Sipadan, a Little Piece of Heaven in Malaysia

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Although Malaysia consists of many islands, there is one that deserves special attention. As Malaysia’s only oceanic island, Sipadan is an atoll that serves as a heaven for a mind-blowing variety of underwater life. The island boasts one of the world’s biggest populations of sea turtles, and is widely considered as one of the best scuba diving spots, period. Getting to the island is not a simple affair, as there is a special visitor permit that needs to be obtained. Only 120 dives are allowed per day, making this beautiful location even more sought after by the discerning diver. In order to preserve the natural habitat, Sipadan Island has no resorts on it, so visitors usually stay on the nearby Mabul or Kapalai islands. There are twelve dive sites on Sipadan, and although you cannot go wrong with any of them, here are a few worth mentioning.

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Sipadan Jetty/Drop-off

This is the most easily accessible dive site on the island as it is closest to the main jetty where boats form surrounding islands dock. It is not a coincidence that this dive site is known as the drop-off, as there is a sudden almost vertical 600m drop to the sea floor. This makes for epic wall dives, as divers can marvel at the ubiquitous hard and soft corals that decorate the spectacular walls of the drop. The drop is teeming with life including schools of batfish, barracuda, mackerel as well as the occasional leopard and white tip reef shark.

Turtle cavern

A truly unique dive site, the turtle cavern is also known as the Turtle Tomb because of the eerie turtle skeletons that litter the floor of the extensive cave complex. Although locals say that the 20m deep cave system is where turtles come to die, there is a thriving population of living green sea turtles that call this place home. This dive site is not for the weak hearted, as the mazelike passageways have many dead ends and can be quite claustrophobic. The cave system also has an air pocket which allows divers to take a break and talk to each other without the use of breathing apparatus.

Barracuda Point

As the name suggests, this dive site located east of the island is famous for the huge population of barracuda that patrol the area. Thousands of barracuda congregate there, and divers can often witness the truly breathtaking barracuda tornadoes that form when schools of the fish circle in a mesmerizing vortex. Barracudas are not the only inhabitants of Barracuda Point, they share their home with black tip reef sharks, bump-head parrot fish, eagle rays, triggerfish and many other weird and wonderful species of fish and corrals.

Although Sipadan is a veritable heaven for any scuba diver, the island itself is a bit dull, so there is not much to do there apart from diving. The diving season lasts year round, and the visibility is great in all seasons. That being said, the most breathtaking diving is to be had during the dry season (March-October), as dive visibility easily reaches 50m during this time.

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