Joys of tourism
Sipadan Island’s environment is sensitive and fragile. It needs protection from the great number of visitors and divers everyday. Thus, activities such as scuba diving is strictly-controlled. A diving quota of 120 permits per day is in place. No structures are allowed to be built on the island or anywhere near it. Overnight stays are prohibited.
Visitors and scuba divers must arrange accommodation at nearby islands. Comfortable, clean and safe chalets are available at Mabul and Kapalai island. Mabul island is an oval-shaped land which is part of a 200-hectare reef, sitting on the edge of a continental shelf. The waters surrounding Mabul and Kapalai islands are also popular for scuba diving and snorkeling. The accommodation at most of the Semporna islands offer great views of the beach and sea.
Kapalai island is a good choice for a quiet and peaceful get-away. It is ideal for holidays with family and loved ones. The cool, clear waters are great for swimming and snorkeling. The island forms part of the Ligitan Reefs. A water village resort sits on the reefs and provides, among other facilities, a huge and spacious sundeck for after-swimming chats or after-dive talks.
Mataking island is a beautiful sight. In the morning, visitors can jog or walk at the beach in complete peace.
Most islands in Sabah are beautiful, but the islands off-Semporna and especially Sipadan island top the best list.
As day breaks, the island comes to life. But at any time of the day, the views are spectacular. Walking or jogging at the islands, a visitor sees seemingly unending stretches of white sands. It is quiet and peaceful. On the edge of the island, the view of the open sea is awesome. The feeling is that you don’t want to leave this place, and even if you have, you always want to come back again.
At sunrise, the bright jewel at the horizon pierces through the clouds and illuminates the sky. The views and scenery surrounding the islands in Semporna are almost always beautiful and serene.
The underwaters at Mataking Island, offers another splendour world of colour and beauty. Visitors can move from one island to another in the open seas. Swimmers or divers discover that beneath the surface of the sea, even at shallow underwaters, there are many unspoilt and sparkling corals teeming with beautiful sea life.
The management of the island, Sabah Parks; tour operators and visitors have ensured that cleanliness at Sipadan Island is among their top priorities. Trash and rubbish are collected to be disposed of either in an eco-sustainable manner on the island or brought to the mainland.
It was a joy to observe that plastic bags were seldom seen on the beaches of many of the islands. Tour operators and management of the parks have done a good job in regularly clearing non-biodegradable items from the islands and especially the beaches.
The island environment is fragile. If not properly cared for or managed, this “piece of art, a jewel” will be damaged forever.
The Sorrows of Tourism
It is disheartening to see that some people had dug and disturbed the corals around the Mabul island in order to create a passageway for the boats to reach shore more conveniently.
However, for convenience sake, the corals had been destroyed forever.
Mabul Island has many serious issues. One of them is garbage disposal. The area where the resort is sited is resonably clean. However, the village side bordering the resort is in dire need of a good and eco-sustainable way of handling garbage.
Some of the garbage that had been indiscriminately disposed of by villagers into the sea was washed ashore. It was not a good sight, particularly where the garbage had accumulated near a tourism area.
It pains the heart and eyes to see unhygenic living. It is a dilemma in many of Sabah’s beautiful islands where tourism development seems to have clashed with the livelihood of local villagers. – Jason W. Yong
(This is the first part of the article on the ‘Joys and Sorrows of Tourism’. The second part will appear on the next issue of Berita IDS)