It is not just about Diving in Sipadan

Diving in Sipadan is, for many, a once in a lifetime experience. Avid divers and snorkelers from all over the world are willing to spend precious time and money to immerse themselves in the waters off Sipadan Island, and other popular dive sites in the area, such as Mabul and Kapalai.

The marine life never ceases to amaze divers and snorkelers alike, even for those who have visited Sipadan time and time again. This tiny island is Malaysia’s only oceanic island, rising 700 metres from the ocean floor. The diversity of marine life here is apparent. There are many dive sites around the island which serve as home and transit points for a wide variety of marine life, including fish, turtles and sharks. It is no wonder that it continues to attract a growing number of underwater enthusiasts.

Semporna town is the gateway to Sipadan Island. There has been a growing interest in the dive sites in this region, including in the now-protected Tun Sakaran Marine Park which consists of eight islands and is the largest marine park in Sabah. All these dive sites have made Semporna more popular, and diversified the experience that one can gain while in Semporna. The Bajau Laut (sea gypsies) who are dominant in the area presents further colour to an already interesting area, especially if one visits during the festivities of the Regatta Lepa-Lepa when wooden-carved boats are on display and the beauty of traditionally-clothed maidens of the sea perform graceful dances on their boats, vying for the title of Beauty Queen.

A growing number of accommodation outlets have been developed in Semporna, ranging from a typical business hotel offering conference facilities to backpackers catering to the more adventurous. The increase in number of food and entertainment outlets in the small town of Semporna is future evidence of efforts to cater to both local and foreign tourists. There are even a few karaoke joints for those who are in the habit of singing as an outlet to their suppressed emotions!

Instead of serving only as a transit point (in the early day, it was very rare for visitors to spend any time in Semporna, heading instead straight to the jetty to catch boats to one of the islands where they would spend their entire stay), many are now choosing instead to stay in the town itself, making daily trips to dive sites. Not only does this give tourists greater options to decide on which dive sites they would like to dive at (there are 39 islands in total in the region), once back in ‘town’, one also gets to experience the happenings of a small town in Sabah.

Learning how to dive may be on your list of things to do. Dive centres located in Semporna conduct a range of PADI-certified dive courses, including Open Water, Rescue Dive, and Dive Master courses. Top-class gear and equipment can either be bought or rented on site. Once a certification is under your belt, these centres can be consulted to organize dive trips to one, two or more dive sites in the area, including the world-renowned Sipadan island. Often rated as one of the top 5 dive sites in the world, Sipadan is not to be missed.

For those who have an afternoon to spare, you can also spend it on a river cruise. A half day tour takes visitors into the mangroves in search of Proboscis Monkeys, a species which is endemic to the island of Borneo. On the way back, as dusk falls, one may be lucky enough to see Giant Fruit Bats in their hundreds as they set out in search of food. The evening ends with a delicious BBQ seafood dinner at the jetty. This tour provides something different for those whose main aim is, ultimately diving in Sipadan. It provides the opportunity to stay dry for a few hours!

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