The essence of the highlights of Sipadan diving are the big fish encounters. Reef sharks and turtles are guaranteed, but the really exceptional encounters all involve the big fishes. You could find yourself surrounded by a wall of barracuda as they swim about you like a tornado; or watch the parade of bumphead parrotfish on an early dive. A sign at the entrance on the cave Turtle Tomb warns off all but the properly trained and equipped, but you are free to explore the sun-lit parts of the cavern. If you are lucky, you may spot a thresher shark, hammerheads or even some whales.
Accommodation on Sipadan Island
Located at the southern tip of Mabul Island overlooking Sipadan, Sipadan-Mabul Resort’s accommodation is made from native materials of Borneo and is on a twin share basis
- Rooms furnished with native materials of Borneo
- Ceiling fan
- Oversized single beds
- Flyscreen windows
- Private bathroom
- Hot and cold fresh water
- Private front balcony
An underwater video center provides underwater videography courses and services as well as rental of digital cameras.
The resort has 6 custom built fiberglass dive boats; 1 custom built wooden dive boat; and 4 half cabin passenger/transport/dive boats. These dive boats can carry 10 divers each and get to any of the island dive sites in about 15 minutes. Each boat goes out 3 times a day with a boatman and divemaster. The facility boasts 4 Bauer Compressors, 180 Aluminium 3000 psi / 80 cu. ft. tanks with American style ‘K’ valves. Also included, a 220 / 110V charging system for strobes and lights.
There are boats going to Sipadan Island 3 times a day, which is about 15 minutes away. The diving at Sipadan Island is limited though, due to government restrictions. Therefore each diver can only be allowed to do 2 dives per day and all divers will be diving there on a rotation basis. Dive sites and diving schedule will be arranged at the discretion of the resort.
Unlimited beach diving is available from the jetty of the resort and includes night diving (without divemaster and boat). Tanks, weights and weight belts are provided. All other equipment are available for rent if you didn’t bring your own gear.
Dive Sites in Sipadan
There may be no guarantees in diving, but let’s just say there is every chance that you can find yourself in the middle of a swirling vortex of chevron or blacktail barracuda at this north coast site, one of the most treasured spots for Sipadan diving.
Normally divers roll in to the top of the wall here, at a depth of about 10 metres. There may be some current but that means there is lots of food which duly brings in tons of fish – schooling bannerfish and redtooth triggerfish are prevalent in large numbers. Grey reef sharks are always patrolling the perimeter here and hunting for lunch, and great barracuda and dogtooth tuna are frequent visitors to this part of the island too.
Cruise along the wall dropping down as far as you wish, and keep an eye out for a herd of bumphead parrotfish and turtles in every nook and cranny. Eventually the wall will level out into a sloping plateau, where the barracudas often congregate. Here you can also find Napoleon wrasse and yellow-margin triggerfish. A word of caution though, don’t venture too deep to the north of this site as the currents can get very strong and sweep you downwards, out and away from the island.
The Drop Off is in many ways the signature dive of Sipadan Island. When Sipadan had resorts stationed on it, this site was a mere stroll off the beach where a 600 metre drop would welcome you to the underwater world.
The diving site is widely regarded as the best beach dive in the world. The photographs of Pulau Sipadan always include schools of fish (jacks / trevallies or barracudas) circling above the diver and you may think that this is purely for the benefit of the promotional literature. However within 5 minutes of entering the water you are likely to see several hundred jacks circling overhead and a squadron of bumphead parrotfish charging around. These can prove a serious distraction from the ubiquitous whitetip sharks, grey reef sharks and green turtles.
The wall itself has a wide variety of coral and sponges and although there is an astonishing line-up of large fish around, you will find the Drop-Off to also be a great night diving spot as every nook and cranny in the walls is worth investigating for crabs, shrimp and various other nocturnal sub-aquatic wonders
Descend slowly to your required depth down the vertical wall that forms Sipadan Midreef, then just drift along with the current, whichever way it takes you. Once you begin your dive, it won’t be long before you come across dozens of large green turtles, by now very habituated to inquisitive divers.
Drifting along the walls, you’ll soon be kept busy inspecting the dominant soft corals, navy knotted sea fans and orange gorgonian fans that hang from the ledges. Pygmy gobies and whip gobies are in abundance here. Forster’s hawkfish are often seen hanging out, resting motionless on the small sponges. 5-lined cardinalfish and harlequin sweetlips move furtively under the many ledges and overhangs. Sulu fang blennies, known only to northern Borneo and the Sulu Archipelago, form aggregations among the gorgonians.
As with nearly all the Sipadan dive sites, Midreef can have quite strong currents, with an added tendency to push you upwards too. This occurs most often in the presence of cold water thermoclines rising from the depths. The trade-off though is that the adverse conditions bring with them higher densities of fish life. Large schools of moorish idols, redtooth triggerfish, unicornfish and bannerfish race along the wall.
At this dive site, you will find yourself beginning with a gentle descent along the drop-off, followed by a gradual diagonal descent along the wall, at the shallow end of which there is a garden of staghorn corals. This site has brilliant light conditions during the afternoons which offers excellent illumination for superb underwater photography.
On the face of the wall, take a close look into the numerous crevices, balconies, cavities and protruding vaults where you will see a profusion of marine life which have made their home there. You will find red sea-whip corals, black corals, barrel sponges and a plethora of reef fish. In particular, watch out for groupers, nudibranchs, angelfish, gobies, grunts, shrimps and triggerfish. Due to the untouched nature of the Sipadan reefs, the coral formations have grown to huge sizes; the black corals in depths between 15 and 40 metres have bushes which have grown up to 2 metres wide.
Because of the variable currents which can be strong at this Sipadan Island diving spot, novices should stick close to the divemaster. However, more experienced divers with a yearning for adventure can strike out to about 30 metres away from the wall towards the expanse of open sea. Here, you will come across giant manta rays, scalloped hammerhead sharks, rare fox sharks and leopard sharks.
The Turtle Patch is located in the southeast corner of Sipadan Island, just to the northeast of South Point. Since it is located along the east coast, its wall is best dived in the mornings, however, the shallows are exposed to sunlight throughout the day
The best way of diving in Turtle Patch is just to let the current take you along the shallows, and then you can take in the scenery as it unfolds at its own natural and leisurely pace before your eyes.
This is because the main attraction for divers here is the shallow terraces at the top of the eastern wall. This is also the attraction for a large number of giant turtles that come here to rest on the sandy bottom or feed on the sponges. The turtles are so used to inquisitive divers that many seem oblivious to their attentions, and you really can get quite close without disturbing them.
In depths between 5 and 10 metres, you can observe dozens of green turtles feed on the edges of the wall, and encounter feather stars at every turn. If you are looking for an encounter with a wrasse then the humphead wrasse will oblige. Triggerfish of the clown and titan variety are plentiful
The reef shallows here is so lively, colourful and in good shape that you don’t really need to venture down the bordering wall, an ever-present at all of the Sipadan dive sites. Butterflyfish, such as the blackspot and teardrop, and masked and regal angelfish are present at every turn. Humpback unicornfish are easily found mating in pairs.
South Point is one of the most likely sites for the more rare sharks such as hammerheads and thresher sharks, both of which tend to stay at depths here of 40+ metres.
On this dive you will descend down to a ledge and fin your way out gently into the blue, scanning the waters for a glimpse of action. If you are lucky enough to encounter hammerhead sharks or threshers you will be the toast of the resort and the object of envy.