Final Destination at Kapalai Dive Resort

March 25th to March 28th:
Location: Sipadan-Kapalai Dive Resort

The next destination is the Sipadan-Kapalai Dive resort (http://sipadan-kapalai.com/). Five of the twenty two classmates were not able to make the journey so seventeen of us continued onwards. There was a surge of anticipation for the new adventure. Other than my wife and I, none of the others have been there before.  We arrived at the jetty in the coastal town of Semporna, the jumping off point for out boat transit to Kapalai. Two speedboats were ready to whisk us to the resort. Rain clouds were gathering to the starboard side as we sped full throttle, wave jumping through the Celebes Sea towards the resort. I kept my fingers crossed hoping that no one got sea-sick and, more importantly, that they would not find Kapalai to be a bore.

The journey took 40 minutes. As we were passing Mabul Island, I stood up in the bouncing boat and saw Kapalai straight ahead. Smiling staff members of the resort were at the dock helping us off of the boat.  Some helped with the luggage, some handed us cool towels and mango juice and some herded us towards the dining hall. We were quickly briefed and lunch was served. A wonderful lunch of everything fresh from veggies to fish to fruits was served. After lunch we were shown to our chalet – VIP 1, a personal chalet for one of the resort owners. WOW! was my reaction when I walked into it. Party tonight at this chalet!!! I instantly pulled out my cameras to capture it before it got too “lived in”.

This resort was built on top of a reef using a certain wood found only in Borneo. It is called Belian. This wood is so dense that it does not float, nails cannot be pounded into it and is immune to termite attacks. It has a service life of more than 100 years even though it is in seawater. Due to the over harvesting the Sabah government has since banned the use of this wood.

This is an eco resort. Being in a government designated protected area, nothing can be disposed of into the sea.  The waste water is recycled for secondary uses such as watering the beautiful and extensive plants and flowers that fill the whole resort. Fresh water is delivered by barges each morning, while solid waste is returned to the mainland each evening for proper disposal. There is absolutely no fishing, no touching and/or damaging of the coral, no taking souvenirs from the sea.

Besides celebrating with my classmates, I am here to capture images for the operators/owners for advertising and marketing purposes. I LOVE MY JOB. As in Lankayan, a helicopter was hired for the aerial images. The classmates will be “models” doing activities while I am up in the air.  As I look down from 500 meters, all I am able to say is “HOLY MOLY”. My cameras are my voice to tell you how I feel.

Images were forming in my head since my last visit a year ago. How will I capture the perfect “Corona” styled image or the image of a beautiful woman (ala Cindy Crawford) in a white one-piece bathing suit, sitting on pure white sand in the lotus position, facing the turquoise sea?  These are some of the thoughts that busied my mind through the year. I am here now and the thought of being able to accomplish these images excites me.

Every angle I point my cameras, there are beautiful images: high tide, low tide, pure blue/cyan skies, white billowing clouds, turquoise waters….. Unfortunately I have not learned how to dive yet (next trip). It is totally another world underneath the surface and another profession to be an expert in underwater photography. Therefore, for now, I am content to stay above the waves photographing the above-mentioned images and the activities of my classmates snorkeling on the surface of the sea.

There are hilarious moments with my classmates. Some have not been “wet” for 30 to 40 years. For example, Ruby, one of our esteemed organizers, a beautiful, sophisticated, Singaporean executive of substance and means, had a memorable moment. She does not swim, she does not go into the sea, but to her credit, she decided “when in Rome…”. She was fitted with mask, life vest and fins at the dive centre, then proudly marched off, loudly flapping her way the fifty yards down the slotted dockway leading to the sea. The rest of us were bent over laughing at the sight of her alien-like walk, as she occasionally caught her flipper toes in the slots of the dockway. She proudly paraded on as the rest of us trailed behind, trying to hold onto our gear as we laughed, knowing that it was easier to put our gear on in the water. By the end of our stay, she was proud to say that she had snorkeled nine times.

As incredible as it may seem, though we were born here, most of us do not know how to swim, me included. WE ARE AT A DIVE RESORT WITH NO SOLID LAND! Vincent, our resident accountant, co-organizer, was most concerned about water issues ever  since the previous destination at the Kinabatangnan River, where he feared that the equatorial rains would create danger for our river safari. He donned his life vest and inched himself slowly into the water to see if it would support him. When satisfied, he eased himself into the sea and thoroughly enjoyed viewing the marine life under the surface. By now many of the classmates were snorkeling and splashing in the water and squeals of laughter pealed through the air. “Aiiyaa”, a common Chinese expression, in this case denoting amazement, filled the air. I felt relieved that they fell in love with Kapalai, as I have.

As an aside, I have mentioned that the sun was intense. Vincent was aware of this and his wife sent lotion along with him. However, the lotion that she sent was moisturizing lotion instead of sunblock. He had a bit of a sunburn sting the next few days, but that did not stop him form snorkeling again and again.

There are two divers in our group of seventeen, Frank MacMurray and Daniel Ho. Dan is a classmate while Frank, a retired attorney, came with Lillian.  They had the most fortunate luck of being able to dive at Sipadan Island. Apparently there is a daily quota for divers at Sipadan Island, a twenty minute boat ride from Kapalai.  Hopefully Frank and Dan will be forwarding their experiences to me soon for me to post.

This trip has been a wonderful and meaningful experience. The destinations are simply exotic. However, they will not be as fun if not for sharing it with the classmates. Catching up with their lives and making sure that we stay in contact, making plans to visit each other and just being friends again.

To view more images of this trip please go to this link:

http://gallery.me.com/peterwongphotography#gallery

kap-heli_mg_0545kap-heli_mg_0493-11kap-heli_mg_0570kap-heli_mg_1045kap-heli_mg_1071vipimg_00132vipimg_00141sandbar_mg_1403kap_mg_1381jen_mg_0947kap_mg_06681kap_mg_1132

A sunset and a corona!!

A sunset and a corona!!

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3 Responses to “Final Destination at Kapalai Dive Resort”

  1. Bernice Voo Says:

    Peter,
    You’ve captured so beautifully a truly splendid part of the world. Your account, together with Yau Man’s description of the rainforest of Borneo make it a must see destination. Like Evelyn & Ruby, I hope to see your photographs in a souvenir publication.
    Bernice

  2. WOW WOW WOW
    What an eye you have!

  3. keep on ur good work!!! ur pictures are really NICE !! thanks for bringing us the beauty site of kapalai…

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