Daerah Semporna, Sabah dianugerahkan dengan 5 tapak menyelam bertaraf antarabangsa. Tapak-tapak menyelam ini bakal memuaskan hati para pencinta samudera, penyelam skuba dan malahan kepada pasangan yang mencari tempat untuk berbulan madu. Sila skrol ke bawah untuk mendapatkan maklumat mengenai Pulau Sipadan, Pulau Mabul, Pulau Kappalai, Pulau Mataking and Pulau Sibuan.
Semporna is blessed with 5 top diving sites. These sites will entertain scubas, divers, oceanographers and even couples seeking for a honeymoon vacation. Feel free to scroll-down this page for the information of Pulau Sipadan, Pulau Mabul, Pulau Kappalai, Pulau Mataking and Pulau Sibuan.
Situated in the middle of the Celebes Sea, the island itself is 40 acres and was once described as looking like a mushroom shooting upwards. Just 30km from mainland Semporna lays this tiny island.
Sipadan is the most famous of Semporna's islands. Rated as one of the world's top ten dive destinations, many come here to indulge in the island's opulence. For the true diving enthusiast, the island nees no introduction. Sipadan is unique as the only oceanic island in Malaysia. Its geographical position in the heart of the Indo-Pacific basin, places Sipadan in the centre of the richest marine habitat in the world.
More than 3,000 species of fish and hundreds of coral species have been classified in this rich ecosystem. Trigger fish, moray eels and anemone fish mingle copiously. Sipadan was internationally recognized as a native reserved in 1919. In 1933 it was pronounced as a bird sanctuary. Large flights of Imperial pigeons, swallows and sea eagles often crowds the sky in spectacular swirls.
This ravishing island is protected by regulations imposed on islanders and visitors alike, in an effort to preserve its natural life. No one is allowed to collect turtle eggs here, even the natives. This island is also renowned for its spectacular large population of the ever graceful green and hawksbill turtle, which gather to mate and nest. Another unique find is the turtle tomb where many skeletal remains of turtles are found.
Rising 600 meters from the seabed, this island provides fantastic wall dives and features hundreds of underwater gardens. Unusually large schools of barracuda and big-eye trevally invade the water, placing themselves in whirlpool-like formations. Mantas, eagle-rays and whale sharks are aplenty. The creatures of the sea here incredibly varied.
The natural treasures of this island are its greatest assets. Here, you can still find wild deer in secluded coves. Dugongs, a cousin of the American manatees were known to swim the tides. Now they are hardly ever seen but are still held as one of Semporna's secrets.
Diving Sipadan's reefs, Jacques Cousteau was spellbound. "Go to Sipadan to see the schooling barracuda, to Mabul to see the seahorses and the erodes reefs of Kapalai to marvel at the detrius-like leaf fish" divers were told. Still today you will find turtles nesting under your beach hut on stilts and giant coconut crabs climbing the branches of a coconut palm. It has been said that the number of creatures on these reef surpass that of the tropical rainforest.
The coconut palm which grows in abundance here is precious to the people. The flesh and juice of a young fruit quenches the thirst. Sugar is made from the palm nectar and its wood is excellent for construction. Palms are thatched for roofing and leaves are weaved into baskets.
The natural glory of Sipadan remains. An arising awareness of the frailty of its natural wonders has rallied the defence of the island.
Sipadan jetty / drop-off: Steep wall with overhangs. If you stay at Sipadan you can jump right off the jetty and there is one of the nicest dive sites right there. You always encounter large schools of fish like mackerels or barracudas or groups of batfish. On one dive here we were lucky to see a large leopard shark.
Turtle Cavern: Some meter to the right of the jetty is also the entrance to a large cave. Without a certificate in cave diving (most dive operators offer cave diving courses) you can't go inside. I have seen photos, and there are skeletons of turtles inside the cave, that haven't found their way out anymore and died there. If you make a nightdive, be cautious not to dive down to the level of the cave (18m), you might enter it by mistake like a dive buddy of mine did. She said it was the scariest dive ever, because she didn't realize she was inside the cave until she already was well in the back of it. Luckily she didn't panic and managed to get out again!
