Diving in Sipadan

Prior to my Kuala Lumpur trip a couple of weeks ago, I dived in Sipadan and Mabul for a week. For those of you that have never heard of these places, Mabul is a tiny island off the coast of Tawau and Semporna in Sabah, Malaysia. You’ll are probably super confused now. The journey getting there is long. We flew from Mumbai to KL, had a 5-hour layover, then KL to Tawau, then a drive from Tawau to Semporna and then a boat to Mabul. Every year, my father and I do a diving holiday, and more often than not, its one planned by Planet Scuba India. There’s a whole group of us that go, and this year was no different.

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Diving in Sipadan is like the holy grail of diving. It has some of the best dive sites in the world, and almost every dive assures something interesting. The island of Sipadan until a few years ago allowed for tourists to live on it, however, due to some unfortunate developments, divers can only do day trips. Instead, everyone now stays in resorts on the islands of Mabul and Kapalai, which are about 30 minutes from Sipadan. However, that isn’t where we stayed. Instead, the group of us stayed at the Seaventures Dive Rig, which used to be an oil rig. Its complete with all the old exteriors including this massive lift that takes you up from the boat to the rig. The dive shop is on one side of the main deck, with the other half used as the dining area and bar. Rooms are on higher floors, and the top has a beautiful sun deck.

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Seaventures Dive Rig

I’m just going to give a quick overview of the rig itself. The food is great, and there’s enough variety to just go on and on, especially once you’ve finished a dive. The rooms are nice, but the trudge up to the 4th floor to get to our room, in particular, is quite exhausting. The staff are absolutely wonderful and very eager to help. For those of you that do dive, they’re very particular about safety, which in my opinion is probably the most important thing. The dive masters and instructors are all so so sweet and helpful, and go above and beyond to make you comfortable and show you things.

Unfortunately for the first couple of days, we had really bad weather so think lots of rain and clouds, and no sun whatsoever. This also meant poor visibility underwater, and choppy water on the surface. However, we did the best we could till the clouds cleared up.

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Island of Sipadan
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Island of Sipadan

To be able to dive around the island of Sipadan you need a permit. Getting your hands on one of these permits isn’t very easy since they only give out a certain number of them each day. Our group managed to get permits for all 9 of us, for two days, which is amazing. Our first day of diving at Sipadan was, unfortunately, a bad weather day, however, to make the most of it, we did 5 dives that day, and boy did it pay off.

I think everyone in the group would agree that the best best best dive site in Sipadan in Barracuda point. True to its name, its just barracudas everywhere, then some turtles, then more barracudas and a few hundred jacks thrown in. Oh yes and let’s not forget the bump head parrot fish.

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Our second day in Sipadan was a beautiful sunny day. It was also the day we saw TWO hammerheads during our first dive, which honestly made up for all the bad weather we had.

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We decided to do 5 dives that day as well, and again the two extra dives were so so worth it. Same as the day before, barracudas, jacks, turtles and some white and black tip sharks here and there.

 

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We were all quite heartbroken that we couldn’t dive at Sipadan anymore, but there were sites in Mabul and Kapalai that had to be explored.

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After our last dive in Sipadan. Photo courtesy, our boatman Maski

Post the two days of diving in Sipadan, we went back to diving the around the islands of Kapalai and Mabul. There are an insane number of dive sites between the two islands, so there is plenty to see. But remember that most of it is macro stuff. Once in a while, there may be a shark, and there are tons of turtles, but that’s about it. The sites, however, are abundant with nudibranchs, groupers, eels, leaf fish.

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Did I mention this?

 

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The island of Mabul doesn’t have much to do or see, but you can always visit it for a couple of hours after your done diving for the day. The resorts are truly beautiful, and they’re the kind where you can jump into the sea from your room. However, I must warn you’ll that there are a lot of sea urchins, and getting stung will ruin the trip.

You can visit a couple of the souvenier shops, or walk along the beach on the far side of the island, or even play with the cats walking the paths with you.

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I honestly don’t think I could have asked for a better holiday. The company, the diving, the food.

If you do visit the Seaventures Dive Rig, be sure to ask for Adam and Kina, our absolutely wonderful dive masters. And if you dive in Sipdan remember Barracuda point is the place to be!

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