Have you ever imagined what it would be like to dive into the Celebes Sea? if you come to Sipadan Island in Sabah, Malaysia, be prepared to see huge school of barracuda, jacks and countless turtles. Sipadan, rising about 600 metres from the sea floor, attracts diverse marine life from the blackness of the open sea.
Famous for its underwater grandeur, Sipadan Island has been rated as one of the World’s Top Dive Sites. Its geographic position puts Sipadan in the centre of the richest marine habitat in the world, the heart of the Indo-Pacific basin.
Sipadan Island rises 600 m from the seabed to provide spectacular wall dives and underwater garden.
Encounters with turtles, resident school of jacks and barracudas are almost assured. The residential schooling barracuda and big-eye trevally, which often gather in thousands forming spectaculars tornado-like formations, are one of the highlights on every diver’s wish list.
A diver must not miss the many underwater caverns found here. Turtle Cavern, Whitetip Avenue, and Barracuda Point at Sipadan Island are filled to the brim with splendid corals and exotic fishes.
Located on the northern point of the island, the beach at the jetty suddenly drops straight down to the sea floor 600 meters below, making for a spectacular wall dive. This drop off is a natural cliff, where some of the most amazing marine life can be found.
Turtles, jacks, grey reef sharks, white tip sharks and a multitude of smaller reef dwelling fishes live on this wall.
Sipadan is famous for its population of both Green Turtles and the smaller Hawksbill Turtles and originally it was thought that old turtles entered the cave during their final days and actually came here to die in peace. However, a more accurate representation is that the turtles became lost in the cave at night and drowned. Inside the cave there are fully intact skeletons of those who failed to find the exit and perished. It is an eerie sight, deep within the reef.
The entrance of the Turtle Cavern is located about 20 meters down along the Drop Off wall. What makes the dive tricky is the cave’s interior terrain – an intricate maze of chambers connected by narrow tunnels.
This is one of the most amazing dive sites of Sipadan Island. Its name derives from the resident barracudas that often whirl around the divers like a tornado.
The dive starts as a classic wall dive before coming to a channel in 18 meters of water which frequently has strong currents pushing through it.
You are guaranteed to see turtles on this site. Turtle Patch is a site in Sipadan island home to a huge number of Hawksbill & Green Turtles. Many reef sharks also frequent this site. It is rather barren in comparison to some of the other sites, but triggerfish and other reef fish dwell on the upper coral reef, making it a well-rounded site.
There is usually a very strong current present at this site. Divers here can take you through up to three marked sites. Very large shoals of pelagic feed here (Barracuda, Jacks, Sharks, and Turtles). On the upper reef, a multitude of smaller reef fish abound. Coral is bursting with color, many huge Anemone and Clown Fish at this site.
White Tips Avenue
The name of this dive site says it all. Expect to see huge Black & White Tip Reef Sharks, Grey Sharks, massive Green & Hawksbill Turtles as well as large shoals of Jack & Barracuda.
This wall is covered in a multitude of soft coral. Hawksbill & Green Turtles live on the ledges at this site and the current is usually quite calm. A great spot for photography as colorful corals hang from the interesting cracks and crevices along the wall.
The only way to get to Sipadan is to book a dive trip or stay at one of the dive resorts in Mabul and Kapalai. Visiting Sipadan Island requires a permit issued by Sabah Parks.
Permits are limited to 120 per day and are obtained by the dive operators and dive resorts.
Normally, when you book the dive packages, the dive resorts will provide round trip transfer from Tawau Airport to Semporna and Kapalai/Mabul Island.
Scuba diving occurs all year round, but the best conditions are during the dry season from April to October.
Sipadan was declared a Marine Park in 2005 and in order to protect the marine life, there is no longer accommodation available on the Island.
Since then, all the dive operators moved to the nearby islands. Mabul and Kapalai Islands hosts a number of accommodation for divers.
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