Banggi Island Revisited
It was a fine morning - the sun is shining bright when we left the town of Kudat heading to Banggi and Balambangan Island. We were taken onboard by a UMS boat, hosted by 3 officers who will accompany and show us around Banggi and Balambangan. Our task was to assess the UMS's seaweed project on these islands.
As this is my 2nd visit to Banggi I was not as excited compared to four other companions of mine as the trip was their first. jokingly Ramlan and Azlin - the UMS officers informed us that we must had consulted 'bomoh' (black magician) as the weather was quite accomodating as we cruised the 1 hour journey to the islands. However, towards approaching Balambangan Island (the farthest of the two to mainland), the ride was getting bumpier (indeed a rather excellent form of exercise for our butts) as the waves getting rougher and choppy. Still we must go on. To the the UMS team the sea condition was pretty normal as these islands are exposed to the southwest and north east monsoons.
After visiting and taking photographs at the sites planted with seaweed, we stopped at Karakit town at Banggi. We check in at the newly built resthouse and had our lunch. The afternoon exercise includes visiting the seaweed collection centre before they are transferred to the mainland for processing, few more seaweed cultivation areas and a couple of seaweed nurseries where they breed seaweed for the local farmers venturing into seaweed farming.
For me, Banggi Island is quite special in its own right. The island was known to be one of the top 10 spots in the world for treasure seekers. The island is thought to house valuable treasure consisted of ancient porcelain and jars during the Chinese Dynasty era, million dollar worth of gold plates during the British Colonial era, and other valuable germstones and metal brough from the Far East and Africa. All of which these treasures are brought by ships and sunk somewhere around the sea channel of Banggi and Balambangan islands. The theory was strengthened with a book/article published by a Brit last year that a royal ship has gone missing in the 1920-40s. The ship concerned has in it plentiful of gold plates to be brought over to South East Asia to build new cities under the British Colony. During those days, a gold plates say weigh 5 kg is sufficient enough to build a city. The cities of Goa, Georgetown and Singapore were examples where a single gold plate is used to build and develop a city.
Another theory was the ships used by the chinese Dynasty bringing valuable jars, porcelain, gold coins and other artifacts as gifts for the Brunei/Sulu Sultans claimed to be missing and sunk around the islands. Same goes with chinese trading vessels and ships bringing other valuable for trade/barter trade with the SEAsian traders believed to be missing in the areas of Banggi and Balambangan islands. Around 5-10 years, some of the remnants of the missing vessels/ships and artifacts were found scattered in pieces in few areas around the islands. Thus, this strengthen the theory of the missing ships/vessels in the area, and therefore, attracted local and international treasure seekers coming to the island hoping to find and capture a share of the valuables.
As the afternoon boat ride is getting smoother as the weather improved we managed to round a few of the smaller islands. While enjoying the sight of Banggi Island from far, Ramlan of UMS kept asking us of the aim of visit. In between lines, jokingly he asked us whether we brought metal detector assuming that our visit was not for the seaweed assessment task but rather a team of treasure seeker ambitiously hoping to find treasure. We laughed and soon enough we were already at the Moleangin Besar Island. I visitied this island before and the place is pretty much entirely the same as the last time I was here, 14 months ago. I recalled there were a team of investor, consisting of an austrian, chinese and a penang guy from West Malaysian, planning to develop a resort on the island specialising in scuba diving, yet knowingly that the sea current is rough and unsuitable for diving or snorkelling. We were suspicious and thought of them as treasure seekers!
Lastly, for those of you who are adventurous in nature and (possibly) wannabe treasure seekers here are some facts you should know about Banggi and Balambangan islands.
- It takes less than 30 minutes to the Pahlawan Island, Philippines. So you might see some smuggle contrabands used by the Banggian, cigarettes especially.
- Some of the Bonggi Dusun tribe still lives on tree, you have to go deep into the village to experience this.
- Fish are aplenty and cheap, but be cautious you might be eating a bombed fish. Sabahans don't eat raw seaweed.
- At average you can hear a fish bombing activity every single minute. WWF is currently educating the locals to just fish and not bomb.
- Pulau Hairan (popped up island) was somewhere near the area but its gone now. I think! This was one of the most debatable subject on the newspaper many years ago.
- Army personnel are aplenty and they fish near the jetties, so the sense of security is there. But there are young recruits.
- The resthouse is haunted, don't be suprised you wake up outside your room. We havent experienced this before and not looking forward for it.
- Deep sea and reef fishing is enjoyable at night time. One's guaranteed to get fish with a fish finder tool on board.