Sipadan is the only oceanic island in Malaysia, located in the Celebes Sea off the east coast of Sabah. It was formed by living corals growing on top of an extinct volcanic cone that took thousands of years to develop. Sipadan is located at the heart of the Indo-Pacific basin, the centre of one of the richest marine habitats in the world. More than 3,000 species of fish and hundreds of coral species have been classified in this ecosystem. Sipadan has been rated by many dive journals as one of the top destinations for diving in the world.
Frequently seen in the waters around Sipadan: green and hawksbill turtles (which mate and nest there), enormous schools of barracuda in tornado-like formations as well as large schools of big-eye trevally, and bumphead parrotfish. Pelagic species such as manta rays, eagle rays, scalloped hammerhead sharks and whale sharks also visit Sipadan.
A turtle tomb lies underneath the column of the island, formed by an underwater limestone cave with a labyrinth of tunnels and chambers that contain many skeletal remains of turtles that become lost and drown before finding the surface.
Tropical and comparable to the weather on Sabah.
Getting in requires some effort. Most visitors fly to Tawau from either Kuala Lumpur (3 hours) or Kota Kinabalu (50 minutes), continue by minivan or taxi to the port town of Semporna (1-2 hours) and from there to Sipadan itself (1 hour by fast boat).
Walking along the beautiful sandy beaches, snorkeling sites on all sides of the island can be reached. Scuba divers usually will take a boat a few minutes from the beach to their dive site.
There are no restaurants, and dive tours bring their own lunch, snacks and drinks with them.
Note: it is no longer possible to stay on Sipadan itself. All resorts on Sipadan have been closed in order to preserve the island in a pristine state. Diving is still permitted and possible by day-trips from the nearby town Semporna.
Alternatively, there are also resorts on the nearby islands of Mabul (25 minutes by boat) and Kapalai (15 minutes by boat).
Another possibility is to "live aboard" in Semporna on MV Celebes Explorer with 8 cabins and a guaranteed Sipadan permit.
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