“Orang-utan, Orang-utan!” A campmate was gesticulating wildly/madly and whispering as loud as possible. I was suspicious; declaring that there were Orangutan spotted on every excursion had become a running joke, but this was different, we were just sat around in our jungle camp base. Suddenly, I realised this wasn’t a new version of the prank, it was the real deal. I grabbed my camera and walked along the wooden footpath to the end of the line of huts. I looked up and there in the trees was not only an Orangutan, there was a baby Orangutan too!
“Just don’t smile,” Che advised me. Suddenly everything made sense, I wasn’t experiencing hell in paradise. I didn’t realise that a natural reaction to discovering the wonders of the submarinal world was the root of all my problems. After all, I had only learnt to swim properly and overcome my fear of deep water three months earlier!
I had been advised to learn how to scuba dive by my friend’s husband when I mentioned I was heading to Borneo. I signed up for a course with Scuba Junkies, who were based out of Semporna, a tiny village on the south of the Malaysian side of the island. They had just opened a hostel opposite their shop, with a bar that served pizzas to the guests, all of which were on pilgrimage to explore one of the dive world’s meccas. Sipadan is a coral reef island, formed on top of an extinct volcano and is teeming with marine life. There were some serious professionals around, including Scandinavian ice divers and specialist deep sea macro photographers. In comparison I was completely out of my depth.