Ever since I got my scuba diving certification I had a whole new list of places added to my bucket list. And since is ranked one of the top ten dive spots in the world, I had to go check it out.
Here is everything you need to keep in mind while planning a scuba diving trip to Sipadan.
Sipadan is said to have one of the richest marine habitats in the world with over a hundred species of coral and more than three hundred species of fish in the ecosystem. Pulau Sipadan is a tiny oceanic island located in the Celebes sea just off the east coast of Sabah (Malaysian Borneo). It was formed thousands of years ago when living corals grew on top of an extinct volcano. Barracudas, turtles, manta rays, eagle rays, hammerhead sharks, whale sharks, reef sharks, jackfish and the big eye trevallies are some of the big guys you can expect to see here.
Unfortunately for me, the weather played foul (even in the best season) and although I came for the hammerheads and whale sharks, all I saw were barracudas, a couple of turtles and a few parrotfish. ????
GETTING TO SIPADAN
In order to protect this spectacular marine ecosystem and growing popularity of this dive destination, the government has banned all resorts on Sipadan island and relocated them to surrounding islands like Mabul, Mataking, Kapalai, Semporna etc. From these neighboring islands, you can only take day trips by boat to Sipadan.
These are your options to get to the closest islands to Sipadan:
The best option is to fly into Tawau either from mainland Kaula Lumpur or from Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah (also has an international airport). Flights from Kuala Lumpur takes 2 hours 45 min whereas flights from Kota Kinabalu take about 50 minutes.
I flew with Malaysia Airlines from Kuala Lumpur and got the best deal on The journey from Tawau to Semporna, a port town closest to Sipadan, takes about an hour and a half by taxi. If you decide to stay in Mabul, Mataking or any of the other islands you will have to take a boat from Semporna town which might take longer, and therefore check the landing time for flights accordingly. Boat timings can be checked at your accommodation's help desk.
There are regular buses from Kota Kinabalu to Semporna. Take this option only if you are on an absolute barebone budget as the journey takes over 12 hours or so. This isn't a practical option at all unless you break down the journey in Sandakan.