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Dive Review of Sipadan Water Village in
Malaysia/Sipadan, Borneo

Sipadan Water Village, Apr, 2006,

by Linda & Ron Welf, cA, usa (Contributor Contributor 17 reports with 7 Helpful votes). Report 2515.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 4 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving 3 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments Our stay at the Sipadan Water Village on Mabul Island had a great combination of wall dives with pelagics and turtles on Sipadan Island in the morning and odd critters on Mabul and Kapalai Islands in the afternoon. In 9 relaxing days, we did 25 dives, 18 of which were on Sipadan. The diversity of fish was such that even repeat visits to the same dive site were enjoyable.

The Malaysian military with assault rifles have a full-time presence on Sipadan and local police boats often stopped overnight at Mabul as well. This provided a great deal of peace of mind, in view of past incidents.

Our favorite site “Barracuda Point” hosted both pelagics and colorful reef fish. The wall tapers into a sandy area, which seems to be a cleaning station for white tips. Here we watched cleaner wrasse enter shark gills and then be “coughed” out. Larger grey reef sharks were found below 80 feet. On one dive, a large leopard shark swam by twice.

Considering the constant diver traffic on this tiny spot of ocean, the Sipadan reef looked relatively healthy, with the beat up site “Drop Off” near the boat jetty, being the notable exception. Just when we became disappointed here, over a hundred large bumphead parrotfish, unwilling to detour around us, swam a path right through our group of divers. And there were some rare small fish here too.

Chances are you will encounter a large school of some type. At a depth of only twenty feet, we were surrounded by thousands of jacks as they moved in a large circle. There were also large schools of mackerel, blue trigger, bannerfish, fusiliers, and smaller schools of barracuda, spadefish, and sweetlips.

On most Sipadan dives, we came face-to-face with sea turtles, perhaps fifteen or twenty per dive. Many turtles were sleeping on ledges and could be approached closely. White tip sharks were also a frequent sighting. In the shallows, tiny golden, pink, turquoise, and fuchsia colored fish were plentiful. This April, the titan triggerfish were building nests and if a diver got too close, they launched an attack.

There were too many fish to detail, but a few that come to mind were anemonefish (tomato, pink, orange, Clark’s and the false clown), lionfish, scorpion fish, blue ribbon eels, cuttlefish, bird wrasse, sailfin tang, fire and two-tone dartfish, rabbitfish, puffer, angelfish, checkered snapper, clown triggerfish, hawkfish, octopus, moray eel, flying gurnard, flounder, shrimp goby and blind shrimp at their shared burrows, blue-spotted ray, unicorn fish, and one lone ornate ghost pipefish.

Mabul has three dive resorts. Our spacious over-water bungalows had no AC, but there was a high velocity fan. Since there were no screens on the windows and sliding doorways, we were vulnerable to bugs. One windless night, I did get bites all over my face while sleeping. My husband applied 100% DEET before bed, and was spared. After taking one look at me, the manager Alex installed a mosquito net over our bed. This net was a prototype of one that he is considering putting in all units. We heard that the new resort next to SWV does have AC and screens, so that is an alternative.

Meals were buffet style and had a variety of choices. Breakfast starts at 6:30 AM and the boat departs Mabul around 7:30 AM. The house reef had some exotic looking juveniles like juvenile batfish and shallow water fish like razorfish. From the pier at night, we could see an eagle ray and several lionfish below our feet. This being a leisure trip, we skipped the night dives.

Off Mabul, we enjoyed diving under the Seaventure oil platform, where we found scorpion fish, frogfish, stonefish, cockatoo wasp fish, batfish and many crocodile flatheads. We also found Spanish dancer flatworms, several nudibranchs laying eggs and a pygmy seahorse. Our friends saw a stargazer swim and then settle into the sand. “Elvis” is a huge moray living inside a cage of metal debris.

Tiny Kapalai is really only a sandbank visible at low tide, on which a new dive resort has been built. This diving seemed best for macro photography.

After the dive portion of our trip, we visited the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center and I highly recommend this stop. After this, we took an overnight boat trip tour into the jungle to view the wildlife along the Kinabatangan River. If you take this trip, try to get an air-conditioned jungle bungalow, because it is very hot and humid.

Along the river, we saw a python, orangutan, macaques, boar swimming, many exotic birds, and a large crocodile sunning itself. The highlight was watching several troops of the rare and endangered proboscis monkeys clambering through the trees.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Caymans 2 weeks, Honduras 2 weeks, Belize 2 weeks Fiji 6 weeks, Palau a week, Yap 5 days, Truk a week, Cozumel 10 days, Lembeh Straights 2 weeks Bunaken a week.
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm
Water Temp 83-84°F / 28-29°C Wetsuit Thickness 2
Water Visibility 70-140 Ft/ 21-43 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions very relaxed diving
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas None
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 4 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 5 stars Large Fish 4 stars
Large Pelagics 4 stars

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

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities 3 stars
UW Photo Comments [None]
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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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