Sibuan Island Mantabuan Island
Gaya Island Boheyan Island Kumai Reef Church Reef Pandanan island
Yoshie Reef Ligitan Si-Amil & Denawan The Timber Wreck
Other than popular dive islands of the
islands of Sipadan, Mabul, Kapalai, and the reef resorts of Mataking and Roach
Reef, divers from all skill levels can also enjoy diving in the other dive
sites in the Celebes sea during their visit to Semporna.
The diverse dive spots offer drop offs, slopes and plateaus in depths ranging
from 2 meters to 60 meters with sometimes swift currents and visibility
between 10m to 40m. Sightings of sharks and turtles can be guaranteed at some
dive sites, while other common sights of marine life include those of manta
rays, eagle rays, schooling barracudas and jacks, and rare critters like
mandarinfish, frogfish, and ghostpipefish. Most dive sites can be reached
within one hour by dive boats.
Pulau Sibuan lies approximately 16 km from Semporna, which is about a half
hour speed boat trip. There is no drinkable water on the island, other than
water which is shipped in from Semporna. The island is clean with almost no
flotsam on the beaches, and the water is clear and inviting.
Locally known as 'Battleship Island' for its distinctive shape, Sibuan is one
of the smallest islands and is very popular for swimmers and snorkelers.
Sibuan Island got a gentle falling, white sandy beach that is perfect for
swimmers and non swimmers alike, someone can play in the shallows without
being worried about stepping on any sharp coral.
About five families of the Sea Bajau tribe (sea gypsies) live on the Northern
end of the island. There are no facilities on the island, or as previously
noted, on Pulau Mantabuan, both islands being part of the Bodgaya Group of
islands which are under the protection of Sabah Parks. The Southern end of the
island falls steeply without the formation of a reef. Elsewhere around the
island there are well developed reefs with the steepest slope along the
Eastern and South-Eastern sides.
The reef lies at a depth of 3 - 6 meters. The reef then drops away steeply
before ending at about 22 meters. Beyond this is a slightly less steep sand
and boulder slope with the occasional coral outcrop. There are two separate
crests. The first is shallow water and has a reef front which drops to a depth
of 5 meters. This is then followed by a wide, gently shelving slope which
extends outwards for several hundred meters.
Further outside, at the drop off, there are beautiful coral formations. The
unique cuttlefish as well as turtles and sting rays can be seen here quite
often. More experienced divers will appreciate the chance to get close up to
mandarin fish, frog fish and ghost pipe fish. With its combination of shallow
plateaus and steep slopes this little treasure island is a regular stop over
during our Open Water Diver Courses and experienced diver programs.
Located behind the ancient volcano of Bohedulang, Pulau Mantabuan is
approximately 3 km long and 1.5 km wide. It lies about an hour by speed boat
North-East of Semporna. The entire island is beautifully clean - almost no
flotsam on the clean beaches.
The island is totally uninhabited, and the ocean is calm and inviting for
scuba diving. If you are planning a day in the area, it is advisable to bring
along your own drinks and food, as there are no facilities available. Around
the island are a number of reefs:
Mantabuan West -The reef has two separate crests.
The first is shallow water and has a reef front which drops to a depth of 5
meters. This is then followed by a wide, gently shelving slope which extends
outwards for several hundred meters.
Mantabuan South-West - The South-West facing reef at the closest point to the
island is both shallow and narrow. The reef drops from the shallow crest to a
sandy bottom at 10 meters. A low tide reef is exposed and prevents even
shallow fraught boats from reaching the island.
Mantauban East - The Eastern reef borders on the deep water. The reef in its
shallower sections slopes quite gently but the angle of the slope gradually
increases. The reef top and shallow edges are mainly coral covered with a few
Its best dive site, the Black Coral Forest, can be found at the end of a
gentle slope at a depth 25m-30m. Here the precious coral can be found huge
bushes, ranging from white to neon green to purple in colour. Turtles often
can be found resting there, and whenever the current picks up eagle rays can
be spotted overhead. The huge coral boulders at shallower depth are excellent
places to look for lobsters, frogfish and a large variety of other coral fish.
At nearby Mantabuan 2, an underwater mountain that raises from 60m to a depth
of 10m below the surface, some of the best soft coral and large table coral
can be found, often with nurse sharks or blue spotted stingrays resting
underneath. Dive sites further to the north and west of the island on the
other hand are great to look for turtles, barracudas and a wide variety of
The Gaya Island Group
Consists of 3 steep islands separated by narrow, shallow channels that form
the left overs of a long extinct volcano with the rest of the crater being
submerged as a shallow reef. The island group used to be home of a
pearl farm and leftovers are still visible on one of the islands and at
several spots underwater. The shallow rim to the south has some excellent
coral growth which, according to well known marine biologist Dr. Natalie Wood,
easily outnumbers the species found at the Great Barrier Reef. There is a very
large number of small but rare fish that can be found here at depths ranging
from 1m to 20m. Larger fish like eagle rays and trevally can be found at the
northern side of the island group in the channel towards Mantabuan.
One of the last islands before reaching the Philippine' border from Semporna
and with 1h15min even further out than Sipadan offers some great visibility
and marine life that can easily compare with Sipadan.
Turtles are very common here, stingrays at certain points are plentiful. At
the favorite dive site massive schools of red snapper, large grouper, giant
travelley and very often eagle rays and manta rays can be seen.
