Macro: diving in Sipadan on the island of Borneo in Malaysia is one of those destinations discovered and made famous by our Jean Jacques Cousteau national. Since he praised it, this little island of Malaysia has become known worldwide for the beauty of its dive sites. So I had to go, well I was not disappointed !! Sipadan is an extraordinary destination, undoubtedly among the most beautiful dives in Asia and often listed in the top 10 world ! A superb reef, sharks and sea turtles everywhere resident schools of fish (jacks, barracudas and humpback parrots) crazy! If you are planning a diving trip to Sipadan, know that there is no diving clubs on the island, which you can't not cruise and that it takes a allowed to go there. To know finally, that the best diving season in Sipadan is clearly from March to October.

Context: Sipadan is part of my 3 month diving trip to Asia during which I wanted to do all the most beautiful sites! I stayed there for a week and did 9 dives in Sipadan.

# Overview 
# Presentation 
# Diving with 
# Day permit 
# Dive sites 
# Diving in Mabul 
# Seasons and conditions 
# Diving cruise 
# Insecurity 
# Diving club 
# Accommodation 
# How to get there 
# My diving review

banc de carangues plongee sipadan malaisie top 10 mondial



  • Best diving period Sipadan : March to October.
  • Best Hammerhead Shark Period Sipadan : November to February.
  • Best diving sites Sipadan : Barracuda point, white-tip avenue, south point.
  • Common Marine Life : turtle, white tip and black tip shark, gray shark, large pelagic (napoleon, giant trevally…)
  • Resident fish schools : barracudas (more than 1000), jacks (more than 1000) and mogul parrots (more than 150).
  • Day permit : you need a permit to dive in Sipadan (see below).
  • Diving nearby: Mabul (10 min from Sipadan), world top 5 in macro.
  • Insecurity : no danger to go diving in Sipadan
  • Visibility : 15 to 30 m (best in April to June).
  • French-speaking diving club : none to my knowledge.
  • Access : Mabul or Semporna.
Logo-plongeur-baroudeurRecommendations by category of divers:

> New diver : not recommended.
> Confirmed : to do absolutely if you are in Borneo.
> Experienced : to do absolutely, in the top 10 worldwide.
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Where is Sipadan?

  • Sipadan is a small island off Sabah, the Malaysian part of Borneo, around 45 min of the ribs.
  • Located in the Celebes Sea, Sipadan was formed from living corals that have developed for thousands of years on top of an extinct volcano.

Sipadan Photos

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How is diving in Sipadan?


  • The dives in Sipadan are without doubt the most beautiful in Malaysia
  • Strong currents and vertiginous walls generally characterize Sipadan's type of diving.
  • As soon as you put your head underwater, you will be amazed!
  • Apart from beauty of coral and the an impressive number of fish tropical species present the amount of "big" that I appreciated!
  • In addition to sharks and turtles with each dive, one of the strengths of Sipadan is the presence of 3 resident benches : trevally, barracuda and humpback parrot.

Turtles everywhere in Sipadan

Sipadan tortue-min

  • There are turtles everywhere in Sipadan!
  • Green turtles and nested are the queens of places, it is not uncommon to see 15 or 20 on the same dive!
  • It is true that on the 9 dives that I made, I saw between 5 and 15 each time!

Sharks on all dives in Sipadan

Sipadan requin-min

  • You are sure to see sharks in Sipadan!
  • Reef shark white tip or black Point solitary, to gray sharks benches hunting along the drop offs.

Hammerhead sharks in Sipadan

  • I did not work in Sipadan and I honestly did not stay long enough to have precise information on hammerhead sharks.
  • A priori, there is a school of hammerhead sharks which appeared from November to February on the site of south point,
  • The best chance of seeing them is in the morning.

A huge bench of resident barracudas in Sipadan

  • One of Sipadan's stars is his gigantic barracuda bench !
  • It's a resident bench which strolls along the fall on the site of barracuda point.
  • It's really a magical show to dive inside these thousands of fish.
  • Just for this experience, it's worth going to Sipadan !!

A resident bench of more than 1000 trevallies in Sipadan

  • The barracuda bench is not the only one to wander around Barracuda point!
  • You also have a bench of over 1000 bigeye jacks!
  • I saw the school of barracudas in the 1st then 5 min later that of the trevallies, a big moment !

A school of over 150 humpback parrots in Sipadan

  • There is also a huge bench of resident hump parrots who wanders around the island.
  • I had already seen 10, 20 or 30 together, but there they are at least 150!!
  • You can count them yourself on this video! Impressive.

The rays are also part

sipadan raie aigle-min-min

  • he is also very common to see eagle rays or mobulas rays along the drop offs.
  • For the manta raysyou really have to be very lucky, they do not appear only when the bottom currents bring up the plankton on the surface.

