Underwater photography, Mabul and Sipadan

Last April I made a 10 day trip to Malaysia, mainly to go to Mabul island for diving. My GF and I stayed there for 5 days and did about a dozen dives around Mabul, the nearby Kapalai sand bar and Sipadan island.
I used a Canon G11 camera for the photography, quite basic since I didn’t get around buying an external strobe before the trip; but still I think I managed a few nice shots.

I uploaded some albums to my Picasa page, so here it goes…

First the above water album from Mabul, this is the view of the lagoon from the place we stayed at. It was my first time in an actual atoll and I have to say I wouldn’t mind getting stuck there for a couple years. This is NOT the resort we stayed at, but sure looks cozy, we lodged in a homestay on the west side of the island, pretty basic accommodations but I didn’t go there to stay in my room.

Now if you are all geared up let’s jump in the water. First dive stie, Water Bungallow. This is the resort from the previous picture, the dive site it’s just a sandy slope going from 5 meters or so to around 25 meters depth, there are many artificial structures littering the place creating man made reefs. Now that may not sound too appealing but the fact is that the site is a great muck diving experience, lots of rare and wonderful animals, like Ornate Ghost Pipefish (my GF behind), Giant Frogfish and Leaf Scorpionfish
This place is an excellent example of how artificial reefs can become hotspots for marine life.

The next dive site (I’m not going in chronological order here, plus we visited some more than once) is Eel Garden, this place marks a transition between the sandy slope on the South point of the island and the reef wall along the West rim. There’s some sandy patches with coral outcrops. Here you can see a pretty varied fauna, reef fish and some pelagic visitors like Sea Turtles, Eagle Rays and Barracudas. This are my favourite photos from that site: Boxfish, Anemone fish, Clown Frogfish, some coral close up and a Sea Gipsy on his canoe (while waiting for the boat to pick us up after the dive).

Kapalai is a small sand bar a few kilometers East of Mabul, there’s no vegetation but a resort was built on stilts, covering about half the area of the sand bar. This is one of the best dive sites in the area, specially if you like small subjects because there’s an abundance of nudibranchs and other tiny, bizarre creatures.
Picking some favorites from the album, Nudibranch, Frogfish, Yellow Boxfish (pretty bad focus though!), Nudibranch again and a pretty big Sweetlips.

Paradise Two is in some ways similar to Kapalai, but it’s located on the South East of Mabul. I found this ex-Butterflyfish floating in the surface, down bellow it was full of nudibranchs everywhere,like this, this or this couple. I also got lucky and spotted a tiny Minute Filefish hiding among a soft coral branch, see if you can spot it too…

Not far from Paradise Two there’s an offshore rig turned dive resort called Sea Ventures, again there are some artificial reefs around the legs of the rig, good variety of fish, like a Yellow (female) Ribbon Eel, some Rabbit fish, more nudibranchs and some schooling fish.
It’s quite interesting to dive between the legs of the rig, feels a bit like being in some sort of underwater cathedral, with thick columns rising and sunrays filtering from the surface through the gloom of the platform’s shade.

As the name implies, Lobster Wall is a wall dive, just in front of the homestay on the edge of the lagoon, the bottom drops nearly vertically to around 30 meters or so. There was a pretty large Moray Eel, I didn’t see it at first and couldn’t understand what my GF was trying to show me until he actually grabbed my head and shoved it down into a crevice in the coral… Hi there! :eek:. Thanks darling for pointing that out to me. Please don’t do it again.
More nudibranchs that you can shake a stick at on this place, but if you turn around you can see some pelagic school of fish foraging along the atoll’s rim. There was also a very out of place Ornate Ghost Pipefish.

Sting Ray City was a very good dive with excellent visibility, but I didn’t take many pictures. I did manage to snap a Peacock Mantis Shrimp (also managed not to get my camera snapped by that sucker, they pack a punch said to equal a .22 caliber bullet!) and a very proud looking nudibranch.

Next stop, Sipadan…

Very nice pix!