There were wet footprints leading to where my backpack was propped against the wall next to my bed. I could see immediately that my bag had been rummaged through. “No, no, no. Fuck, fuck, fuck”, I said to myself under my breath.
A local woman sells her wares on Mabul Island, Malaysian Borneo
After returning from a freediving session I had grabbed the key from the front desk of my hostel and strolled into my six bed dorm. Unlike most hostels there were no lockers to secure valuables but the dorm room was always locked and only opened for those staying in it. How could I have been so fucking careless?
Schooling Jacks in Semporna, Malaysian Borneo
Digging through my bag my wallet was gone but I found my passport and backup credit cards. Ok. This sucks but we’re still in business. Then I saw my wallet laying on the ground next to my bag. “Huh. That’s weird. I’m sure the cards and cash are gone but at least I get my wallet back,” I thought to myself bitterly. Since there are no ATMs on the little island I had taken out approximately $400 to cover my expenses. This was going to hurt. I bent over and picked up my wallet. “Wait. What??!!” My cards and all of my cash were still in the wallet. This is just bizarre. Worst thieves ever. Hell yeah!
After going through my bag, not a single thing was missing. I’ve racked my brain and I think that one of the other dorm inhabitants must have lost something and decided to to see if someone else in the dorm had stolen it. My little backpack with my wallet, phone, and passport was with me from then on. I even slept with a leg over it. No point in pressing my luck.
A juvenile jack joined me as protection from larger fish
After spending a few days taking in the wildlife in Kinabatangan National Park I had headed to the Malaysian dive destination of Semporna. Several days on Mabul island were spent freediving to the local dive sites that were conveniently located at a depth of around 60ft. Instead of paying to scuba dive I opted for the far cheaper and more exciting breath holding option. As my brother Luke aptly noted, pulling up next to scuba divers while freediving “feels like having a super power.”
Why scuba dive when you can freedive instead?
From an overhead view, Mabul island looks like a pin cushion with piers jutting out from every angle. Locals and dive outfits alike have built lofted villages above the water to expand the island’s limited real estate. Semporna’s natural coral and marine life is undeniably impressive but there was an alarming amount of garbage in the sea. One morning I watched a man fishing out of his living room for his breakfast as a freshly discarded baby diaper floated by. It was a jarring image. Better education and waste management will be crucial where natural treasures are threatened by human activity. Hopefully humanity can figure out a way to curb population growth and find a sustainable coexistence with our environment before it’s too late.
To get to the heart of Borneo I found out that I would have to make my way to Miri, which hosts the only airport in Malaysia flying to the rainforest highland town of Bario. The 12-seater “Twin Otter” prop plane which makes the flight, looks out of place next to other, normal sized passenger planes on the tarmac. As the crow flies, I was closer to Bario from Semporna than Miri, which is on the opposite side of the massive island, but since I can’t ride a crow, I got moving. From Semporna I took a series of boats, buses, and flights from the eastern coast of Malaysian Borneo to the western coastal town of Miri where I could be spirited off to the rainforest hinterlands.
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