Often ranked as one of the top ten diving destinations in the world, Sipadan Island is located in the Celebes Sea of Sabah, Malaysia. The closest town to Sipadan is the town of Semporna, 35 kilometers away from the island and is accessible by boat.
If you’re anticipating to see and swim with a school of barracuda, sea turtles, sharks, and all the other sea critters in the sea, diving in Sipadan would be the answer. Sipadan Island’s unique geography makes it an ideal dive site to explore the biodiversity with over 3000 species of fish and not forgetting the beautiful coral species that habitats this island.
There is a dozen of diving sites for you to choose from. The well-known diving sites in Sipadan are Turtle Cavern also known as the Turtle Tomb, Barracuda Point, and Mid-Reef.
Each of these sites is unique and has its distinctive features.
Turtle Cavern is the most popular and perhaps the most spooky site. It is called Turtle Cavern because there is a somewhat cave about 20 meters down the site. Moreover, it is also called the Turtle Tomb because the locals say this is the place where turtles come to die and skeletons of turtles can be indeed found there. Which is why this place is pretty eerie. However, there are still plenty of live turtles swimming around.
As for Barracuda Point, as the name itself says it all, it is the assembly point of hundreds of barracuda and some lucky divers might also witness a barracuda tornado. It is when a school of barracuda swims in a spiral direction making them form a wall of fish. The Barracuda Point also offers an extensive view of corals, sharks, parrotfish and many more. It is also close to the jetty point- a 3-minute boat ride.
HOW TO OBTAIN DIVE PERMITS IN SIPADAN
To visit this island, you will be required to have a permit issued by Sabah Parks, which is a Sabah Government agency. Since the year 2002, the island is declared a protected area and it is one of the best decisions made by the Malaysian Government. This is to ensure that Sipadan Island stays unpolluted and reduce the stress on the reefs and marine life around the island. Hence, there are only 120 permits available each day.
Where can you get permits? Most resorts that are around the island or the resorts that you choose to stay at will be able to assist you with your permit application. It is common for permits to run out, however, if a resort has unallocated permits, it will be returned to the Sabah Parks and will be distributed to other resorts.
During the peak seasons, there could be a total of 500-600 guests in the resorts. There wouldn’t be sufficient permits to distribute to everyone. The system is a first-come-first-served basis and also a rotation schedule. So how can you increase the chance of getting yourself a permit?
- Avoid visiting during the peak seasons.
- Book your stay as early as possible.
- Stay longer at the resort so that you have a better chance on days ahead to obtain the permit.
- Get a guaranteed permit for your length of stay.
- Fill the Sipadan Permit Purchase Form.
- As soon as arriving at the resort, inquire and book your permits.
Permits are only required for Sipadan Island. The other islands in Sabah do not require permits.