Marta's Photo Album of Malaysia

Malaysia
August 2007

Getting there
We departed Johannesburg on the services of Malaysian Airlines at 13H40. Just before takeoff we were handed warm towels to freshen up before the flight that would take nine and a half hours across the Indian Ocean to Kuala Lumpur. After takeoff we were served refreshments and some nuts. Shortly after that we were served dinner. We had a choice of either pasta, beef or fish, this was accompanied by a choice of wines and non alcoholic drinks. During our flight we enjoyed a selection of the latest movies .We landed at 05H40 and made our way into the exceptionally modern Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

We transferred through passport control and made our way to the counters for our flight connection to Terengganu which was scheduled to depart at 08H40. After an enjoyable flight we landed at 09H40 in Terengganu. We collected our luggage which had been booked directly through from Johannesburg and were instantly met by a representative of Laguna Redang. We were then transferred to the jetty and awaited our ferry departure to Laguna Redang. The boat ride was around 45 mins across the scenic South China Sea.

Laguna Redang Island Resort - Redang Island

We arrived at the resort and were offered welcome drinks before checking into our comfortable room. The resort has 220 guest rooms most large in size and all tastefully decorated in Asian style with cream and wood throughout. The rooms all have a lovely verandah where you can read and relax. There is a gorgeous swimming pool with an outdoor Jacuzzi. The dining area offers an enormous buffet with a tremendous variety of food, catering to both Western and Asian taste - everything is freshly cooked and beautifully displayed. There is an a la carte restaurant which serves pizzas, burgers, seafoods and curries. This is available if you book a premier package. We were treated to a steamboat dinner as guests of the management at the al la carte restaurant. This is a great and healthy way to enjoy food. The chef arranges a large platter of fresh seafood ranging from prawns to calamari, accompanied by fresh Chinese vegetables, tofu and roast duck on the side. The seafood together with the vegetables are placed in the steamer and served in a few minutes. The whole idea is eating slowly and enjoying the natural flavours of the food. After the food is eaten you are served up the soup that remains in the steamer, this has the great flavours of all the seafood and vegetables you cooked. This meal has to be booked in advance.

The evening offered great entertainment with singers from the Philippines, dancing on the outdoor deck and karaoke either in a private room or in the bar.

The dive centre is superior to most and extremely well managed with excellent staff and new equipment as well as a rather large luxury hard bottomed boat. We enjoyed four great dives to various locations of not much more than a 10 to 15 minute boat ride from the resort to the dive sites. The diving is mainly reef with the average depths around 25 meters. Snorkellers are welcome on board or they can join the snorkelling excursions that run daily. The water temperature was around 28 degrees Celsius which was most pleasant. The highlight of the diving was the shoaling great baraccuda and enormous bump head parrotfish. There is also a new dive site with a wreck that was sunk a year ago, and this has become an artificial reef, already home to numerous marine life. The diving here is world class as the reefs are part of a protected marine national park and you will be ensured of having spectacular diving and snorkelling. The activities range from fantastic scuba diving in tranquil waters that contain an abundance of corals and numerous variety of fish life, to non motorised water sports, archery, table tennis and jungle trekking.

The beach is really beautiful, with the cool white sand stretching as far as the eye can see. This resort is the perfect location for a beach holiday getaway being suitable for both couples and families.

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Kuala Lumpur

We flew back to Kuala Lumpur after a wonderful four days on Redang and checked into Royale Bintang for a three night stay. The hotel is very well located for shopping, but is a little tired and in need of refurbishment. The gym however is really great for a good workout.

In Kuala Lumpur we had ample time to shop and enjoy the sights of the Petronas Twin Towers. We had a great dinner at Mai Thai which is located in the exclusive Star Hill Gallery. The food is very well presented and there is a large choice of Thai dishes on the menu, the pricing is really good, however be careful of the drinks as they can be rather on the pricey side. We paid around R 40-00 for a litre of Evian mineral water.

We visited China Town which is always a must do and had a great meal at one of the Chinese restaurants. The food was fresh and well priced. We loved the shopping as there is so much variety with clothing of excellent quality and really good prices, though you do need to bargain quite hard.

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Borneo Divers Mabul Resort

We transferred from our hotel in Kuala Lumpur to KLIA international airport and boarded our flight to Kota Kinabalu at around 09H35 and arrived in Kota Kinabalu at 12H10. We transferred to our connecting flight to Tawau and arrived at 14H00. On arrival we were met by a representative of Borneo Divers and transferred in a comfortable air conditioned mini bus through scenic coconut and palm oil plantations to the seaside resort of Semporna. At Semporna we boarded a fast and comfortable speed boat for a 60 minute transfer alongside water villages and beautiful seascapes to Mabul Island.

Mabul Island is situated on the South Eastern coast of Sabah ( East Malaysia ) which is also known as Borneo Island. Borneo has a tropical climate with an average land temperature of 31 degrees Celsius and the average water temperature is 28 degrees Celsius. The island of Borneo is rated as one of the top five and best dive sites in the world. Borneo Divers is owned by Mr Clement Lee who was the first company to popularise diving in Malaysia and he was also the first course director. He was the first to build a dive centre in 1986 on Sipadan. Borneo Divers Mabul Resort accommodates up to 60 people in the chalets and can dive up to a 120 people a day. The resort offers gear hire, video and photo centre, free wireless internet, nitrox facilities, hyperbaric chamber, massage and beauty treatments as well as a gorgeous swimming pool overlooking the ocean.

