Diving in Sipadan Island - 12 Best Dive Sites

Located in the Celebes Sea, what makes Sipadan unique is that it is the only oceanic island of Malaysia. Apart from clear blue skies, crystal clear waters, and white sand beaches, the real mystery lies below the water surface. Sipadan Island is one of the very few places where you will find several diverse schools of fishes swimming. A notable diving sight happens to be turtles. You will find turtles swimming around the entire island wherever you go. Besides turtles, you will also see enormous schools of barracuda, schools of big-eye treyally, and bump head parrotfish. Species such as whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, eagle rays, and manta can also be spotted while scuba diving in Sipadan Island.

Diving Sites in Sipadan Islands

1. Coral Gardens

Coral Gardens
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What makes this site ideal for long dives is the existence of almost every species of Pulau Sipadan waters beside the diverse range of corals. You will come across soft corals, big boulder corals, giant leathery corals, and staghorn corals. The colourful Pacific reef fishes like damselfish, jacks, parrotfish, soldierfish, squirrelfish, tiny Anthias, Fire Gobies, Chromis, to name a few out of the many present, can be found here. Its minimum and the maximum depth is 10m and 23m correspondingly. It is safe for Open water divers and above.

2. Turtle Cavern

Turtles in Sipadan
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Turtle Cavern is a unique dive site in Sipadan Islands and is advised only for experienced divers with special equipment and an experienced guide. This location is a reef. The entrance to this cave is about 18m deep into the sea. It also has a tunnel connecting it to a famous dive site called Turtle Tomb making it an eerie sight. The Turtle tomb has an unusual story behind it. Its believed that this is the place where turtles come to die, and indeed you will find skeletons of turtles. Although, there are plenty of turtles still swimming around the cave, and you might happen to lose the count! 

3. Barracuda Point

Barracudas
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As the name suggests, this Sipadan diving point is famous for its school of barracudas swimming together. Imagine being in the center and barracudas swimming all around you! Besides the barracudas, you will also find sea squirts, nudibranchs, flatworms, stingrays, moray eels, cuttlefish, pufferfish, flounders, Green Turtles, and Garden Eels. Whitetip Reef Sharks is also found at this site. Nonetheless, it is not easy to get closer to them because of their nature. Corals can be found in shallow waters. It is advised not to venture too deep if you are an amateur since the currents here tend to get stronger. Its minimum and the maximum depth is 5m and 40m correspondingly.

4. Sipadan Jetty

Whitetip Reef Shark
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Filled with both hard and soft corals, this 600m wall is also home to barracudas, mackerels, and batfishes. If you are lucky, you might as well spot Whitetip Reef Sharks and the occasional Leopard Sharks. 

5. South Point

Reef Sharks & Jack Fish
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Beware of the strong currents you might experience here and look out for rare species like the hammerhead shark and the thresher shark that can be seen at a mere 40m in depth. You will find White-tip reef sharks along with bannerfish, moray eels, and a variety of hard corals in the shallow waters of this diving point that consist of a wall, a ledge at about 20m deep, and then a sudden dropdown.

6. White-tip Avenue

Reefs Deep in the Sea
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Recognized as a deep dive, this dive location in Sipadan Island is a reef. Its walls are beautifully covered with black corals and sea fans. This diving spot is known for spotting sharks. Besides sharks, you will also find manta rays and turtles. About 30m deep, one can easily spot grey and white-tip sharks but diving this deep is advised to only experienced divers. What makes this diving site even more unique is that amidst the massive sea fans waving with the currents, you are likely to spot camouflaged clams, elusive eels, and boxfish. The best time to dive here is in the morning or early afternoons, which truly brings out the blues and illuminates the colours of the reef putting up one fine show for the divers. 

7. Turtle Patch

Turtles in Sipadan
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A great diving spot in Sipadan Island, the heroes here are the turtles. Along with turtles, you will also spot white-tip sharks, parrotfish shoals, and corals. The marine life here is amazing, and the corals are extremely beautiful. The turtles here are so used to divers that you can get a closer picture of them without frightening them. You can also find Eaffish, Mappa Puffer, Spotted Sweetlips, Lionfish, and Moray Eels here along with staghorn corals and leathery corals growing by the reef. The minimum and maximum depth here are 5m and 12m correspondingly.

