Sipadan Island – voted one of the best diving destination in the world. Judged to be among the top 5 diving locations in the world, Sipadan, called a divers Mecca, sits in the heart of the Indo-Pacific basin. It lies five degrees north of the equator in the Celebes Sea (Sulawesi Sea) just off the east coast of Malaysian Borneo, close to the borders of Indonesia and the Philippines.
Richest marine habitats in the world
Sipadan said to be the center of one of the richest marine habitats in the world. Rising 600 meters (2,000 ft) from the seabed, it is Malaysia’s only oceanic island, formed by living corals growing on top of a volcanic cone. More than 3,000 species of fish and hundreds of coral species have been classified in this ecosystem which has been growing for hundreds of years.
Swim with hawksbill turtle and barracuda
It is blessed to be surrounded by rich and teeming reef life consisting of both hard and soft corals and all of manner reef fishes.
Frequently seen in the waters around Sipadan are green and hawksbill turtles, enormous schools of barracuda normally in tornado-like formations as well as large schools of big-eye trevally, and bumphead parrot fishes.
Pelagic species such as manta rays, eagle rays, scalloped hammerhead sharks and whale sharks also visit this must-see (and experienced) dive site.
Diversities of marine and wildlife
It is not only the big fishes that continue to amaze divers coming (or returning) to Sipadan, the macro life is equally mesmerizing.
Divers are guaranteed to see garden eels, leaf scorpion fishes, mantis shrimps, fire gobies, and a variety of pipe fishes at various dive sites. The diversity and abundance of marine found at Sipadan gives it its reputation of being one of the best dive locations in the world.
Above water, the thickly forested island is home to tropical birds such as kingfishers, sea-eagles, sunbirds, starlings and wood pigeons. There are also fruit bats and monitor lizards and at nightfall a turtle may come and lay her eggs on the beach while crabs scurry into the water at the slightest sound or motion.
Also a bird sanctuary
Declared a bird sanctuary as early as 1933 and 2004, all accommodation facilities on Sipadan were timely closed in 2004 to further protect this pristine natural treasure.
Accessing & getting to Sipadan
While Sipadan location seems to be remote, it is readily accessible via different modes of transport. You can fly to Tawau from either Kuala Lumpur (3 hours) or Kota Kinabalu (50 mins); via Sabah, the normal point of entry is Kota Kinabalu or again via Tawau.
If you are arriving at Kota Kinabalu airport, you are probably flying in from Singapore, Taipei, Hong Kong or any other country of origin apart from Malaysia. For those flying from Kuala Lumpur, then you will have a choice of either to fly direct to Tawau or to fly via Kota Kinabalu and catch a connecting flight.
But before you depart for Sipadan, its best for you to identify to do a little homework on which resort you wish to stay. There is also a choice to go to Mabul or Kapalai neighbouring islands. Get your bearings right: Sipadan Island, Mabul Island and Kapalai Island are very near each other and these 3 islands are off Semporna town, East Coast of Sabah, Malaysia. Borneo.
The route from Tawau to Semporna
Resort operators will make arrangements to meet you at the Tawau airport and then whisk you off to Semporna by private van, which takes about 1 hour or so. The roads connecting Tawau and Semporna are good. Not much can be said for the scenery though just miles and miles, as far as the eye can see of palm oil plantations, an important crop feeding Malaysia’s exports.
Going Semporna via public transport
For those not wanting to take the private van or arriving at Tawau from another part of Sabah, it’s possible to take a public van like a bemo, from Tawau to Semporna. This ‘station’ is situated close to the marketplace. But be prepared to wait. No worries, this provides you to mingle with the locals and maybe sample some street food.
If you do not wish to fly on return to Tawau from Semporna, there are buses leaving for the larger towns in Sabah from the outstation bus terminal, e.g. to Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan.
Finally if you choose a more leisurely pace, you can spend a night either in Tawau or Semporna. Tawau is the bigger town compared to Semporna. But both offer unique experiences and excellent fresh seafood.
Where to stay in Sipadan
Sipadan Inn 2
Designed for both business and leisure travel, Sipadan Inn 2 is ideally situated in Semporna Airport; one of the city’s most popular locales. The city center is merely 0.1 km away and the airport can be reached within 60 minutes.
For sightseeing options and local attractions, one need not look far as the hotel enjoys close proximity to Semporna Airport.
At Sipadan Inn 2, every effort is made to make guests feel comfortable away from home. To do so, the hotel provides the best in services and amenities. The hotel provides family room, Wi-Fi in public areas to ensure our guests the greatest comfort.
Guests can choose from any of the 32 rooms, all of which exude an atmosphere of total peace and harmony.
Besides, the hotel’s host of recreational offerings ensures you have plenty to do during your stay. Discover an engaging blend of professional service and a wide array of features at Sipadan Inn 2.
Click here to out photos of Sipadan Inn 2
Borneo Divers Mabul Resort
Conveniently located in Semporna, Borneo Divers Mabul Resortis a great base from which to explore this vibrant city. From here, guests can enjoy easy access to all that the lively city has to offer. With its convenient location, the hotel offers easy access to the city’s must-see destinations.
Take advantage of a wealth of unrivalled services and amenities at this Semporna hotel. Top features of the hotel include safety deposit boxes, airport transfer, restaurant, meeting facilities, bar/pub.