The chalets are very spacious, set amidst tropical gardens with some having a full sea view. Our room was comfortable and fresh and included two three quarter size beds with comfortable mattresses and white sheets. There is a writing desk, dressing table with hairdryer and a side table with tea and coffee making facilities. The 2 one litre bottles of mineral waters in the room is replaced each day. The bathroom has a large sized shower area with liquid soap on tap. The daily meals are taken in the communal dining area which spills out onto a wooden deck set with tables for 2 or up to 8 people for the daily meals. Being a diver you know how the sport takes it out on you, and so you are aware of how it works up an appetite and so therefore food is an important factor. The food was absolutely fabulous and fresh. All the meals are buffet style. The breakfasts consist of a variety of eggs, pancakes, cereals toast, noodles and fresh fruit. The meals at lunch and dinner time were varied each day and there was a large selection to choose from. The chef is very imaginative and makes sure that there is Western style food on the menu each day. We had a variety of chicken dishes prepared both Western and Asian Style, as well as beef, fish together with a large selection of Chinese vegetables and salads. This was always followed by fresh fruits and a selection of Asian sweets. On some evenings a barbeque dinner is served and this was really divine with enormous skewers of fresh prawns and sate in addition to all the other foods on the buffet.

We were booked in for seven nights with three boat dives a day as well as a daily sunset dive without a guide. The package included all our meals, snacks unlimited mineral water and non carbonated soft drinks and of course all the transfers and the dives.

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Scuba Diving

We really looked forward to begin our diving on the second day after our arrival. We had our gear taken down to the dive centre the day before and had organised our weights and any other equipment needed for the weeks diving. We were appointed an open locker to store our equipment. The dive centre staff are very professional and excellent in spotting the marine life. Our gear was carried to and from the boat and kitted up perfectly for us each day. The service as far as I was concerned was of a very high standard.

Each evening we checked the dive plan on the board outside the dining area and noted our dive master’s name, boat number and times of the dives for the following day.

On the first diving day we were taken to Home Reef which is just about 5 minutes from the island for our check dive. On this dive we saw no less than two green turtles, moray eel and an enormous flamboyant cuttle fish. Our second and third dive that day was to Sipadan, which is around a 30 minute boat ride from Mabul. We were taken to ‘ The Drop off ‘ a vertical wall which drops off to 700 meters and provides a thrilling dive. The wall is a constant succession of grottos, cracks and terraces teeming with life in amongst pristine corals punctuated by enormous gorgonians. We saw no less than 20 green and hawksbill turtles on this dive. After the dive we alighted on the beach at Sipadan Island for our well deserved picnic lunch on the beach. We were served rice with steaks and fresh fruit together with refreshments. Our second dive was to the famous Barracuda Point and this was an amazing dive. There was some current as we descended down the near vertical wall festooned with gorgonians. We encountered a vortex of shoaling black barracuda, this in itself was spectacular. We saw thousands of jack fish, schools of batfish, shy bumphead parrotfish, numerous hawksbill turtles some sleeping and others in mid water, all of this was followed by numerous white tip reef sharks. This was most impressive to see in one dive.

Diving on the third day took us to Sipadan once again to explore a site called Coral Gardens. This site is bordered by a sandy gully that steeply drops into the open sea. Here we enjoyed an infinite variety of hard coral bommies and brain corals. We spotted the blue faced angel fish as well as pairs of butterfly fish. The afternoon dive was to Kapalai where we enjoyed wreck diving. There are three wrecks on this site and much to see. We found no less than two frog fish, a crocodile fish, a group of lion fish, potato bass, and a leaf scorpion fish. The following days we dived two dives at Sipadan, quota allowing and usually one on Mabul or Kapalai in the afternoon or in the morning. I found the diving on Mabul excellent for macro photography, and enjoyed seeing so many different species of nudi branches, small crabs, ghost pipe fish, mandarin fish as well as the flamboyant cuttle fish which is a most unique species. The highlight on one of our dives to Mabul was seeing the elusive pigmy seahorse. This was really amazing,as this little creature is less than one centimetre. One of my favourite dives on Sipadan was Hanging Gardens. This is a classical wall dive which is almost entirely along a vertical drop-off. The wall is populated by crevices and cavities that open in the wall. There are enormous colonies of black corals and fan gorgonians making this seascape exceptionally spectacular. We spotted green turtles almost hanging on the walls and other in mid water, others above your head all in one dive. We also spotted tiny families of domino fish hidden in the coral.

In the 6 days diving we dived almost all the sites of Sipadan and most of the sites on Mabul and Kapalai. We enjoyed doing 3 to 4 dives a day, as there was always so much to see on every dive that you did not want to miss any of the dives. Overall we found the whole experience well beyond our expectations. The staff throughout the entire resort are so friendly and happy that this becomes infectious! The atmosphere at all times was one of tranquillity, giving one a truly deserved break The resort is also geared for honeymoon couples and for a diving couple in search of a honeymoon destination combining serious diving with romance this is the place for you. I truly rate this as the top dive destination of my list for diving in the world. This was a truly unforgettable experience and one that will be repeated soon.

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In Conclusion
Malaysia is an intensely beautiful and welcoming destination, with a huge variety of accommodation and activity options available - river rafting, mountain hiking, nature and forest trekking, orang-utan and other eco- tours and a variety of watersports, including deep sea fishing, yachting, scuba diving and snorkelling . Holiday packages can be tailored to suit any budget and activities arranged to satisfy your heart’s every desire. Malaysia has something to offer each and every person from shopping to culture to adventure packages.

With Special Thanks
Ms Jess Kaw at Laguna Redang for partial complimentary accommodation
Mr Peter Cheng and Mr Samsul Bahri Ismail at Laguna Redang their wonderful hospitality
Mayflower Acme Tours for the complimentary transfers in Kuala Lumpur
Mr Clement Lee of Borneo Divers Mabul Resort for the complimentary accommodation, meals, transfers and scuba diving
Heartfelt thanks to all those who made this trip so unforgettable.