Category Archives: Myself

Leisure Diving at Islands off Kota Kinabalu City

scuba diver

I’m certified as a scuba diver since year 2008, but it’s a shame that I don’t dive quite often. I even stopped once for 2 years. When my friend Dodo invited me to join a diving group last month, I agreed without second thought. One of the best things living in Kota Kinabalu City (KK) is – we have dozens of dive sites located in Tunku Abdul Rahman Park (I prefer to call it KK Islands Park), which is only 15 minutes away by boat ride from KK.

Scuba divers onboard

Scuba diver friends onboard. At the right is May, my Sifu.

It rained heavily in the morning on our diving day. Luckily it stopped before 7am so we just proceeded with our plan. The diving team gathered at STAR Marina and we departed at 9:30am with Borneo Divers, which has a Dive Centre on Mamutik Island. My Dive Instructor, May, was onboard with us too. I confessed to her that I had given her back everything she taught me (which means I forget everything) LOL.

diver ready

I was a bit nervous but excited

However, there was no time to bother with the butterflies in my stomach, after suited up and got our dive equipment loaded on-board, we headed to the first dive site at 11am. On the way, I was busy to recall all the steps in my mind.

Entering the water by back roll

Me entering the water by back roll

I was the last one entering the water with my compact camera in underwater case (can stay waterproof up to a depth of 40 Meters). Due to the rain earlier, the water was a bit murky but the visibility is quite ok, about 6 Meters in average. Two Divemasters, Christine and Jonathan were covering our front and back during the dive. The following are summaries of my experience in 3 dive sites.

Dive sites of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park

Dive sites of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. We covered North Sulug Reef, East Sulug Reef and The Rock

1. North Sulug Reef

Depth: 18-22M (Dive Time: 11:14am-12:00pm)
My first dive was quite terrible. It took me 2 minutes to equalize (relieve pressure to eardrums caused by increasing depth). Then sea water leaked into my mask, I couldn’t see things clearly half of time. I also couldn’t control my buoyancy effectively while busy setting my camera. All these are caused by lack of practices.

School of Yellow and Blueback Fusiliers

School of Yellow and Blueback Fusiliers

Anyway, we spotted two green turtles and a school of barracuda! There were school after school of yellowback fusiliers swimming close to reef to catch plankton.

Plate coral of Sulug Island

Plate coral of Sulug Island

Many table corals, sea whips and feather stars (marine animals that look like plants) were present. Though the variety and density of corals wasn’t impressive and I saw 5 to 7 Crown of Thorns (a cunning and thorny marine creature which preys on corals), this dive site has the most reef fishes compared to my next two dives.

Lettuce Corals

Lettuce Corals

scuba diver

Special thanks to Dodo for sharing her photos in this article. She is a hardcore diver who has done over 200 dives.

Slowly I got used to the water and able to navigate freely around the reef. The dive ended after 45 minutes and we went back to Mamutik Island for lunch.

2. East Sulug Reef

Depth: 9-16M (Dive Time: 1:20pm-2:04pm)
After lunch buffet and a short nap on the island, we started our second dive near Sulug Island again. To focus on polishing my rusted diving skill, I left my camera behind. This dive site is far more interesting than the first one.

A pair of mating nudibranch

A pair of mating nudibranch

The corals here is much more denser and it has become a good hiding place for numerous ocean critters. We saw a pair of mating nudibranch (also known as Orchids of the Ocean) on the coral rubble. In fact, you can find more wildlife underwater than on the land, and some of them are very bright in colors.

Hawksbill sea turtle

Hawksbill sea turtle

That day must be our lucky day. We saw a Hawksbill turtle swimming toward us. It seemed so relax and only a few Meters away from us, probably it thought we were just big fishes. The population of Hawksbill turtle is 10 times less than Green Turtle, so this sighting is really a treat.

Giant clam

Giant clam

I spotted at least two very big and old giant clams. If this park is not protected, there wouldn’t be any of them left due to overfishing. However, if a giant clam grows really huge, like over a Meter wide, many local fishermen would not dare to touch it because they believe there is a spirit dwells inside.

Cuttlefish camouflaged as a coral

Cuttlefish camouflaged as coral

We dived along a long stretch of underwater coral garden. I noticed a coral was “flashing”. A closer look showed that it’s a big cuttlefish camouflaged as a coral. We would have missed it if it didn’t change colors. Divers have to be very observant or they would miss many cool stuffs. I believe we only spotted a few percent of the wildlife lurking in this reef.

Puffer fish in a barrel sponge

Puffer fish in a barrel sponge

East Sulug Reef has a lot of lettuce corals, mushroom corals and barrel sponges. Among them, I saw two Christmas tree worms retreated into their burrows, and orange-spotted grouper, angelfish, etc. Without a camera, I could dive more freely. Most of the time, I hovered between between a depth of 10 to 14 Meters, where visibility is better and beautiful corals concentrated.

