As a disclaimer, I have never officially been kidnapped in Borneo. For a very uncertain period of about 15 minutes, however, things were starting to look that way and the mental unrest was all the same.
The idea of being kidnapped in Borneo is not without precedent. In April of 2000 there was a much publicized incident in which 20 international tourists were kidnapped from the island of Sipadan by the Muslim separatist group Abu Sayyaf. Abducted in the night by armed men brandishing assault rifles, the remarkably unlucky group of tourists were shuttled 90 minutes by speedboat to Jolo, a small neighboring island belonging to the Philippines. Although all the Sipadan hostages would eventually be released, there would be future hostages taken by Abu Sayyaf who would be found decapitated in the jungle.
Nevertheless, I somehow found myself on a cramped minibus navigating the dense jungle roads of Northern Borneo en route to the island of Sipadan. Famous in the scuba world for having some of the best wall diving in all of Asia, the island presented visions of sea turtles and reef sharks that obscured the harsh realities, which may or may not have been lurking all around me.
To be fair, nine years had transpired since the Sipadan kidnappings and tens of thousands of tourists since that time had successfully made voyages to Sipadan without becoming a ransom piece. PADI even held one of their international conferences there.
When the minibus made an unplanned exit down a sketchy dirt road, however, the wheels of media-induced paranoia began to slowly churn into motion.