Sabah’s crystal clear sapphire waters are home to hoards of aquatic life flourishing like I have never seen anywhere before. Sabah has species of every category of marine life you can think of including crustaceans, cephalopods, mollusks, echinoderms, coral, fish and sea snakes.
The assortment of life under the sea was so vast that it could entertain someone for hours together. Even the most fidgety and distracted person can become calm and patient when he/she sets eyes on these colourful little bundles of joy.
Sabah is well known for its coral life, this is protected in the guise of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, named after Malaysia’s first Prime Minister. The marine park consists of 6 islands off the coast of the capital city, Kota Kinabalu. These islands are the hotspots for coral reefs and coral-dependent ecosystems. The marine park offers numerous ways of enjoying the marine biodiversity of the region, including scuba diving, snorkeling and sea walking.
Since I didn’t have a diving license, I had an enjoyable time sea walking, snorkeling and swimming in the open ocean. And the number of shimmery little fish I saw was just insane. Fish around coral reefs are extremely flashy and brightly coloured, this is to distract and confuse predators. But it is these colours that fill us with serenity and bliss, giving us a sense of utmost euphoria.
Coral reefs, just like the life around them developed over millions of years of evolution, slowly bringing into existence a whole ecosystem by itself. This is why coral reefs are very aggressively protected because whole bunches of other species rely on the reefs for survival. Me, being a person who adores the ocean, I was itching to see a coral reef up close.
Finally, On the 5th day of our trip, we were scheduled to go to the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park for sea walking and snorkeling by the very helpful guides from Borneo Trails. Our speedboat took us to Borneo Reef World, a pontoon off the coast of Sapi island, for the sea walking. I was extremely eager to get started, as it was my first time trying something like this. I was immensely overwhelmed by the sights that met my eyes when I started my sea walk. Glittery rainbow coloured fish were everywhere. The ocean floor was covered with sea urchins, uni as the Japanese call it; these sea urchins are considered a delicacy in Asian cuisines. As I went deeper into the path of the sea walk I spotted a sea anemone, and if you find a sea anemone, it is an indication that Nemo and his family are somewhere around. This was the first time I saw a clownfish up close, this drew out the ‘6-year-old’ in me. I would have been hopping with excitement if that was possible underwater. Nemo and his dad were hesitantly peeping out of the tentacles of the sea anemone, we quickly posed for a picture before Nemo changed his mind. Some of the other species of fish we ‘walked’ with were, triggerfish, damselfish, queen angelfish, four-eyed butterflyfish, parrotfish, snapper, coral trout, emperor angelfish, wrasses, surgeonfish and eels among others.
The best way to experience and appreciate the true beauty of the ocean is to visit a place that has an abundant number of coral reefs, what better place than Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, a place that revers and protects coral reefs.