Dive Trip Sipadan
Sipadan is ranked as one of the Top Ten diving destinations in the world. Being an internationally known marine paradise, it is famous for its rich biodiversity and immaculate coral reefs. Sipadan is located off Borneo Malaysia in Celebes Sea, approximately 35 kilometres north of Semporna Town which is about 45 minutes from Mabul island by boat. It is termed as Malaysia’s only oceanic island
Many divers go to Sipadan to experience the awesome barrier reef in South East Asia. It is termed as the world’s highest marine biodiversity and Number One diving destination. The barrier reef architecture were form on now defunct volcano. Coupled with the current, natural sunlight and deep ocean, it forms a perfect diving site to explore.
Sipadan was initially known as Siparan, named after a local group as the Siparan people and the Bajau ethnic group would often collect turtle eggs at this island. Sipadan was first discovered in the early 1980s but only found fame after the Calypso and Jacque Cousteau towards the end of 1980s when he produced a film titled “Borneo: Ghost of the Sea Turtle”, showcasing Sipadan’s beautiful reefs, teeming marine life and the Turtle Tomb which assimilated Sipadan unto the world geography and international fame. Shortly after, resorts started developing along the beaches, fronting toursim
Not much light was shed upon the history of Sipadan except it was ruled by the Sultanate of Muslim state – Sulu, which governed over many islands to the south of Philippines during the 1800s. The Sulu Sultan had allowed several tribal leaders from Dinawan Island the exclusive privilege to retrieve and trade turtle eggs from this island.
For many years, Malaysia and Indonesia were engaged in international political contention over the sovereignty over Sipadan island. However, you can see a lighthouse built by the Malaysian government in 1962 which is still erected today. It is the exact same lighthouse that allowed the Malaysian government to gain traction on its sovereignty dispute with Indonesia which was finalised and granted to Malaysia by the International Court of Justice in 2004. It is currently under consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
What to Expect in Sipadan
Internationally recognized as a world renowned diving destination, Sipadan is one of the rare sites in the world that allows you to experience dozens of turtles and large schools of macro fishes such triggerfishes, cuttlefishes, pygmy seahorses, barracudas, morays, mandarin fishes, jacks, bumphead parrotfishes, as well as hammerhead sharks, manta rays, white tip sharks at close proximity. Sipadan hosts hundreds of coral reefs types and more than 3,000 over species of fishes at its surrounding waters.
You can expect to see enormous and extraterrestrial wall filled with corals dropping to more than 2000 feet below the deep ocean floor. Diving in Sipadan island is synonymous with marine bio-diversity, you can expect to be surrounded with in an awesome array of underwater fishes. It is no wonder why Sipadan was touted as a Top Ten Diving Destination in the world.
Between the months from April to September, you can expect to see the critically endangered hawksbill turtles coming ashore onto the island to nest during this period. Clear visibility from the waters coupled with lush forests and beautiful white sandy beaches makes it a very pleasant place to visit.
Being Malaysia’s only oceanic island, Sipadan island rises directly to about 600 meters from the seabed, forming on a primeval volcano which is extinct. Its unique geographical location makes it accessible to many great dive sites. Visibility ranges from 20 meters to as far as 50 meters during the dry season.
There will be northern winds from January to February and southern winds from August to September. It causes some sea current movement and reduces the visibility to around 10 to 20 meters.
You can expect calm conditions from October to December and from March to July. The visibility is around 15 to 30 meters during this period. Temperature is usually nice and warm ranging from 26°C to 34°C (78°F to 93°F) throughout most part of the year. Dry seasons typically occurs from March to October allowing visibility to reach a high 50 meters. The raining season typically occurs from December to February. During this period, water temperature tends to drop and results in a decrease in visibility as well.
Best Time To Dive In Sipadan
It is possible to dive throughout the year in Sipadan although conditions may vary in different months. During the wet season months from November to March especially in January, you can expect sudden downpour of rain. Though less visibil, however, it is also worthwhile to note that it is during the wet and cold season that there is a greater opportunity to catch the larger pelagics such as manta rays, white tip and hammerhead sharks, etc.
It is highly recommended to dive between April to May as it has good overall conditions i.e. dry season, little current and good visibility ranging from 20 to 30 meters. You can also consider diving at the end of the dry season in September to October as well which offers optimal and excellent dive condtions. There are no issues with new divers diving at Sipadan Islands.
Regardless of seasons, many divers have dived during less than favourable seasons astonishing marine life, despite the conditions. The best timing to see turtles mating are usually right after the wet season transiting into the dry period. Hence, it is possible to enjoy diving in Sipadan throughout the entire year.
1933 marks the first step of declaration towards conservation of Sipadan’s wildlife bird sanctuary by the British Colony which is the reason why bird watching continues to be enjoyed by visitors today. The Sabah State Government took additional steps to conserve the wildlife in 1964 by placing a conservation plan to preserve the turtle eggs.
Sadly in 1996, Sipadan Island was badly hit by Tropical Storm Greg which annihilate the reefs and polyps located on the shallow ends. Algae started forming due to waste which spilled into the sea and suffocated the coral reefs. As a result, the Malaysian government made an effort to protect the reefs by imposing restrictions on the number of tourists that are allowed to visit the island. However, as this restriction was not productived as nothing was done to enforce it.
