04.30, sound of the alarm, yack. A quick shower, a 7-minute walk to the airport and it was time to check in again. The good thing of waking up so early is that after checking in we still had some time for a cup of cappuccino and a banana chocolate fritter muffin, very Malaysian…
our plane took of punctual for our 2-¾ hour flight to Sandakan. I even
managed to doze away a couple of times during the flight so before I
realized it we were already descending again. The luggage did not take
to long and as arranged somebody was already waiting for us to bring us
to Sepilok Nature Resort.
that was a different story from the Tune hotel last night, a nice all
wooden spacious chalet for the two of us, surrounded by palms and
overlooking a pond. It was a fantastic setting and both of us felt in
seventh heaven again. Now talking about heaven… that decided to open
whilst we were having lunch, it was an absolute cloudburst but after an
hour suddenly, as quick as it started, the rain stopped. It was like
somebody closed the valve.
much later the sun was shining again and we went on a little stroll
towards the orang otan Rehabilitation Center. This center, like it’s
counterpart in Sarawak that we visited in 2007, focuses on re-educating
orang utan’s that have been captured and kept as pets to get used to
living in the wild again.
was feeding time at 15:00 when a ranger brought a bucket of bananas and
not much later the orang otans arrived. We were focused as soon as
something started to move in the bushes and not much later a red hairy
animal made it’s way to the platform where the bananas were served. The
animals were hilarious, their movements, their characters and even their
faces when another orang otan took a banana away. It was fun to watch.
The orang otan’s were not the only ones interested in the bananas, so
were a bunch of other monkeys who, once they had built up courage,
approached the platform to steal some bananas. This led to funny moments
when the orang otans disagreed on their fellow diners. To our liking
it was over far to quick, fortunately we have another chance to see it
once we return from Lankayan.
rest of the afternoon was very relaxing, we had a beer, read a book,
it’s a tough life but then someone has to do it… As I was a bit tired I
had an afternoon nap and even after dinner we did not make it long. The
day had started early and we only had enjoyed a couple of hours of
sleep. Did we need any more excuses for an early night? I don’t think
up by the alarm again, but this time with a difference, we felt like we
had a good night of sleep. After breakfast we were brought to the
marina where a speedboat was waiting for us. It was loaded with 400
Horse Power, enough to jet us over the water with 46 miles an hour, not
bad at all. We passed some small islands and some fishermen settlings on
poles but after that there was only water to be seen. Water, water, and
more water. The trip took us just over and hour and a half after which
we could see Lankayan in the distance. The pictures we had seen on the
Internet had not been misleading at all. It looked like a paradise in
the middle of nowhere, absolutely perfect to spent a couple of days.
boat moored at the jetty from where we strolled to our home for the
next couple of days. The look of it made us dribble, everything one can
wish for. A beautiful white sandy beach, a couple of chalets, and trees.
No more, no less. We kicked of our sandals and decided not to wear them
for the next couple of days. We were briefed on the island’s daily
routine of meals and the activities. Hmmm, two sorts, diving and a kayak
trip around the island. Further each bungalow had a hammock and a piece
of beach and that was about all that the island had to offer. Relax,
and do absolutely nothing at all. Perfect I would say.
Before lunch we even managed to do a ‘hike’ around the island. We saw lots of small black reef tip sharks in the shallow water, plenty of other fish life and coral. It promised to become a nice couple of days. The hike did not take us much longer than 10 minutes after which we were back at the restaurant. Just in time for lunch… Needles to say we became extremely hungry after all this exercise, fortunately the food was plenty and well tasting.
hour or so to relax after which we had our first orientation dive. It
was good to get used to diving again after an almost 8 year break. In
front of the jetty a kind of track was set up which led us past a number
of interesting objects which housed a lot of fish, and even a small
wreck. As the tide was changing visibility was not that good but our
guide pointed out lots of interesting things. Ghost Pipefish, shrimps,
lionfish, not bad for a first dive. It was good to use this dive to
check our weights and refresh our, by now, rusty diving habits. Both of
us were amazed how well it went so now we are ready for the boat dives
imagine, sitting on the waterfront, white beach, some clouds, a beer in
the hand and then doing nothing at all, just enjoying the moment, how
tough can it get. Well, let me tell you, very tough as we were rudely
disturbed in order to see one of the island’s other attractions…
is not only a diving resort but it also houses an ecological center for
turtle research and breeding. Every evening turtles come to shore to
lay their eggs. Once done and the turtles returned to sea these eggs are
collected and let to bread under safe circumstances so no birds or
other predators can eat them. Once they come out they are collected
again and released into the sea. Tonight was exactly one of those
evenings. One small baby turtle had cracked through the sand that was
the sign that more eggs must have popped. With a little help 158 small
turtles surfaces and put in a big bucket. Once all were collected they
were quickly brought to the beach where they were released. All had to
be done very quickly otherwise the little animals would get to exhausted
and would stand no chance to reach maturity. Out of every 1000 babies
set free only one or two would reach that maturity. The workers at the
conservation center always look for a place at the beach, which is free
of black tip baby sharks that want to feast on the turtles.
