Budget travel DIVING Malaysia Sipadan Southeast Asia Travel

Dive Sipadan a traveling instructor’s guide

Dive Sipadan a traveling instructor's guide

Sipadan is residence to the greatest diving in Borneomany say on the earth. Well-known for enormous faculties of fish, spiraling barracudas, large inexperienced turtles and education reef sharks, diving within the pumping present right here is spectacular. I used to be very lucky to remain on this magical space for three months doing lots of of dives. I hope this information helps or evokes you to discover what the good Jacques Cousteau stated about: “I’ve seen different locations like Sipadan, 45 years in the past, however now no extra” when he was mesmerized by this place.

What makes Sipadan so spectacular?

The island is a volcanic pinnacle coated in coral, dropping 600 meters straight right down to the ocean flooring. It’s troublesome to explain the quantity of marine life right here with out sounding like you’re exaggerating. Many large inexperienced turtles and hawksbill turtles swim all-over the place beginning within the shallows, nonetheless on prime the top herds of tons of of giant bumphead parrot fish come by swimming in-line, descending on the wall passing sharks retains your digital camera firing, there are resident faculties of hundreds of jackfish that somebody can disappear in, gliding over the reef within the pumping present Sipadan is legendary for huge resident faculties of barracudas, forming a vortex or barracuda twister round you with some luck. You possibly can actually run into virtually something on this sea mount, that is only a typical day.

Here I am inside a school of thousands of Horse-eye Jacks.Right here I’m inside a faculty of hundreds of Horse-eye Jacks!

Sipadan Island Diving

Pulau Sipadan on the north east coast of Malaysia Borneo turned well-known when diving legend and ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau described it as the most effective dive spots on the planet.

As we speak you can’t keep on Sipadan Island, a lot of the resorts are situated on Mabul and Kapalai islands an hour or so away by boat. A allow is required to dive across the island and that is strictly policed by armed guards. Your choices are to remain in Semporna city the place there’s some actually low cost lodging or to remain on the nearer Mabul or Kapalai which is extra expensive and dive from there.

In case you keep on the close by islands you are able to do many dives round Mabul and Kapalai on a regular basis and go to Sipadan for one full day, 2 in case you are very fortunate. The diving round Mabul and Kapalai islands are wonderful, very totally different from Sipadan, but in addition world class diving.

As much as twelve years in the past diving Sipadan should have been an expertise that no different location can match. From the primary seashore to the highest of the reef wall it is just about 20 metres. A lot of the resorts have been situated on Sipadan Island till 2004. You possibly can stroll out of your room, gear up and bounce into the Drop Off!

Unreal for diving however research confirmed that the reefs and marine life weren’t dealing with the stress brought on by too many divers. The Malaysian Authorities determined to guard the reefs and knowledgeable all resorts to relocate away from Sipadan Island in 2004. Since 2006 a allow is required for all divers eager to dive across the island.

dive sipadanOne among greater than 20 turtles we noticed this present day diving round Sipadan.

Attending to Sipadan

You first should get to the city Semporna on Borneo island, there’s not a lot to do right here and it’s primarily referred to as the gateway to the encompassing islands. Most individuals get right here by flying from Kuala Lumpur (IATA:KUL) or Kota Kinabalu (IATA:BKI) to the airport in Tawau  ( TWU, WBKW), Malaysia Airways and AirAsia function day by day flights. From Tawau journey overland to Semporna, there are a number of choices; public bus is the most cost effective or you’ll be able to go by taxi (about $40) or minibus for $25 Transport from Tawau to Semporna city. You may as well get from Kota Kinabalu to Semporna by public bus.

The switch from Tawau to Semporna takes 90 minutes From Semporna, to Mabul Island by resort velocity boat takes about 45min.

Easy methods to get a Sipadan  diving allow

Hundred and twenty permits are issued to the 12 surrounding resorts every day, bigger resorts get extra permits. Every allow permits a diver to dive for a day at Sipadan Island.

Throughout peak seasons, when the resorts are full, there could possibly be greater than 500 visitors collectively within the resorts, 120 permits will not be sufficient on most days. Permits will not be issued on a ‘first come, first serve’ foundation, however by a rotation system Learn Right here how the rotation system works.

