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scuba diving locations - Sipadan Sabah - Malaysia

The sea, once it casts its spell,
holds one in its net of wonder forever.

This is Diving Sipadan!

If the ocean doesn't already have you in its net of wonder, once you visit the east coast of Sabah in the Celebes Sea, the mighty Sipadan will ensure it does! Sipadan, found rising 600 metres (2,000 ft) from the seabed is a scuba diving marvel! Diving Sipadan is very special because it was impressively formed over thousands of years by living corals growing on top of an extinct Volcano. This epic dive location is one of the richest marine habitats in the world and is at the heart of the Indo-Pacific basin. More than 3,000 species of fish can be found here not to mention hundreds of coral species, making even a single dive in Sipadan a true spectacle!

Sipadan, world's best dive site?

Until now this statement was hard to believe. nonetheless, its not until you dive Sipadan you can begin to understand it's claims to be the world's best dive site. While this is a huge claim, there can be no doubt that diving Sipadan is certainly world class.

Sipadan was at the top of 'The Top Dive Destination in the World' published by Rodale's Scuba Diving Magazine. At the same time it shared its pole position spot with 2 other world class dive destinations also known for the diversity of their marine life - the Galapagos Islands and Truk in Micronesia.

It Must Be Protected

In order to protect the environment and this truly amazing bio diversity, Sipadan closed its resorts in 2002 so now if you want to go diving Sipadan, you have to stay somewhere nearby, such as on Mabul, Kapalai or in Semporna, and take a boat onto the island.
Read about Diving Mabul and Kapalai here.

Exclusive Diving limitations

Because Sipadan is now a protected site, only 120 divers are allowed daily between 08:00-15:00. From the main beach by drop off and sign in you are literally only 20 m away from the top of the reef and wall dropping 1,000-2,000m. From the moment you start diving Sipadan you’ll be surrounded by both hard and soft coral as well as all manner of reef fishes. You’ll descent next to Turtles and come across even more as you continue as well as white tip reef sharks and blacktip reef shark which you can see on more or less every dive. If you can get out in the first light (6am boat) you have the best chance of catching a glimpse of the hammerhead sharks and leopard sharks can also be seen at times (though not so much nowadays).

  Diving Sipadan Sabah - Dive Map

Clouds Of Fish That Block The Sunlight

Enormous jackfish schools, barracudas and bumphead parrotfish are also highlights (especially around Barracuda Point) - if you are lucky you may see a jackfish and barracuda "tornado" as they change direction. While macro life does exist here, you are mainly at Sipadan to see the larger things if you only get one permit for your trip – that said we had plenty of time to enjoy the larger sights on the first days and still managed to spend a full day macroing out Sipadan on the 3rd day. But don’t fear, if you had to chose we recommend enjoying the sharks and turtles and saving your macro itch for the dive sites around Mabul and Kapalai which are said to have coined the term “muck” dive and are abundantly rich with critters to keep any macro photographer satisfied!

Advanced License Minimum Requirement

Visibility ranges from 10m to 40m and more, although this decreases on stormy rainy days. A lot of diving here consists of current or drift diving, with the currents around Barracuda Point being the strongest (at one point, you can get swept away quite quickly if you aren't careful). Divemasters will usually keep you around 20-25m for the wall dives, although deeper dives are available for technical divers (depending on the dive shop and divemasters available). Due to the currents and Depth of Sipadan Diving, a minimum of Advanced Level diver is required. Your last dive of the day will generally be at a shallower site, around 15m. One of the dive sites includes a cave called the Turtle Tomb - if you are lucky and get a cave-certified divemaster and torches, you may even be able to go into the dark for a cool and hair-raising experience (do follow instructions to the letter, or you may not be able to come back out!).

Sipadan Dive Sites

Drop Off | Turtle Cave | Barracuda Point | Coral Garden
Mid Reef | Turtle Patch | South Point | Hanging Garden | North point

Turtle Patch

What I can tell you about this dive site it is stunning! The top reef is covered in vibrant soft corals and table corals,’s house countless tiny colourful reef fish. As you glide over this reef it feels like you are in a huge natural aquarium. Slip to the reefs edge and watch Turtles and bumphead parrot fish cruise past you whilst white tip reef sharks mingle and sometimes get chased by school of jacks. Another site where you are best to keep an eye wide on the deep blue, as anything can pass by like Eagle or Mobula rays.

South Point

This sloping ledge at the southern most point of Sipadan island has a textbook coral ecosystem. Aside from the usual suspects to diving Sipadan like schools of jacks, rainbow runners, turtles and white tip reef sharks, on occasion here you will also find leopard sharks, the occasional thresher shark where the dive ends on the sloping reef, here you may spot the blue ringed octopus.

Hanging Garden and West Ridge

This dive site name refers to its overhangs of stag horn coral just suspended above the abyss below. Some very nice stiletto photography can be made with this shapes from below as you cruise along the wall of this western side reef littered with sea fans and barrel sponges. Looking up as you go, you will see the outlines of Turtles, white tips and sometimes eagle rays flying overhead.

North Point

If you are an early bird and your looking to find a close encounter with schools of bumphead parrot fish, this is a great chance site to choose. On the northern point and west of the drop off of Sipadan, this wall has many overhangs rock creases where large schools of fish hang out and swam in whilst the whitetips cruise around you might even find a lonesome giant barracuda can be seen also.

Have You Been Diving In Sipadan?
Best Dive Site in The World?
Comment and Let us Know!

Andrew Jennings
Andrew Jennings
You host and creator of underwater clicks.