There’s only a few places on earth were you can see huge schools of whirling barracudas that engulf you, large sea turtles of different species, lurking sharks, and jammed-packed reef of angelfish, triggerfish, morays and gobies all in just one dive.
At Sipadan you will see this with every dive, many divers bring home stories of large turtles, bigger then a Volkswagen Beetle, or even stories of large groups of hammer head sharks coming up from the deep blue depths. There’s no wonder why Sipadan is recognized as the best diving in Malaysia and amongst the best in the world.
Sipadan Island is a marine paradise for divers tucked in the Celebes Sea, 35km south of Semporna off the coast of Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia and is internationally recognized amongst divers. Unlike the other islands off Sabah’s coast, Sipadan is an oceanic island and was formed by living corals growing on top of an extinct undersea volcano, which rises 600m from the seabed. The island itself is covered in dense tropical rainforest and rimmed with stunning white sand beaches.
The location of Sipadan makes it the center of the richest marine habitat in the world, the heart of the Indo-Pacific basin. More than 3000 species of fish and hundreds of coral species have been classified in this ecosystem. Sipadan is well known for its unusually large numbers of green and hawksbill turtles and it is not unusual for a diver to see more than 20 turtles on each dive.
It also boasts a residential school of barracuda and big-eye trevally, which often gather in the thousands forming tornado-like formations, this being one of the highlights of every diver’s Sipadan trip. As if that is not enough, divers have the possibility of seeing pelagic species such as mantas, eagle rays, scalloped hammerhead sharks and whale shark; making each dive at Sipadan a thrilling event.
It is not only the big fish that amaze divers at Sipadan but the macro life is equally a highlight. Garden eels, leaf scorpion fish, mantis shrimps, fire gobies, and various pipefish are guaranteed at various dive sites. This diversity and abundance of marine life gives Sipadan its reputation of being one of the top five dive locations in the world.
The diving wonders of Sipadan are easily accessed from Mabul and Kapalai Islands. You are no longer able to stay directly on Sipadan Island, so if you wish to dive there you must stay on either Kapalai or Mabul and visiting Sipadan Island requires a permit. Since 2004 thee has been a daily limit on permits in an attempt to preserve and protect the island’s fragile ecosystem.
Permits are limited to 120 permits per day in total, meaning you should make arrangements far in advance if you wish to dive at Sipadan during your visit. The application for permits is done on your behalf by the dive shop you choose to dive with. The diving is quite good at the surrounding islands with more dive sites then you will be able to dive on a stay.
A recommended length of stay is 4-14 days and you may apply for multiple Sipadan permits, there is just no guarantee that you will get one. However, the minimum stay requirement for a chance to dive Sipadan is 4 days. Permits issued are only for Sipadan Island and you do not need a permit to dive around the other islands in the area.
Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Complete Guide to Diving Sipadan Island.