In 1986, I was approached by a group of owners who had a large boat they wanted to use for dive trips in western Malaysia, off the island of Borneo.
Borneo is a magic name, evoking everything from gorillas and orangutans to the World War II British Malay Campaign to headhunters. I thought it had some magic for marketing, so I went out there for an exploratory.
Landing in Kota Kinabalu, we got on the big, refurbished boat and cruised out into the South China Sea. After my experiences in the nearby Philippines and Papua New Guinea I expected some good diving. We went to a Malaysian Navy base on a small island called Layang Layang.
There was some good diving at this and other islands nearby, but it was usually at places where the islands jutted into currents and schooling fish piled up in the flow around the obstruction because of the rich stream of food swooshing past. Predators then sailed around in the rushing waters looking for something to pick off. We found that pattern in several places, and the divers loved some of the unusual species such as the Symphorichthys Snappers and the carpets of canary yellow soft corals.
On my last trip aboard the Borneo Explorer, our divemaster was Larry Smith, a hard-working guy who kept sixteen divers on their toes and in the water. Larry is no longer with us, passing long before his proper time, and I salute him here for his career of helping divers.