Sipadan South Point: Steep wall, ledge and then drop-off. Divers liked this site a lot, because they had seen a group of hammerhead sharks there at about 55m depth. I went down as well, but actually you have to swim out first to the ledge and then go down, otherwise you don't have enough bottom time.
Sipadan Barracuda point: Wall, then flat valley on about 20m. The dive site has suffered some though, and there are a lot of broken corals because it is the dive site everybody wants to go. Large schools of barracuda consisting of several hundreds animals nearly always hover there, forming huge spirals, which become vortices and form high walls. If you don't make any abrupt movements and keep level in the water you might end up in the middle of a circular wall of huge adult barracudas. An exhilarating feeling! Currents can be strong here at times with down currents possible.
A Brief History of Pulau Sipadan
1800s - On Dinawan Island, the tribal leaders celebrate (in 19th century Borneo style) the fact that they have just received from the Sultan of Sulu exclusive rights to collect and trade in sea-turtle eggs from nearby Sipadan Island.
1933 - Sipadan is declared by the British as a bird sanctuary, being an important stopover for migratory birds like the greater sand plover, common sandpiper and wood sandpiper.
1964 - Pulau Sipadan becomes part of the turtle egg native reserve of Sabah - an important step in protecting the very species that would make Sipadan famous. Although dive trips to the island were being run by Borneo Divers as early as 1983, Jacques Cousteau's film, 'Ghost of the Sea Turtles' brought international fame to Malaysia's only truly oceanic island. When the charismatic Frenchman announced, "I have seen other places like Sipadan, 45 years ago, but now no more. Now we have found an untouched piece of art", marketing bods all over the world took note and have duly been repeating the mantra ad nauseum ever since.
1990 - Now world-famous Sipadan Island, a mere half km in length and 200 metres in width has five resorts rubbing shoulders on its northern beaches. Sipadan's fame is bringing divers in their droves to its reefs every day, lusting to gorge themselves on the underwater smorgasbord of marine excess that are Sipadan's waters. But would this greed come at some expense?
1992 - Dr Elizabeth Wood, a coral reef conservation officer with Britain's Marine Conservation Society begins her constant watch and monitoring of the state of Sipadan and notes an obvious deterioration of the quality of the reefs over the years. While pronouncing the reefs generally healthy, she does sound a note of caution that they are not exactly pristine. Careless diving and snorkelling activity is causing increasingly obvious coral damage and, where there is a lot of boat and diver traffic, silt and sediment have been stirred up, choking and suffocating coral polyps.
1996 - Sipadan is lashed by the vicious tropical storm Greg which demolishes some shallower parts of its reefs. This rubble can still be seen today - unable to recover due to further abuse by global warming and increased water temperatures (leading to the great coral bleaching phenomenon of 1998). Another sign that the writing was on the wall for Sipadan's dive resorts was the sight of nutrient-indicator algae on this rubble, proof of untreated wastes filtering into the sea from the island's sanitation activities.
1997 - Pulau Sipadan is now well recognised as not only a major tourist draw for Malaysia but also a place of outstanding natural beauty under threat. The Malaysian government announced restrictions on the number of tourists visiting the island but fail to follow up on this with any sort of enforcement or master plan and no-one takes much notice.
2000 - Quite a lot of people take notice of Sipadan for the wrong reasons when Abu Sayaff guerrillas raid the island and kidnap 21 dive tourists and resort staff. Most are held for a year, and then slowly ransomed off for millions of dollars. Divers stayed away in the aftermath of this event, slowly regaining confidence that they are becoming increasingly well protected by a reassuring Malaysian army and navy presence.
2002 - "Sipadan is part of Malaysia!" declares the International Court of Justice. The court awarded territorial ownership to Malaysia rather than Indonesia, based on "effective occupation".