8. Staghorn Crest

Trigger Fish
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Staghorn Crest is classified as a deep dive, and the location is a reef. It has breathtaking corals and its perfect for underwater macro photography. This site is reserved for advanced open water divers and above due to the strong currents it possesses. You are likely to find red sea whip corals, black corals, barrel sponges, and a plethora of reef fish. You will also spot triggerfish, angelfish, gobies, grunt, and shrimps. The best time to dive here is in the afternoon when the bright shining sun illuminates the corals and reefs, bringing out the magnificent contrast. Look closely at the small gaps, and you will find the beautiful marine life that has found its home here. Its average and maximum depths are 15m and 40m correspondingly with visibility of 30m.

9. Lobster Lair

Beneath Sipadan
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What could a name like ‘Lobster Lair’ suggest? This particular diving spot is famous for numerous lobsters living in small cracks. You will find hard as well as soft corals here. This spot is perfect for spotting tiny creatures like Seahorses, Leaf fish, Frogfish, and Pipefish. You are most likely to find reef sharks in blue, groupers, triggerfish, and if lucky enough, manta rays! This place is oozing with surprises at every spot, with creatures coming out of nowhere! 

10. Hanging Garden

Tubastrea Corals
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Keeping up with its name, this particular wall has a lot of overhangs, a mix of Tubastrea and Dendrophyllia corals, and large gorgonian sea fans, this is what makes it unique and colourful. You will often find turtles swimming here and on rare occasions, hammerhead sharks and thresher sharks. You will discover an entire range of sweetlips, clownfish, damselfish, and lobsters hiding away in cracks and holes. The minimum depth and maximum depth of this diving site are 5m and 40m correspondingly.

11. West Ridge

BUmphead Parrotfish
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A famous spot for turtles and groupers living there. It also has beautiful black corals. Besides turtles and groupers, you will also find clownfish, sweetlips, napoleon wrasse, snappers, and anemones. It is covered with more than sufficient overhangs, a mix of Tubastea and Dendrophyllia corals, large gorgonian sea fans, and black corals. The minimum and maximum depth of this diving site is 18m and 40m correspondingly and the best time to dive here is in the afternoon when you can see a beautiful picture painted by these corals and creatures underwater. 

12. North Point

In The Depths
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A diving site with a medium current, you are likely to spot Eagle ray, lobster, reef shark, amberjack, and turtles. Its minimum and the maximum depth is 25m and 40m correspondingly, and the best time to dive here is in the afternoon. Many of the species seen here can also be spotted at coral gardens, given that coral gardens have more diverse species.

Permits and Certificates

  • To be able to dive in Sipadan island, all you need is your open water certificate. Visits to Sipadan islands work on a permit basis, restricted to 120 permits per day. This permit is issued by Sabah Parks, a Sabah Government agency. You can only dive one day with one permit, and to dive for another day, you will have to apply for another permit. Your permits are booked by your dive shops on your behalf.
  • It is recommended to stay for 4-14 days if you want to dive multiple days in the Sipadan islands and do not have your dives booked in advance.
  • It is better to book your dives in advance because of the limited permits available. 

Best Time for Scuba Diving in Sipadan Island

Although the Sipadan Islands cater to diving all year round, the best time to visit Sipadan Island is during the dry season from March to October. Dry season ensures the chances of breathtaking experiences with diving visibility reaching nearly 50 meters.

How to Reach Sipadan Islands?

Since Sipadan is an ocean island, it is only accessible through boats. Most divers choose to stay at a dive resort on Mabul Island. The closest airports to Sipadan include Tawau airport (TWU), Sabah Borneo, and Malaysia.

It comes as no surprise that beauty lies underwater in all shapes, forms, and vibrant colours. Diving experience in Sipadan will surely make you realise the beauty gifted to us. It is undoubtedly an experience that will etch itself in your memories forever and leave you wanting more!

This post was published by Yashi Shah

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