The most typical tricks to get a allow are:

  • Keep longer on the resort (greater than three days, lengthy as attainable)
  • Guide as early as potential.
  • Avoiding peak seasons.

My principal tip When you didn’t have a confirmed allow, inquire in any respect the resorts, ignore anyone telling you that you’ll by no means discover a allow on such brief discover. The primary resort I dived with had no permits and informed me it will be no less than a 2 week wait. I dived round Mabul with them for a day, went again to Semporna and walked to each dive middle. I might select between three dive facilities to dive with by the top of the day and even obtained a job supply from one, it was the beginning of working as a dive teacher for three months from Mabul for me!

Black tip reef shark swimming over the beautiful reef at Sipadan.Black tip reef shark swimming over the gorgeous reef at Sipadan.

Resorts and dive faculties with Sipadan permits.

  • Seaventures Excursions and Journey
  • Sipadan Mabul Resort
  • Sipadan Water Village Resort
  • Borneo Divers and Seasport
  • Borneo Jungle River Island Excursions
  • Dive Semporna
  • Bharman Sipadan Dive Safari & Seasport
  • Celebes Explorer Liveaboard
  • North Borneo Dive and Seasports
  • Pulau Sipadan Resort
  • The Reef Dive Resort and Excursions
  • Roach Reefs Resort

Can newcomers dive Sipadan?

There are lots of myths surrounding qualifications required to dive Sipadan, technically you do not want a complicated qualification or a specific amount of dives. After your openwater course you’re licensed to dive Sipadan. A few of the sights, notably Barracuda level are drift dives, with robust currents; the water subsequent to the reef could be very deep which suggests it may be harmful for a beginner diver. Should you should not have good buoyancy talent you possibly can hurt the valuable reef. Your openwater qualification permits you to dive deep sufficient (18m) to see the preferred points of interest round Sipadan, the barracudas, the bumpheads, the reef sharks and the large eye trevally.

You’re certified to dive right here with an open water qualificationuse your personal judgement to assume in case you are able to dive a harder spot, ask your teacher if he thinks you’re prepared. Additionally in case you dive with an excellent dive chief in small teams it’s safer for inexperienced divers. Some operators may require both a complicated qualification or proof of 20 logged dives, so simply verify together with your faculty of selection earlier than signing up. It’s all the time good if you are able to do your superior course following your open water, it provides you extra expertise and also you study worthwhile expertise through the specialty dives.

A typical day at Sipadan, I shot this video on my final day diving earlier than I left Mabul:

Sipadan Diving Package deal

Because of the restricted quantity of permits obtainable most dive facilities require you to stick with them for a few days and dive totally different websites to get one in every of their Sipadan permits. All resorts have totally different Sipadan Diving Packages, these packages are made up of lodging, Sipadan dives and non-Sipadan dives. Often you’ll do the non Sipadan dives round Mabul and Kapalai on today and dive Sipadan in the future, relying on the supply and size of your keep. 

We point out for many resorts what the required size of keep is to qualify for a Sipadan allow. The diving on these reefs are wonderful with a number of the most incredible and weird little critters within the ocean. Many frog fish, flamboyant cuttle fish, crocodile fish, ghost pipefish, mantis shrimp, sea horses and extra could be seen on these world well-known muck diving websites.

dive mabulMantis Shrimp, Mabul Home Reef.

Sipadan Snorkeling

Sipadan is a great spot for snorkeling/freediving. I feel 15 years in the past earlier than permits there should have been many vacation goers staying on Sipadan snorkeling. The shallow a part of the reef, near the island is lower than 5m deep, right here you possibly can see many huge inexperienced turtles near the floor, spectacular coral, big clams and herds of large bumphead parrot fish swim on this shallow water. Reef sharks, hundreds of barracudas and large eye jacks swim by near the sting of the place the reef drops in to the deep, they often come fairly shallow and you’ve got a superb probability of seeing them snorkeling.

If in case you have some freediving expertise and you may snorkel deeper down the wall you will notice big jacks, sharks and recreation fish.

