Jet Setter

An Oil Rig’s Second, Scuba-Diving Life

The Seaventures Dive Resort. Kierstan Clark

“A onetime oil-drilling rig stands in crystal-clear waters dotted with tiny islands and their lush green hills. But most impressive is what’s underwater—an amazing array of coral reefs swarming with hundreds of species of multicolored tropical fish, sea turtles and other aquatic life. The rig has been converted to a hotel for snorkelers and especially for scuba divers.

“The abundance of marine life is the best I’ve ever seen,” with schools of big fish and without pollution or rubbish, said Craig Brown, a British electrical engineer and scuba diver vacationing on the rig for the second time in five weeks. Other divers agreed. (Mr. Brown’s job, based in Dubai, involves surveying the seabed for potential oil deposits.)

The rig sits in the Celebes Sea, the part of the Pacific Ocean ringed by the island of Borneo, Indonesia and the Philippines. Getting here involves a flight to Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia; another flight to Tawau, on the east coast of the Malaysian Borneo state of Sabah; an hour’s drive and an overnight in the tiny port city of Semporna; then an hour’s boat ride to the oil rig, now called Seaventures Dive Resort.

Five years ago Malaysia ordered all occupants off of Sipadan island and last year declared it a national park, granting only 120 permits a day for divers and snorkelers, to be divided among resorts like Seaventures. Coral reefs start at a couple of feet below the surface, just off the coast, and dramatically drop off in steep cliffs to around 180 feet.

Most Westerners come from England, with plenty of other visitors from Japan, Hong Kong and China. Americans make up fewer than 5% of Seaventures’ clientele. “For some reason, Malaysia isn’t on the tourist map in the U.S.,” says Cahlan Mazur, a 31-year-old math teacher from Washington, D.C., staying on the rig. “I was at [Australia’s] Great Barrier Reef for the better part of a week and probably saw more fish here in one day.”

“So far as we know, we’re the only ones in the world using an oil rig as a hotel and diving platform,” said Suzette Harris, the Singaporean owner. Her father-in-law, a regional Malaysian official, bought the rig in Singapore in 1988; he had it towed into Borneo waters.

A three-day, two-night scuba-diving package for $516, per-person double occupancy, includes room, meals, transfers, equipment rental and guarantees of a morning of three dives at Sipadan Island.

“No matter what you do, oil rigs have an industrial feel because they’re made of metal.” She added, “You’re not going to come to the rig to enjoy the sunsets. You come to dive.” M.s Harris, owner of Seaventures. Dan White, Seaventures dive team supervisor, said: “We’re at the heart of what’s called the Coral Triangle,” rich with marine diversity. “Nutrients like plankton mass in this region because of the currents.”

Stan Stesser, Wall Street Journal

new destination to see? maybe!

great way to recycle out of commision oil rigs and bring tourism dollars for the country

should the U.S follow suit?

read more, here