What is it like to dive in Borneo? Sipadan diving season, dive sites, permits.
Ever since the famous Jacques Cousteau visited this small island in the Malaysian Borneo and discovered the marine diversity of the place, Sipadan has been one of the most famous diving destinations in the world. Actually, the island has been voted the best dive site in the world by various magazines and organizations.
I had already dived in many amazing places, like the Red Sea in Egypt, Komodo Park and Pulau Weh in Indonesia and other great dive sites in the Philippines, but I have to say that this was the most amazing underwater show I’ve seen in my life!
Here you will find a marine paradise of crystal-clear water with beautiful coral walls and colorful gorgonian visited by sharks, bumphead parrotfish, Napoleon wrasse, huge turtles, stingrays and many more sea creatures.
The highlight was undoubtedly my encounter with a great school of barracuda!
What are the most famous dive sites in Sipadan?
There is a great array of dive sites around the small island of Sipadan. Some of the best spots are:
Barracuda Point: As the name suggests, this popular site is where you’ll find a great school of barracudas. Simply spectacular!
Coral Garden: An amazing place where you’ll see a great diversity of coral and marine life.
The drop-off: Another classic dive site in Sipadan, where a huge 600 meter drop creates a unique underwater world.
South Point: This is one of the best points in Sipadan to find Hammerhead sharks and Thresher sharks. However, this is a site for experienced divers because the dive tends to be at a depth of about 40 meters.
Mid-reef: This is a beautiful dive focused more on the diversity of coral and small fish rather than on large pelagics.
What is the best season for diving in Sipadan?
It is possible to dive in Sipadan with good visibility at any time throughout the year. However, for the most stunning experiences, the best time is from March to October, during the dry season.
During those months, the visibility can reach up to 50 meters!
What permits do I need to dive in Sipadan?
The government of Sabah has developed a plan to protect this marine paradise, so there is a maximum of 120 divers allowed per day.
Just book your dives in advance and your dive center will prepare all the paperwork to get you permission to dive on the available dates.
Where can I stay? Which dive center should I choose?
There are several dive centers in Semporna offering diving packages for Sipadan. As always, some of them are more professional, others less. Some have better gear, some are more expensive, some are cheaper, etc.
I dived with Scuba Junkie and it was a very good experience. They have several packages, so you can book your dives in Sipadan and also other dives on islands like Mabul, Mantuabuan, Sinuan, etc.
Accommodation can be either in Semporna at their backpacker hostel or at the resort on the island of Mabul, which is really worth it.
Tips for Diving Sipadan:
1. Book your dives way in advance because the 120 permits a day go really fast!
2. If you have not been able to book in advance and you get there without a permit, some companies may have space, but they might charge you more. It depends on the dive center.
3. Take the opportunity to dive into other nearby islands like Mabul, Kapalai or Mantabuan, where the diving is also very good.
I highly recommend that you get a good insurance policy before diving in Sipadan. Trusted by thousand of adventurers, World Nomads is one of the best and more reliable options (without breaking your bank).
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Hi, I’m Miguel; Adventure traveler, scuba diver and hiking lover. I have been traveling the world for the last 12 years and I hope my experiences, photos and hiking routes inspire you to travel the world too.