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Dive Review of Borneo Divers in

June, 2012, an Instant Reader Report by Elizabeth Crapo, ID, US
Sr. Reviewer   (9 reports)
Report Number 6646
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
251-500 dives
Where else diving
Guam, Hawaii, Palau, Yap, Chuuk, French Polynesia, Fiji, Dominica, Bay
Islands, Bali, Manado, Thailand
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

sunny, windy, rainy, cloudy, dry  
calm, choppy, currents  
Water Temp
  to    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
50   to 100    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
45 minute bottom time  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  4 stars
Tropical Fish
4 stars  
Small Critters
  4 stars
Large Fish
4 stars  
Large Pelagics
  3 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
Boat Facilities
Overall rating for UWP's  
Shore Facilities  
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
4 stars
3 stars
Service and Attitude
4 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
4 stars
Dive Operation
4 stars  
Shore Diving  
4 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
4 stars    
3 stars   
4 stars    
I was very pleased overall with Sipadan and Mabul, as well as the Borneo
Divers resort.  Even though I didn't get to dive Sipadan every day I was
there, I was still happy with the diving in Mabul. After a Thailand dive
trip that didn't live up to expectations, I had booked the minimum number
of nights at Borneo Divers to guarantee a day at Sipadan in case the diving
there turned out to be over-hyped as well. Thankfully, the diving turned
out to be very good indeed.  One one dive, I counted 20 reef sharks visible
at the same time.  On another, a "river" of barracuda in a sand
channel.  They were so thick you couldn't see through the school, and they
just kept coming and coming! On another dive there was a school of
literally thousands of jacks.  I saw at least a dozen turtles over the
course of my dives.  I saw a large school of bumphead parrotfish, lots of
scorpionfish, lionfish, crocodilefish, lots of small critters like
nudibranchs, and a variety of anthias, butterflyfish and other tropical
reef fish.  The coral looked colorful and healthy.  The Sipadan dives were
all done as wall dives, but there was plenty to see on top of the reef too.

Only a limited number of divers are allowed at Sipadan per day, and each
resort gets a fixed number of permits. Borneo Divers guarantees that for
every four days you stay, one day will be at Sipadan (rather than giving
away permits by lottery as some resorts do).  If the resort is not full,
you may get to dive there more than once per four days. I opted to extend
my stay after seeing how good the diving was, and got another day at
Sipadan (I might have stayed longer if the resort hadn't been fully booked
after my second Sipadan day). 
Though not as nice as Sipadan, the Mabul diving compares favorably to some
of the other diving I've done in SE Asia.  There's some trash on the reef,
but there are places with nice coral and marine life.  On one dive, the DM
showed us a pygmy seahorse on a seafan. Other dives, such as Sea Venture
and Kapalai don't have coral but are artificial reefs and have lots of fish
and small critters.  The house reef is nice too.
My only problem with the whole operation is the 45-minute time limit.  Even
though the Sipadan dives tend to be deep wall dives, if you manage your air
supply correctly (and everyone in our group did - many of us routinely came
up with nearly 1000 psi), you can spend time at the top of the wall at
safety stop depth.  The coral in the shallows is beautiful, and there are
plenty of critters to see. We got back to Mabul well before dark, so it
wasn't like we'd be running out of daylight if we did hour-long dives. In
spite of this, I'd still dive with Borneo Divers again.  Their permit
system seems to be the fairest, and they also did four dives per day at
Sipidan, where most of the other resorts did three.  We were always the
last boat to leave at the end of the day.
I've heard other divers debate whether Sipadan is worth the trip from the
US when compared with nearby destinations, particularly with the permit
system that limits the number of days there.  Here's my two cents:  If you
can come to SE Asia for few weeks or more during the off-peak season when
the resort isn't full and be flexible with your dates, thereby maximizing
the possible number of Sipadan days, it's definitely worth it.  Or, take a
trip to Borneo in general, where diving is only part of the plan.  The
topside wildlife in Borneo is incredible.  I spent three days at the Borneo
Rainforest Lodge in Danum Valley, where I saw wild orangutans, and the
Sukau Rainforest Lodge, where our group had an up-close encounter with wild
elephants!  Saw birds, monkeys, crocodiles and other wildlife too. Both
places were on the expensive side, but very, very worth it.
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