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Destinations : Sipadan (Sabah)

The blue-green sea around Pulau Sipadan is a veil covering a fascinating underwater world. It is a diver’s heaven, and those who are interested in diving make it a point to visit it at least once in life, if not several times. Such is the biodiversity of the area that even through several visits a person may not be able to see all that Sipadan waters can show.

There is an endless variety of creatures in there, and each group has its special feeding, mating, and nesting habits. You may have to wait patiently for hours to come across one of these animals performing a natural function. Given the variety of animals, a lifetime and more will not be sufficient to watch the mundane rituals of each which are sacred sights to the divers. One of the most famous dive site of Sipadan, known as Barracuda Point, is among the world’s best ten dive sites as ranked by sites like CNN, BBC, Sport Diver, etc.

The French explorer, writer, scientist, and filmmaker Jacques-Yves Cousteau, was an authority on underwater life and marine conservation. His documentary ‘The Silent World’ was one of the first ones to make use of underwater cinematography. He was fascinated by the island of Sipadan and he camped there for about six months with his dedicated team of diving enthusiasts. He has spread information about Sipadan through his writings and TV documentaries. He felt that the very existence of the marvelous ecosystem of Sipadan is a sort of anachronism.

Sipadan is a marvel of nature. Unlike the rest of the land mass that is made of solid earth and rocks and mineral deposits, Sipadan is made of corals. Live corals have worked over a dead volcanic cone at the bottom of the sea for years that may look eternity for us. And their work through millennia has erected a structure that rises to a height of 2000’ from the bottom of the sea. Rainforest has developed over much of this 12 hectares area in the center of the beautiful Celebes Sea, but its fringes have remained sandy and white.

The town of Semporna in coastal Malaysia is the nearest mainland town that connects to Sipadan Island. Around Sipadan dive sites one can see some of the rarest and strangest underwater creatures, and an incredibly wide variety of ocean fauna.

Divers can feast on the sights of large schools of barracuda, colonies of spotted garden eels in their sandy sea bottom burrows, whitetip sharks in their frenzied eating orgies, bumphead parrot fishes sleeping inside wrecked ships and caves, red-tooth triggerfish being cleaned by a cleaner shrimp, and many other fishes like devil rays, frogfish, batfish, and whale sharks.

Besides the thousands of species of fishes, the place harbors several types of mollusks and crustaceans. There are a wide variety of corals of brilliant colors, and it is the coral reefs that are home to many other species of animals. Many migratory marine animals appear and disappear here during different seasons.

An important diving attraction of Sipadan is the turtle burial site, known as the Turtle Tomb. It is a limestone cave divided into many chambers and tubes and corridors, with a huge collection of turtle skeletons inside it. The remains are believed to be that of turtles that got accidentally drowned.

The local Sabah government is taking all steps necessary to protect this unique ecosystem that has survived with limited damage. The place has been declared a reserved national park where no resorts or hotels are allowed. Tourists have to stay in adjacent islands like Kapalai, Mabul and Mataking, which also feature excellent diving. The number of people who can enter Sipadan dive sites in a day is restricted to 120, so make sure you buy your Sipadan permit in advance.


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