Sipadan Island in Sabah Malaysia is one of the top ten diving spots in the world and is located in the Celebes Sea off the east coast of Sabah (which is on the island of Borneo). As I have been fortunate enough to visit this spectacular diving site two times in just under a month, I will vouch for this place as a must-dive for any scuba diver. My first trip here was at the end of October 2011 while mt next trip was in early December '11. I cannot stress how beautiful the island and waters are here as you have to visit or dive here to see and experience it for yourself. If you have been planning to visit Sipadan Island, I hope this article will be of help to you.

Pulau Sipadan Island

How to go to Sipadan Island? First, you need to get into the town of Tawau in east Sabah. From here, you will need to take a van taxi towards the coastal town of Semporna which takes about 1 hour and is the main gateway to Mabul Island and Sipadan. There are no airports or roads on Mabul therefore the only way there is via a 30-40 minute boat ride. You can fly into Tawau from Kuala Lumpur or Kota Kinabalu but that is as far as you fly to. There are a number of budget hotels and dive centers in Tawau and Semporna town.

Since 2005, the Sipadan island has been protected by Sabah Parks and a year before that, no lodging or businesses were allowed on the island. Therefore there is a daily allocation of 120 permits issued to visit Sipadan. These permits can only be obtained by a number of hotels and resorts on Mabul Island or some of the Dive Shops in Semporna. Personally, I think this is the best move done by Sabah Parks as this way, it controls the overall ecological system of the island thus making this place non-commercialized like other islands.

Sipadan Island Jetty

When you get into the island which is usually in the mornings about 7-8am, the first place you will visit is the Sipadan Jetty where every guest, dive master or guide must register at the park office here. Your name and basic details are noted down in a log book before you head out back to the boat to do your diving or snorkeling. 

Welcome sign

Once you have finished your first dive, you will be brought back to the island where you will have breakfast and a break before going for your next dive. At the island, there are basic facilities for you to use which include a building structure for you to have your meals and rest. A toilet is available here which is about 10 meters away. The normal time spent here is about one hour before heading back on your dive boat.


If you walk around the rest area, there are numerous signs and information about the island. One of them is the history of Sipadan Island while others are about park rules, geological structure, dive sites and a map of the island and reef. You can also walk to the main beach area but you are not allowed to go into the military camp area.

Dining and rest area on Sipadan

Sipadan Island Map

There are a total of 13 dive sites around Sipadan and most of them offer an amazing variety. Among the best known spots are Barracuda Point which is rated among the top five dive sites around the world. Another beautiful spot here is the Hanging Gardens. Personally, I have dived at Barracuda Point, Coral Garden, White Tip Reef, South Point, Turtle Cave and Drop Off. All these dive sites have their own specialties. So if you are up for looking at Sharks, please do let your agent know. If not, they will just take you to the popular spots. On my next dive here, I want to visit the Hanging Gardens, West Ridge and North Point.

Sipadan Island Military Camp


 Geological structure of Sipadan Island

Sabah Parks guidelines to the island

Sipadan Island Sabah

From the main jetty, you can see how pristine and beautiful the waters and beach of the island is. There is absolutely no rubbish or debris seen here. The waters are crystal clear and in many shades of blue to turquoise. You can consider this as one of the most beautiful islands in Malaysia.

The coral reef and drop off point

Sipadan island is actually a volcanic island therefore the drop is about 600 meters (2000 feet) from the reef. The island was formed by living corals growing on top of an extinct volcanic cone that took thousands of years to develop. There are more than 3,000 species of fish recorded and hundreds of coral species have been classified in this ecosystem.

It is not advisable for beginners or children to snorkel or swim around here. However, the coral life seen is simply amazing and unlike any other I have seen in my life. The pure density of marine life just puts me in awe when I get into the waters here.

A diver taking a moment on the beach at Sipadan


Local boatman doing a flip on the beach

If you are interested in visiting Sipadan Island for diving or snorkeling, there are a number of resorts who organize this. One of them which I regularly use is Equator Adventure Tours, who is based in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. You have the choice of choosing a luxury diving package right down to a budget package to Sipadan island in Sabah. I have been using their services for many of my trips and adventures around Sabah Borneo too. For price and package details, you can contact Mr. Pat at mobile number 013 8899535.

Equator Adventure Tours (Malaysia Company Registration - 875486-W KPL/LN-6185)
Lot G-5, Ground Floor, Golden Center Putatan,
Jalan Putatan, 88869
Sabah Borneo
Telephone: +6 06 88 766351
Fax: +6 06 88 766352
Mobile: +6 013 8899535 (Contact Mr. Pat)
Email: equatorfpl [at] gmail.com
Website: www.equator-adventure.com/

Sunrise at Sipadan

For scuba divers, if you have not been here, let me just say that this is one of the dive sites in the world worth seeing and diving at. I have been here twice now and plan to go back again and again. Well, there are many other well known sites around the world but as Jacques Cousteau famously said "I have seen other places like Sipadan, 45 years ago, but now no more. Now we have found an untouched piece of art". For this, I can again tell you after diving the many islands around Malaysia, there is something so very special and attractive about Sipadan Island.

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