Runaway Photo: Bajau Laut and Mabul Island, Malaysia

AWE14 Art Activity with Christianne Goonting
We Did It! AWE ’14 in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
November 10, 2014
Late autumn in Seoul
Home is Where The Heart… or Convenience is
November 18, 2014

Runaway Photo: Bajau Laut and Mabul Island, Malaysia

Stilt Village in Mabul Island, Borneo

Mabul Island gave me an ecstasy and sadness

One of the richest single destinations for exotic marine life anywhere in the world, Mabul Island was the perfect destination to complete my time in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. I was still high from AWE ’14, so we head to the east coast of Borneo to unwind (and celebrate my birthday!) for a few days before leaving Sabah for good.

Even though Kota Kinabalu, or KK as what locals call it affectionately, has been my home for last seven months, I didn’t see much of Sabah, the state KK is in. But I wasn’t going to leave here without seeing the famous east coast. Mabul is a small island near the Sipadan, one of the 10 best diving spots in the world. Mabul is a bit easier to reach than Sipadan, and there are resorts to stay. To get to Mabul, we flew into Tawau (50-minute flight from KK) and took a tourist bus to Semporna (1 – 1.5 hour). It takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour to get to Mabul by boat from Semporna.

Mabul offered many different faces. The underwater world is enchanting. I’ve never seen anything like this before. This area is home for endangered sea turtles, rays, and sharks. We encountered more than 10 sea turtles at once while snorkeling. There are countless types of fish underwater. Especially I loved seeing nudibranchs. They live in a wonderful harmony. There’s no doubt that this place is a one of a kind. But what’s above the water is a bit different. Mabul Island has been a home to Bajau Laut and Suluk tribes, well known as sea gypsies. Stilt villages are all around the island. Most of them are fishermen, but some are working in tourism with their boats and stilt houses.

I was in awe of Mabul Island’s beauty, but it made me sad at the same time. In some way we were intruding their turf, but they weren’t taking good care of the nature either. Trash is a big problem in Mabul. Non-biodegradable materials are found everywhere not only near the shore, but also underwater between corals. We went for a beach clean session and filled 15 garbage bags within just 2 square-meter area. Diapers, clothes, plastic bags, toys, broken glass bottles, cans, etc. I think the nomadic-locals took the meaning of ‘home’ too literal. Besides of hunting of the exotic animals, these marine creatures have lots of obstacles. Especially plastics are a great treat. For example, sea turtles often ingest plastic bags because it can be easily mistaken for jellyfish. It sits in the stomach, slows turtles down, and eventually causes starvation.

Being in Mabul for two days gave me ecstasies and sadnesses. For both reasons, Mabul is definitely a meaningful place to visit. Go diving to enjoy this unique marine life, participate in beach clean, and walk around the stilt villages.

Have you been to Mabul? What did you think, and experience?

 

Stilt Village in Mabul Island, east coast of Sabah in Borneo.

Stilt Village and traditional boat at Mabul Island, east coast of Sabah in Borneo.

Stilt Village in Mabul Island, east coast of Sabah in Borneo.

Stilt Village in Mabul Island, east coast of Sabah in Borneo.

Stilt Village in Mabul Island, east coast of Sabah in Borneo.

Stilt Village in Mabul Island, east coast of Sabah in Borneo.

Mosque in the Stilt Village of Mabul Island, east coast of Sabah in Borneo.

Mabul Island, east coast of Sabah in Borneo.

Mabul Island, east coast of Sabah in Borneo.

Mabul Island, east coast of Sabah in Borneo.

Mabul Island, east coast of Sabah in Borneo.

Seaventure Dive Rig and Mabul Island, east coast of Sabah in Borneo.

Mabul Island, east coast of Sabah in Borneo.

Seaventure dive rig Mabul Island, east coast of Sabah in Borneo.

Morning at Mabul Island, east coast of Sabah in Borneo.

Mabul Island, east coast of Sabah in Borneo.

Malaysia's national flower

Stilt Village in Mabul Island, east coast of Sabah in Borneo.

Mabul Island, east coast of Sabah in Borneo.

Mabul Island, east coast of Sabah in Borneo.

Juno Kim
Juno Kim
Juno Kim, a happiness-seeking storyteller. Photographer, writer, and trained mechanical engineer. Life-long nerd. I left the cubic farm to follow my true love: the world. A firm believer of serendipity, astronomy enthusiaster, and living by passion and love in life. Currently, on a quest to discover stories and find the place where I can call 'home'. Follow my journey through @RunawayJuno and Google+ .

6 Comments

  1. Noah says:

    Having been there myself, I can echo your concerns about the trash … the good side of the place is that the coral reefs are electric, turtles are everywhere, and the beaches are near perfect!

  2. Such gorgeous photos Juno – looks like an amazing places. The homes remind me of the people who live on the jetties in Penang. But what a shame that they aren’t taking better care of it – I hope it’s something that gets addressed before it’s too late …

  3. Your photographs are magical, you know! I was considering a visit to Malaysia next year, but now it seems I will plan something this year only. Though all are simply ‘wow’ in their own charm, the one with the little boys smiling and waving at you just made my day and I guess, it did yours, too!

    • Juno Kim says:

      Thanks Jennifer! Mabul was a really special place. If you are coming over to Malaysia, don’t forget to include Sabah and Sarawak (Borneo island) in your itinerary!

  4. Razia Sheikh says:

    Wow Juno Kim,

    I Always read your blog and I always check your travel photo. You are an amazing travel photographer. This post is another great example of your photography. Thanks for sharing such amazing nature picture, which is inspiring people to travel.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

78 Shares
+115
Tweet58
Share3
Pin2
Share