Exceptional macro

sipadan poisson fantome-min-min

  • If you are macro fan, Sipadan also has something to satisfy you!
  • Some pygmy seahorses, at dozens of different nudibranchs, going through ghost fish, frog fish, blue ringed octopus

Sipadan diving video

Sipadan diving photos

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Do you need a permit to dive in Sipadan?

Sipadan ile 1-min

  • Yes, you need a permit to dive in Sipadan.
  • To protect the Sipadan Marine Park, a maximum of divers is authorized per day (120):
    • Only 12 dive centers were authorized to obtain permits.
    • The number of permits per day and per center is determined by their size.

Why a permit to dive in Sipadan

Until 2004, most dive centers were located on Sipadan and everyone could dive all day on Sipadan.

Sipadan ile 4- pancarte pulau sipadan-min

  • Studies have shown that this reality degraded the marine ecosystem of Sipadan.
  • The Malaysian government has therefore decided to remove all dwellings from Sipadan (most of them left on the neighboring island of Mabul) and to set a maximum number divers allowed daily

Can I dive in Sipadan everyday?

  • It'll be hard…

  • It will be difficult for you to obtain a permit to dive daily in Sipadan.
  • Most dive centers or dive resorts offer you week-long packages with 3 days in Sipadan and 3 days elsewhere (Mabul, Kapalai…).

Any advice for diving for several days in Sipadan?

sipadan banc de carangue-min

  • Avoid the high seasons: July / August, Christmas / New Year's Day, Easter Week, Chinese New Year.
  • Reserve in advance : if you have little time on site, it is imperative that you reserve in advance, otherwise you are not even sure that you can dive in Sipadan!
  • Contact several diving clubs: don't hesitate to contact several centers and see which ones have permits on the dates you go there. This is what I did, I dived with two centers which allowed me to do 3 days in Sipadan.
  • Stay a long time and tour the centers when you arrive: of course, if you're not in a hurry, being able to stay there for several days will increase your chances of getting permits. Go around the centers when you arrive to try to get the maximum number of permits (there are often cancellations the day before for the next day).
Logo-plongeur-baroudeurIn summary : I would book the maximum number of days on Sipadan in advance by contacting several clubs, but I would not commit to packages with Mabul or Kapalai, I would wait to see on the spot if spots in other clubs become available .
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Map dive sites Sipadan


Best Sipadan dive sites

sipadan banc de barracudas-min copie

  • Barracuda point is the best site in Sipadan!

    • The IN-CON-TOUR-NABLE site of Sipadan!
    • It is at Barracuda point that you will find the famous bench of barracudas. There are thousands!
    • It's still to this day the biggest barracuda bench I've ever seen.
    • But it's not the only one, you also a huge school of jacks (often shaped like a "whirlwind"), just as impressive as that of barracudas. In addition, you have reef sharks (white or black tips), gray sharks, some large pelagic (napoleon, giant trevallies, grouper ...) and of course sea turtles !
    • You will finish the dive with a beautiful coral garden.


  • South point

    • This is the site where there is most likely to see hammerhead sharks.
    • Well, I haven't seen them!
    • As is often the case, a period during which they go back more often depths (November to February) and there is also more chance to see them early in the morning.

sipadan turtle cave

  • Turtle cave / turtle Tomb

    • This site is very particular, it's a kind submerged cave (a bit like the cenotes in Mexico).
    • At 18 m depth, you have the entrance to the cave, then you follow a series of caves and tunnels.
    • At the end of the dive, you will arrive at Turtle Tomb, a small cave filled with turtle skeletonss.
    • And yes unfortunately, many turtles arrived at this small cave and never managed to find the exit…

sipadan requin gris

  • White-tip avenue

    • As indicated by his name, you have a good chance of seeing sharks at white-tip avenue!
    • White and black tip reef sharks, but also gray sharks.
    • I saw at least twenty sharks on this dive!
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  • As you will not be able to dive every day in Sipadan (because of the number of allowed available) you will probably have to mix your stay with dives in Mabul.
  • Mabul is very different from Sipadan, you will not see "big" over there.
  • Mabul is very famous for the macro : seahorses, ghost fish, pipe fish, scorpion fish, frog fish, nudibranchs, octopus with blue rings, cleaning shrimp ...

The full article on diving in Mabul here

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You can almost dive all year round in Sipadan but the best diving season is from March to October.

When to dive in Sipadan?

sipadan vue dessus face

  • The months with the best visibility for diving in Sipadan are from March to May.
  • Period to avoid : July / August (high season), Easter week, Chinese New Year and Christmas / 1st of the year.
  • Hammerhead shark season : November to February.
  • Rainy season : December to February.

Sipadan diving conditions:

  • Visibility in Sipadan : 20 to 30 m from March to May, 1 to -15 the rest of the year.
  • Sipadan water temperature : 26 to 30 °.
  • Current Sipadan : there may be strong currents on some sites.
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If you do research on Sipadan, you can read that it can be "dangerous" to go diving there.

Is it dangerous to come to Sipadan?

