Sunday, August 31, 2008

Borneo Underwater

I hadn't planned on any more posts from Borneo, but feel I would be remiss not to comment on our dive trip to Kapalai. This region (Sipidan, Kapali, Mabul) is world renowned among divers for being a great destination. It didn't disappoint! While we weren't there too long, we did get a chance to have some great dives and also have just as much fun snorkeling. The dive resort we visited was incredible. We took a speedboat about one hour from a coastal town into the Celebes Sea. Zipping across the waves we finally approached a really bizarre sight. With no land at all nearby, an island of bungalows connected by wooden jetties and built in traditional Malay style arose from the sea - Kapalai Dive Resort. Turns out, Kapalai is a sand bar that is surrounded by coral reef with no other sort of land connection. At low tide, a strip of sand bar is exposed, but most of the time the resort is perched hovering above the impossibly turquoise water, surrounded below and on all sides by an endless assortment of reef fish. From our bungalow's deck we could even watch sea turtles foraging. At night we could actually hear them breathing as they surfaced while we lie in bed. This place was a splurge, but it was worth every penny! (And don't CLP funds were expended for any portion of our Borneo trip!)

As I was snorkeling on our last morning I couldn't help but ruminate on the comparison between Borneo's marine and rainforest ecosystems. In the rainforest, you hear wildlife everywhere: buzzing cicadas; the chirps, squawks, and melodies of hundreds of birds; the haunting call of the gibbons; and constant cacophony of dripping water and falling leaves. However, to see this wildlife takes lots of patience and luck as most of it is hidden far from view high up in the canopy. In contrast, life on the coral reef is almost obscenely obvious. It is in-your-face with something new and amazing to observe with each stroke of the fin. Untold types of soft and hard corals and anemones surround you, impassive schools of pelagic fish swarm, a cuttlefish makes a curious approach, and every size and description of reef fish in singles, pairs, and small schools swirl about - some with purpose, others seemingly aimless wanderers. But in contrast to the rainforest, there is virtually no sound amid all the colorful chaos. Save for the sound of parrotfish munching through their coral cafeteria, all of this action occurs in silence. We really appreciate the opportunity to be welcomed into both worlds!


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