Sipadan Island

Sipadan jetty
View of Sipadan Island from the main jetty.
“I have seen other places like Sipadan, 45 years ago, but now no more. Now we have found an untouched piece of art.” – Jacques Cousteau, 1989.


Consistently rated as one of the world’s best diving sites, Sipadan Island marine park (gazetted on October 1st, 2009) boasts a truly magical and breathtaking underwater experience.

Situated at the heart of the Indo-Pacific Basin, the centre of the world’s richest marine habitat, it is the only oceanic island in Malaysia.

Dramatically rising 600 meters from the seabed, the island provides spectacular wall dives and features hundreds of underwater gardens.

If you’d like to visit the island for a picnic, or are planning to go snorkeling or diving here, you need a Sipadan Permit issued in advance by the Sabah Parks authority.

Things To Do

Snorkeling & Scuba Diving
Sipadan is surrounded by several exciting dive spots such as the Hanging Gardens, Barracuda Point and the unique Turtle Tomb (requires cave diving certification), where many skeletal remains of turtles can be found.

One of the island’s most thrilling features (and certainly not for the faint-hearted) is the Drop-off, where knee-high water suddenly gives way to an abyss more than half a kilometer deep.

Expect to see large schools of barracuda and big-eye trevally invade the water, placing themselves in tornado-like formations. Mantas, eagle-rays and whale sharks are also aplenty.

Sipadan is also renowned for its large population of rare and endangered green and hawksbill turtles, who gather en masse to mate and nest around the island.

Still today you will find turtles nesting under your beach hut and giant coconut crabs climbing the branches of a coconut palm. It is believed that the number of creatures residing in these reefs surpass that of the tropical rainforest.


Around 2002, all hotels and resorts in Sipadan were closed and relocated to neighbouring islands in order to maintain its exceptional marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

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

Only 12 operators have been officially allocated Sipadan Permits by the government. Find out which: Hotels with Sipadan Permits.

More Information

A 25-minute walk is all that is needed to circle the island on foot. There are no restaurants, and visitors usually bring their own food and drinks with them to be consumed at the common area near the front of the jetty.

Sipadan was declared a bird sanctuary in 1933. The dense vegetation on the island supports large flights of Imperial and wood pigeons, swallows, kingfishers, and sea eagles, who often crowd the sky in spectacular swirls.

This ravishing island is protected by regulations imposed on islanders and visitors alike, in an effort to preserve its natural life. In 2013 the Malaysian government announced that only Advanced Open Water Divers or novice divers with at least 20 logged dives are allowed to dive in Sipadan. This is likely due to the strong currents experienced at some dive sites, as well as instances of novice divers descending too rapidly/deeply.