Consistently ranked as one of the best dive sites on earth, Sipadan Island 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, the island provides spectacular wall dives and features hundreds of underwater gardens.
Dramatically rising 600m from the seabed, Sipadan is Malaysia’s only oceanic island.
Around 2005, all hotels and resorts in Sipadan were closed and relocated to nearby islands as a preliminary to the establishment of Sipadan Island Park (gazetted on 1 October 2009).
Visitors now stay in Mabul, Kapalai, Mataking or Semporna and are brought in by boat between 08:00 – 16:00 daily to preserve the area’s exceptional marine and terrestrial ecosystems.
For a list of dive operators officially allocated Sipadan permits by the government, see here: Hotels with Sipadan permits.
Things to do
Snorkeling & scuba diving
Sipadan is surrounded by exciting dive spots including Hanging Gardens, Barracuda Point and the unique Turtle Tomb (requires cave diving certification).
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 0.5km deep.
Expect to see large schools of barracuda and big-eye trevally invade the water, appearing in tornado-like formations. Mantas, eagle rays and whale sharks are also common.
Sipadan is also an important waypoint for large populations of 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.
A 25-minute walk is all that is needed to circle the island on foot. There are no restaurants, and visitors usually consume packed food and drinks at the common area near the jetty’s front.
Above sea, the dense vegetation on the island supports large flights of birds, who often crowd the sky in spectacular swirls. Species spotted here include kingfishers, sea eagles, imperial and wood pigeons, and swallows.
This ravishing island is protected by regulations imposed on all visitors. In 2013 it was further reported that only Advanced Open Water Divers or novice divers with at least 20 logged dives are allowed to dive in Sipadan.