Diving in Sipadan

As announced by the Malaysian authorities in 2013, only Advanced Open Water Divers or Open Water divers with a minimum of 20 log dives are allowed to dive in Sipadan. This is likely due to strong currents present at some of the dive sites as well as instances of novice divers descending too deeply and/or rapidly.

Sipadan Diving

At least one full day is always required for diving or snorkeling in Sipadan.

For this reason, guests are usually requested to stay 3 days or more (as diving on arrival and departure day is not possible).

It is only permissible to be on the island at certain times of the day (usually between 08:00-16:00). As such, dive operators will begin and end your dives around the island during this time frame.

You’ll get at least 2-3 dives in Sipadan, and will usually share a boat with other divers or snorkelers.

Sipadan Island is located just 15-20 minutes by speedboat from Mabul and Kapalai, and roughly 80 minutes away from Mataking.

Sipadan Permits

In an effort to protect the island’s pristine state, a permit system for visitors was put into place by the Sabah Parks authority in 2006.

All visitors to the island now require permits, which are issued to just 120 visitors per day for snorkeling or diving.

There are 12 hotels and resorts that have been officially granted Sipadan Permits by the government. All 12 resorts are respectively located in Semporna, Mabul, Kapalai and Mataking. (More info: Sipadan resorts with permits)

During peak periods, there could be as many as 600 guests staying in all the resorts. As a result, not everybody who stays at a resort is guaranteed a permit.

How to increase your chances of getting a Sipadan Permit.

When to visit

Sipadan diving may be experienced at any time of the year, as the island isn’t affected by the monsoon.

The dry season is the most popular among visitors (March right up to October), where visibility is the highest.


All hotels and resorts in Sipadan were closed and relocated to neighbouring islands in 2005 in order to maintain its exceptional marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

Visitors now stay in nearby hotels and resorts in Mabul, Kapalai, Mataking or Semporna and are brought in by boat.