3. The Rock

Depth: 12-13M (Dive Time: 3:25pm-4pm)
For the last dive, we explored The Rock just behind Mamutik Island. The corals at The Rock is as fabulous as East Sulug Reef but with more variety of soft corals. Too bad I don’t know most of their names. I will buy a guide book and learn to identify the marine lives so I will enjoy diving more.

Coral Razorfish

Coral Razorfish

The seascape here is a gradual sloping ridge. Ten of us dived gently along its side full with fringing reef.

Dense coral in Sulug Reef

Dense coral in The Rock

Hard corals grow an average of 1 to 2 cm per year. Many corals in the marine parks of Sabah are estimated 3,000 to 6,000 years old. But they can be totally destroyed in a matter of minutes by destructive fishing method such as blast fishing (or fish bombing).

False Clown Anemone fish in Ritteri anemone

False Clown Anemone fish in Ritteri anemone

We saw two Magnificent Anemones with Anemonefishes (Nemo) living in them. Magnificent Anemone is very hard to survive in aquarium, so you have to see them in the wild.

Pink Anemonefish in purple Magnificent Anemone (Heteractis magnifica)

Pink Anemonefish in purple Magnificent Anemone (Heteractis magnifica)

Even though KK Islands Park isn’t a world-class diving spot, it’s still a great playground, even experienced divers find pleasant surprises in every dive.

sea fern

Shrub-like sea fern

Everyone was really happy. The sighting of sea turtles and barracuda is already worth the trip. My interest on diving is reignited. I’ll do more dives regularly to perfect my skill and take more underwater photos in future.

Recommended Dive Operators

Sabah has so many high-quality diving spots all over the state. The nearest dive site could be less than 20 KM away from our home. If you don’t know how to dive, it’s like living next to a snowy mountain but don’t know how to ski.

Gear up for the dive

Gear up for the dive

You can find more about how to get certified as a scuba diver in my blog. To get certified or arrange a diving trip, I highly recommend the dive operators below:

1. Borneo Divers

Borneo Divers is the most established PADI 5-star dive operator in Sabah and has dive centres on Mamutik and Mabul Islands.
Tel: +60 88-222226, +60 88-221340
E-mail: information@borneodivers.info
Website: www.borneodivers.net
Facebook: BorneoDiversMabulResort
Office Address: 9th Floor, Menara Jubili, 53, Jalan Gaya, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

scuba diver showing OK sign

Ok Bah! Everyone can dive

2. Downbelow Marine & Wildlife Adventures

Downbelow is run by a nice couple, Richard and Joanne from UK. They are very passionate about the nature of Sabah, and their service is highly rated in TripAdvisor. Downbelow has a PADI 5-star dive centre on Gaya Island Base Camp and a Dive Shop in KK Times Square.

E-mail: info@divedownbelow.com
Website: www.divedownbelow.com
Tel: +60 88-488997, +60 12-8661935
Office Address: KK Times Square, Lot 33-G, Block F, Kota Kinabalu, 88100 Sabah, Malaysia
Facebook: DiveDownBelow
Google+: +Divedownbelow
Twitter: @divedownbelow
Youtube: divedownbelow
Instagram: divedownbelow

Divers descending to the bottom

Scuba Diving is fun

3. Asia Diving Vacation

Asia Diving Vacation was started by my old buddy, Jacob, who is an avid diver who loves to introduce divers to the best dive sites in Asia, for example, Layang Layang, Lankayan, Sipadan and even Maratua (Indonesia). You can join him stalking whale shark around the islands of KK.

E-mail: customercare@asiadivingvacation.com
Website: www.asiadivingvacation.com
Office Address: Duis Dive, 23, 3rd Floor, Block C, Damai Plaza IV, 88300 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Facebook: AsiaDivingVacation
Twitter: @advonline

The fee of leisure diving (fun diving) day trip ranges from RM320 to RM360 (≈US$90-103), which normally includes boat transfer, 3 guided boat dives, rental of scuba equipment, diving permit and lunch. Please visit their websites for detail on dive packages.

Cheering for the exciting dive

Cheering for the exciting dive

Photos taken in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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Parking War in Kota Kinabalu City

No Parking

According to Nielsen Global Survey of Automotive Demand, almost every Malaysian owns a car, the third highest rate of car ownership in the world. Kota Kinabalu City (KK) has a population of over 600,000, imagine what it is like when half a million cars compete for 10,314 public parking lots (exclude private parking spaces) in and around KK every day.

No parking signs
Pic: No Parking, No Parking, No Parking… We mean it!