Borneo Divers Mabul Resort is home to 30 bedrooms, all tastefully furnished to provide comforts such as desk, air conditioning, balcony/terrace, fan, in room safe.
Throughout the day you can enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of the pool (kids), massage, outdoor pool. Superb facilities and an excellent location make the Borneo Divers Mabul Resort the perfect base from which to enjoy your stay in Semporna.
Click here to out photos of Borneo Divers Mabul Resort
Sipadan, the diving island
For the experienced divers, you will be surprised if you haven’t been to Sipadan. It is probably a question of how many times you’ve visited this island. If you are looking for a new place to snorkel, you should make the trip soon. If you are neither and would wish to do some uninterrupted sunbathing, this is the place for you too.
And for those trying to find some novelty, there is a turtle tomb that 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 become lost and drown before finding the surface.
Sipadan Island – An Untouched Piece Of Art by Jacques Costeau
Sipadan Island was called by famous marine explorer Jacques Costeau as ‘an untouched piece of art’ in 1989.
Locals call this place “Pulau Sipadan”
Today, it remains a small slice of paradise, the waters around it considered to be one of the world’s ultimate scuba diving destinations, rich and diverse in marine life and breathtaking underwater landscapes.
Sipadan Diving Sites
Sipadan Island is known for its world-class diving destination.
In fact, if you are a diver, it is not to be missed, since it is truly among the world’s most remarkable.
The island is located in the Indo-Pacific Basin, a junction between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, which many marine scientists believe to be the place where majority of marine life in the Pacific evolved.
It is also one of the largest marine ecosystems in the world, home to over 3,000 species of fish and hundreds of species of coral.
There are a dozen diving sites scattered all around the island, of which the most popular are Turtle Tomb, also known as Turtle Cavern, Barracuda Point, South Point and Hanging Gardens.
The Origin of Turtle Tomb
Turtle Tomb is so named because it is made up of a labyrinth of narrow passageways, many of which are littered with turtle skulls and bones, which means you have to be a little brave to come here.
There are also plenty of live turtles to see, though, particularly green sea turtles and the attractive yet critically endangered hawksbill sea turtles.
The Barracuda Point
Barracuda Point, on the other hand, is named after its large population of barracudas, which swim alongside sharks, rays, turtles and even parrotfish.
The Sipadan South Point
South Point, located around the southernmost tip of the island, is also a good place to catch sight of sharks, particularly the rarer species.
The Hanging Gardens
Named after the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon, is better known for its astounding underwater topography – a steep terrace carpeted in soft corals of different colors.
Popular dive shops include:
Lot 28 1st floor Block E Seafront New Township
Tel/fax: +60 89-781866
PO Box 458
Block B Lot 36 Semporna Seafront,
Sabah, 91308 Malaysia
Tel: +60 89-785372
Fax: +60 89-785372
Seaventures Tours & Travel
Room 422-424 4th Floor
Wisma Sabah, Jalan Tun Razak
88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Tel: +60 88-261669 / 88-251669
Fax: +60 88-251667
Sipadan Water Village Resort
TB231 Lot 8 1st Floor Town Extension II (Wisma MAA Building)
91000 Tawau, Sabah
Tel: +60 89-751777 / 89-752996 / 89-784100
Fax +60 89-752997 / 89-784106
Lot 23 Ground Floor Hotel Sipadan Inn
Semporna New Township
91307 Semporna, Sabah, Malaysia
Tel: +60 89-919128 / +60 89-919148
Fax: +60 89-768531
Uncle Chang’s Sipadan Mabul Dive Lodge
P.O.Box 37 91307 Causeway Road
S.O.T.C. Semporna, Sabah, Malaysia
Tel: +60 89-781002 / +60 89-786988
Fax: +60 89-784002
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
Singamata Adventures And Reef Resort
Sea Fest Complex, Jalan Kastem,
Semporna, Sabah, Malaysia
Tel/Fax: +60 89-784828
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
Lot 16-2 Block B Damai Point, Luyang
88300 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Tel: +60 88-258448 / 268585 / 259191
Fax: +60 88 268996
No. 1 Jalan Custom 91307
Semporna, Sabah, East Malaysia
Tel: +60 89-782334 / +60 12-8650131 / +60 12-8385809
Sipadan Island Beaches
For non-divers, it is possible to just visit Sipadan Island and lounge on its unspoilt, white sand beaches, as well as swim in its crystal blue waters, although you have to keep in mind that the current can be strong and there are no lifeguards around.
Snorkeling is also possible, with various reefs located just a short distance from the shore.
If you wish to stay on land, you can also take a walk on the island, where you are sure to see monitor lizards, one of the world’s most fascinating reptiles, prowling around.
Trips to the island are arranged by dive tour operators, as well. When visiting, it is advised that you bring enough food with you, since there are no restaurants on the island.
Keep in mind, too, that there are no beach facilities here, with the government striving to preserve the island’s pristine, natural beauty.
Sipadan Island Dive Tours
If you are planning to go diving around Sipadan Island, you have to book a tour beforehand, as the number of divers allowed in the area per day is restricted.
There are no dive shops on Sipadan island itself but there are several based off nearby Mabul Island and Semporna, which is also where the nearest resorts are located for those planning on an overnight or longer stay.