A memory that will stay with me for the rest of my days was the exit from Turtle Tomb.

Our welcome back to open ocean came in the form of a large school of Jacks swimming in a circular bait ball.  Then on our way up from 22m we passed a humble looking old turtle who gave us a knowing look that suggested he knew we had just been in the presence of his ancestors.

Looking at my computer as we began our safety stop I notice something move in a familiar and elegantly smooth manner, heading towards the cave mouth was my second major adult grey reef shark. I breathed a sigh of relief into my regulator, safe in the knowledge that he was cruising the cave passages alone. 

It was a magical experience, to follow in the fin kicks of my childhood hero Jacques Cousteau, and I am now looking forward to my next cave diving  adventure in Florida with Lamar Hires and the Dive Rite Team. Read all about it in our August edition.

Jon F

As you swim into the cave mouth you are confronted by your first warning that what you are about to undertake is a little out of the ordinary. This warning comes in the form of a 1m square sign. This sign is heavily corroded but you can make out a sinister looking scull and cross bones as you glide by. The message becomes spine chillingly clear after a couple of fin kicks, when your dive light meets with the next slightly bigger and more legible warning sign. This one  tells you that if you are not cave trained you will die! A pleasant start, I thought, although it did bring a cheeky grin of excitement to my face!

I had watched the Cousteau movie about Turtle Tomb when I was a young boy of 10 or 11years. At the time I had enough trouble managing the deep end of the local swimming pool, complete with its old plasters and baby snot. What I saw these intrepid explorers doing on our old ferguson black & white TV had mesmerised me like a snake being charmed.

Of course I never realised at the time that one day I would follow in the same fin kicks as Jacques C’s team.

Following In Jacques Fin Kicks

By: Jon F

Ever since I was a young boy I have dreamed of diving the Turtle Tomb cave in Sipadan, Malaysia. This cave was first made famous by the legendary Jacques Cousteau when he visited the Celebes sea in the early eighties.

The dive is a 100-120m long cave penetration with some wonderful features. The excitement starts at a depth of 22m when you enter the cave mouth, and works its way gradually up to 10m through a variety of passages. Some Passages are quite narrow to say the least, and the return journey does create a saw tooth dive profile.

My wife and I took a flight from Dubai to Kuala Lumpur and then boarded an internal connecting flight to Borneo. After all this flying it was nice to be driven to an awaiting boat for a relaxing  boat ride to the Mabul island resort.

The next day we were being introduced to the usual disclaimers and safety briefs, and then the mention of what I had come for......Turtle Tomb. My wife and I completed a few warm up dives over the course of our first couple of days. This allowed us to log statements to the tune of “`Saw an abundance of frogfish, and very unusual Nudibranchs”, “Swam very close with a school of bump head parrot fish, each one the size of a small car”. Then came the time for me to do a couple of days training with the resort’s cave diving instructor Patrick.

Patrick made it quite clear that if he was not happy with my abilities underwater then I would not be seeing the inside of any cave on his watch. Thankfully all went well and Patrick decided that I may pass the sinister signs of no return that guarded the cave mouth.

These warnings are held aloft  with small buoys that have become encrusted with marine life, and now resembled shrunken heads, adding to the mystery of what might lay within.

I only had two major concerns. Firstly I really did not fancy the idea of having to swim through a decaying turtle that may have lost its way in recent months. Its quite difficult to give things that you wish to avoid a wide birth when you only have a space the size of a regular doorway to move in.

My second major concern was Patrick’s story of being confronted by a shark that wanted to go in the other direction to him while they were both sharing the tight long passage between the front room and the back room of the cave. 

I decided that I would like a lasting memory of my visit to this historical diving sanctum, so I hired a local underwater videographer/cave diver to shoot a film of our adventure.

I just hoped that I would make it back to watch it in the comfort of our very nice apartment on stilts over the sea, slippers on, glass of wine in hand.... well that was the plan.

The cave itself was wonderful, and the dead turtles I had seen on TV as a boy, that looked as though they had been stuck to the ceiling while sleeping, had now become neat piles of bones. These neatly packaged and deposited remains  dotted around the cave system gave a further spooky reminder that death was lurking just over your shoulder. On our journey out of the cave Patrick took me to the final resting place of a Marlin, the nose of which you can see in the photo opposite.

Patrick, Walter (our videographer) and I spent 83mins in the cave system and came out with plenty of air in reserve. We had staged additional S80 cylinders at the entrance just incase we needed more gas. In Jacques Cousteau’s film Turtle Tomb the mystery of the turtle deaths was put down to the turtles seeking shelter and then losing their way. Because turtles hold their breath they eventually and very sadly ran out of air and drowned while searching for an exit.

We were fastidious in our dive planning to ensure we did not go the same way as the earlier visiting turtles.