SEMPORNA: THE year-long “End in Sipadan” campaign organised by the Tourism and Culture Ministry will not only promote Sabah’s diving trails, but also its local dive operators, said the ministry’s state director, Ag Ahmad Zaki Abu Bakar.
“The ‘End in Sipadan’ campaign, held in collaboration with Sabah Backpackers Association, began in April and has reached its pinnacle here in Sipadan.
“Throughout the journey, we saw our local dive operators doing a great job not just for the tourism industry, but also for the conservation of our reefs,” he said during a press conference in conjunction with the closing of the campaign here recently.
He said dive operators in Mari Mari Sepanggar island here and Bum Bum Island in Semporna engaged with avid divers to build artificial reefs within respective house reefs.
“Before the campaign, the heaps of rubbish in Sepanggar island could reach an average man’s shoulder. But, dive operators have cleared the garbage and transformed the island into a diving centre.”
Ag Ahmad said dive operator Blue Fin Dive and Surf from Kudat built a community-based homestay, while ND Divers from Bum Bum island provided jobs opportunities to the locals.
As for Lahad Datu-based Pirate Divers, its founder, Glen Hapirullah, sketched several hundred underwater maps in Malaysia, including 44 diving sites in Lahad Datu.
Ag Ahmad said diver Abdul Razak Ismail, 33, from Semporna, took underwater videos to promote the campaign, adding that one of his videos gained 14,000 views in three months.
The campaign, he said, had also helped 15 media personnel obtain diving licences to better promote the state’s diving trails.
Present at the press conference were the ministry’s Pahang director, Datuk Idrus Yahya, and Sabah Backpackers Association president Richie Lee.
“The ‘End in Sipadan’ pro-gramme is the continuation of the ministry’s ‘Start in Tioman’ campaign in Pahang, which began in 2010 and offered diving course to media personnel,” said Idrus.
He said the programme in Tioman aimed to encourage people to take up diving.
“People will not only spend money on diving, but also on activities that we have created for them before they board a plane home.
“Besides that, the programme made people appreciate nature more because once the marine ecosystem is destroyed, divers will not be able to enjoy underwater activities anymore.”
Volunteer Datin Chan Goek Kooi, from Johor, said she fully supported the campaign in Bum Bum island and in Sipadan.
“As a dive operator, it is important for me to explore dive sites before promoting them to my clients.
“In Sabah, we can dive all year round, unlike the sites in the peninsula.”