After Sipadan was voted as a Top 5 diving destination in the world in 1990s and became an interational renowned diving spot, tourism exponentiated and reached its peak in the late 1990s where there would be hundreds upon hundreds of divers visiting the island on a daily basis. The government intervened when it felt that Sipadan could not support this level of tourism activity. Many resorts were closed and structures removed on the island which resulted in the development of resorts in nearby islands instead.
The Malaysian government has placed a conservation protection and imposed a strict permit system in 2005 after it declared Sipadan as a protected marine reserve, limiting the maximum of divers visiting Sipadan to be capped at 120 pax per day. This is to ensure sustainability of the coral reefs. As a result, many resorts now require guests to book a minimum of 3 nights before they are granted a permit to dive in Sipadan.
Entry Permit Requirement
Sabah Parks, which is a Sabah Government agency is in charge of issuing the permits to Sipadan Island. There are only a limited 120 permits issued on a daily basis. When you stay wit the resort, the resort will assist to apply the permits on your behalf. Any unutilized permits for a given day will be returned to Sarah Parks for redistribution and issue to other resorts that may require the additional permits. This may allow you to obtain permits from other resorts at additional costs. Most resorts typically give priority for visitors with a longer stay duration, otherwise, it will use a round robin method to allocate and distribute the permits accordingly. It is also important to note that the permits are not allocated in advance.
What Others Say About Us?
I have known Brandon for 6 months and been on 3 dive trips with him. The experience was easy and hassle free. I was provided with detailed information and crucial elements for each trip. Brandon has great wealth of experience and knowledge having been to many of these dive locations. I have complete trust in Brandon and I highly recommend to use him when planning your next dive trip.
- Michael Fantin
There are a total of 12 diving sites in Sipadan, each filled with its own peculiar attributes. The dive sites are namely Barracuda Point, Coral Gardens, Hanging Gardens, Lobster Lair, Mid-Reef, North Point, Sipadan Jetty, South Point, Staghorn Crest, Turtle Cavern, Turtle Patch, , West Ridge, and White-Tip Avenue. Below are some of the key popular sites:
Barracuda Point is known for its swarm of barracudas that throngs in this area. You may even be able to spot the barracudas spiralling into a tornado like view. This site is about 3 minutes journey by boat towards the rightwards from the jetty. Currents may tend to be rather strong sporadically so this site is typically recommend for more advanced divers. If you are lucky, you may also be able to sight black tip sharks, eagle rays. Parrotfishes, trigger fishes among other common reef fishes could also be frequently found here.
Located approximately 10 minutes by boat towards the east of the island, Mid Reef is established as one of the most vibrant diving sites with emphasis accentuating towards the corals instead of the marine creatures. Diving typically will reach depths of approximately 15 to 20 meters. There are many lively and vivid sea fans along with exciting pelagic marine life such as nudibranchs and pipefishes, moorish idols and anemone fishes here.
Sipadan is located on the northern area. Upon docking the boat of the Sipadan jetty, you can dive straight into the ocean. There is a sudden drop off right into 600m of the sea below at the jetty beach, leading you unto an astonishing wall dive. You wiil be amazed at the gigantic wall fans as you descend alongside the wall brimming with both hard and soft corals together with schools of reef fishes such as mackerels, batfishes, barracudas, etc. You can even sight the occasional white tip and leopard sharks as well.
Girded by a ledge and wall dive with an expeditious drop down, South Point is located on the south eastern part of the island and accessible by boat with journey taking about 15 minutes via boat. Along the shallower depths, pelagic life such as bannerfishes, moray eels are commonly seen together with the occassional white tip reef sharks. If you are lucky, you can even spot the rare sharks like hammerheads and thresher sharks which usually hover deeper around 40 meters underneath the oceans. This site is filled with strong currents so it is more suitable for more seasoned and advanced divers.
Also known as the Turtle Tomb, the Turtle Cavern is known as an mysterious diving site. According to the locals, turtles come here to live their last days and die and thus, it is scattered with turtle skeletons. An intricate cave architecture lies about 20 meters down with a short dive on the right of the jetty. You can spot countless of turtles swimming here and hence, the name was coined as Turtle Cavern.
What Others Say About Us?
"We were well taken care of from the start to finish - thanks to Brandon. Brandon provided excellent and clear instructions every step of the way, and made sure all the logistics from the moment we landed to the designated diving resort were smooth all the way through. As a dive instructor, he kept stressing on safety and was able to manage a diverse group of divers. It was a truly memorable diving experience."
- Charmaine Chua
Getting To Sipadan
Nearest airport to Sipadan is the Tawau airport which connects directly to Kota Kinabalu International Airport. From West Malaysia, you may connect to Kota Kinabalu Airport via Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Kuala Lumpur or Senai International Airport in Johore Bahru.
International visitors coming to Sabah will normally arrive at the main international airport in Kota Kinabalu and transit to another flight into Tawau airport. Upon reaching Tawau, bus transfers will be available to transport guests towards Semporna and subsequently to Mabul via boat. Semporna is the nearest town to Sipadan and is located along the east coast of Sabah, Malaysia Borneo. You can only dive in Sipadan from nearby surrounding islands such as Mabul.
Sipadan is an extremely popular island and it is important to plan your visit in advance to avoid any disappointment. Busy periods are usually in March to Augest and also during the festive holiday seasons such as Christmas, New Year and Chinese New Year period.
- Luxurious PADI Dive Resort
- Private Transportation to and from the Ferry Terminal as well as Dive Sites.
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- Spacious and Comfortable Boats
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