Sipadan Island in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, is one of those legendary places that every diver has heard of but few have visited. Scuba diving Sipadan Island is a breathtaking bucket-list destination. Why? Sipadan is one of the top scuba diving destinations in the world.
Unfortunately, the island also has an infamous history that even now, nearly two decades later, still keeps some divers away — pirates! But it shouldn’t! They are a thing of the past. Sipadan and surrounding islands are completely safe nowadays. So safe that I spent two weeks here diving and exploring nearly every one of the islands 🙂
360° Of Fish In Every Direction!
I’ve been scuba diving for the last two and a half years but have never seen such abundant sea life as here at Sipadan. Thousands of fish and sharks and turtles all visible at once. Coral that is alive and thriving, instead of sick, damaged or dying. Water so clear you could see everything.
Semporna is not the most exciting city. Aside from some good seafood restaurants and a little bit of shopping, there is not much to do there. So rather than stay in town I decided to go with Scuba Tiger Resort about ten minutes outside of the city called. Best decision ever!
Morning Starts With A Beautiful Boat Ride To Sipadan Island
We left the resort at 8:30am and headed for Sipadan Island, stopping briefly at Mabul Island to pick up a couple more divers from another resort. Weather was fantastic and the water as smooth as glass. It almost didn’t feel real — see for yourself at the start of the video down below.
Arriving at Sipadan Island
Upon arrival at Sipadan Island we signed in (only 120 people are allowed to dive per day at Sipadan) and then got ready for our first dive of the morning. The first destination: Barracuda Point!
Underwater Photos From Sipadan
At Barracuda Point there were barracuda, sure, but also lots of sea turtles. The sea turtles of Pulau Sipadan are not afraid, allowing divers to get up close and personal. Much love goes out to the dive masters at Scuba Tiger for helping me getting such great footage and pointing out so many things that I would have completely missed. Well done fellas, well done 🙂
No Red Filter, No Editing
The water was that clear!
All shot with a GoPro 4, no red filter, no editing (only cropping)
No editing needed
Sipadan Diving Regulations
Part of what keeps the island so beautiful is that scuba diving at Sipadan is capped at 120 divers a day. These 120 permits are divided among less than a dozen dive operators, and local hotel/resorts arrange Sipadan dives through these registered operators. Interested scuba divers must register weeks in advance and book their dates accordingly to ensure they receive a permit — especially if diving as a group. I was scrambling for a last-minute Sipadan ticket so even though all my other dives were with Scuba Tiger, the Sipadan dive was with another company whose boat was leaking oil. Badly. More on that after this.
One of the key things to remember when diving at Sipdan is to never touch anything. You can get up close and personal with the turtles, barracuda, eels, lobster and fish — just don’t touch! If you do and the dive master sees it, you’re out of the water for the day and all that money is wasted.
How Much Does A Sipadan Dive Permit Cost?
Unlike all the neighboring islands, diving at Sipadan requires paying an additional government fee — around $200 USD — but it is worth every penny! This is on top of the cost of diving, dining and dozing (lodging). But it is worth it to dive at what is one of the best scuba diving locations in all of the world. Still don’t believe me? Believe Google.
The Bad Side Of Scuba Diving Sipadan Island
120 divers per day. Max 8-10 paying divers per boat (not counting dive masters and staff). That’s around 15 boats per day circling Sipadan. And despite the strict enforcement of regulations on the scuba divers, regulations on the dive boats are not enforced in the slightest. Our boat was leaking a lot of oil but when I pointed it out to the captain, he responded with “Yeah, I know” in a tone that indicated he didn’t give a damn. Meanwhile he had on a fancy watch that looked more expensive than mine.
When pristine places stop becoming pristine, tourists stop paying for them. Before you make it rain with that Sipadan money, fix your fucking boat! Quit spewing oil into one of the world’s top scuba diving destinations on a daily basis! I’m looking at you Uncle Chang. Fix your boats. Start with SA 191/5/P, the one pictured above.
Other than that, Sipadan was perfect.
Let’s keep it that way.
I spent two weeks in Semporna diving/staying with Scuba Tiger and love them! Amazing staff, awesome dive masters, fancy boats and a nice resort….best experience ever. Tell ’em that Derek sent you and you’ll probably get some extra lovin’ 😉
Kampung Tampi-Tampi, 91308 Semporna, Sabah, Malaysia
+60 19-896 6996
Together with friends from Scuba Tiger and divers from other hotels around Semporna, we all traveled out to Sipadan together in the leaky boat pictured above. Although staying at different places, we had all acquired our Sipadan dive permits through Uncle Chang’s service. From what I hear Uncle Chang is a nice guy….he just needs to stop the boats from polluting paradise with oil. Not Recommended!