2004 - The Government of Malaysia orders all on-site dive and resort operators of Sipadan to move their structures off the island by the 31st of December 2004, and this time they mean it! The move is declared as a victory for conservation over greed. However some operators with no alternatives are left with very little in the way of compensation. Others hurry to improve their resorts on nearby islands realising that these would now become the places to stay and from which to dive Sipadan. Many express doubts that Sipadan will remain free of resorts for long and fear that someone with 'connections' might come from nowhere to be awarded rights to operate a dive resort on the island.
2007+ - What does the future hold in store for Sipadan Island? Will someone suddenly arrive and start building a resort on the island despite all the assurances to the contrary? What other measures will be put into place to protect the environment and will they be enforced?
No-one really knows, or at least, no-one is saying. What is sure is that there will be more ups and downs for this incredible little island and the countless sea creatures that call it home. Through it all: violent weather, thousands of visitors and several acts of human lunacy, it remains an exceptionally rich and fascinating spot which should continue to be protected and enjoyed for generations to come.
The Long Term
The long term goal is twofold:
- To have Sipadan recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This bid, supported by PADI and driven by a number of groups within the Malaysian government and the tourism industry, would guarantee more funding and protection for the island should it succeed.
- To have Sipadan gazetted as a national or state marine protected area/marine park under the management of Sabah Parks.
So it seems that the twin issues of recreational diving and marine conservation have combined to bring this tiny, remote island well and truly into the modern world in the hope that its future could turn out to be a little less turbulent than its past.
Most people go to Mabul to dive Sipadan, that great pelagic sea mount made famous by Jacques Cousteau, home to the turtle tomb, thousands of live turtles and millions of schooling pelagics.
The island of Mabul is a 20 minute boat ride from Sipadan. Closer to the mainland, it houses a military base, large sea gypsy village and a few dive resorts. Uniquely, the undawater setting here is different from that of Sipadan. Mabul is recognized as one of the world's best muck-diving sites, with one of the riches seas in exotic small marine life. Here you will see an intriguing array of reefs and more unusual creatures like mimic octopus, mandarin fish, snake eels, juvenile batfish, frog fish and razor fish.
Sipadan is no discovery, it's been around for a while now, but the real discovery is the diving around Mabul itself, home to the world's best "muck diving". "Muck diving" is an expression that was coined in Papua New Guinea to describe the diving to be had under a liveboard boat while it is on safe anchor for the night. Usually a protected inlet somewhere, the water underneath the boat is shallow and the bottom is either silt, sand, dead coral or clumps of dirty coral on a silty bottom. The visibility is almost always limited.
Mabul is the esteemed spot for macro photographers who came here to take in the bizarre sea life. Mabul is a definate magical macro site!
For non-divers, couples and newly-weds - Pulau Mabul of Semporna, Sabah is one of the top 'honeymoon destination' in Malaysia.
Mabul, Crocodile Avenue: Flat sandy area from 5m to 20m. Remains of some palmtrees. Some divers hate this dive site, I love it. It is a sandy area, so there are empty stretches of sand with oases of life. Our diveguide found some seahorses there every time. The absolute record were 8 seahorses found by Ben. Then there are sand eels, double-ended pipefish, crocodilefish, special tube anemones, ghostpipefish (Harlekin- and Seagrass-), cowfish etc. I even saw some turtles, humpback parrotfish, barracudas, mackerels and a small eagle ray there. Night dives are also very good here. We found lots of sepias, cuttlefish and special nudibranchs (for example the Spanish Dancer, Asteronotus c.) and lots of crabs. One of the highlights was a small boxer crab, that Alex found on some rubble.
Mabul, Seaventure Platform: Flat sandy area on about 17m. Some coral blocks, pillars of concrete, piles of metal rods. This is a old oil platform that has been converted into a hotel owned by Seaventures Dive Resort. It stands on huge pillars. You dive underneath in 17m of water (Deco after more than 60min dive!). An amazing dive site! There are several piles of metal rods, look close, and there are always several frogfish (yellow to red, black and gray) sitting on them. Inside the largest pile there is a huge moray eel. His head must have a diameter of about 15cm! I couldn't make out the tail, but it must be several meter long. Then we also found: ghostpipefish (Harlekin and seagrass), waspfish, nudibranchs (Halgerda, Cromodoris etc.), stonefish, flying gunard and close to the pillars always lots of batfish and flutefish.