The issue with discovering a snorkeling website is the few permits obtainable, divers and snorkelers use the identical allow and since diving is costlier most operators don’t take snorkelers since it isn’t worthwhile sufficient. I do know Uncle Chang typically took snorkelers alongside.

Diving Sipadan. A School of massive bumphead parrot fish grazing on top of the reef.A Faculty of large bumphead parrot fish grazing on prime of the reef. Shallow sufficient to be surrounded by these large fish whereas snorkeling.

Marine Life round Sipadan

Most skilled divers place Sipadan excessive on their bucket record. Some of the numerous and guarded dive websites on the planet with greater than three,000 species of fish and a whole lot of coral species recognized. On a typical day you’d see many large inexperienced and hawksbill turtles, greater than 20 is widespread on an excellent dive.

It is going to be a wierd day that you don’t see many sharks diving right here, white tip reef sharks and gray reef being the most typical, however optimistically many divers see scalloped hammer heads on these magnificent wall dives. Eagle rays and satan rays usually are not all the time seen, however are fairly widespread and mantas additionally present up every so often. The large residential faculties of jackfish and barracudas are the usual spotlight diving round Sipadan and are virtually all the time seen, hundreds of jackfish engulfing you and large faculties of Barracuda everywhere.

The Barracudas solely typically type the basic vortex, surrounding you in a barrracuda twister, a well-liked factor to do is to take a reef hook, an enormous hook with a bit of rope hooked up, when you’re flying within the present and the barracudas come by, you connect the hook to a rock (not coral!) and grasp within the present with hundreds of barracudas swiming by. I really like seeing the herds of bumphead parrot fish grazing on the reef, these large fish often swim in a straight line consuming coral on the one finish and pooping non cease on the different, creating good white sand. The divemasters that labored with me from Mabul have seen a whale shark right here, it’s actually a type of locations the place something can occur, however this can be a uncommon prevalence.

With the pumping currents and pelagic and large animal motion many individuals by no means even actually look down, however the coral, number of nudibrances, small reef fish and large cucumbers and sea stars, moray eels, lion fish and extra on the reef round Sipadan are really spectacular.

sipadan barracuda point stingy nomadsBarracuda Level, Sipadan.

Sipadan Island resorts

Since Pulau Sipadan is a protected space all Sipadan resorts are situated at close by islands of Mabul, Kapalai and Mataking. The most cost effective method to dive right here is to remain within the city of Semporna, there’s not a lot to do right here and I didn’t just like the city. You possibly can nonetheless dive at Sipadan even when the resort you’re staying at doesn’t have permits. All dive operators dive round Mabul and Kapalai and dive operators that should not have Sipadan permits immediately from the federal government might get hold of one for you at a premium or e-book that day with a dive operator who can.

Instructors and dive leaders in any respect resorts come and go, learn current critiques.

Finances Sipadan Diving Resorts

Uncle Chang Sipadan Mabul Dive Lodge

  • 7 Sipadan Diving permits
  • TripAdvisor 24% Wonderful out of 305 critiques

Uncle Chang’s is a price range resort and one of many least expensive locations to dive with on Mabul. This regionally owned picket lodge is constructed on stilts over the ocean. There’s quite a lot of lodging, dorm rooms, double, household rooms and seaview chalets obtainable. I labored as an teacher right here for three months a few years in the past. It’s a price range lodge, learn current TripAdvisor evaluations, there have been some very competent instructors and dive masters working with me on the time. You will get a allow to dive Sipadan with out diving a minimal quantity of days as is required by many resorts.

Resting at Uncle Chang's dive resort following an awesome dive.Resting at Uncle Chang’s dive resort following an superior dive.

Billabong Scuba

  • 6 Sipadan Diving permits
  • TripAdvisor 24% Wonderful out of 305 critiques

Billabong Scuba is homestay chalets constructed over the ocean and is one other finances resort. Rooms differ between primary and extra luxurious with on-suite loos and air-conditioning. One other resort the place you will get a allow to dive Sipadan with out having to dive Mabul and Kapelai for a few days with them.

