Malaysia Islands 2
The islands, especially Pulau Sipadan, have been rated as one of the top scuba diving destinations in the world.
So why should you visit the tiny islands outside Borneo?
Turtles, sharks, hammer heads, manta rays, barracudas and much more at the same time!
Ah, you won't regret this! Enjoy the article! :-)
So where are these gorgeous islands?
-- The islands are located in the Celebs Sea just outside Semporna in the state of Sabah, in Borneo.
For more information on how to get there, click here!
(You'll be redirected to my article on Semporna: How to Get To Semporna)
The visibility around Sibuan Island was very clear, or more correctly: transparent.
And I could easily swim in the water without being drifted away by strong currents. The temperature? The water was warm as the air.
In theory, you can dive in Sipadan all year! The best time to dive is between April and November. The rainy season is from November to March. But we talked to people who had been there previously in March, and the visibility was OK for them. They could still dive, but the visiblity wasn't at its best.
Can any traveler handle the diving at Sipadan?
Well, the currents around Sipadan are not predictable. Handling these currents is not a problem for the experienced diver.
Newly baptized divers should be conscious about these currents, and be comfortable with this. Drift with the currents, and don't fight it.
If you're taking the open-water diving course with Skuba Junkie, your first tryout will likely be Sibuan Island. After the course, you can decide if you want to try the diving around Sipadan!
Fortunately, Sabah Parks only allow a certain amount of divers on Sipadan...
If I were you, I would try to get a permit as early as possible. As I wrote in my review of the Skuba Junkie course, we arrived in Semporna in the beginning of June, and we heard that there were no available spots until August .
The good news is that the other islands don't require a permit! ;-)
It's essential that you know how to behave underwater.
I'll tell you why:
Our divemaster gave us a remarkable reminder: If it's very pretty, stay away from it!
Consider the corals as the rainforest It provides shelter, food and breeding grounds for a lot of marine species.
When you arrive at Skuba Junkie in Semporna, you will constantly hear the "divers-talk."
The divers chat and talk about the sights of the day. I remember when we stepped into Skuba Junkie, and a British girl was talking about how she saw large mantas at Sipadan. I got so jealous!
What did you get to see?!"
One of the dive instructors we talked to at Skuba Junkie restaurant was talking about the reef life while he was stuffing his face with pizza. It was clearly that he was passionate about diving ! Haha
Here's a rough summary ;-)
What species can you see around Sipadan?
If you go diving at one of the popular Sipadan sites, Barracuda Point, you'll of course encounter the Barracuda predators. Don't wear reflective objects when diving with barracudas, as this might provoke an attack
You'll probably be shocked by the size of the mantas, but no worries. They're harmless, and actually curious and gentle. Mantas can be up to 9 meters wide, but because of overfishing they can only grow to 2-4 meters.
Other rays to stare at are the blue-spotted stingrays. They're actually very common and hide in the coral reefs of Sipadan. Snorkelers and divers often see them. But watch out -- its tail is poisonous.
Visiblity around Sipadan: 10-30 meters
What species can you see around Mabul and Kapalai?
Mabul and Kapalai are considered as macro divers' paradise!
If you can't dive, don't worry about not being able to see the gorgeous animals. When you go snorkeling in Mabul Island, you can see turtles from the surface!
Visibility: 5-15 m
What species can you see around Sibuan Island?
Turtles, eagle rays, mandarin fish, scorpion fish, harlequin ghost pipefish, and I remember that a lucky diver group got to see the famous frog fish!
I'm afraid that you can't stay the night on Sipadan. Your chance of being close to the island is to stay on Mabul, Kapalai, or mainland. If I were you, I would go for the accommodation on the islands. You're right on the sea, and it would be a shame to miss out on the water and the turtles coming in frequently.
How close is it from Mabul/Kapalai to Sipadan?
20 minutes by boat!
If you want to stay on Mabul Island, Skuba Junkie can arrange that for you. If you're on your last days in Malaysia, and traveling with your girlfriend and boyfriend, you might try to splurge a bit and go for Skuba Junkie Mabul Beach Resort.
We've never stayed here, so I can't give any personal review.
If you want to arrange it yourself, try Uncle Chang's Sipadan Mabul Dive Lodge which offers budget accommodation for the sporty divers. The huts at Uncle Chang are basic, so don't expect any luxury. But they're at least "cheap."
Have fun! :-D
Got any recommendations for where to sleep on Mabul or Kapalai Islands? Or maybe you own a guesthouse/cheap hotel and want to promote it? Share your story, tip or review of the guesthouse/hotel you like!
Tell us: What did you like/not like about the guesthouse you stayed at in Mabul or Kapalai? How was the service? Did you meet fellow backpackers?
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