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Dive Review of Borneo Divers in
Malaysia/Sipadan

Borneo Divers, Jun, 2012,

by Elizabeth Crapo, ID, US (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 9 reports). Report 6646.

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

Weather sunny, windy, rainy, cloudy, dry Seas calm, choppy, currents
Water Temp to Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility 50 to 100 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions 45 minute bottom time
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 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 N/A Boat Facilities N/A
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments [None]

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 4 stars Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving 4 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 4 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments 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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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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