Saturday, October 5, 2013

Mabul-Sipadan, Malaysia

The island of Sipadan rises as a pristine coral mount from the floor of the Sulawesi Sea to give an awesome 2000 foot wall dives, located in the Celebes Sea off the east coast of Sabah, East Malaysia. The Island is covered with a luxuriant, untouched rain forest surrounded by pristine sandy beaches. Since 2004, the government has evacuated all dive resorts from the island to aimed at conserving and maintaining a balanced marine and land ecosystem. The island is open for divers from 6am to 4pm - no night dives are allowed. The number of divers allowed to dive in Sipadan daily has also been limited to 120 pax in an effort to preserve the island’s pristine state. Lucky for me to be there before all this regulation was in place, now one has to pay a hefty permit to dive in this world class dive destination. Accommodation are available at the nearby islands of Mabul, Kapalai, Pom pom, Mataking or Semporna.

Mabul Island
Sipadan is well known for its unusually large numbers of green and hawksbill turtles which gather there to mate and nest. It is not unusual for a diver to see more than 20 turtles on each dive at Sipadan Island. The resident school of humphead parrot fish that sleep off the wall was a great encounter during an early morning dives. It was more of a shock and spooky encounter during a night dive when we bumped into some of them sleeping on the wall.

Sipadan Island

Dive sites
Another unique feature is the "Turtle Tomb", underwater limestone cave with a labyrinth of tunnels and chambers that contain many skeletal remains of turtles that became disoriented and then drowned in the cave. The cave has also taken many diver lives as they explored and got lost in it. A number of warning signage has been put out at the entrance of the cave. However there is a proper cave diving dive training one can take to explore the cave. :-)

Barracuda Point is where a diver may experience the thrill of swimming amidst schooling barracuda and big-eye trevally, which gather in thousands forming spectacular tornado-like formations. It was a thrilling encounter to swim in the school of thousand barracudas, I will never forget that moment!

Sunrise on the way to Sipadan
Hanging Garden and Coral Garden are sites full of black coral, giant sea fans and sponges hanging on the wall. Almost every dives, we saw lazy white tip reef sharks resting on the shallow floor. The macro life is equally amazing. Garden eels, leaf scorpion fish, mantis shrimps, nudibranch, and various pipefish can be found.

Mabul Island has it takes of macro life as well, guaranteed to see frogfish of all colors, nudibranch, crocodile fish, scorpion fish, ribbon eel, mantis shrimp, snake eel, sea horse, mandarin fish, cuttlefish and many more. The island has now bloomed with resorts and budget homestays that provide diving facilities. In order for one to dive in Sipadan, you must stay for a minimum of 2-3 nights, it is advisable that you book up front for the permit. Don't miss the chance to dive in Sipadan! You will never regret it as a quote from Jacques-Yves Cousteau “I have seen other places like Sipadan 45 years ago. Now we have found again an untouched piece of art”. :-)

Travel date :  15 - 20 May 2003
Travel route : SG -F-> Tawau  -> B -> Mabul
Accommodation and diving : Sipadan-Mabul Resort (
Type of diving : Reef, wall, muck
Water temperature : 28-30°C
Best time to dive : All year diving

 -F-> Flight -B-> Boat -C-> Car

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