26.03.2009 - 30.03.2009
Our (me and 2 of my friends) journey begins when we landed at Tawau airport on 26 March 2009. We flew from KL to Tawau by AirAsia (2 hours and 45 minutes journey) and it only costs us RM198 per person for return fare as we booked during the low fare promotion of the airline. Billabong Scuba staff waited for us at the airport and we took about 1 and a half hour to reach Semporna town. On reaching there, we settled all the documents and fees with Billabong Scuba for a 2 days 1 night stay at Mabul and snorkelling at Sipadan. All the meals for the package was included and it only costs RM310 per person. Entry permit needed to be applied to Sipadan as they only allow 120 people to the island each day. So, it is better to book your package early with your travel agent to avoid any disappointment.
About half an hour later, we were ready to board the speed boat to our budget stay at Mabul island. The journey took us about 45 minutes.
(Our journey to Mabul Island by boat)
(The clear waters surrouding Mabul Island)
We checked in, had our lunch and walked around the island.
(Children on the island having fun)
(Locals selling seashells and other kinds of products from sea)
There are other more luxury stay on the island which is really nice and beautiful, but of course comes with a matching price. Snorkelling on Mabul Island is free. After dinner, we just lazed around the jetty looking up at the stars with a nice cup of Sabah tea. For info, there is a time schedule for our homestay meals, with breakfast at 7am, lunch at 12.30pm and dinner at 7pm. You will get to enjoy your meals with travellers from different countries staying in the same accommodation with you here. When i stayed during that time, there all many kinds of languages audible. As for our accommodation there, don't expect too much and you won't be disappointed. We had mattress on the floor with fan in our room. There is two common bathrooms outside the rooms. Electricity is by generator and is only operating at night. At least the area is clean and hey, there's even a notebookthere just in case you want to download all those nice underwater pictures you took during your dive.
(Our budget accommodation at Mabul Island)
(A crab climbing one of the stilts at our lodge)
The next day, after our breakfast, we were scheduled to depart to Sipadan Island at 9am. The journey from Mabul Island to Sipadan Island took us around 30 minutes.
We headed to the island for registration and then we were off to our first snorkelling trip at the 'Turtle Tomb'.
Then we had some snack back at Sipadan Island.
Around 11am, we were off to 'West Ridge' for another snorkelling experience before we had lunch 2 hours later. The last trip is also at the 'Turtle Tomb'. We saw a lot of different kinds of fishes and turtles but we didn't manage to see any sharks during all of our snorkelling trips.
However, we managed to see some dolphins on our way back to Mabul Island.
We checked out around 3pm and we depart back to Semporna town.
(Our room at Dragon Inn, Semporna)
We checked in to Dragon Inn and had dinner at the town. Most shops in the town area will be closed by 7pm or 8pm, so better had your dinner early and go to bed.
The next morning, my Tawau friend came to pick us up at 9am and we begin our journey to Sandakan which took us 4 hours car drive there. Long journey makes one sleepy especially if the scenery along the way is the never ending palm oil plantation... :p
(Prawn balls and dumplings)
We reached Sandakan around 1.30pm and we had lunch at 'Sim Sim Seafood Restaurant' located at Buli Sim Sim Village (Chinese village built on stilts above the sea).
English Tea House and Restaurant is next on our list of destinations. We ordered some drinks while relaxing and enjoying the view of the sea and Sandakan town.
Next to the tea house is the 'Agnes Keith House' (former home of author Agnes Keith Newton, now restored as a musuem). The security there doesn't allow us to take photos inside the house (which i still don't understand why). It is very spacious inside the house with some original items and furnishing still intact. Entrance fees to this house is RM2 for Malaysians.
(Pu Jih Shih Temple)
Our next destination is the 'Pu Jih Shih Temple'. Located on top of a hill, this temple is said to protect and bring good health and wealth to Sandakan and its people.
We also visited the Sandakan War Memorial Park which is located about half an hour car drive from the temple. The musuem in the center of the park contains history of the prisoners of war during World War II. It gives an insight into their daily life and sufferings at the Sandakan camp and during the Death March to Ranau.
Later, we had dinner at 'Ocean King Seafood Restaurant' where we had fresh seafood. After a full stomach, we endured another 4 hours journey back to Tawau.
The day after, my friend brought us for breakfast in the town area.
(Dumpling stuff with century egg)
We had noodles and dumplings stuffed with century egg. This is their specialty and the taste is not bad. We then drove to 'Balung Eco Resort' for a walk. Then, drive around town, Shan Sui Golf Club and some shopping complexes.
We had Mongolian Chicken Rice for lunch which is located at Jalan Chester. It is a bit different than the usual chicken rice that I used to have in KL. It is rice with chicken, mushroom, mixture of different kinds of sausage and fish cake. Nice though and this outlet is always crowded as mentioned by my friend. We then had a rest at my friend's house before going out for dinner at 'Good View Seafood Restaurant'.
It has a variety of fresh and delicious seafood and it's CHEAP...
The last day of our trip, after breakfast, we reached Tawau Hill Parks where we trekked 2.5km (one way) to the Gelas Hill Waterfall.
(Gelas Hill Waterfall)
There are other trails as well that leads to the Sulphur Spring and some other Mountains but we decided to give the others a pass as the trail to the waterfall somehow took most of our energy. The track to the waterfall isn't exactly easy and it is quite muddy. After the trek, we wash ourselves up before heading to Teck Guan Regency which is famous in town for their cocoa products (cocoa drinks, cocoa spread, cocoa chocolate etc). There is also a cocoa musuem and cocoa plantations to visit but reservations needed to be made beforehand to be allowed to go in. We didn't visit these places as we need to rush to the airport to board our flight.
We also manage to try a fruit called 'buah talap' which is more common in East Malaysia.
END OF OUR JOURNEY...