Diving Sipadan in Borneo

This is not just another dive spot – it is anything but that. From barracuda tornados to hammerhead sharks and even a 600 meter wall with Turtle cave that runs through the entire island, this is Sipadan.

Ever since diving legend Jacques Cousteau raved about Pulau Sipadan’s diversity of marine life, it has been a mecca for scuba in Malaysia. It is located off the east coast of Sabah, Malaysia’s eastern most state, and lies on the north-eastern corner of Borneo, the world’s third largest island.

Getting There 

You’ll need to fly into Kota Kinabalu and then grab a quick 45-minute flight to Tawau, followed by a 1 hour and 45 minute bus to Semporna. From Semporna, it’s an hour boat ride to whichever island you choose to sleep on dive from. Due to all those transfers, it’s best to plan on staying a night in Semporna and leaving early in the morning. Once you leave Semporna, you’ll have to choose from Mabul or Kapalai island for lodgings, because Sipadan is a small island and highly restricted national park with no lodgings.


Mabul Island has dive resorts and locals, and that’s about it. There are three local restaurants and I mean local, otherwise food can only be found at your choice of lodging, and many have packages that include food and diving with the accommodations. It takes about 15 minutes to walk around the entire island – it’s very small. Accommodations range from hostels with dorms ($20/nt) to 5-star resorts ($250/nt).

There a secret sandwich shop on Mabul which is open for a few hours in the early evening and is located near the entrance to Billibong. There make decent burgers and chicken sandwiches for like $1.50 or combine both patties for $3!

Kapalai Island is a single large private reef and resort, built above the reef and entirely elevated on posts. It’s much more expensive than Mabul and a totally different experience. It is totally contained and

Regardless of where you choose to stay, you’ll be in the company of friendly and a little giddy diving enthusiasts who are excited as hell to be there. There isn’t a dive spot that disappoints, everything delivers on such high expectations – from wrecks to an underwater artificial coral cityscape, complete with town and two 10 meter towers.

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