*In my books at least.
I’m on a holiday and I’m up this early to go diving.
By 0600h I was shoving down a piece for peanut butter toast down my throat, washing it down with coffee and making my way down to the pier, all in a half-asleep-mode. It’s clearly stated on the white board that the boat leaves to Sipadan Island at 0630h and it’s a day trip!
*Packed my gear the night before, as I did do the zombie walk to the pier.
Double check; got everything! And we’re off!
40 minutes later we’re on Sipadan Island and it certainly is a beautiful day to be diving out here. The water looks perfect: calm and clear. First things first, we have to sign up with the marine police on the island before we start diving. It’s mandatory.
*I desperately needed the toilet too!
The corals here are healthy with various colours imaginable. Truly it is beautiful. Sipadan is noted as one of the world best islands for marine biodiversity. One day its Hammerhead sharks and Reef sharks, the next its Whale sharks, Manta Rays and Whales. Diving with Schools of Barracuda, Jackfish and Bumphead Parrotfish is almost a sure thing around the island.
As Jacques Cousteau famously once said of Sipadan, “Now we have found an untouched piece of art”.
*I think the island is situated in the middle of some sort of marine-super-express-highway and that’s why you get to see a large variety of marine species that changes almost on a daily basis.
*If you’re super lucky, in the dry season… it can reach up to 50 meters!
We dived with over 70 sharks; Whitetips, Silvertail, Blacktip and even a Leopard shark!
And dropping into a school of Jackfish is awesome.
There is no point in looking for micro life here, as it is the big game is what you want to look out for. Plus Sipadan is known to have current, and down current in certain areas.
Only 120 permits are released everyday and these permits are allocated differently from one resort to another. Scuba Junkie has about 7 permits, but other resorts are known to have more. How they are located, I’m not sure but the bigger a resort the more permits they have.
*That’s my logic anyways.
So to dive Sipadan you’d have to apply for permits in advance and pay RM40 for Sipadan marine park fees. The restricted numbers of divers are due to the Malaysian’s Governments effort to minimize stress on the coral reef and marine life.
*Hopes of diving there everyday went out the window...
*Why we can’t explore the island? Keep reading…
The release of Jacques Cousteau movie “Borneo: Ghost of the Sea Turtle”, a documentary of Sipadan’s beauty and lush marine life, put the island on an international spot light. Subsequently Sipadan Island boomed with resorts on it soon after, with an increasing flow of tourist every year.
*But those years are long gone now.
In 1996 Tropical Storm Greg came along a damaged part of the coral reef system. To add salt to would, unfiltered waste from the island’s resorts seeped into the sea, choking coral polyps and allowing algae to take over. So in 2004, after much debate between Indonesia and Malaysia on who has sovereignty over the island, the International Court of Justice declared Sipadan Island to be part of Malaysia. With that, the Malaysian Government ordered all structures on the island to be removed by the end that year and in 2005 it was officially declared a protective marine reserve and the numbers of visitors are monitor.
*So that’s how we got to here with the limited amount of divers per-day to the island.
Located on the northern point of the island, the beach at the jetty suddenly drops straight down 600 meters to the sea floor below. As you swim along you will notice the hard and soft corals on one side as schools of barracuda, mackerel, and batfish swim by on the other. The wall’s overhangs are amazing but as you swim further along (providing that the wall is on your right hand) you’ll come towards Turtle Cavern.
Turtle Cavern/ Turtle Tomb
Almost every dive group goes into the Turtle Cavern to take a picture from the inside, looking out. But Turtle Tomb has to be one of the most talked about; plus having watched Jacques Cousteau’s documentary, even more so. About 20 meters down and just a short swim to the right of the Jetty is an extensive cave system. It is said that turtles come here to die, and certainly turtle skeletons can be found within. To dive into the vast cave system you’ll need to have a Dive Master's certification or cave diving as you can possible get lost in the vast system and die! So be warned!!
As the name suggests, this dive site is known for its large schools of barracuda. But instead of Barracuda, we swam with hundreds of Jackfish! Again, beautiful hard and soft corals along with black tip reef sharks, bump-head parrotfish, eagle rays, and triggerfish can be seen at this site. Watch out for currents, as it can get strong occasionally.
The site consists of a wall, a ledge at about 20 meters under with a sudden drop down. Here is where you’ll most likely come into contact with hammerheads and thresher sharks. Strong currents can also be found at this site so beware!
One of the most colourful dive sites on Sipadan, with dive depths of 15-20 meters. It’s filled with a spectacular colour play of corals! Colourful sea fans, Moorish idols, and anemone fish dominate the scene together with turtles. Here is where we came across a barracuda tornado. So don’t be too surprised if you see a school of Barracuda here instead of Barracuda Point.
Apart from these main sites, here is the list of other dive sites:
- Hanging Garden
- Lobster Lair
- Staghorn Crest
- Turtle Patch
- White-Tip Avenue
- Coral Garden
- West Ridge
View gallery for more photographs.
This video found on youtube would probably give you a better idea of the diving.