Sipadan Island lies off the east coast of Malaysian Borneo. The island is known above all for some of the best scuba diving anywhere in the world. Getting in requires some effort. Most visitors fly to Tawau from either Kuala Lumpur or Kota Kinabalu or Singapore, then continue by minivan or taxi to the port town of Semporna and from there to Sipadan itself a 1 hour ride by fast boat.
The journey however is well worth the effort as the diving here is certainly world class. Palau Sipadan is a rare maritime jewel that will enthrawl even the most seasoned of divers. Coming face to face with a turtle, staring down sharks or catching a glimse of the giant whale shark are unforgettable encounters. There is nowhere better to experience all of these in one place than in Palau Sipadan. The underwater geography around Sipadan is amazing with large caves and a reef wall that descends to over 600 metres. The waters are teaming with marine life, there are thought to be over 3000 species of fish alone. Countless other underwater wonders can also be seen. Turtles, crustaceans, rays, eels and hundreds of varieties of coral can also be seen. Hammerhead sharks, barracuda and huge schools of Parrotfish are some of the experiences divers may expect to encounter. Visibility ranges from 10m to 30m and above.
Since 2005 no resorts are allowed on the island of Sipadan itself and all the resorts have been moved off. So to dive on Sipadan you have to stay on one of the nearby dive resorts, such as on Kapalai, Mataking, Mabul or in Semporna, and take a boat trip onto the island.
In addition Sipadan is now a protected site, so only 120 divers are allowed to dive on Sipadan daily. The resorts can have a total occupancy of 500 divers so it's best to book as early as possible to increase your chances of getting on the roster to dive on Sipadan itself.
The rate for three dives at Sipadan varies slightly among different operators. For non-divers snorkeling is an option on Sipadan. From the beach, the reef is easily accessible, and parts of the reef further out can be reached by boat. A wide variety and number of reef fishes, corals, and with a bit of luck, the sharks, barracuda and turtles can be seen without leaving the surface. Note that currents and boat traffic (especially if duck diving) are the major hazards in the offshore areas, and cryptically coloured stone fish may be a hazard in the shallows.
To get to Sipadan most people will fly to Tawau from either Kuala Lumpur or Kota Kinabalu or Singapore, then continue by minivan or taxi to the port town of Semporna and from there to Sipadan itself a 1 hour ride by fast boat.