Semporna region is fast becoming the paradise playground for the divers and snorkellers who come here for the crystal clear sea water and the mutlitude of marine life. With increase frequent flights from Malaysia Airlines and budget airline Air Asia to the Tawau airport, getting to the islands of Semporan are not so difficult these days. Apart from the immensely desired Sipadan island, this region offers plenty of other islands for the adventurous snorkellers to explore and Sibuan island is one of them. Located on the south west corner of a reef, Sibuan island belongs to a grouping of eight islands that formed the Tun Sakaran Marine Park. This marine park was gazetted in July, 2004 to give greater protection for its environment and its eco-system.
Sibuan island has a land mass of just 15.12 hectares, making it the second smallest island at this marine park. When view from the sky above, Sibuan Island is shaped like a chili, with the rounded head on the north and slim thin tail in the south. The whole island is surrounded by white sandy beach that on average is about three to four metres wide. In the southern end a sand pit is formed. Scientists believe that the island is slowly growing in this direction. The average height of the island is just one to two metres, and the island centre is covered with coconut trees, naturally grown. The whole island can be circled by foot in just under 35 minutes. When view from the sea, Sibuan island is truly beautiful with its white sandy beach and its swaying coconut trees, plus a few fisherman stilt wooden houses. It is not surprising that some people reckon that Sibuan Island is the most beautiful island in the Celebes Sea.
Fact file: Dubbed as the “Amazon of the Seas’, The Coral Triangle stretches from the Philippines archipelago on the north to the Solomon Islands in the south. These areas encompass the Sulu sea, Celebes sea, Sulawesi sea, Banda Sea, the Coral sea, and a small part of the Pacific Ocean. According to World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), The Coral Triangle has the most diverse collections of marine life in the world. About five hundred species of corals, and three thousand species of reef fish are found here. This kind of marine biodiversity is unmatched by any other places on earth.
Like all the islands in Tun Sakaran Marine Park there are no public facilities like toilet or washroom, so the call of nature will have to be done in true nature in the wild, and there are no park fees to be collected. Eight dive sites are frequently visited by divers on the outer edge of the reef, where the sea wall can drop down to 50 metres deep. Snorkeller will do best at the reef crest where more corals are concentrated. Many multi-layers of coral structures are easily spotted around here, as the different types of smaller carols are fused into the bigger ones, just like different houses building on top of each other. Some of the corals observed here are anemone coral, dome coral, staghorn coral, table coral, and delicate sea whip. Apart from corals there are sponges like barrel sponge, plate sponge and yellow fan sponge. Plenty of blue linkia sea stars and horned sea stars are found lying on many parts of the sea floor.
The corals here are not in perfect conditions as evidence of past fish bombing activities are noticeable. Corals have strong character, give them a chance and they will slowly but surely grow back. Take a swim around Sibuan island reef, one will see that there are many healthy colourful corals, big and small. Although fish bombing is illegal in Sabah, a small group of fishermen still carried out these activities from time to time. Hope the marine police will be more vigilant on this matter.
How to go there? Air Asia and Malaysia Airlines have a few daily direct flights to Tawau airport from Kota Kinabalu. Air Asia also has two daily direct flights from Kuala Lumpur. Then one would have to take a taxi (about one hour) from Tawau airport to Semporna, a coastal town. There are also daily buses from Kota Kinabalu to Semporna, which take about 9 hours. In Semporna, check in with the tour agents and take a boat ride of about 50 minutes to Sibuan Island. The day trip by speed boat from Semporna town to Sibuan Island will cost about RM 100 including meals.
Sibuan Island Gallery: