Sipadan Island was not even in the world map until in the early 80s when a group of divers from Sabah stumbled upon this magnificent underwater world. After that slowly but surely Sipadan Island is on its way to International fame. Through the few that have been here and with words of mouth, Sipadan has steadily attracted divers from all over the world. Even the great Jacques Cousteau was in awe with its beauty, especially the abundance and diversity of marine life. Because of the Island enormous economical potential, Indonesia also laid claim to this small oceanic island, and in the years 2002 the International World Court handed the dispute to Malaysia.
baby turtles going for their first swim
Located 35km south of Semporna, on the south-east of Sabah, Sipadan is unique in that it rises up 600m from the seabed. Believe to be an extinct undersea volcano, and was formed by living corals growing on top of it. The geographic position of Sipadan also put it in the centre of the richest marine habitat in the world, the heart of the Indo-Pacific region. More than 3,000 species have been classified in this richest of ecosystems.
Notable residents at Sipadan Island are the reef sharks, baraccuda, napoleon fish, parrotfish, and school of jackfish. Almost every dive divers are going to encounter with many turtles, from green turtles to hawksbill turtles, and Sipadan is also where the turtles gather to mate and nest. One of the unique feature of Sipadan is the Turtle Tomb, an underwater limestone cave with multiple tunnels and chambers that contain many skeleton remain of turtles that became disoriented and drowned.
There are as many as 20 dive sites around Sipadan Island, which keep divers busy with dive after dive. One of the most memorial dive at Sipadan would be the Baraccuda Point, where thousands and thousands of barraccuda are seen swimming in unison, and at time forming a spectacular tornado-like formation. Other must visit sites are the Hanging Garden, Lobster Liar, South Point and Staghorn Crest. Hanging Garden has many fans like corals hanging on the sea wall, these colourful corals are very striking to the eyes. South Point is where the occassional sighting of Manta Ray, and Staghorn Crest is home to the crownfish, made even famous by the disney movies Nemo.
Seasonal visit of pelagics such as eagle rays, hammerheads shark, mantas ray, and occasionally whale sharks is an highly anticipated event. Sipadan is not only about big fish, divers are going to be equally mesmerised with various macro life like fire gobies, garden eels, leaf scorpionfish, mantis shrimps, and pipefish.
Since 2005 it is no longer possible to stay at Sipadan Island, the Sabah’s government has closed down all resorts and lodges that operated on the island for conservation purposes. Today most resorts and lodges are located at Mabul Island, which is about 25 minutes away from Sipadan by speed boats. As many as five 3-star resorts are operating at Mabul Island, most of these resorts have high quality services and comfort. For now only 120 divers are allowed to visit Sipadan Island per day.
There are daily flights (45 minutes) from Kota Kinabalu International Airport to Tawau Airport. From Tawau Airport another 45 minutes car ride to Semporna, and from Semporna jetty to Mabul island is two and half hours boat ride.
Also see Diving Quota at Sipadan Island