Sipadan Island – Top 5 Diving locations in the world
The internationally famous island of Sipadan lies 35km south of Semporna, on Sabah’s mainland, like many tropical islands it is thickly forested and surrounded by sandy beaches. Sipadan is an oceanic island and was formed by living corals growing on top of an extinct undersea volcano, which rises 600m from the seabed.
The geographic position of Sipadan puts it in the centre of the richest marine habitat in the world, the heart of the Indo-Pacific basin. More than 3000 species of fish and hundreds of coral species have been classified in this richest of ecosystems. Sipadan is well known for its unusually large numbers of green and hawksbill turtles which gather there to mate and nest and it is not unusual for a diver to see more than 20 turtles on each dive. Another unique feature to divers visiting Sipadan is the turtle tomb, an underwater limestone cave with a labyrinth of tunnels and chambers that contain many skeletal remains of turtles that became disoriented and then drowned.
The residential schooling barracuda and big-eye trevally, which often gather in thousands forming spectacular tornado-like formations, are one of the highlights of every diver’s wish-list. With the possibility of seeing pelagic species such as mantas, eagle rays, scalloped hammerhead sharks and whale sharks, each dive at Sipadan is a highly anticipated event.
It is not only the big fish that amaze divers coming to Sipadan, the macro life is equally mesmerizing. Garden eels, leaf scorpion fish, mantis shrimps, fire gobies, and various pipefish are guaranteed at various dive sites. The diversity and abundance of marine found at Sipadan gives it its reputation of being one of the five best dive locations in the world.
Since 2004 to preserve and protect the island’s fragile ecosystem, the authorities has set a daily limit of 120 divers to access Sipadan island
Sipadan Dive Sites
There a total of 12 dive sites in Sipadan Island namely the West Ridge, North Point, The Drop Off, Turtle Cavern, Barracuda Point, Coral Gardens, Whitetip Avenue, Mid Reef, Turtle Patch, South Point, Staghorn Crest, Lobster Lair, and the Hanging Gardens. The most popularly recommended dive sites are the Turtle Cavern, Barracuda Point, South Point and Hanging Gardens.
The Barracuda Point is located at the north Coast of Sipadan Island. Famous for its astounding vortex of barracudas (hence the name Barracuda Point), divers have also reported sightings of white tip sharks, grey reef sharks, eagle rays, turtles, as well as the bumphead parrotfish. A caveat: currents can get too strong, so don’t go too deep!
This site is famous for its population of green turtles and smaller hawksbill turtles. This cavern which lies 20 meters underwater is believed to be the final resting place of turtles. Divers are reminded to be extremely careful when exploring the caves as visibility can be drastically reduced to zero should the silt be disturbed.
South Point is one of the most likely sites for the rarer sharks such as the hammerheads and thresher sharks which are normally only seen around the 40-meter point. Divers are advised to be wary of the strong currents at this site.
Named after the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the topography of the Hanging Gardens consists of a 2-meter-deep reef that slopes down to a terrace at about 70 meters which subsequently plunges into an abyss. This is an excellent spot to view soft corals with dendronephthya alcyonarians in multifarious pastel colours encrusting the slope. Do keep an eye also for the diverse macro life.