Different kinds of sharks wait at the deep end of the wall but often come up
to shallower depth to look for prey. In the shallows there are plenty of rare
fish like ghost pipe fish, frogfish and blue ribbon eel. We also found several
pigmy seahorses at the deeper parts of the slopes. Experienced divers often
rate Boheyan better than Sipadan due to its visibility and great diversity of
Is located some 40min from Semporna NE of the Gaya Island Group and only
barely exposed during low tide. While the west side of the reef drops steeply
down to approximately 40m the east side slopes very gently down to 30m before
dropping another 10m to the sea floor. Coral growth is excellent on that side
and common marine life encountered include eagle rays, blue spotted sting rays
and whitetip sharks at the deep end.
Nurse sharks and lobster can also be found under large table coral. At both
the north end and the south end of the reef currents can be quite swift thus
providing a good chance to spot schooling fish like banner fish, blue trigger
fish and surgeon fish while manta rays sometimes pass overhead.
Located approximately 40min from Semporna and close to the island of Sibuan
this reef, similar to Kumai Reef, just touches the surface during low tide.
The north side as well as the east side of the reef offer excellent visibility
and great photo opportunities when using a wide angle lens.
Although fish life is somewhat limited the coral in the shallow area more than
make up for it. The steep slopes reach down to 60m and eagle rays can
sometimes be spotted gliding along in search of their prey. To divers with an
exceptionally good eye Church reef have some other interesting creatures to
offer, most notably electric rays and ribbon eels.
Used to be home to a small lodge for several years and its reefs are in
excellent condition. While turtles can be seen in numbers other frequent
sights include blue ribbon eels, moray eels, barracudas, lobster, large coral
trout and snappers.
Knowing where to look is the mean of finding the rare mandarin fish that are
common here, especially in the late afternoon.
Off the steep slopes eagle rays are sighted often while dolphin, marlin and
sailfish are sometimes seen just meters away from the boat. At the southern
end of the island a shallow reef that connects to the nearby Island of Timba-
Timba is great to look for rare marine life that includes large cuttlefish,
frog fish, crab, sea snakes and sometimes nurse sharks hiding under table
coral. It takes approximately 50min to reach Pandanan Island from Semporna.
Located app 40min from Semporna and 10min from Mabul Yoshie Reef is the point
where a long reef that runs along the edge of the Borneo shelf turns into the
outer reaches of the Semporna channel. Here some of the very best coral hard
and soft coral formations can be found in water as shallow as 5m. At the end
of a first slope at 20m a white sandy plateau is reached teeming with garden
After crossing the plateau which is some 30m wide a wall is reached which
drops from 25m to a depth of 40m-50m. Diving along this wall in blue water
blue triggerfish and banner fish are abounded while manta rays are frequent
sights further off the wall. At the bottom of the wall sharks can sometimes be
spotted on patrol while giant black blotched stingrays can often be seen
looking for octopus at the top end of the wall when crossing the plateau back
to the shallow slope.
This is an excellent dive site but due to its exposure to the open sea diving
there is only possible on calm days.
is the furthest island reachable from Semporna and depending on sea conditions
it can take up to 2 hours to get to this tiny islet. Therefore very few divers
ever venture there. Being at the southern most tip of the massive Ligitan Reef
currents here are by far the strongest encountered anywhere in the area.
While coral growth is only average the large number of rays, mostly blue
spotted stingrays and the much larger black blotched stingrays, but also manta
rays are very frequent visitors of the area. The shallows have other
interesting creatures waiting to be discovered, most notably spiny scorpion
fish, sea snakes and horseshoe crab.
Si-Amil & Denawan
Located south of Boheyan and more than an hour by speed boat from Semporna and
approximately 1 hour from Mabul Island at the North-East side. It is the only
island with a steep hill covered in rainforest that is home to a large group
of monkeys. A great variety of marine life can be found here: from the sharks,
turtles and barracudas in Sipadan to the gobies, nudibranches and frogfishes
in Mabul and Kapala.
Landing on the main beach of Si-Amil, the left over of a Japanese fish factory
that was built as a cover for surveillance activities prior to WW2 can be
seen. Right in front of the main beach there is the wreck of an old vessel
that was used by the Japanese during the war with the boiler being the main
point of interest.
At the east side of the island, where the ocean floor drops into the several
hundred meter deep Alice Channel, the dive sites offer excellent visibility
with colorful sea fans and hard coral domination the landscape. Electric Clams
can also be found here. At night bamboo sharks are seen in numbers, but even
in day time shark sightings are common as well as schooling rainbow runner and
The Timber Wreck
Is a large, app. 60m long cargo ship. In the early 1980s it was leaving its
harbour near Lahad Datu with a full load of timber logs for its destination
in Japan when a strong storm came up. The crew decided to pump some water on
board to stabilize the vessel but mysteriously never switched them off again.
As a result the vessel rolled over and came to rest at 30m depth. In the
aftermath the timber company whose logs were on the vessel managed to drag the
stricken vessel closer to a nearby island in order to salvage its cargo. The
wreck now lies on its starboard side with the bow at 24m and the stern at 5m
depth. A single log still remains in the hold to remind of its cargo. Because
of its size and depth it is excellent for wreck dives and reasonably safe to
penetrate into the engine room, crew cabins, wheel house and cargo holds. As
this wreck is nearly 2 hours from Semporna it is only conducted on special