Price range Lodges on Mabul with out Sipadan Permits.

Mid-range Mabul resorts

Seaventures Dive Rig Resort

  • 11 Sipadan permits
  • TripAdvisor 68% wonderful from 536 evaluations

Seaventures scuba oil rigSeaventures Scuba Oil Rig Resort. Take the carry down and you’re in a tremendous dive website!

Seaventures is a Dive Resort with a distinction, comprised of a transformed oil rig providing the right location for continuous diving. Right here the whole lot is about diving with limitless diving on the wonderful dive website under the rig, simply take the carry down and bounce in. Seaventures is a PADI 5* IDC Resort providing technical diving, cave diving is completed at Sipadan’s well-known Turtle Tomb! The resort has 28 air-con twin and double rooms and a couple of bigger VIP Household rooms. To qualify to get a Sipadan allow you need to stick with them for at the least three days.

Scuba Junkie/Mabul Seashore Resort

  • 7 Sipadan permits
  • TripAdvisor 64% wonderful from 766 evaluations

Scuba Junkie is considered one of a brief chain of dive resorts. I stayed in Scuba Junkie on Mabul for two or three days and paid their bar frequent visits staying on Mabul. The resort caters for backpackers with dormitory lodging, however it’s costlier than the finances resorts and are nearer to western requirements.The Mabul resort consists of 24 ensuite rooms located on the beachfront. Scuba Junkie additionally operates Scuba Junkie Backpackers based mostly in Semporna. The resort is likely one of the extra eco-friendly on the island with inexperienced waste techniques, photo voltaic power and utilizing biodegradable merchandise. You must keep a minimal of three nights to dive Sipadan with Scuba Junkie.

Borneo Divers Mabul Dive Resort

  • 14 Sipadan permits
  • TripAdvisor 38% wonderful from 277 critiques

Borneo Divers is a medium price range resort with 30 tropical-themed chalets every with clear, huge rooms. The resort has a pleasant backyard and delightful white seashore and a well-liked home reef, your keep consists of limitless shore dives right here from the jetty. The personal seashore in entrance of the resort is a superb place for swimming, snorkeling or for sunbathing, with the added luxurious of a swimming pool space and a jacuzzi.To dive Sipadan with Borneo Divers it’s a must to stick with them for three nights.

Luxurious Resorts for Sipadan diving

Sipadan-Mabul Resort (SMART)

  • 14 Sipadan permits
  • TripAdvisor 32% wonderful from 40 evaluations

Sipadan Mabul Resort is a luxurious resort situated on a  beautiul white sandy seashore on the south east aspect of Mabul, the resort has 45 superbly designed picket air-con chalets. The resort has two distinct sections, the Water Bungalows that are lovely and costly or the Chalets that are good and affordable. Sipadan-Mabul Resort is a PADI Gold Palm Resort. The dive centre  additionally presents TDI technical diving programs. There’s limitless shore diving from the jetty and the native home reef gives some unbelievable muc diving. Different  amenities on the resort embrace a swimming pool, a jacuzzi whirlpool spa, therapeutic massage providers and ocean kayaking gear for lease.

Sipadan Water Village

  • 14 Sipadan permits
  • TripAdvisor 34% wonderful from 200 evaluations

Sipadan Water Village is a luxurious resort standing stilts on the island of Mabul. Fringed by white sand seashores and having 2 well-known dive websites on the home reef makes for wonderful shore diving! Select from four Grand Deluxe chalets, 2 Deluxe chalets and 29 Normal chalets on this prime luxurious resorts.

Kapalai Dive Resort

  • No Sipadan permits
  • TripAdvisor 66% wonderful from 579 evaluations

Kapalai Dive Resort is a luxurious water village constructed on stilts over the sandbanks of the Ligitan reefs and situated solely a brief experience by boat from Mabul islands From this snug, sunny water village there isn’t any land in sight, you possibly can stroll or sunbath alone on a mile-long sandbank on the resort. The native home reef provides wonderful diving, with many massive fish, Moray eels and unbelievable macro life ghost pipe fish and frog fish. For those who keep longer than three days you could have a superb probability of a Sipadan allow being organized for you.