Inevitably parking has become a daily battle with local authority, ill-mannered motorists and even criminals. For my case, going to KK takes me only 20 minutes but finding a parking can take more than half an hour sometimes.

No-No parking zone
Pic: No-No Parking Zone = Yes? LOL

Yea city life is tough. In this article are just some trivia and interesting photos of parking in Sabah.

5 Most Annoying Parking Experience

Dealing with retarded and selfish people is unavoidable. Well, I’ll just laugh them off by looking at them in amusing way. Feel free to share your experience and photo in comment section too. 😀

“No matter how well you dress, how expensive is your car, how decent you appear to others… How you park and drive reveals the true you, when you think no friend & relative are there to see how you drive other nuts on the road.”

1. “Reserve” a Parking Space by Object

Some people would attempt any mean to reserve a parking lot, for example, placing an object to “book” the spot. Public parking lot is provided on 1st-come-1st-serve basis, so it’s illegal to block others from using it. For shop / individual that needs this public space for their business (e.g. car washing, cafe), they must rent the space from DBKK (and the monthly fee isn’t cheap).

block the parking with tree branch
Decade ago, after you parked your car, a street kid would approach you asking for “protection fee”, or a foreigner carried a bucket of water offering lousy car cleaning service. If you refused to give what they wanted, you would find scratches on your car later. Luckily, it’s no longer happening in KK.

2. Jaywalking Pedestrians

Be careful in your reverse parking. There are always some idiots who are oblivious of the reverse signal and walk pass your rear while your car is moving. It’s a miracle that such morons can live more than 20 years old. I hope they won’t breed.

occupy parking lot with chair
You can easily tell if a person is a loser by looking at the way s/he walks and cross the street. Stay away from them because they always blame others.

3. Non-Stop False Alarm

Out of the blue a car alarm could set off for no reason, its 200-decibel siren can go on for hour and the owner is missing in action. The repeating high-pitch noise is a mental torture to everyone living or working nearby.

4WD parking on island
They better stop using those hypersensitive alarm that is program to prevent mosquito from stealing their car, or nobody will bother to check, when the real car thief breaks in next time.

4. Slow Loris

While leaving, if I notice any car waiting for my parking spot, I’ll start my car and leave as soon as I can. But not everyone does the same. It is truly frustrating when someone dilly-dally (taking time to check their phone and touch up their lipstick, etc) before starting the engine and leave, though they can see you waiting.

bad parking
Pic: Thinking outside the box is good. Parking outside the box is #fail #parking. In fact, traffic police can compound this car RM70 for improper parking.

I don’t mean to be sexist, but in my experience it’s always women. People will see you as a beautiful person if you are considerate and thoughtful, so you can save your make-up for later then.

5. Double-Parking

I can hear the loud YES in your mind, but still, you will be astonished by the terrible parking skill of Sabah drivers in Kopi-O Lesen Facebook. Do these selfish motorists think their fathers own the road?

hogging two parking spots
Pic: hogging two… no, three parking spots

Double Parking happens everyday, everywhere in KK because of lack of enforcement. Since our Uncle Police is always busy escorting VIP convoy, I’ll be more than happy to lend a hand. If they give me the right to issue summons to these cockroach motorists, I’ll do it for FREE. Double parking is simply an act of selfish and laziness. If we are willing to park further away, we never need to double park.

note for driver of bad parking
Photo Source: Sabah hitzFM Facebook

Come on lah, if you must double park, at least leave a phone number on your dashboard, so the “victim” can call you to move your car away. It’s so irritating to honk a long time but the owner is nowhere to be seen. I would be lucky if the car didn’t have its handbrake on, so I could push it aside.

Not everyone is kind to write you an educational note. One day you will get karma for bad parking, like the video below (frankly I also feel the impulse to do the same thing):

I know this is wrong, but sorry I have no compassion to what happened to that car. This is a good message to those suckers who like to double park.

chicken in parking lot
chicken in parking lot
I did ask Uncle Police how to deal with double parking. One of them says we can call 088-310273 (traffic police in KK) and a traffic police will issue a RM100 summon to the motorist who blocks your car. Unfortunately, we can’t request them to tow away the stupid car, unless it obstructs the road.

Leave Nothing (and Nobody) in your Car

Isn’t it a common sense not to leave anything in our car to prevent break-in? There have been news like burglar stole a quarter million of cash left in the vehicle. As there are so many fools in KK, I did seriously consider thievery a better career.

parking reserved by police

Many locals still have the attitude like “Oh, don’t worry, it’s just a briefcase with office documents, nothing valuable”. But to thief, this might be a treasure chest with laptop, wallet or phone inside. They are even willing to smash car window just for a few coins, like what happened to my friend, who cried, “You only want the coins mah, I give you lah! Why broke my window?”

cart in parking space
In another case, a car of my female friend broke down. A group of “friendly” people came to help. She was so happy and thought she was hot, then she found that her wallet and handphone on the dashboard went missing.

block parking with chair
chair with parking ticket
Pic: reserved parking lot with tickets, look fair.

