Church Reef

Church Reef
Exploring Church Reef. Photo by:

Church Reef and Kapikan Reef are both patch reefs (small, isolated coral platforms) that have no permanent island.

Church Reef and the reef at Sibuan Island form a linked unit in the north-west of Tun Sakaran Marine Park.

They have long been identified as having considerable potential for recreational diving due to the amazing biodiversity of the area.

The surrounding waters are usually crystal clear and water currents are generally slight. There is an extensive shallow reef top and back-reef, with coral-fringed and sandy-bottomed lagoons in many areas.

These areas are suitable for underwater activities including scuba diving, muck diving, snorkeling and free diving.

Things To Do

Snorkeling & Scuba Diving
Church Reef’s coral platforms are known for some amazing snorkeling and diving opportunites.

Marine life commonly found in the area include the mandarinfish and pygmy seahorses as well as feather stars, seafans, tube sponges and agariciids.

Several dive resorts/operators organize snorkeling and diving day tours to Church Reef.


There are no hotels or resorts on Church Reef or any of the other islands within Tun Sakaran Marine Park.

Most visitors to the island prefer to stay in the coastal town of Semporna, where accommodation and dive packages are cheap.

Alternatively, visitors also stay in Mabul, Pom Pom, Mataking or Singamata. Resorts on these islands frequently organize day tours to Tun Sakaran Marine Park.

Getting Here

Church Reef is located about ±35 minutes by boat from Semporna, ±25 minutes from Pom Pom, ±35 minutes from Mataking and ±1.5 hours from Mabul.


The rim of Church Reef has a circumference of about 7.5km. The reef rim is generally regarded as being steep on all sides.

The steepest section sits in the north-west, where there is an almost vertical wall with depths of up to 40m as well as caves and recesses going back about 1m.

The south-west facing outer reef has an interesting profile with a deep shelf. It drops off very steeply, often at an estimated 80°, with some parts being almost vertical.

A complex system of deeper lagoons is located towards the south-western end of the reef. The depth in these may be 10m or more, and they become almost cut-off at low tide by the outer reef crest.