"Dive Into An Underworld Paradise"
As Malaysia's only oceanic island, Sipadan Island sparkles with tropical flair. Among the top dive destinations in the world, a 600 meter drop-off zone plunges deep into the Celebes Sea to reveal coral-encrusted vertical walls and overhanging rock faces pocketed with abundant marine life.
A tiny and remote isle, the Sipadan Marine Park protects this natural treasure that harbors spectacular coral reefs, large open water species and flotillas of tropical fish. In 2004, the Malaysian Government removed all resort operators from the island and restricted diving to only 120 day users to preserve the fragile ecosystem from mass tourism trampling.
A dense forest surrounded by a circle of sandy beaches serves as a picturesque topside platform for diving into the underwater world of some of the richest marine habitats on the planet.
Imagine a population of over 3000 fish species interspersed among hundreds of coral varieties scattered like liquid rock gardens over the seabed. Called one of the "big fish capitals of the world", encounter schools of trevally and swirls of barracuda in between sightings of parrotfish, hammerhead sharks, manta rays, moray eels and much more.
A haven for green and hawksbill turtles, Sipadan Island teems with sea turtles at every turn, as they float over the watery landscape to feed on sponges and algae and rest on wall ledges.
Above and below the tropical horizon, Sipadan exudes an exotic adventure unmatched in its overwhelming immersion into the technicolor dreamworld of marine biodiversity.
Diving Things To Do
Sipadan Island: Nature Attractions
And with a choice of a dozen dive sites with names like Whitetip Avenue, Staghorn Crest, Lobster Lair and Coral Garden, there are plenty of places for new discoveries. Some of the more popular destinations are highlighted below.
On the north coast of the island, tornados of streamlined chevron barracuda engulf divers in a whirl of frenetic fish movement to prove the namesake of the dive site.
A favorite spot for most divers, the point also showcases schools of jacks, turtle sightings and a variety of sharks, including grey reef and white tip.
A coral wall and sloping plateau provide habitat for triggerfish, parrotfish and Napoleon wrasse.
South Point (Advanced)
Across the island and deeper down to 40 meters, hammerhead and thresher sharks are the coolest, but rarest, denizens of South Point.
If unlucky with sharks, the dive descends to coral gardens where bumphead parrotfish grind out a meal to feed their large one-meter long frame.
Of course the ubiquitous sea turtles are always a pleasant part of the scenery, with schools of fish and white tip sharks adding to the usual suspects on site.
Choppy surface conditions and strong currents may also challenge your talents on this steep wall dive to test your luck with the shark stars.
Turtle Cavern (Advanced)
A marine turtle burial ground, skeletal remains litter the cavern to underscore the hazardous life of these ancient mariners.
About 20 meters deep to the entrance, legend speaks of green and hawksbill turtles coming back to die here, but reality proves that getting lost inside is fatal.
For divers, the site can be complicated and local divemasters are recommended to accompany the group, especially if visibility is poor.
A unique experience that defines Sipadan Island as a special destination. The abundance of past and present sea turtles betrays the endangered status that threaten to wipe out some species in the near future.
Hanging Gardens (Beginner to Advanced)
Good for all divers, a coral wall plunges from near the surface to a terrace at 70 meters depth and into the open blue abyss.
Soft corals and gorgorian fans decorate the wall in a flourish of lavender, lemon and rose colorbursts to entice underwater photographers.
Each crevice and cavity creates a niche habitat for an impressive array of hawkfish, sweetlips, groupers, moray eels, emperor angelfish and gobies, with sea turtles and stingrays present too.
Explore the diversity of interesting microfauna hidden among the colorful camouflage to really get a sense of the evolutionary wonders of the reef.
Away from the wall, search for occassional sightings of hammerhead, grey reef and thresher sharks.
Sipadan Island: Photographic Gallery
Sipadan Island: Getting There
Travel by flight from Kota Kinabalu for the nearly one-hour journey to Tawau, and then a one-hour drive to Semporna. From the jetty, speedboats take about 40 minutes to reach Sipadan Island.
All arrangements must be made with your tour operator prior to arrival.
To protect and preserve the marine ecosystem and terrain, the Malaysian government requested all resorts and dive operators to move off the island in 2004. As a daytime dive site, Sipadan is open to divers ferried by operators in the nearby islands or on the mainland.
There are several excellent accommodations, including those below, to choose from that are within easy access to the dive sites at Sipadan:
[NE Note: A list of reputable tour operators and dive operators is scheduled for 2010. Comments and reviews are always welcomed too (Contact)]
Sipadan Island: Map of Dive Destinations
Photo: Sabah Tourism
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