• The Island •
Diving & Marine Life • The Seasons • Getting There •
Located at the heart of the
Indo-Pacific basin, the centre of one of the richest marine habitats in the
world, Sipadan Island is noted as one of the top dive sites in the world. More
than 3,000 species of fish and hundreds of coral species have been classified
in this ecosystem.
Great for: Large animals, wall diving, drift dives and advanced divers
Not so great for: Wrecks, beginner divers and non-diving activities
Depth: 5 - 40m / Visibility: 10 - 30m / Currents: Can be strong
Surface Conditions: Can be choppy / Water Temperature: 26 - 30°C
Experience Level: Intermediate - advanced / Number of dive sites: 12
Distance: 12 km (25 minutes) south from Mabul and 10 km (18 minutes) southwest
from Kapalai / 90 minutes from Semporna
Access: Diving from Mabul / Kapalai resorts and Semporna
Recommended length of stay: 5 - 14 days, including the nearby islands
Sipadan diving legend has passed through the world's dive community to the
extent that all divers with an interest in visiting the best sites in the
world have this small island near the top of their wish list.
Pulau Sipadan Island was at the top of Rodale's Scuba Diving Magazine Gold
List for 'The Top Dive Destination in the World'. In fact the island shared
its top spot with two other destinations known for the amazing diversity of
their marine life - the Galapagos Islands and Truk in Micronesia. This feature
has won it "Best Beach Dive in The World Award".
The island is the crown of a volcanic island in the Celebes Sea. Formed
millions of years ago, Sipadan has coral reef covering almost 160 hectares. At
the northern tip of the island, just five miles of the shore, the sea suddenly
drops 850 metres.
is an oceanic island rising 2,000 feet or 600m from the seabed. Located in the
Celebes Sea east of the coast of Sabah, it was formed by living corals growing
on top of an extinct volcanic cone that took thousands of years to develop.
When Jacques Cousteau and his crew anchored his research vessel, 'Calypso'
here in 1989, he stated ' I have seen other places like Sipadan, 45 years ago,
but now no more. Now we have found an untouched piece of art',
With that documentary, it led to a sort of open season on the place – leading
to several resorts being opened on the tiny island itself with as many as 80
to 120 divers were on the island at any one time. This caused a toll on many
of the more frequented dive spots like barracuda point and south point and
divers, as rumours had it, were diving as many as 10dives a day!!!
This led to the authorities to close down the resorts and a ban on overnight
stays on the island. Divers now stay at resorts on nearby islands such as
Pulau Mabul, Kapalai and Mataking Island. Staying on these islands, divers can
dive either in the morning or after lunch or opt to stay the entire day on
Sipadan but sign up at your respective dive centres for separate dive groups
for the morning and the afternoon session. This will indicate to the dive
masters that you wish to stay on the island for
both dive times.
Diving & Marine Life
The list of attractions is quite staggering and all the more exceptional as it
involves plenty of big fish encounters - at Barracuda Point you can find
yourself surrounded by a spiralling vortex of barracudas, so large that the
sunlight is often clouded out. At South Point there are scores of reef sharks,
large schools of passing trevally and herds of massive marauding bumphead
parrotfish. This is one of the big fish capitals of the world!
When diving in Sipadan everywhere you turn you'll see turtles, munching on the
sponges and algae, or lazing on the wall ledges. If you take the time to look
closely at the walls you'll see a wealth of macro life and fish species to
rival most destinations, although this is often overlooked due to the other
major attractions vying for your attention.
not all resorts have boats going to and fro Sipadan twice a day especially
during low seasons. The boat rides can take from 25mins (from Mabul), 18mins
(from Kapalai), and 80mins (from Mataking).
Since the closing of the island, guests are not allowed to wander too far from
the jetty. The jetty is the converging point and rest area for all guests.
Sabah parks have stationed personnel on the island to safeguard the area. A
few of the abandoned resorts are used by the guards as posts. The rest are
left to the jungle.
A mysterious turtle tomb lies underneath the column of the island, formed by
an underwater limestone cave with a labyrinth of tunnels and chambers that
contain many skeletal remains of turtles that have become lost and drown
before finding the surface.
You can dive here all year round. Overall, the best conditions at Sipadan
Island exist from April to December, especially July and August.
Rainy season is between mid December and mid February The nice thing about
going during these months is that the is no rush and no hassles. Expect
however unpredictable currents and rains that seem to come from nowhere. Good
diving months are from months April till November. January to March can see
some unsettled weather and a decrease in visibility.
From Kota Kinabalu (KK) is a 45 minute connecting flight directly to the small
coastal town of Tawau. From Tawau you can continue your trip by car or bus (90
Mins) to Semporna. Sipadan is located some 35km(22miles) south of Semporna.
Sipadan - Dive Sites
Popular Dive Sites with Reef Basics: Barracuda Point - The Drop
Off - Midreef - Staghorn Crest - Whitetip Avenue - Coral Garden - Hanging
Gardens - South Point Reef - Turtle Cavern