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Frogfish, Mabul dive site - Courtesy of Rik Vercoe

Ghost pipefish, Mabul dive site - Courtesy of Rik Vercoe

Clearfin lionfish, Mabul dive site - Courtesy of Rik Vercoe

Scuba Diving at Mabul Island, Borneo

Reader Reviews:

Dive Site: Old House Reef

Location: Mabul Island

Description: Reef

Depth: 20 metres (65 feet)

Visibility: 15 metres (50 feet)

Rating: ****

After 2 days travelling, 3 planes, a bus ride and a speedboat transfer we were finally here and ready to dive. Today we were to dive off Mabul Island and tomorrow would be the first day diving Sipadan itself. We were not disappointed and having elected to stay on Mabul Island meant we got to dive both islands.

Old House Reef is about 2 minutes boat ride from the main jetty on Mabul and is a relatively shallow dive (20m). We dropped in just outside the floating resort, "Sipadan Water Village" or "SWV" onto a sandy seabed at around 20m. The water temperature was 27 degrees, there was no current and here we found some structures, which were obviously part of an old jetty or the foundation structure for a previous part of the floating village. The first thing which strikes you is the sheer number of fish. Almost anywhere else in the world this would have been a less than average dive - the viz was less than I expected (around 15m) the topography was nothing out of the ordinary and much of the dive was over a predominantly sandy seabed. However there was an astounding amount of sea life. In the shallows were shoals of silver jacks, numbering in their hundreds. On the wooden structure were 2 of the biggest frogfish I have ever seen - one who kindly opened his mouth just at the right time for a photo (see the photograph on the left). There were small moray eels and a lovely bright red frogfish, almost completely hidden. There was also a small wreck of what looked to be an old fishing boat and it was here we came across the unusual sight a of ghost pipefish (around 2 inches in length). Upon closer inspection, we discovered there were two, the second probably no larger than a few millimetres (see photograph above). These creatures are usually found in pairs and the smaller one would have been the male. There was also a proliferation of clearfin lionfish here. On across the sand and first was a small green leaffish and then another small green frogfish. Amongst some coral formations we found a giant moray. As we drifted gently towards our exit I couldn't help by get excited. If this was the local house reef, no more than 50 metres from shore, what would the deep walls on Sipadan be like?

Rik Vercoe, BSAC Advanced Instructor

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