27: Malaysia > Sabah > Sulu Sea

Morning, 23rd June 2007. The early morning bad weather clears up and soon we leave Seafest Hotel in our wake.img_9796.JPG

Overtaking a bunch of cool dudes atop a chugging boat. I wonder who’s driving? semporna-23-06-2007-09-46-40.JPG

A wooden structure under construction in the sea. It’s still very shallow water here, and floating restaurants cum fish-farms are common.


We speed on to our fishing spot, and in the choppy water, I get splashed all over.img_9802.JPG

First stop and the crew get busy. We are bobbing like a cork in the Sulu Sea, 16km away from Semporna,.img_9804.JPG

From our spot, Bodgaya Island is some 10km away. img_9806.JPG

Next to Bodgaya, fish-farms on stilts dot the horizon.img_9810.JPG

On the other side, 5km out in the open sea, mysterious tiny Sibuan Island beckons. I’m actually more interested in this place than the fishing bit, and the critters ain’t biting either!img_9808.JPG

The maestro tries his best, but to little avail. Noon and we’re getting restless.semporna-23-06-2007-10-55-30.JPG

Common sense soon prevails, and we head for Sibuan Island.

Attempting a beach landing. This is looking like paradise.semporna-23-06-2007-11-43-33.JPG

Boat secured and I jump off, while Mr D checks the water out.semporna-23-06-2007-11-48-54.JPG

Yes, this is PARADISE!

The island seems elongated, and I stroll along the beach facing the open sea, which is steep and rough.semporna-23-06-2007-11-49-21.JPG

Glancing to my right, I see Bodgaya Island.

Nestled among the coconut palms, a small Bajau settlement.

Close-up of the Bajau houses.semporna-23-06-2007-11-51-20.JPG

Looking back, I see the sandy spit where we landed. Semporna is 20km away in that direction.semporna-23-06-2007-11-51-03.JPG

The Bajaus are seafaring people, and boats are their multipurpose vehicles.semporna-23-06-2007-11-53-17.JPG

Crossing seas in tiny dugout canoes is not a problem. Obviously these boats came from places with huge trees, definitely not Sibuan.

The Bajau house is made of stuff from the palm trees.

It may look flimsy but must have been tough enough to withstand storms from the Sulu Sea.

Nearby a really worn-out boat is moored.semporna-23-06-2007-12-04-06.JPG

I chat up a friendly Bajau man who just arrived in his green catamaran. Rowing or sailing his boat 20km to Semporna for supplies is no big deal, he claims. Tough man.

Pretty as it looks, Sibuan’s saline ‘freshwater’ is only good for washing. Drinkable water must be sought from larger islands or from Semporna.

In the hot tropical sun, water is very important.

8km away, Bodgaya looks majestic. Maybe there’s drinkable water there.semporna-23-06-2007-11-56-44.JPG

A bikini-clad visitor frolics in the water. I don’t think this is appropriate – she should have respected local customs. The Bajau man expresses his displeasure.semporna-23-06-2007-12-05-27.JPG

But he sure has the best spot in the world!semporna-23-06-2007-12-08-00.JPG

Of course, we cannot resist a dip ourselves.

Minus Mr D, who takes a nap in the boat. It’s amazing that our toupées have not floated away. Btw, watch that huge croc and the topless underwater shot! pics by azamlatiff.collage3.jpg

We pull anchor and speed away, and I notice two people in army fatigues at the end of the sandy spit. So there’s an army outpost here on Sibuan, which is logical considering this place is exposed to the notorious part of the Sulu Sea.semporna-23-06-2007-12-59-54.JPG

I’ve never been to any island as beautiful as this before. Sibuan is indeed close to paradise on earth. Great decision in making the lunchtime visit.


Many km out at sea, we spot a Bajau man bailing water out his boat. We go to help, but he says, no problem.


And he is soon on his merry way, paddling his boat in the middle of nowhere. And here I am, wearing a lifevest on a sturdy fibre boat with 2 engines, still feeling uneasy. Put me in that boat, I’d surely freak out!semporna-23-06-2007-13-04-14.JPG

We resume our business of fishing. semporna-23-06-2007-13-06-27.JPG

Then I hear somebody singing in the distance, and with my zoom lens spotted this lonely Bajau bobbing in the choppy sea. Another brave soul! He’s probably 5km away from the nearest land.semporna-23-06-2007-13-09-13.JPG

It has not been good fishing, so we decide to call it a day as the sun sets.

Along the way, more fish-farms next to Bodgaya Island.semporna-23-06-2007-13-10-20.JPG

We decide to have dinner at a restaurant cum fish-farm in the sea. A protected fish-enclosure is in the middle, and for a fee you can dive or snorkel among the critters.


Some of the captives.


Corals in pristine water surround the site.semporna-23-06-2007-16-47-50.JPG

The restaurant.

There are chalets too.


And of course, fish-farms at the back.semporna-23-06-2007-17-37-12.JPG

One of the guard dogs, to protect the property against intruders. New meaning to the term ‘sea-dog’. Looks harmless, but the owner assures me he’s vicious. I do not hang around to test.semporna-23-06-2007-17-40-27.JPG

But first, time to select the main course, led by the chef himself, …semporna-23-06-2007-17-37-40.JPG

… and the unlucky winner is …semporna-23-06-2007-17-38-54.JPG

30min later … burp! We are cruel.

A map on the wall attracts me. Sibuan Island is within the recently-proclaimed Tun Sakaran Marine Park.semporna-23-06-2007-17-00-53.JPG

After a hearty dinner, we admire Bodgaya and neighbours.semporna-23-06-2007-17-37-20.JPG

An army speedboat whizzes past, possibly to Sibuan. Taxpayers’ money put to good use – national security.semporna-23-06-2007-17-47-39.JPG

After a spectacular sunset, …semporna-23-06-2007-18-15-28.JPG

… we stagger back to Seafest for a well-deserved rest. Fish? What fish? pic by azamlatiff.sem23jun0770253pmc180aw0.jpg

Well, here’s one fish I caught, on sale the next day. liar semporna-24-06-2007-07-54-05.JPG