Mabul, Lobster Wall: Wall, some small caverns. Lot's of hydroids. The place is not that nice to look at, but it is again a place for many nudibranchs, anemones, shrimps and in a small cave I even found a babycowfish. Great nightdives.
A few minutes by boat from the island of Sipadan and Mabul but a full world away from it lays the exhilarating Sipadan-Kapalai Dive Resort, sitting on its sturdy stilts on the shallow sandbanks of the Ligitan Reefs. Planned and built in full style as an airy, comfortable, sunny water village with no land in sught, it boasts a mile-long sandbank of powdery white sand where one can suntan at complete leisure while gazing out to the miles of brilliant turquoise stretching into the horizon offering the purest image of natural serenity.
Dive spots are extremely close and can be reached in just a few minutes by speedboat and some of them, actually, just by swimming from the dive center pier. For those who are ready to venture more and aside from the tiny marvels of the macro life of Kapalai can, in just a few minutes, dive in Sipadan (where big fish and turtles abound) or in Mabul (where silky and muddy bottoms offer different and equally pleasant experience and opportunities to the lovers of "muck diving").
If you've never tried macro diving before, then you're in for a treat - what a place to start! Shore diving at Kapalai is free of charge, as is the wonderful snorkeling, where you can watch the spectacularly colourful mating mandarin fish, right under the resort jetty. It's easy to fall in love with macro diving when it's this simple!
With a combination of sun and water in a unique and serene setting, Kapalai is an ideal destination for diver and non-diver alike seeking a great holiday experience!
Kapalai is similar to Mabul, but there is no actual island, only a large sandbank. The most well known dive site here is Manadrin valley, but several of the other dives sites are well worth a visit.
Kapalai, Mandarin Valley: Slope to about 20m. Hard corals, then sand. Small underwater mound. This dive site has its name from a dragonet that can be found there and that has a beautiful color like the clothes of the Chinese mandarins. It lives during the day under the spines of sea urchins. Also very interesting were the that I found there. Go out to the small underwater mound - there were several leaf fish there last time. Leaf fish can shed their skin and in such a way adjust to the surrounding reef. I saw one, where some yellow ascidians were growing on his skin right over the eye. There is also a mushroom coral (Heliofungia a.) on the sand with some white anemone pipefish (Siokunichthys n.) living inside. Check it out.
Kapalai, Ray Channel: This is a sandy channel with the reef on one side. The special fish, you find here and nowhere else in Mabul is the dragonfish (Pegasus). This small animal lives in pairs on sand and feeds on invertebrates. Actually, I have spent half an hour at just one coral block here. There are some leaffish here, a spiny devilfish lives close by, and there is a small baby-anglerfish here. I observed, how it changed from gray to red in only 4 days.
Mataking Island sits an hour and a half from Sipadan Island. East of Semporna, this island is about 40 acres in size. Lying on the edge of the continental shelf, Mataking is surrounded by fringing reef of hard and soft corals. Sharing the same Alice Channel as Sipadan Island, it offers just as much magical and tropical underwater treasure.
The waters here are inhabited by exclusive species of corals such as staghorn, brain and many more. Rainbow runners, leaf fish, sweetlips, gobies and the occasional whale shark on their migration route roam the water here.
The island is sheltered by exotic trees. This sanctuary is where birds and butterflies choose to rest. Coconut crabs scurry around busily on the white sands. The barracuda point, turtle playground and picturesque reef make every veteran diver's list.
Famed for its beauty even before the days of Sipadan, Sibuan Island is incomparable where underworld splendor is concerned. This small island situated 30 minutes away from Semporna mainland is best known for its untouched magnificence. Regal coconut trees border the island and entice you from afar.
This snorkeling heaven is second to none when sought after by sun bathers and leisure seekers. Bestowed with abundant water attractions above and below, the isle's crystal blue waters are a sight for sore eyes. The water is crystal clear and its visibility will stretch your gaze into its lively depths. Corals and fishes will glimmer and flicker at you as you watch from above.