Getting in requires some effort. Most visitors fly to Tawau from either Kuala Lumpur (3 hours) or Kota Kinabalu (50 minutes), continue by minivan or taxi to the port town of Semporna (1-2 hours) and from there to Sipadan itself (1 hour by fast boat).
Walking along the beautiful sandy beaches, snorkeling sites on all sides of the island can be reached. Scuba divers usually will take a boat a few minutes from the beach to their dive site.
Note: it is no longer possible to stay on Sipadan its self
The beautiful sandy beaches and the coral reef with its rich marine life. On the island there are large monitor lizards (more than 1m in length) which sometimes come out onto the beach or even into the water.
Sipadan claims to be the world's best dive site. While this is a big claim, the diving here is certainly world class. Sipadan used to have resorts but to protect the environment these were closed around the year 2002. To dive on Sipadan you have to stay somewhere nearby, such as on Mabul or in Semporna, and take a boat onto the island.
Because Sipadan is now a protected site, only 120 dives are allowed daily (as of 8/26/08). It's best to try to dive as early as possible to beat the crowds and increase your chances of getting on the roster to dive.
From the main beach of the original resort it is a mere 20m wade over the reef to reach the top of the reef wall dropping 1000-2000m. Sipadan is surrounded by very rich reef life consisting of both hard and soft coral as well as all manner of reef fish. Sea turtles and white tip reef sharks can be seen on almost every dive and hammerhead and leopard sharks can also be seen at times. Visibility ranges from 10m to 30m and above.
Note that a barge accident on 15 May 2006 did some damage to the reefs at Sipadan, crushing a portion of reef on the old pier and Barracuda Point and dumping its cargo of gravel in the area. This was not one of the best dive areas, but cleanup operations and other repercussions did restrict diving in the months since.
The rate for three dives at Sipadan is around RM560. Rates vary slightly among different operators. Boat transfers and packed lunch are included. Permits are limited to 120 per day and are typically obtained by the dive operators. You should verify that the diver operator you choose is diving at Sipadan with permits, as some companies have been caught diving the island recently without permits.
Check diver reviews of dive operators in the area before choosing. Many have had customer complaints regarding faulty equipment.
Dive shops include:
Sipadan Scuba located in Semporna.
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. Several dive tour operators bring snorkelers to the island at an all-inclusive rate of around RM170.
There are no restaurants, and dive tours bring their own lunch and snacks with them.
Dive tours bring their own water and drinks with them.
All resorts on Sipadan have been closed in order to preserve the island in a pristine state. Diving is still permitted and possible by day-trips from the nearby town Semporna. Alternatively, there are also resorts on the nearby islands of Mabul (25 minutes by boat) and Kapalai (15 minutes by boat).
With all resorts closed down, there is nothing to buy on the island.
The islands were previously disputed between Malaysia and Indonesia, leading to instability and a highly publicized case of 20 tourists being kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf rebels in 2000. However, an International Court of Justice decision sided with Malaysia, and the area is now regularly patrolled by the Malaysian navy.
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singamata, Jani Patokallio, Michael Huynh, David Gelman, Robert Biuk-Aghai, Kai Conragan, Marc Heiden, David Straub, Colin Jensen and Michele Ann Jenkins, Burmesedays, Vidimian, Episteme, Hypatia, Nils and Nzpcmad
This travel guide also includes text from Wikipedia articles, all available at View full credits