Diving in the Sipadan

The best dives of my life!

After my trip to Melaka, I went back up to Kuala Lumpur for my flight to Tawau (closest airport connection to Sipadan) in Malaysian Borneo. My dive company (Scuba Junkie – RECOMMEND!) picked me up from the airport and drove me to the main town of Semporna, from where I took a ferry to the island of Mabul, where they have a resort and base for dives in the Sipadan. When you have to travel that far to get to a dive spot, you know it’s going to be a good one…

Sipadan is a tiny oceanic island in Malaysia that is rated as one of the top diving spots in the world. It rises 600 metres from the seabed, literally in the middle of nowhere, making it a hotspot for sharks, turtles, barracudas, jack fish, and plenty of other marine life.

The island of Sipadan used to have resorts on the island, but they were shut down by the Malaysian government in 2002 to preserve the dive sites around the island. Everyone who wants to dive in the Sipadan now has to stay in one of the nearby islands, and I stayed on the island of Mabul at Scuba Junkie’s resort.

The island is now marked by a naval outpost and a few officers who ensure the safety of the divers. While divers are allowed to step onto the island, we were restricted to a certain area of the beach and everything else was off limits. The government also issues only 120 permits per day for divers (including instructors), so you have to be lucky to get a permit – they get booked pretty fast. I was diving for a week straight, but only 1 of those days involved dives in the Sipadan. The other days I dove at the dive spots of Mabul and Kapalai, and though they were amazing dives, they just couldn’t compare to my dives in the Sipadan (which happened on day 2 of my trip). Luckily though, a permit for the Sipadan opened up, and I was able to go a second time, on my last dive day! I’m usually unlucky when it comes to these things, but I guess when it rains, it pours? Just thinking about those dives still makes me smile.

While I have nothing negative to say about any of the dives (besides some Chinese divers who were poking the marine life and grabbing turtles), I did find the island of Mabul as well as the town of Semporna lacking in terms of sanitation and marine life safety. The locals were helpful and sweet, but they don’t seem to care about the gifts of nature around them. They throw trash all over the place and in the water and even use non-sustainable methods of fishing (including dynamite). They steal turtle eggs and sell them, and would seemingly do anything to make a quick buck. Scuba Junkie has been actively trying to educate the locals, has a guarded turtle hatchery to ensure the turtle eggs hatch / the turtles survive, and even has a team whose only job is to ensure marine life safety; but as I have seen and learnt with the problems India faces, some people are beyond education too.

With that, I’ll leave you with some pictures from my dives. There are some amazing videos I have too, but WordPress doesn’t let me upload them on a free account. 😦

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