KOTA KINABALU: Its logo depicts a mean looking pirate wearing goggles but dive centre, Pirate Divers, is working towards dispelling perceptions that Lahad Datu is a danger zone.
Located between Sandakan and Semporna, Lahad Datu has often been known mostly as the gateway to the Tabin Wildlife Reserve and the Danum Valley.
For the past decade, the centre’s diving instructor Glen Hapirulla and his wife, Kristy Chan, have been hard at work trying to put Lahad Datu on the world’s diving map.
To many outsiders, Lahad Datu is a dangerous place to visit due to its proximity to areas that have seen a spate of cross-border crimes over the years.
Businesses dived further when visitors avoided Lahad Datu after the intrusion of Tanduo village by gunmen from the Philippines in 2013 and the kidnapping of a fish farm manager from a nearby island in 2014.
In fact, Glen said he was even advised to relocate to Tioman Island in Pahang, where he worked for seven years in view of his ailing business and the perceived security risks in Lahad Datu following the incidents.
However, he and Chan decided to persist with their dive outfit, Pirate Divers.
“Even locals from Kota Kinabalu were afraid to come here. But we never gave up. We continued our efforts to restore confidence among people that Lahad Datu is safe to visit.
“Now, we are starting to see the fruits of our labour,” said Glen, who has almost 20 years experience in the diving industry.
Together with his wife, they have been working towards gaining recognition for Pirate Divers as the go-to outfit for diving excursions in Silam Bay, Lahad Datu.
Glen, 56, led his team to map 60 sites such as the “Blue Ring” reefs. Many of these sites have been named after his clients and fellow divers as a show of appreciation.
Having worked on Tioman, Redang and Tenggol islands in Peninsular Malaysia before returning to Sabah, Glen believes that Lahad Datu is home to the most beautiful dive sites and reefs he had ever seen.
“In my opinion, Lahad Datu has the best dive sites. But the funny part is, local divers don’t know how beautiful the seabed is. They would rather go to other places,” he chuckled.
“Even so, I still think that there needs to be a system in place to prevent overcrowding here so that it doesn’t become like Semporna,” he added.
Recently, Sabah Parks credited Glen with his discovery of the “Blue Ring” reefs, also known as the only “blue holes” (large marine caverns or sinkholes) in Malaysia.
Article appeared on the Star Online.