Travel Guide: Sipadan

Sorry for the brief disappearance! In between travels, my cooking has been less interesting and more comforting and quick, but I’ll be sharing more recipes over the next few weeks alongside more travel posts. First up — Sipadan Island in Malaysia.

Travel Guide - Sipadan, Malaysia - All the details on where to stay and how to plan the perfect trip to one of the world's best dive sites

Sipadan Island is well known as one of the top dive sites in the world. Peter and I were able to make a trip there to celebrate Peter’s early birthday and to enjoy the underwater life. We’ve had some great dives in the past, but let me tell you– Sipadan is in a league of it’s own! Before I give you all the details on the dive sites we visited– here’s how to plan your perfect dive trip.

Travel Guide - Sipadan, Malaysia - All the details on where to stay and how to plan the perfect trip to one of the world's best dive sites

How to Get There

There are direct flights to Tawau from Kuala Lumpur and and Kota Kinabalu. From Hong Kong, connect in either city with Malaysia Airlines. From Tawau you’ll have about an 1hr and 45 min drive to Semporna Jetty. From the jetty, most resorts will still be a boat ride away and can arrange for your transport from the airport to the resort. It’s a long journey, but completely worth it!

Travel Guide - Sipadan, Malaysia - All the details on where to stay and how to plan the perfect trip to one of the world's best dive sites Travel Guide - Sipadan, Malaysia - All the details on where to stay and how to plan the perfect trip to one of the world's best dive sites

How to Book

Because Sipadan is a protected site, you’ll only be allowed to dive with a special permit. Only 120 permits are allowed each day and they are divided amongst the different dive operators in the area. For booking our dives and our visit, we worked with a great tour operator, Feltricia, who can book packages at various dive resorts in the area.

Feltricia
Tel : +60 (0) 143786390
Whatsapp: 0060143786390
Email
Skype: feltricia.adh
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Where to Stay

We stayed at the Borneo Divers Mabul Resort which is a land-based beach resort on Mabul island. It’s a short boat ride from Sipadan and they can have the largest allotment of Sipadan dive permits that a resort is allowed to have.

They have both diver’s and non-diver’s packages available (but really, I wouldn’t recommend going if you’re not diving) and packages include land and boat transfers between Tawau and the resort, accommodation, full board meals and diving

A 5D/4N package guarantees you one day of diving at Sipadan though in low seasons, you may have an option to purchase additional permits. It also includes unlimited use of the tanks if you want to do extra unguided dives at the house reef.

Travel Guide - Sipadan, Malaysia - All the details on where to stay and how to plan the perfect trip to one of the world's best dive sites Travel Guide - Sipadan, Malaysia - All the details on where to stay and how to plan the perfect trip to one of the world's best dive sites

Accommodation

Basic and nothing special, but clean and convenient. You won’t be spending much time in your room outside of sleeping, so our double room was perfect. Peter and I did need to do a bit of work while we were in Malaysia, but wifi was only available in the main dining hall/clubhouse of the resort. Even then it was a bit slow when the whole resort shared the connection. You can purchase your own wifi dongle from the hotel which was cheap, quick, and perfect if you’re not able to completely disconnect for whatever reason.

Food

Hit or miss. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served at the resort (unless you are diving at Sipadan, in which case, you’ll have lunch on Sipadan) and are buffet style. Food was different every day, and sadly there were more than a few misses. But all you can eat BBQ dinner night? Hit. Don’t come here for the food. Come for the diving and bring snacks if you’re a very picky eater or like munching in between meals– there are no snacks available a la carte in between meals.

There are 3 bars at the resort and you could usually find me at the beachside bar for happy hour, enjoying a pina colada and a Dairy Milk chocolate bar (courtesy of the resort gift shop) before dinner.

Service/Facilities

In addition to the 3 bars at the resort, you’ll find a small pool, a main dining hall, reception, lounge and a games room with ping pong and a pool table. Service at the resort was great and the staff were quick to help if needed.

The divemasters were excellent and super friendly.

Travel Guide - Sipadan, Malaysia - All the details on where to stay and how to plan the perfect trip to one of the world's best dive sites Travel Guide - Sipadan, Malaysia - All the details on where to stay and how to plan the perfect trip to one of the world's best dive sites

Security

No guests are allowed to stay on Sipadan island itself and while the Malaysian military presence on the island may be unsettling for some guests, Peter and I never felt tense or bothered. The entire Borneo Divers Mabul resort is fenced off and has 24/7 security. Guests are advised not to leave the resort after dark and while kidnappings do occur in the region about once a year, Peter and I weren’t worried about safety during our trip (our parents though, are another story…). I’d suggest reading any updated security alerts for the area before you plan your trip and to discuss any concerns regarding security measures with your resort or travel agent.

Travel Guide - Sipadan, Malaysia - All the details on where to stay and how to plan the perfect trip to one of the world's best dive sites

We wandered a bit in the town on Mabu before dark. There’s not much to see but it is really interesting to see the poverty and poor living conditions in an area that’s a big tourist spot