had been yet another great experience and by now we were ready for a
beer. Set at the waterfront again we came to the conclusion that doing
nothing at all can be a strenuous activity. But as said, somebody had to
do it and the both of us were more than willing to sacrifice ourselves.
dinner it started to rain again, a heavy tropical rain. Actually we
were rather enjoying it and it brought that refreshing breeze. We spent
the evening chatting with some other guest of the island and time flew
by to quickly. It was still raining when we went to bed and the noise of
the raindrops on our roof was deafening. Still we managed to fall
asleep and by the time we woke up in the morning the rain had gone, sun
was shining so what else could we wish for? Breakfast and an early
morning dive perhaps?
08:00 we went to the dive center, which was located at the jetty in
front of the island. The dive masters were already present and our kit
assembled for us. We were really getting spoiled over here. The first
dive of today was a wreck dive. Not far ahead there were two wrecks, a
wooden one and a steel one.
descended along a rope to 18 meters depth where we started our
exploration. Giant Groupers, Trevallies, Lionfish, there was so much to
see. Paul was doing well so we even went twice through the wreck. We
were really enjoying ourselves. Time went by to quick and as we were
running out of air we ascended by the rope again for our 3-minute safety
stop at 6 meter. After that we returned to the boat and once all divers
had surfaced we returned to the island for our second breakfast (I
know, we are really suffering over here).
even managed to do another ‘hike’ around the island; now the sun was
shining it looked more beautiful than before. The sand was so white it
almost hurt our eyes. The sea was emerald green, the sky bright blue
with some clouds. Truly a paradise on earth! We shortly relaxed in front
of our bungalow, enjoying the sound of the waves, after we went back to
the dive center for our second dive of the day.
time we went a bit further out to Bimbo rock. Not long after we
descended we saw a blue spotted ray, fantastic, the real fun still had
to come though. Once at the sandbank Paul spotted a large leopard shark
resting in the sand. Not much later we saw a couple more graciously
swimming just in front of us. It was magic. There was lots of coral and
fish life, more colors than you can imagine. This was certainly a
special dive. Far to quick for our liking we had to return to the rope,
do our safety stop and head back to the island.
did not have much time to recover from our underwater adventures as
lunch was being served. The tom yum soup was a perfect combination of
spicy and sour. Wow. After that we had a selection of meat, fish, squid
and stir-fried squid. Paul had a beer to let the lunch go down gently
but as I wanted to do a third dive I stuck to juice.
let lunch settle I went for another hike around the island. After that
it was diving time again! Yippee! I buddied up with Sara, an English
lady we had met on the boat. There was yet another coral reef to
explore. The absolute highlight on this dive was a baby batfish,
something that even delighted the guides, as they are extremely rare to
spot. I particularly loved a big squid that was carefully checking on
what we were doing. Once again there was a lot to see and the dive ended
far to soon.
at the island I joined Paul who was working extremely hard…. on his
tan. It was so relaxed I dozed away and did not wake up until the sun
was setting and we were called to witness another baby turtle release.
Although it was our second time it was still wonderful to see about 200
small baby turtles get off in the water on a way to an uncertain future.
