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Dive Review of Sipadan Water Village in
Malaysia/Borneo-Mabul, Kapalai, Sipidan

Sipadan Water Village: "Fantastic, other-worldly expedition to a photographic paradise", Mar, 2016,

by Paul Selden, MI, US (Contributor Contributor 16 reports with 2 Helpful votes). Report 8906.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 4 stars Food 2 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 3 stars Shore Diving 4 stars
Snorkeling 5 stars
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments Sipidan Water Village Resort is one of many resorts that cling to Mabul Island off the northeast coast of Borneo. Sipidan is the featured Island in a cluster of three nearby islands. The other two are Mabul and Kapalai. The resort is connected by a long wharf to Mabul. Our roomy bungalow was air conditioned and had a mini-frig plus fresh water supplied in bottles every day. The tap water is brackish. Electricity required a 110v US style converter. A desk in the room served as my camera table. A bar served beer, wine and liquor but we brought own. We enjoyed sundowners on the deck off our bungalow each night. Think twice about getting one of the "ocean view" type rooms that line up on a wharf that more or less face the sea versus the bay. I think these rooms have numbers beginning with "S" and are numbered something like 110 or greater. Everyone we talked with who stayed in these rooms complained about the wind whistling through chinks in the wooden siding and eaves, leading to a more or less total failure of the AC units to cool their rooms in the +/- 85F heat. We thought our room, S107, which faced the snorkeling area, was perfect. Be aware that the entire village is built on pilings over the water, and that the walk between the more remote cabins and the main facilities is perhaps 200 yards or more.

Food at the resort was okay but the quality varied quite a bit. Some of the beef dishes seemed filled with knuckles, bones and gristle. Chicken was usually pretty good. Fish dishes were sometimes very good. I grew fond of some of the cookies. Coffee was pretty good, and there were many jams and a decent bread in the mornings to go along with the cereals and eggs. Some of the staff were very friendly while others seemed more reserved.

After diving there for 10 days, I'd say that the dive sites around Mabul had the most unusual macro subjects. I found my first blue ring octopus and a hairy shrimp under the SeaVentures Dive Resort (an oil rig turned dive resort just off Mabul). Another unusual find was a sponge nudibranch. Sipidan has larger fish, immense schools, great coral, and huge turtles. Kapalai wasn't bad, but when we were there the viz around it always seemed clouded with sandy particulates. Without our very experienced and knowledgeable guide (Jimmy) I wouldn't have seen 90% of the small stuff; after diving with him the resort honored my request to be our boat's guide from then on.

The shore diving and snorkeling at the resort was full of interesting subjects too, such as eels, frog fish and cardinalfish. I even saw a Titan trigger fish while snorkeling, plus clown fish, large clams and even a couple of sea snakes resting on the steps down into the water. Viz at the resort's house reef is only 10-20 feet however, due to the fine sandy particles in the the water.

Not too far from here (close to the borders of Indonesia and the Philippines), piracy is not a matter of clever Disney characters; the pirates are armed thugs extorting from poor fishermen and occasionally kidnapping people for ransom. But we felt entirely safe since the islands of Mabul and Sipidan (and possibly Kapalai as well) are well patrolled; garrisons of police and/or soldiers are stationed on the islands. SWM is patrolled at night by armed guards. Large Malaysian patrol boats often moored just off shore of SVW; some appeared armed with 4 inch guns fore and aft. Again, we felt completely safe.

In this part of the world, many people live entirely over the water in bungalows/shacks on pilings, isolated from main towns except by boat. The island of Borneo appears to be deforested along the main road between the airport in Tawau and the small seaport of Semporna (where we boarded a boat for the 45 minute ride to SWV), with the jungle replaced by row upon row of palm oil trees.

People on Mabul seem to be experiencing a population explosion with many children who comb the shallows during low tide for something to eat. Some of the children beg from tiny boats paddled up to the bungalows. A walk around the island was a great and eye-opening experience. The cultural aspects of this part of the world would make for a great National Geographic feature.

We stayed two nights in Kuala Lumpur on both legs of our trip. The hotel Sama Sama at the airport was fantastic, as were the guided tours we took of the various temples, Petronas Towers and other sites. Guided tours were arranged by the hotel.
Websites Sipadan Water Village   [same]

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Bonaire, West Palm Beach, Vancouver Island, California, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Galapagos, Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, Utila, Roatan, Andros, Belize, Palm Island, Playa del Carmen, Ceynotes-Akumal, Dominica, Holbox, Curacao, Union Island/Grenadines, Philippines
Closest Airport Tawau (in Sabah, Borneo) Getting There via Kuala Lumpur

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, windy, rainy, cloudy, dry Seas calm, choppy
Water Temp 78-83°F / 26-28°C Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 20-60 Ft/ 6-18 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Our group was made up of experienced divers/UW photographers. After our guide got comfortable with us, our main "restriction" was not to get so far from our guide that we wouldn't see what he was finding for us. Getting the most dive time out of our tanks was no problem. Good shore diving system.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 5 stars Large Fish 5 stars
Large Pelagics N/A

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities 3 stars
UW Photo Comments There weren't any camera buckets on the boats but the rides were usually short. We went back to the dock after many dives. There were deep, clean rinse tanks for the cameras and many picnic style tables to work with gear on, back at the dive center.
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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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