After we checked out from Borneo Divers Mabul Resort at 6.30am and transferred to Semporna, we continued our journey by exploring some of the islands of Tun Sakaran Marine Park. But first, we needed to store our bags. As we had booked our stay at Scuba Junkie Semporna, we inquired if we could place our bags at their storage room. We were given a room instead. After leaving our bags, we hurried to buy food from the wet market to bring to the islands.
Tun Sakaran Marine Park, also known as Semporna Islands Park, is a marine park located off the east coast of the state of Sabah in Malaysia, on the island of Borneo. It consists of the islands of Bodgaya, Boheydulang, Sabangkat, and Salakan, the sand cays of Maiga, Sibuan, and Mantabuan, and the patch reefs of Church and Kapikan. (wikipedia)
We paid RM200 each (there are two of us) to Mabul Backpackers, which was booked in advance. If you were to come in a big group, it would be more cost saving as the whole costs were paid as per boat ie. RM400 per boat. When we were there, there were two food container ready. After the boatman came, we were taken by boat to the marine park where permits were submitted. Our first destination was Bohey Dulang Island.
The boat ride from Semporna Jetty to Bohey Dulang Island took about 40 minutes. We arrived at 9.40am together with another boat full of tourists. The skies were blue, water emerald green. It was indeed a beautiful day. Bohey Dulang Island is remnants of an extinct volcano. The crater is now flooded with seawater to form a large lagoon.
During the entry registration, we were told that we had to take a guide from the marine park for the 40 minutes trekking to the summit of Bohey Dulang. The tourist handler from the other boat requested that we be joined with the group. But the marine park officer told us that guide is charged per group according to boat. Since we were from another boat, we had to have a guide of our own. That was an additional cost of RM50 for both of us.
After sweating profusely under the scorching hot sun, we finally arrived at the summit. The height of the summit is about 600 metres. The view from summit was rewarding. One of the best views all over Malaysia. We were told by the guide that there are many poisonous snakes at the summit. One has to be careful.
When we reached the boat, we went snorkelling near the jetty. There were a lot of sea urchins and I caught sight of a banded sea eel. Snorkelling near the jetty meant you had to bear with oil slick from the boats. After having discussion with the boatman, the tour that we had booked with Mabul Backpackers did not include a visit to the sea gypsy village.
Mantabuan Island is located behind the ancient volcano of Bohey Dulang Island. We had to go through shallow water so the boatman manoeuvred the boat carefully. We saw dozens of seastars lying on the sea bed. Then, the shallow water got deeper and shallower again as we neared the shore. There was a stationary army post where our boat man submitted the permits. It was very hot and the island did not have a shelter where we could rest. It would be a good idea to bring an umbrella. We ended up walking along the beach until we saw a sea gypsy house.
At first, it was us against the army guys, our boatman and the sea gypsies. We were playing by the beach and snorkelled as and when we like. We had way too much fun at Mantabuan Island. My sister saw an inspiring Go Pro picture which was captured using a Go Pro which was placed inside a small sandy hole facing the faces of whoever who wanted to be in the picture. Here is our version of the sand-hole-Go-Pro picture :-
The best place to snorkel was quite a swim from the shore. We only snorkelled at the edge of the shore for we didn’t have much energy to swim that far. Plus, someone did not know how to swim. When the boatman offered to bring us to the snorkelled spot, we jumped in joy.
We actually considered the offer of the boatman who asked us to pay RM50 for a short trip to Tatagan Island to see the sea gypsy village. Since we didn’t know when we would be coming again to Semporna, we thought we might as well take the offer.
Tatagan Island is one of the islands in Tun Sakaran Marine Park which is occupied by the sea gypsies. Usually the trip to Boheydulang Island will be combined with Maiga Island for the sea gypsies. But our boatman brought us to Tatagan Island. He told us it was the favourite sea gypsies village for the Japanese tourists. So, why not.
The Sea Gypsies or the “Bajau Laut” is made of Sabah’s ethnic group originated from the Philippines and Indonesia. They have been living a seaborne lifestyle, living near to the sea shore by erecting houses on stilts and travelling in lepa-lepa,a handmade boat. Many of them work as fishermen. They also made boats and some of them were excellent divers. Rumor has it that they can even breathe under water for up to five minutes.
As our boat passing through the stilt houses, the kids were eager to wave for us for sweets and chips. I bought some sweets and wafers to be distributed at the kids. To our surprise, one stilt house consists of atleast 5 children. By no means, my sweets could cater for all of them. One could not help but to imagine how did they live such a life especially at night and during a storm.
The town is at least an hour away if using the lepa-lepa. It was a laid back village. While passing the sweets to some of the children, some jumped into their lepa-lepa and chased after us. Too bad by then, we ran out of sweets. They went away disappointed. At one of the stilt houses, there were few women and many kids laughing away problems. What a life. For certain, our definition of paradise is entirely different from theirs.
We reached Semporna town at 4pm. At night, we went to eat seafood at a nearby restaurant. After scouting for the best place to eat seafood in Semporna, we settled for Fat Mama Restaurant.
Boat – RM400 (shared by 2 pax) – Mabul Backpackers Lodge, Semporna [only for Boheydulang & Mantabuan Island]
Boheydulang guide fee – RM50 (shared by 2 pax)
Tatagan Island extra tour – RM50
Total – RM500