I also heard many cases that people left their car unlocked for only a few minutes then their car was hijacked.

parking for VVIP
VIP meaning
Losing money or your car is bad enough, but the worst thing is when your car disappears with your child. I guess you still remember the shocking news of You-You, a 3-year-old boy who was abducted in the car left by his father at a petrol station in Kampung Air last year. The car was found but the boy vanished until today.

no parking for motorcycle
Negligent parents can be sued under Child Act if they leave their kid in the car. Just for a few minutes of convenience, you would regret for life. Sadly, history teaches us that similar tragedy will happen again.

Park at your Own Risk?

Some private car parks put up a “Park at your Own Risk” exemption clause at their entrance or have it printed on parking ticket. Based on Consumer Protection Act 1999, if car park operators charge you for using their parking space, they are liable to any damages to vehicles parked in their premises.

limited parking space
For many years consumers had been fooled by car operators this way, until 24 Apr 2009, a magistrates court in Penang ordered a car park operator to pay a lawyer RM1,668 for items stolen from his car parked at an open air car park near Komtar. Knowledge is Power indeed.

no parking for butt
If your car park operator refuses to take responsibility for any damages to your vehicles while parked in their premises, you can complain to Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism (MDTCC). You should also lodge a police report for your loses, and document the incident (e.g. photos, parking ticket).

pigeons on the car
Pic: I sincerely hope this is not your car. It’s really a nightmare. Stop feeding pigeons, they are city rats with wings.

However, you should avoid making your car a promising target, leave nothing in your car. Probably the car park operator would compensate for your stolen items and broken window, but you won’t get any profit either, it’s troubling both sides only.

no parking on drain cover

Ladies’ Parking

Car park is a dangerous place for ladies. I know one shopping mall in KK has malfunction CCTVs, they never fix it and they always fail to prevent the repeating crimes. Their security guards are also no useful than scarecrow.

ladies parking
Abduction has been happening in car parks of Peninsular Malaysia and the victims were robbed, raped or murdered (or all of the above).

parking space for lady
Pic: Ladies’ Parking Zone in 1Borneo Shopping Mall

lady parking lot
Some car park operators have demarcated a “Lady Only” parking zone for female drivers. Anyway, you should take charge of your security. Be vigilant and don’t let your guard down. Once you get on your car, lock the doors immediately. If we don’t care about our safety, no others would.

Coupon Parking System of KK

Do you like the new Coupon Parking System (CPS) introduced by DBKK in Oct 2014? Well, I guess nobody is happy until parking is free. 🙂

Coupon Parking System of Kota Kinabalu City Hall (DBKK)
At first I didn’t like the idea of “scratch and park” prepaid ticket. In fact, this DIY approach eliminates my need to keep track of all unpaid parking tickets (tedious!). It works better for me this way.

parking tickets on dashboard
Pic: I hope there is a better way to display the parking coupons, it looks so untidy on the dashboard.

My only complaints are – the system uses too many paper, and sometimes it’s hard to estimate how long I would park at a place. I learnt from a news that DBKK has 6,951 green, 3,081 yellow and 282 red parking lots. Out of curiosity, I did a simple calculation and estimate DBKK can make RM1.8 million of revenue from parking monthly, WOW!

parking tickets
However, don’t take this as an official figure ok, they may not make that much because many people disregard parking fee. Some of my friends never pay a cent for many years and nothing bad happens to them (that’s a saving of a few thousands!). In the past, DBKK tried different fruitless measures such as wheel-clamp and blocking the road tax renewal. In short, they can’t do much about it (please correct me if I’m wrong). The only problem I see is – you may have problem to sell your old car if the potential buyer doesn’t want to take over your mess (parking debt and penalty).

FYI, you can check your “debt” online with DBKK at ecompound.dbkk.sabah.gov.my. It’s your call whether you want to challenge DBKK. For me, I just pay for peace of mind.

Summon

Have you paid your long overdue summon? Or Uncle Police will knock your door and invite you for a cup of bitter coffee.

Malaysia traffic police on a bike
In the past, they always offered amnesty period with deep discount to those motorists who refused to pay the fine, making good citizens who paid on time looked so stupid. This time, instead of giving discount, they will give stubborn people a handcuff.

motorbike of traffic police
FYI, you can check your PDRM (police) and JPJ summon online at MyEG. It took me only 2 minutes to register and login to check, it’s free and worked perfectly.

Photos taken in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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