  • So the real story is that:
  • On April 23, 2000, 21 people were kidnapped by the group of Filipino terrorists Abu Sayyaf (living on the province of Mindanao 780 km from Sipadan) who claims their independence from the Philippines (a bit like Corsican at one time).
  • All victims were released safe and sound.
  • Since this event, the Malaysian army has been protecting tourists.
  • The army is present on the island and patrols are done around Sipadan.
  • Since then, no incident has been reported

So, we can say that Sipadan is safe and that there is no danger in diving.

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Sipadan ile 1-min

What is the price of a diving trip to Sipadan?

  • Sipadan diving prices: about 40 € without equipment
  • Day diving pack : around 120 € for 3 dives in Sipadan (including the license).
  • There are many diving + accommodation packages: allow around 1000 - 1500 € for 7 days.



  • There are not to my knowledge of liveaboard diving cruises to Sipadan.
  • The island is not far from the coast and it is not a large park sailor like Raja Ampat, Komodo or Tubbataha who does not hesitate several hours of navigation between the different sites.
  • The only cruises in Borneo that I know of are on the Derawan Islands in Indonesia.
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The best diving clubs in Sipadan

  • There are a lot of clubs in Sipadan, but it's mostly their availability of allowed to dive in Sipadan which will guide your choice (see above).
  • To dive in Sipadan you have 2 solutions : either from the island of Mabul, either Semporna.

Sipadan diving club in Mabul

scuba junkie

  • The diving clubs in Mabul are "dive resorts", that is, they also do hotel.
  • I recommend you Scuba junkie (one of the most serious and best known).
  • You also have : Mabul Water Bungalows and Borneo diver mabul resort.
  • Avoid Uncle chang, they are in the cheapest, but I really heard that bad comments about them: organization, security, service, food…

Sipadan diving club in Semporna

sipadan vue dessus face

French diving club in Sipadan

  • There are not to my knowledge of French-speaking diving club in Sipadan.
  • I advise you send an email before to check those who may have French speaking staff.
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  • It is not no longer possible to stay on Sipadan (the government has stopped all housing formerly on the island).
  • Moreover, because of famous allowed to dive in Sipadan (see section above), the choice of accommodation is even more important.

Hotel in Mabul: the nicest

scuba junkie mabul-min

Mabul is a small island located about 10 min from Sipadan. You have ten homes on the island, from the nice hotel to the luxurious resort:

  • He is a lot fun to stay on Mabul than in Semporna (see below).
  • You are loan from Sipadan (10 minutes).
  • Mabul has very good dive sites (macro).
  • Of course, it's good more expensive to stay on Mabul only on Semporna.
  • All the accommodation on Mabul here, from the backpaker to the resort.

Hotel in Semporna: the most economical

The choice the most economical is to stay in Semporna


  • The major disadvantage is that the city is poor ! It's ugly, it could, there is nothing to do, it's really not the best!
  • The main advantage is that it is much cheaper than staying on Mabul.
  • The second advantage is that you are not not dependent on accommodation / diving center. You can stay in Semporna and go dive daily with a different center if needed. On Mabul, it's a little more complicated, each accommodation has its dive center.
  • You'll need about 45 min / 1h to go to Sipadan.
  • You do not have no diving in Semporna.
  • Diving hotel Semporna

Luxury hotel in Kapalai

sipadan logement-kapalai-chalet-min

  • Kapalai is located 5 minutes from Mabul and 10 min from Sipadan.
  • On Kapalai, you have a luxurious resort, the Sipadan-Kapalai Dive Resort, superb bungalows built above crystal clear water!



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It is quite complicated to get to Sipadan, you will first have to arrive on the island of Borneo.


Getting to Kota Kinabalu

  • Sipadan is located on the Malaysian part of Borneo.
  • You will therefore need to reach the main town of Kota Kinabalu first.
  • It is an international airport, you will have no trouble getting there from the biggest cities in Asia (Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Jakarta…)

Kota Kinabalu to Semporna by plane

  • Plane Kota Kinabalu to Tawau: 50 min, departure every day.
  • Then 1 hour trip by minivan / taxi.

Kota Kinabalu to Semporna by bus

  • Bus from Kota kinabalu to Semporna: around 10 hours.
  • Night bus, you arrive very early in the morning.
  • Around 30 €.

Route Semporna to Mabul

  • If you go to the islands of Mabul, your accommodation will organize transport by boat.
  • Allow about 40 - 45 min.

Mabul to Sipadan

  • The journey from Mabul to Sipadan takes about 20 min by speed boat.


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Sipadan is crazy dives ! Of sharks and sea turtles everywhere, gigantic schools of barracudas and trevallies, the big napoleon, the resident bench of more than 150 humpback parrots, a magnificent coral… Question quality of diving it is certainly in the top 10 worldwide ! After as often, it deserves. This licensing story (which is of course a very good idea) requires some organization. If you can, go there really out of season. The island of Mabul and his exceptional macro, allows you to spend an unforgettable diving week!

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