Diving in Sipadan Island, Malaysia
Malaysia is home to some world class diving sites, including the famous Sipadan diving which regularly features in the top dive destinations in the world.
Barracuda Point is outstanding and is known as one of the top dive sites which is know for its great barracuda shoal (in the thousands) which are often seen in a tornado like formation.
It is also not uncommon to see dozens of turtles, schools of whitetip sharks, jacks, batfish, and barracuda just in one dive. This dive destination really has everything from nudibranch to hammerhead sharks.
Malaysia has just over 4600 kilometers of coastline and borders the South China Sea, the Sulu Sea, the Sulawesi Sea and the Straits of Malacca. Where is the island of Borneo? The South China Sea separates the two main regions of Malaysia: Malaysian island South of Borneo islands to the east and Peninsular Malaysia to the west.
Sipadan is Malaysia’s only oceanic island and is a small island not too far from the town of Semporna which is located on the East coast of Sabah. The Sipadan island, is a limestone pinnacle rising from 600 meters. From Semporna to Sipadan by boat ride only takes around one hour.
Diving the Sipadan Barracuda Reef
A total of 16,846 hectares consist of coral reef and sea area around Sipadan are now official park areas. Malaysia scuba diving in Borneo really is a must.
The Barracuda Point Sipadan dive starts off by descending deep along the sheer wall, looking out into the blue for pelagics. Eventually, you end up heading towards the south at a depth of around 22 meters.
The current will then bring you towards the most memorable part of your dive, Barracuda Point. It is here where you will meet the schools in the thousands of Barracuda. Your dive will finish towards the shallows of the beautiful coral garden.
Sipadan diving has claimed to be one of the world’s best dive destinations. While this is a massive claim, diving in Sipadan is unquestionably world class.
A number of resorts in Sipadan island Borneo were closed in 2002 in order to protect the environment.
Nowadays, to be able to dive on Sipadan you are advised to stay somewhere close by and then take a boat to the island. Divers Malaysia know to stay in Mabul, Kapalai or in Semporna, where the boat ride is only an hour long to Sipadan.
Since April 2013 and since Sipadan has been converted into a protected site, it has been decided that only 120 divers are allowed to dive on Sipadan on a daily basis. Each dive comes at a fee of around RM 40. There is now also a dive time frame window of 08:00 – 15:00, and is only permissible to dive during these time.
Although macro life does exist here, the main visitors are Sipadan divers who come to see the larger critters. The dive sites around Kapalai and Mabul are better known for the macro photographers.
If you are lucky enough, you will be able to see what is known as a jackfish or barracuda “tornado” as the school changes direction.
The Sipadan dive visibility ranges from 10 meters to 30 meters and more, although this obviously decreases on the rainy stormy days. Most of the scuba diving in Malaysia, Barracuda Point in particular consists of drift or current diving. With the currents around Barracuda Point being one of the strongest (at one certain point, you can easily get swept away rather quickly if you are not careful). Divemasters will usually keep you at around 20 meters – 25 meters from the wall dives. Although there are deeper dives available for the more technical divers (this would depend on the dive shop and divemasters available).
The last (but certainly not the least!) dive of the day will normally be at a shallower dive site, and at around 15 meters. One of the dive sites might include a cave know as the Turtle Tomb. If you are one of the lucky ones to have a cave-certified divemaster as well as a torch, you might even be able to go into the dark for an awesome and hair-raising experience!
Always remember to dive responsibly and follow the instructions to the letter, if not, you may not be able to come back out!).
The rate (October 2015), for three dives at Sipadan, is around RM 900. Rates will vary slightly among the different operators. Normally, both boat transfers and packed lunches are included in the prices. Dive permits are usually limited to 120 per day and must be obtained by the dive operators. It will not be possible to dive Sipadan without one of these permits. Some dive resorts have been known to guarantee a Sipadan dive permit at 40 MYR when you stay for 4 or more nights although this may vary. If you are lucky enough to get another one, extra permits come at a cost of 140 MYR. Be advised that pre-booking is essential!
With effect from 10th February 2013, it was announced by the Malaysian Government that the following rules apply when on Sipadan Islands diving; Due to different instances of novice divers descending too quickly and/or too deeply and also with relation to the strong currents which are often experienced when diving in some dive sites, only entry-level divers and Advanced Open Water Divers with at least a minimum of 20 log dives will be allowed to dive in Sipadan.
Ensure that you check diver reviews of the different dive operators available in the area before choosing who you want to dive with. There have been many which have had a number of customer complaints regarding defective equipment.
What Marine Life Can I See at Barracuda Point?
Located a mere 20 meters from the main beach of the original resort it is just a wade over the reef to reach the top of the reef wall which drops at 1,000 – 2,000 meters. Sipadan itself is surrounded by an abundance of rich reef life consisting of both soft and hard corals. It is also home to a vast variety of reef fish.
White tip sharks and sea turtles can be found on almost every single dive. It is also not uncommon to see hammerhead and leopard sharks, although this is rare these days. Large schools of bumbhead parrotfish, jackfish and barracudas are also main attractions of this dive destination. Hence the name “Barracuda point”.
When is the best time to Visit Sipadan Island?
The island is accessible during all months of the year. Famous for diving purposes, and diving being the most popular attraction to Sipadan, therefore it is necessary to know when the best time to visit is. Diving hours in Sipadan are from 6am to 4pm and night diving is not allowed. From January to March the weather can be quite unpredictable and uneasy, making it sometimes problematic for the divers to dive. April to June weather is a lot more satisfying. May and August are the best months to encounter the green and hawksbill turtles lay their eggs on the beaches.
If you would like to avoid the crowd, divers should visit the island during mid December and mid February as there are less crowds during rainy season. However the probability of getting a permit during these periods are higher. Diving during the rainy seasons could be a little challenging as it causes disturbances in the water and lessen the visibility.
Malaysia Travel Information
Note – Travel to any destination may be adversely affected by conditions including (but not limited) to security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture, natural disasters and climate. Regardless of your destination, check your local travel advisory board or department for travel advice about that location when planning your trip and again shortly before you leave.
Language – Malay, Malasian
Currency – Malaysian ringgit
Major Airport – Kuala Lumpur International Airport
Top Attractions – Langkawi Sky Cab (Langkawi), Petronas Twin Towers (Kuala Lumpur), Pinang Peranakan Mansion (George Town)
Information link – http://www.malaysia.travel/
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