The Great Southern Route : 2013 - 2014
GSR | 223 One of Layang-Layangs' biggest attractions is the Hammerhead Shark. Manta rays with fin spans of over 10ft are also found here. Other pelagic species that are found regularly include tuna, barracuda, and reef sharks. The eastern end of the atoll is home to thousands of migratory birds. Hence Layang-Layang is not only a diver's paradise but also a bird watchers' haven. 70 miles south of KK is the duty free island of Labuan. Originally under the rule of the Brunei Sultanate Labuan was ceded to the British in 1846. The British then officially declared Labuan a colony of the British Empire in 1849 and renamed it Victoria. The British government lost its hold over Labuan in 1942 when the Japanese Army invaded and occupied the island, renaming it Maeda Island. After World War II the British resumed control of the island until 1963 when Labuan joined Malaysia and became a part of Sabah. The Island became a Federal Territory of Malaysia in 1984 and Labuan was declared an International Offshore Financial Centre in 1990. Marine services in Labuan are geared toward the oil and gas industry, and so most of the service companies only deal with large commercial craft. Just south of Labuan is Pulau Keramat which is a beautiful, relatively uninhabited island with a protected anchorage on the northern side and a long natural sand spit. There is a small, very basic dive resort on the island and a very substantial concrete jetty that is used by the park ranger boats. The swell wraps around the western end of the island and creates quite a surge within the bay so tying up alongside the dock for any length of time is not recommended. From Sutera Harbour it's an easy 6 to 7 hour cruise to the northern tip of Borneo and the Kudat Riviera. This area is fast becoming the new playground for the rich and famous with several multi-million dollar developments underway. There is a basic government marina with haul out facilities which is quite popular with the cruising boats that frequent the area. The islands of Pulau Banggi and Pulau Balambagan just north of Kudat are virtually uninhabited and are full of spectacular deserted anchorages and abundant marine life. It's not uncommon to have a Hawksbill or Green Turtle pop up next to your boat, have a look around and then dive back down. Unfortunately like so many other species of plants and animals these beautiful creatures are also under threat. Fortunately the turtles and the others who share their environment have a friend in Dr Nick Pilcher of the Marine Research Foundation, Sabah Malaysia. Dr Nick and his associates study and monitor the turtle populations and their movements. Their mission statement is; 'To further the understanding of marine ecosystems and functions, and conserve the abundance and diversity of marine flora and fauna through research, conservation and education activities. Key objectives of the Foundation include promoting the advancement of indigenous understanding of marine ecosystems, the economy and social well-being of communities, and the relief of underprivileged communities which depend on the marine environment'. A visit to Sabah will not be complete without seeing the Kinabatangan river and Pulau Sipadan. The Kinabatangan, about 2 hours drive south of Sandakan on the east coast is truly a nature lovers paradise. The river, the second longest in Malaysia literally teems with wildlife ranging from saltwater crocodiles, Proboscus Monkeys, Asian Elephants to the extremely rare Sumatran Rino. The birdlife is also prolific with hornbills, kingfishers and many others commonly spotted. In 1997, 270 square kilometers of the lower Kinabatangan floodplain was declared a protected area, and in 2001 this designation was upgraded to that of "bird sanctuary", largely through the efforts of the World Wide Fund for Nature. However, further efforts to have the area declared a "wildlife refuge" or even "national park" have been opposed by the logging industry, and oil palm plantation owners seeking to expand their cultivated land. Sipidan, currently in the running to become one of the seven New Wonders of the World is the only oceanic island in Malaysia, rising 600 meters from the seabed. It is located in the Celebes Sea east of the major town of Tawau. It was formed by living corals growing on top of an extinct volcanic cone that took thousands of years to develop. Sipadan is located at the heart of the Indo-Pacific basin, the centre of one of the richest marine habitats in the world. More than 3,000 species of fish and hundreds of coral species have been classified in this ecosystem. Frequent scenes in the surrounding waters include schools of Green and Hawksbill turtles nesting and mating, schools of Barracuda and big-eye Trevally in tornado-like formations, as well as pelagic species such as manta rays, eagle rays, hammerhead sharks and whale sharks. A mysterious turtle tomb lies underneath the column of the island, formed by an underwater limestone cave with a labyrinth of tunnels and chambers that contain many skeletal remains of turtles that have become lost and drown before finding the surface. Borneo has endless beauty, come and see!
2010 - 2011