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Sipadan Dive Islands ~ Sipadan Island

History & People Kota Kinabalu Kinabalu Park Kudat Sandakan Wetlands Nature Retreats
Other Places Mantanani Island Pulau Tiga Danum Valley Pulau Layang Layang Sipadan Dive Islands

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.

REEF BASICS
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 - 30C
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



The 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
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.

Sipadan 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.


However 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.



The Seasons
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.


Getting There
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.


RELATED LINKS


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

 

 

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