A shower, a beer (or two) later and we were ready for another relaxing evening, chatting away, listening to the waves and ehh, doing absolutely nothing.
might be in paradise but that does not mean we can take it easy. A new
day and once again the alarm went off at 7:30. A shave, quick shower and
we were ready for the first breakfast of the day… After that it was
diving time again. Once again I enjoyed 3 wonderful dives during which
there was so much to be seen. Leopard sharks, white tip and black tip
reef sharks, spotted rays, some orang otan crabs, it was just magic and
every dive went by to fast.
had a slight headache after the first dive and decided to have a
relaxing day whilst I opted to go for the 2nd and 3rd dive. Relaxing is
the keyword for Lankayan. With no roads there is no sound to be enjoyed
but the waves gently crushing on the beach. It is truly a paradise and
it’ll be difficult to get used to the real world again. Tranquil,
friendly, I could go on with superlatives but that would just be an
understatement. We have not been wearing shoes for days now and the sand
feels wonderful under our feet.
front of our bungalow and the restaurant is a bowl of water to rinse
the sand of. How perfect can a place get? Before dinner-time, Paul,
Sara and myself did a sunset dive in front of the jetty and we found
some special fish, juvenile lionfish, puffer fish and some other, mainly
small species, a delightful dive. In the evening we met some new people
and yet again it became a fantastic evening. At 23:00 we got our last
beers and the staff asked whether they could close the bar and go to
bed. We finished our beer and off to bed we went as well for deep,
our last day at Lankayan Island. Paul started the day lazy and I went
for my first dive of the day. Once again superb! Then 2nd
breakfast, another dive, this time with Paul, and once again we felt
like floating in an underwater paradise. By the time Paul was getting
close to his reserve air and we wanted to start our ascend in the next
couple of minutes Band, the dive master, caught our attention. One of
the divers totally ran out of air (Stupid idiot) and he wanted to go up
with him leaving us and some other divers to continue the dive. As we
were ready to go up anyway I pointed out to Band that I would take care
of the other diver and Paul and make our ascend. I offered my spare
regulator to the other diver (Still had 100 bar left so that was no
problem) and with the three of us we made a controlled ascend, including
the mandatory safety stop at 5 meter. During all my dives I never had
to use my spare regulator but this time I was happy that all my skills
were still intact to bring this ehh… idiot to safety. Once back at the
jetty Band thanked me for taking control and I told him it was my
pleasure but also asked to get another guide in during the next dive, I
was not going to do this once again as we were here for our own pleasure
and not babysit for fools who ignore the vital rule of diving, always
control your air supply…
third dive worked out without problems and Paul spotted a large number
of rays. We also saw some shrimps, another blue ribbon eel and plenty of
other fish at the top of the coral. We did rally not want this dive to
end, especially as it was our last one of this trip and we had such a
ball of a time.
We thanked all the staff for being such good people and having such a professional organization. Also we invited Band and Joy, the two dive masters, who we spent most time with, to have a beer with us tonight. What a fantastic time we had, I really got into diving again…
at the bungalow we picked up our first ‘decompression’ beer and relaxed
at the terrace in front of our bungalow whilst enjoying the sun slowly
setting at the Sulu Sea. The Philippines are only a 45-minute boat ride
away but the next day we’ll head back to Sandakan to visit the Orang
Otans one more time.
last evening in Lankayan turned out to be very special. We joined up
with Sara, Cat and Rob for dinner after which the dive masters joined us
for an evening of joy and music. Band, our diver master for most of the
dives, was also a gifted guitar player and singer. The rest of the crew
acted as background singers and we really had an absolutely wonderful
evening of sing-alongs. Lots of stories from our underwater adventures
came up, can’t remember an evening where we laughed this much. It was
fantastic but around 22:00 it was time to settle the bill and return to
or not, it was another short night. The alarm went off at 05:45, at
06:30 break fast was served and just after 07:00 it was time to say
goodbye to all our new friends at Lankayan and board the speedboat which
brought us back to Sandakan.
at the resort we paid another visit to the Orang Otan rehabilitation
center after which it was time to say goodbye to Sara, Cat and Rob.
walked back to the resort where we opted for a quiet and relaxing day,
reading a book and doing nothing at all. We still managed to make our
way to the orchid garden but that was about it.
the evening we flew back to Kuala Lumpur, checked in at the airport
hotel after which it did not take us long before we were deep asleep
All underwater pictures on this page were made by Sara Mackmin. Not
only has she been an fantastic dive buddy and an absolute fun person to
be around with. As turned out, she also is a good underwater
photographer as the pictures on this page proof. Thanks Sara for letting
me ‘nick’ your pictures. Hope to see you again soon, either above or
Note: the pictures on this page are unedited RAW material, Due to a system crash I lost all edited work on this trip. Time permitting I will rework those pictures and present them in the brilliance they deserve, for right now I decided to temporary publish the unedited material.
Continue the trip with the final part: Bali