Bohey Dulang: Coral reefs, Volcanoes and Sea Gypsies

Next to our floating hotel in Semporna, the Dragon Inn, there were some tour offices for scuba divers and 1-day trips to the surrounding islands. We booked a 1-day trip with one of them to Bohey Dulang archipelago. Bohey Dulang is an extinct volcano in the sea between Sulu sea and Celebes sea. There are thousands of islands between both seas following a line that connects Borneo and Philippines.

Bohey Dulang from the top

These islands, together with Mabul archipelago in the south, are still part of a conflict between terrorist groups of Philippines and Malaysia. In the past, these terrorist groups have kidnapped tourists in the hotels of some islands or directly assaulted boats.

Fortunately, Malaysia increased the surveillance in this maritime zone of Sabah, reducing to zero the attacks during the last years. For this reason, we were not afraid of visiting this part of the world, one of the most beautiful places we have ever seen.

Arriving to Bohey Dulang

After 1 hour in a small boat we reached the base of Bohey Dulang. We saw some wooden houses on thin sticks above the water. This is something we already saw in Sandakan and small islands around Sulu sea. However, in this case we also met their inhabitants: the Sea Gypsies. When they saw us approaching to their floating village, the women jumped to their canoes with their children and started rowing to us.

Sea Gypsy houses

Fortunately they were only looking for food and money. We didn’t expect this fouling, the feeling was between fear, curiosity and amazed for the strange moment. When we booked the tour no one told us anything about this, we were just expecting to sail towards 4 different islands, climb to the top of Bohey Dulang and snorkel around. Definetely this fouling was a unique experience.

After some minutes hanging from our boat, they left, allowing us to continue towards the Bohey Dulang caldera. The caldera is full of water and the 4 different islands were part of the slopes of the old volcano. Nowadays the volcano is extinct and has left a beautiful landscape of islands around a lagoon in the sea. It is a perfect spot for diving or snorkeling. But first, we tied up and started climbing the Bohey Dulang higher peak (353m).

Bohey Dulang beaches

The hike to the peak is a hard one, the high level of humidy, the steepy and slippery path  and the heat make it difficult for unfit people. We made it in 45 minutes and arrived complety sweaty at the top. But the views… what views… deserved the effort! The views from the top of Bohey Dulang are in our top natural landscapes list, together with Sossusvlei in Namibia and Yulong river in China.

Bohey Dulang coral reefs

After hiking up we went down again, took the boat and left the lagoon towards the outer part of it. There, in a super small and plain island called Pulau Mantabuan, we had lunch under palm trees in the beach. We had a short walk around the island and could touch the white sand and rests of coral. The heat was softened by a fresh breeze.

Pulau Mantabuan island

We did some snorkeling in the coral reef around Pulau Mantabuan, discovering different kind of coral, starfishes, hundreds of colourful fishes, seahorses, sea urchins, clownfishes…

Laura snorkeling

With salt in every pore of our skin, we left Pulau Mantabuan and went to Pulau Sibuan island, which has a beautiful sand bar and turquoise waters. It is located in the north outer side of Bohey Dulang and the sand bar points directly to where we started our journey: the Sea Gypsies village. Maybe because of this, we found here again some gypsy children. However, in this case they didn’t approach us. They were just enjoying, like we did, the landscapes of the paradise.

Borneo seen from the sand bar of Pulau Sibuan

We left Bohey Dulang archipelago in the afternoon, one hour by boat towards Semporna, where we took another boat for one extra hour to Mabul archipelago, where we spent 2 days more, just enjoying the weather, landscapes and water of the Celebes sea.


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