This article is by Monica Chin which has appeared in her weekly column ‘Underwater With Monica Borneo’ in Asia Times Pulse newspaper
There are many beaches and islands in Sabah that are worth exploring. Breathtaking view of the islands around Borneo will always bring home many great memories.
I’m Monica Borneo, an avid scuba diver. My story began under a scorching hot day as I was walking by the beach enjoying the ocean breeze. I vividly remember that day as every step I took drew me closer to the wonders of life on both land and the sea. I could hear birds chirping from afar; I watched in delight the fishes swimming and looping along the shore, and hermit crabs scrambling back into the sea as I approached them. I recall the thoughts running in my head and feeling I had that very instant. One thing for sure, I became all the more curious about every little thing that moved before my eyes. I felt called by Mother Nature to learn and appreciate her gifts more.
I was born and bred in Kota Belud. I call this little part of my world the heart of nature. From my home its only takes me 15 minutes to the magical beaches and 15 minites to the stunning waterfalls and forests. Ever since I was a kid, I consider myself blessed to be growing up in this place. Those days Pantai Emas was so pristine and soulful. Mantanani Island has always been my best ever playground ever until now. My love to this breathtaking island still stays the same.
During my childhood 1980s, I witnessed something that I will never forget in my entire life. I saw a big group of 20-30 dugongs with my late mom many times during our family fishing trip to the island. Sadly, they are all gone now!
My work requires a lot of diving and diving and more diving. This is something I do for a living. The sound of bubbles as I descend to the depths of the ocean and discover another dimension of the world is like a dream. That’s why my skin is always brownie and tanned!
What I love to see the most are corals of many shapes, colors and sizes. They are like colorful trees on the surface. The fishes and other sea creatures swimming left to right happily as I swim near them. Schools of fish that swim by me always take my breath away.
Just like the ocean, the land and the sea are no different from each other. Good or bad, victory or defeat, land and the sea are just two sides of the same coin. The only difference is that the ocean has a lot more mysteries than the land. I could walk along the same beach many times but each and every time brings a different experience, realisation and inspiration.
In Sabah Borneo there is total 394 official islands out there. I’ve only been to half of them and I am determined to visit all 394 of them. Not many of us know that in all these 394 islands there are occupied by people of different ethnicity, culture and tradition. They also have different food resources, lifestyle, geography and biodiversity. Some of the islands are not occupied by humans.
As a scuba diver, I always want to dive down in new places and see life underwater with my own eyes. I’m not one who is afraid of the underwater world. Rather, it makes me feel at home, just like the fishes are, when I’m diving in the depths of the sea. The most common questions I get from family members and friends are: “Teda shark gigit kau ka?” (Don’t you ever get bitten by sharks?) or “Kau tidak takut kalau kana talan ikan besar?” (Aren’t you afraid of being eaten alive by big fish?). I always laugh at these questions. Often my answers would be: “I’m more afraid of humans! Humans eat everything even they kill sharks more than sharks ever kill humans. Human can also pull up the giant grouper.” So, don’t you think that humans are scarier?”
I’ve experience diving with tiger sharks in Fiji Island and with giant groupers in many shipwreck dive sites and oceanic manta rays in Maldives, whale sharks in our Sabah waters, black tip sharks and white tip sharks. All these are all very precious animals and are important marine life to keep our ocean ecosystem healthier. Even the tiny macro zooplankton is super important.
I have a goal, that is to bring back life underwater and share all my underwater experience with you around Sabah through my eyes. So, allow me take you along. Stay tune and see you next week!
Photo credits: Clement Lee
Monica juggles a lot of exciting things in her daily life. Aside from being an avid diver, she is also a business woman, an environmental and marine conservationist, a certified coral propagation trainer, sustainable development advocate especially in Climate Action (SDG 13), Life Below Water (SDG 14), Life on Land (SDG 15) and Partnerships for the Goals (SDG17). She is also a mother of two.
Her weekly column is part of Asia Times Pulse ongoing project in featuring ordinary people doing extraordinary work. They are local champions.