Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sipadan Island

Below is a shot of a giant turtle in the waters off Sipadan Island. This photo, and the others, were taken by a friend's friend who went on a week-long diving-holiday a few years ago. He said he had such a wonderful experience that he would not hesitate to go back there again.

Sipadan Island has long been noted as a world-class diving site. It is located in Sabah in East Malaysia on Borneo Island. Those who have been there would be able to see for themselves the true beauty of Sipadan Island (or Sipadan as it is commonly-referred to) and its surroundings of white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, abundant variety of marine life, more than anyone can imagine.

Sipadan Island, Malaysia's only oceanic island, has been nominated in the running to be listed as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World along with Thailand’s Ko Phi Phi, Bora Bora, the Galapagos, Cocos Island and Terra del Fuego.

According to the Sabah Tourism chairman, Tengku Datuk Zainal Tengku Mahmud,

“We only knew about three weeks ago that some people who had dived at Sipadan had nominated the island for the listing and we moved quickly to qualify by setting up the official supporting committee.”

We are beginning to see the need to preserve our heritage sites all over the country, so preserving Sipadan with all its natural splendour is a natural progression.

How do we ensure Sipadan's preservation? Since it is in the running to be listed, online voting is ongoing just as we speak. Let us do our part by putting in our vote to have Sipadan Island listed as one of the new 7 wonders of the world. This is the only way to ensure the preservation of this natural wonder as well as to ensure continuous effort is placed on its upkeep. To cast your vote, go to the new7wonders website.

From Wikipedia:
Sipadan is located at the heart of the Indo-Pacific basin, the centre of one of the richest marine habitats in the world. More than 3,000 species of fish and hundreds of coral species have been classified in this ecosystem.

Normally rare diving scenes are frequently seen in the waters around Sipadan: schools of greenback turtles and hawksbill turtles nesting and mating, schools of barracuda & big-eye trevally in tornado-like formations, pelagic species such as manta rays, eagle rays, scalloped hammerhead sharks and whale sharks.

A mysterious turtle tomb lies underneath the column of the island, formed by an underwater limestone cave with a labyrinth of tunnels and chambers that contain many skeletal remains of turtles that have become lost and drown before finding the surface.

After the episode of the 2000 terrorist attack by the Filipino terrorist group, Abu Sayyaf, Sipadan is now heavily guarded by the Malaysian military to ensure safety of tourists. Visitors to the island are required to seek approval through the resorts operating on the island.

Best time to go to Sipadan Island

Try to avoid going from December to February as it is the rainy season though you will not have to contend with the crowd.

For diving, go between April to November and best months are July and August.

How does one get to Sipadan Island?

You will have to fly into Sabah and the point of entry is either Kota Kinabalu or Tawau. If you arrive at Kota Kinabalu, you will need to catch a connecting flight to Tawau.

Advance booking on accommodation is necessary. Do some research and see which resort you would like to stay in. The resort operator will meet you at the airport and send you in a van to Semporna. The journey from Tawau airport to Semporna is around an hour. The scenery along the way is nothing to shout about but an hour of plain oil-palm plantations passes by fast as the roads are good.

It is advisable to fly into Tawau on an earlier flight to catch the resorts scheduled boat transfers. Travelling on unscheduled transfers may cost more.

Suggested airlines include Air Asia and Malaysia Airlines. If you are flying into Singapore, it would be cheaper to take Air Asia from Senai airport in Johor Bharu. Air Asia flies direct to Kota Kinabalu from Senai.

Buses are also available from Tawau to Semporna or from Kota Kinabalu or Sandakan to Semporna. Semporna is where you take the boat-ride to Sipadan. It takes an hour or so by speedboat.

You can also take a taxi from Tawau airport to Semporna at the rate of between RM80 to RM100.

Welcome to Malaysia and enjoy your visit to Sipandan!

More information can be found on WikiTravel -


  1. Anonymous6:38 PM

    I love the carefree swimming turtle...:) Hmm..must really consider taking up diving lessons so I can enjoy the beauty of the underwater world!

    Is the island safe...esp in light of what happened couple of years ago if you remember...the kidnappings on the island?

  2. Direct flights from Senai to KK? This seems like a holiday plan to me keke. So Sipadan isn't that far from JB haha.

  3. I don't trust this kind of online voting. Last time, China's Great Wall came out top in the New 7 Wonders, simply because the ultra-nationalist Chinese all voted for their country's heritage.

    Plus, you don't want Sipadan Island to be crowded by tourists, do you?

  4. Mei Teng, Sipadan is tightly guarded by the military now after that incident. The last picture shows two uniformed men on duty.

    JL, yep, Sipadan isn't that far from JB. In fact, it isn't far from anywhere else in the world with transportation so readily available these days.

    KS, I should think it only makes sense for the country's citizens to vote for its own heritage site. Malaysians would do the same, I hope.

    With or without the listing, tourists (divers) will still flock to Sipadan for the diving experience afterall it's reputed to be one of the world's top diving sites. And, Malaysia sure could use the tourist dollars. In fact, Malaysians should spend their money at home instead of spending it overseas. *hint*

  5. Oh, I want to go Sipadan! Yeah, a little worried about the kidnapping cases there last time!

    Btw, what's happening to Streamyx these days? So damn slow! I tried to vote for Sipadan at that website you provided, it took ages and ages to load! : (

  6. Foong, Kuching, Kota Kinabalu and Sipadan as well. haha...

    Security is tight these days and one needs approval to visit so nothing to worry about at all now.

    I noticed slow response time too the past two days, not only on that site, on some others as well. Seems to have improved. Yes, go vote.

  7. Love those turtles. Used to see them when kayaking and snorkeling in Hawaii - one of the things I miss.

  8. Happysurfer,
    That's the point. If all Chinese surfers vote Yangtze River, all Brazilians vote Iguazu Falls, all Indonesians vote Komodo... and so on, how could Sipadan Island be selected? How many Malaysians are there?

    For that reason, I will boycott.

  9. Very odd to hear it was those divers who had nominated the island for the listing instead of the Tourism Board!

  10. PandaB, I guess for us who do not kayak nor scuba-dive, the only chance we'll ever get to see these beauties is when they come on land to lay their eggs. We have a stretch of beach here on the east coast at Terengganu state where greenback turtles do that once a year. It's a tourist attraction and the eggs are collected by authorised personnel for the hatchery. I have yet to experience this beauty of nature though.

    KS, I see your point. But if you boycott, Malaysia will be so short of one vote and that could be the tie-breaker. Eh?

    Hi Joe, such things do happen. Those divers must have been so overwhelmed by its beauty and probably the Tourism Board folks have not been there to know that the place warrants some recognition.

  11. sabah is so blessed. must go sipadan one day soon :)

  12. My friend really enjoyed himself when he was there.

  13. Hey, im voting for Pulau Sipadan now. Semua sekolah sekolah kat Labuan, sabah, semua sedang undi..haha..

  14. Hi Angelynn, great! Every vote counts. Thanks and thanks too for stopping by to let me know.

  15. oh man, how i love to go to sipadan. here is my post about some island that i want to visit:

    but,seems impossible for me right now to go due to time constrain and financial.

    btw, i like this post. sipadan as new 7 wonder in the world..really2 good info.

  16. Yes, Sipadan island is the best place to see many turtles during diving...