A diver's dream
What will I have for dinner? What did she mean by that? Will I have enough money to buy it? But learning to control your drifting thoughts takes time and practice, and some people never quite achieve it.
With diving you very quickly learn that if you don’t focus on your breath, you will die. It’s a reasonably good incentive to block out all that mindless chatter that clogs up the arteries of your brain. And so, the world above the water ceases to exist and you can only exist in the present.
Focus on your breath, and be surrounded by an astonishing array of multicoloured reef fish. Nudibrachs. Scorpionfish. A whopper that looked like a potato ( called a potato grouper). Giant moray eels. Stingrays. Parrotfish. Barracudas. At one point, I found myself in the midst of a school of thousands of jackfish, and tears of joy welled up in my eyes as I tried not to laugh. Another giant, majestic, mysterious turtle passed by and rolled his eyes to heaven at the state of me.Too soon, it was time to go up again. I immediately signed up for a second dive, and a third. I had a flight the next day, so a fourth was off the cards.
Back under the water, I once again wasn’t just in another world; my own world simply ceased to exist. Nothing can bring peace and exhilaration like diving. It is a genuinely transformative, even spiritual, experience. Months later, and I’m smiling. I’m so glad I stuck it out. The magic that keeps the Bajau-laut at sea has become wonderfully real.
KLM flies Dublin to Kuala Lumpur from €728 return. Aer Lingus flights from €809 return.
From within southeast Asia,
you’ll find cheap flights with Air Asia from many cities.
Once you’re in Malaysia’s capital, catch a short connecting flight to Tawau with budget airline Air Asia, from €25 one way. From the airport, a private taxi to Semporna costs about €20, while a bus will cost about €4.
WHERE TO STAY
Budget:Mabul Beach Resort opens up to the beach and draws in the flashpacking crowd, with good dive packages, decent food, and spotless accommodation. Rather plush dorm beds from €20 per night, with chalet rooms from €36-65.
Luxury:The Mabul Water Bungalow is a series of chalets with Balinese design gliding out into the Celebes Sea. They are utterly amazing. One room has a glass floor revealing the starfishcovered sea. Three-day, two-night dive package costs €770. mabulwaterbungalows.com
WHEN TO GO
Rainy season is mid-December to mid-February but it can rain any time in Borneo, which is dominated by rainforest. Best diving months are April to November. The Regatta Lepa festival, when the Bajau Laut come to land for a colourful and vibrant festival, is held in April.