sow was closely followed by her eight foraging babies. Needless to say, I continued to fire away, though after perceiving her protective attitude, opted to make use of my telephoto lens and kept a safe distance.
Clearly, there is plenty of adventure to be had in Borneo, both in Sabah and Sarawak. Other opportunities in Sarawak include a day tour to the Semonggok Wildlife Rehabilitation Sanctuary, and for the adventurous, overnight or multi-day, remote long house tours on the Skrang, Lemanak, or Ulu Ai Rivers. You'll also find interesting city tours of Kuching and its environs including a Crocodile Farm Tour, Pottery Factory, the Ranchan Waterfall, and a Chinese Pepper Farm among others. However, the true beauty of Kuching is that it is a great walking city, famous both for its dining, and its shopping. There are hundreds of interesting restaurants serving every imaginable cuisine (plus a few you might not be able to imagine). Antique carvings, weavings, beadwork, blowguns, parangs (swords), warrior's shields, native talismans, and other exotic handicrafts are to be found in abundance. Day or night, it's perfectly safe to stroll through Kuching's extensive market district, and along the attractive waterfront. As English is the universal language of commerce, you'll have no trouble asking directions, ordering a meal, or bartering over that special souvenir or antique as you enjoy magnificent Malaysia.
Choosing the Right Touring Options - If time limitations force you to chose between spending your time in Sabah, the eastern state of Malaysian Borneo, or Sarawak, the western state; here are the basic differences upon which to base your decision:
In the State of Sabah:
Kota Kinabalu - Good for viewing the Rafflesia (the world's largest flower) and other exotic flora at Kinabalu National Park. Also the opportunity to pursue white water rafting, or for the very physically fit and experienced, the challenge of climbing Mount Kinabalu.
Sandakan - Spend your time here if your interest leans towards viewing wildlife such as the Orang-Utans at the Sepilok Rehabilitation Center, the proboscis monkeys of the Kinabatangan River, and the mouse deer and prolific bird life of Ox Box Lake.In the State of Sarawak:
Miri and Mulu- If exploring caves sounds intriguing, go to Miri and Mulu. You'll find everything from day trips and overnights to multi-day adventure trekking and hard caving. At Niah cave you'll also have the chance to see the collection of edible bird nest.
Kuching- If your interest is in learning about the indigenous native cultures, the headhunter ethic, and perhaps spending a night in a native long house, Kuching should be featured in your itinerary.On Peninsular Malaysia:
Kuala Lumpur- This colorful, modern, bustling city is truly the gem of the Pacific Rim. Kuala Lumpur combines modern architecture with the exotic beauty of its oriental and colonialist history. The striking twin towers of the new City Center are the tallest buildings in the world, while Chinatown and Central Market offer all the charm of Hong Kong...and the shopping bargains that used to be in Singapore. If you have the time and inclination, I highly recommend spending two or three nights in "K.L."
Malaysia and Beyond- Malaysia is a diverse and exciting country. It's economy continues to grow at a dizzying pace. Affluence abounds in the midst of history and natural splendor. As you continue to explore this region, you may take the opportunity to visit Penang, Melacca, Singapore, Thailand, and beyond.Final Reflections- It is a pleasure to report that my seventh trip to Malaysia, Borneo, and Sipadan Island was my most enjoyable and rewarding trip yet. More importantly, my entire group of 36 guests, including many repeat visitors, continually expressed delight in the ease of diving, the profusion and diversity of marine life, and the general laid-back ambiance at Sipadan. While I made 32 dives, some in my group relaxed and did 18 or 20, while the record holder for our trip, Harold Owens, logged 36 dives, and well over 40 hours of bottom time. But Borneo is not just about superb scuba diving. For me, Malaysia seems to offer the perfect combination of prolific diving, diverse adventure touring opportunities, superb upscale lodging, and first-class service that will spoil you for good, all within a pricing structure that makes Malaysia tourism an excellent value.
If you'd like to learn more about Malaysia, Borneo, and Sipadan Island, a good first step would to be contact the Malaysian Tourism Office in Los Angeles at (213) 689-9702. Any good book store will offer you a surprisingly broad selection of informative travel guides and photo essays. Of course, if you'd also like to have the benefit of first-hand knowledge, I, and the entire staff of Island Dreams Travel, stand ready with the skills and experience to assist you in making your Sipadan Island Dreams come true.
Wishing you great diving, and a world of adventure...Ken
Kenneth D. Knezick
President, Island Dreams Travel
8582 Katy Freeway, Suite 118
Houston, Texas 77024
(800) 346-6116 ** (713) 973-9300
firstname.lastname@example.org ** http://www.divetrip.com
Making Your Flight Connections Stick - After years of delays, and racing through airports to narrowly avoid missing a flight, I have learned to allow a minimum of three (3) hours, preferably four or more for connections from domestic to international flights, especially when transiting via Los Angeles or Miami. You should be at your international airline's check-in counter at least two hours prior to flight time. From experience we've learned that it's not usual to experience a 45 minute wait between flight arrival, and your baggage actually coming off the carousel. After that, plan on spending at least 10 minutes wheeling your luggage over to the International Terminal. So play it safe, just schedule an earlier flight and hedge against disaster. Those couple of extra hours hanging around the International Terminal, can also be the difference between making the connection to your exotic island paradise, and having your holiday turn to disaster before its even begun.
Inter-Line Baggage Transfers - Here's another way to disaster proof your dive trip. When connecting from a domestic U.S. flight to an international flight, check your luggage only as far as the international gateway, then collect if from your domestic airline, and tote it over to the International Terminal, and check it in yourself with the international carrier. There's a much better chance that your luggage will arrive at the same time and place as you do...and if a piece of luggage is misplaced, you'll know exactly who to blame. By the way, to avoid possible confusion, whenever checking in for a new flight, be sure to remove any previous baggage routing tags from your luggage.
Hot Tip for LAX Travelers - Here's an especially hot tip for those returning back to the Unites States with Los Angeles International Airport as port of re-entry. After clearing immigration and getting your luggage through customs, just prior to exiting the LAX International Terminal you have an option of rechecking your bags for domestic U.S. connections. It appears like a great convenience, but think twice before making use of this service. I've been advised by those who've been burned, to shun this opportunity and rather go to the extra effort of hauling your gear back to the domestic terminal and checking it for home. The reason? This luggage goes down a conveyor belt served not by your airline, but by an outside contractor. Divers have recently experienced the loss of equipment, cameras, and housing at this very juncture. They were in the bag when claimed at International and inspected by customs, but gone when they reached home. The extra hassle of hauling your gear over to the domestic terminal may be well worth the effort.
So travel light, but bring lot's of money to make up for whatever you may have forgotten. It's best to travel with an array of cash, travelers's check, and credit cards. And if you think of it, send Island Dreams a post card. We'd be pleased to share your special travel tips and resort reviews with our readers. Thanks, KDK
Island Dreams has dedicated color brochures, articles, travel tips, numerous magazine reprints, and detailed travel information about Sipadan and the Pacific Rim. You are invited to call or e-mail for additional information, advice, or assistance with resort bookings and special fares on Malaysia Airfares.
Island Dreams Tours & Travel
8582 Katy, Suite 118, Houston, TX 77024
(800) 346-6116, toll free
(713) 973-9300, voice. (713) 973-8585, facsimile.