Location: Lankayan Island, Malaysia June 1st - June 5th
Lankayan Island is a small island that you can walk around in ten minutes. It sits in the Sulu Sea and is off the east coast of Borneo, nearly in the Philippines. How did I even end up here? Well, after trekking through a forest a travel agent suggested taking a "break" and she showed me a picture of this island and its clear water and white sands. Game over. I had to come.
About the Philippines - when I arrived people asked me if anyone back at home was worried about the pirates. (Pirates?!) Turns out that pirates from the Philippines have a pesky penchant for kidnapping people for ransom. But, rest easy because the locals will tell you that the “victims” are treated very well and are “served very good food” as all the pirates want is money.
I started to think… how much is the going rate for me? As an American, everyone thinks you have one billion dollars sitting in the bank. If I were to be kidnapped at what point would my family shrug, hear about the good food I’m eating in captivity, and think that in itself, was an experiential type of vacation.
What I learned, while on Lankayan, is that it is BEYOND beautiful. Fish literally pop up out of the water as they swim, like in The Little Mermaid as everyone sings about having twenty thing-em-ma-bobs. It’s crazy. The reefs are multicolored, the fish are tropical … I saw starfish that are blue and lilac. Lilac!
My five days passed with flying fish and soft sand, a hammock outside my bedroom door and diving the Sulu Sea twice a day. Can’t hate that. Can’t hate that at all. Lankayan really is a diving resort and destination and while boasting beautiful reefs, the fish were not in full bloom, like they were in Koh Tao. Even so, it was gorgeous.
Over fishing is an issue BUT on one dive I fell slightly behind, mainly because when diving I like to act like I am five and every so often I like to do summersaults in the water and feel the bubbles rush up around me. What?! :) Doesn't everyone? Well, upon doing one of those summersaults I was turning upright and a large, long fish with a fin on its back swims by. Like 5 feet away by. It was a white tip reef shark, at least four feet long. The next day the same thing happened with a black reef shark. All I can say is that I heard the Jaws music. But, these guys don't want to eat you... which, while reassuring, does nothing to soothe the panic as they brush on by.
Overall, this was an amazing experience in Malaysia. Naturally, there are many honeymooners and its a very international crowd (when I was it was a smattering of Italian, Swiss, Chinese, Australian, Eastern European). Families were here renting large chalets/houses on the water and a lot of people came here to dive, which created a diving community of sorts. I will say that while people called Lankayan a "five star" experience --- the star ratings in Malaysia are a bit off from the western world. The water and location are amazing but know that in Malaysia in a location like this a five star rating is slightly more like glamping when it comes to the accommodations than it is The Four Seasons (open windows, mosquito net, very simplistic furnishing and a retro bath). But would I go again? Yeah! I'd be delighted to throw a private party here, rent out every cabin for my friends and family and invite each of you. Look out for your invitation in the mail.
And how can you get here? Well, you need to get yourself to Sandakan, a port town on the east side of Borneo. Then, simply hop the 1.5 hour jetty (speed boat) that will take you to your cabin. That doesn't sound complicated or out of the way at all, right?