There are many black tip reef sharks swimming all around the island.

There are various black tip reef sharks swimming throughout the island.

Dive Insurance coverage

Considering of issues that may go flawed an excessive amount of can put a damper in your journey, however there are apparent dangers. Many dive places are distant with minimal medical amenities. Accidents do occur, be ready. World Nomads journey insurance coverage covers vacationers from most nations all over the world and canopy may even be organised when you are touring. They focus on masking journey actions like diving. Ensure you take out the suitable cowl. Get a on-line quote in seconds. Have your journey, your well being and your gear coated, learn the small print. World Nomads Diving Insurance coverage

All particulars and recommendations on packing for this dive journey you’ll discover on this publish. ↓ ↓ 

Sipadan diving season

Diving at Sipadan is implausible all yr spherical.

  • One of the best time is from April to December with wonderful sea circumstances. April till early of June being the right time however that is additionally the Excessive season so make resort bookings prematurely.
  • From January to March, there may be heavy rainfall and decrease visibility.

Sipadan Island Diving Websites

There are 11 generally dived websites round Sipadan island, all are Wall Dives. The next are temporary descriptions of a few of the websites and marine life you’ll be able to anticipate to see.


Proper towards the shore, about 10m away the wall right here drops 600m straight to the ocean backside, when there have been nonetheless resorts on the island this was one of the best shore dive on the planet. An enormous number of coral, many turtles abound and a mess of lionfish & smaller reef dwelling fish stay on this wall. The doorway to the turtle cave is at about 20m down on this website. This unimaginable cave goes during the island. To be explored you want cave coaching. There’s resident Big Barracuda and a few white ideas that may typically be discovered near the doorway. There’s a  large resident faculty of hundreds of Massive Eye Trevally hanging round about 100m from  the mouth of The Turtle Cave.


On the other finish of the island to Barracuda Level. Robust present usually current at this website. Diving within the present right here can take you thru  three of the marked websites. The place to see pelagics! Very giant shoals of Barracuda, Jacks, Sharks and lots of turtles usually feed right here.

turtle diving sipadanCertainly one of greater than 20 turtles we noticed today diving round Sipadan.


Great place for images. This wall is roofed in a mess of sentimental coral. Hawksbill & Inexperienced Turtles reside on the ledges at this website and the present is often fairly calm.


Well-known for being residence to an enormous variety of Hawksbill & Inexperienced Turtles. Many reef sharks additionally frequent this website.

A herd of bumphead parrot fish grazing around turtle patch.A herd of bumphead parrot fish grazing round turtle patch.


That is probably the most well-known website at Sipadan and the place to see giant faculties of pelagics; Barracuda, Jacks, Gray and White Tip Reef Sharks. Present is robust. It’s a fast paced, giant faculties of fish.


Many Black & White Tip Reef Sharks, Gray Sharks, large Inexperienced & Hawksbill Turtles in addition to giant shoals of Jack & Barracuda.

Beneficial gear for Sipadan

All pictures have been taken with my trusty Canon G12, this has lengthy been discontinued and changed with the superior Canon G7x I’ve used a number of underwater housings and can all the time advocate an ikelite housing for a digital camera on this worth vary. I’m utilizing my Go Professional typically, I’m tremendous happy with my Hero 6 which has just lately been changed by the Go Professional Hero 7 additionally, you will want a Scuba Go well with housing to dive deeper than 10m together with your Go Professional.

Listed here are some small issues value packing, Sipadan is drift diving I by no means dive with out my SMB on such dives!


My Dive Sipidan story

Travelling round South East Asia for a yr or two  diving Sipadan was excessive on my To-Do-list. I arrived at Mabul island to dive Sipadan. Whereas purchasing for a nicely priced dive operator I used to be provided  a job as a Scuba teacher on Mabul Island. Working right here, getting paid to see a few of the world’s most alien creatures each day and  dive these superb locations was an unreal expertise!

#sipadanEducating at Mabul, these huge inexperienced turtles have been all the time highly regarded, my college students liked them and preserving their consideration when these guys confirmed up was all the time a mission.

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