Well, the best thing that could ever happen to me has happened. I was given the wonderful opportunity to dive the Sipadan National Park and without a doubt, I grabbed it with both hands.
Sipadan National Park is located in the sea of Celebes in the Sabah region of Malaysia. Sipadan is the only oceanic island in Malaysia, i.e. the island has risen from the ocean floor. There is a huge pillar in the ocean with flattened top, with sudden drop offs on every side. A part of the atoll is also above water that forms pristine beach, which also is an important, nesting site for green turtles. There is also a hill on the island covered with vegetation, which makes it easy to identify the island from a distance.
Diving in Sipadan is a dream come true. Not only the underwater seascape stunning, its reefs beautiful but also the amazing diversity of species underwater is incredible.
I saw schools white tip sharks, reef sharks, big eye trevallies, barracudas, hump head parrot fishes and loads of turtles in a single dive on a normal day. I can only imagine what special days would be like in Sipadan.
There is also a very scenic underwater cave below the surface called the ‘Turtle Cave’. But diving here sometimes can be tricky because of unpredictable underwater strong currents and the riskiest of them all the down current. That is the reason, only the most experienced dive guides are allowed to dive here, and one has to have a special license as a guide to be leading a dive team at Sipadan.
However, it was also disheartening to see the bleached out and dead corals in such a beautiful place. It was a stark reminder of the global warming and the rapid change that our planet is going through. The bright side was the ongoing conservation efforts.
Government of Malaysia is very serious about conserving the place. There is now a cap on number of tourists on a single day. Marine biologist and military are monitoring the turtle nests and the results are very visible underwater. It is said that Sipadan has the highest congregation of green turtles on the planet.
Because of the ongoing conservation efforts, it is now not possible to spend the night at Sipadan. And one has to stay a short speedboat ride away at Mabul Island.
Mabul and surrounding islands also have great reefs, teaming with underwater life. A very experienced dive instructor told me that he has seen everything in Mabul that he has seen in Lembeh, only not that frequently. Now that is some comparison as Lembeh Straight in Indonesia is considered to be the underwater capital of the macro world.