A piece of tropical paradise

The diving at Sipadan is known to be some of the best in the world and I wasn’t disappointed.  There were more turtles than you could poke a stick at, massive schools of giant barracuda, ugly bumpheaded parrot fish and loads of colourful tropical fish.

Despite the limited number of permits to dive Sipadan each day (120 permits between 10 operators!), I managed to dive 4 out of the 7 days I had there.  Before I went, I was only guaranteed 2 days, but even waking up at 4:30am to fit in 4 dives at Sipadan before lunch was well worth it.

The staff at Sipadan-Kapalai resort were just fantastic, especially the dive crew, who were on hand to do everything for you from setting up your gear and putting it on the boat, to being ready after a jetty dive to take your fins with a smile!  I think that many of the crew took a liking to me, being the only single female diver at the resort at the time – one of the dive crew even tried to kiss me!

This place is just paradise.  I think I’ve found my annual holiday destination – I can’t wait to come back next year!

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Dive 201: Barracuda Point, Pulau Sipadan (Malaysia)

Dive time: 00:48:00
Max depth:  20.7 metres
Temperature:  29 C
Visibility:  30 metres
Buddy:  Jose
Surface interval:  02:46:00

For amazing fish life, this has to be the best site on Sipadan.  Especially when the current is strong, as it was with this dive, it just brings through the big schools of barracuda for an absolutely stunning sight.

We saw a massive school of jacks just out from the wall in the blue, and just as we were ogling at this school of silvery fish, we swam straight into a few barracuda, and then more barracuda, and then I looked up to see the biggest school of giant barracuda that I’d seen here yet.  We floated straight into them as we were carried along with the current, so with some finning, we were able to stay put and just marvel at them circling around, the school breaking up and then reforming again.  This is the sort of thing that just sets Sipadan apart from the other sites that I’d dived over the last few days – more “oh WOW” moments!

We swam over the ridge into the valley of dead coral and there were white tip reef sharks everywhere we looked, resting on the bottom or gracefully skimming over the bottom to find their next rest spot.  There were also several turtles, and a titan trigger fish hunting for its food in the sand by blasting it with jets of water.

On our safety stop, we saw yet another turtle cruising along the reef and occasionally popping up the surface for a breath, and napoleon wrasse – beautiful with its strikingly marked face.

What a perfect way to end a fantastic trip to Sipadan!

Dive 200: Hanging Gardens, Pulau Sipadan (Malaysia)

Dive time:  00:48:00
Max depth:  20.4 metres
Temperature:  29 C
Visibility:  30 metres
Buddy:  Jose
Surface interval:  01:05:00

In terms of sheer beauty of the reef and corals, Hanging Gardens would have to be the favourite of my dives sites here.  The wall here is more sheer than any of the other sites that I’ve dived, and the coral growth on it is just spectacular with beautiful fans, anenomes, and amazing assortment of colourful hard and soft corals.

As soon as I descended on the reef, I came face to face with three turtles resting on the one outcrop of rock.  I watched as one of the turtles gracefully took off to the surface for a gulp of air.  As with the last dive here at Hanging Gardens, there were just turtles absolutely everywhere.  They were above me almost every time I rolled over to gaze at the surface, they were resting in little alcoves in the wall, or the were swimming out in the blue.  The largest one I saw had a shell about 1m in length, and was lying very still in a hole in the wall.  It had its eyes closed, which I hadn’t seen of other turtles so I was a bit unsure whether it was sleeping or whether it was dead!

It was only half way through the dive that I realised that this was my 200th dive, and all I could think about was how amazing it was that I was doing it in Sipadan in turtle heaven!  An absolutely stunning dive.

Dive 199: South Point, Pulau Sipadan (Malaysia)

Dive time:  00:45:00
Max depth:  26.5 metres
Temperature:  29 C
Visibility:  30 metres
Buddy:  Jose
Surface interval:  01:05:00

Yesterday, a group sighted a pygmy whale shark here at South Point so our group was keen as mustard to get here to see whether the whale shark was still around.

We descended into around 25m onto the reef and just swam out into the blue, further and further, hoping to catch a glimpse of the biggest fish in the ocean.  However, after a bit of swimming it was clear that there was nothing out there but endless blue so we swam back to the reef to be greeted by schools of beautiful purple leatherjacket and schooling banner fish.

Again, we saw white tip reef sharks, turtles, titan trigger fish (no attacks fortunately!), spotted sweetlip, and green morays along the shallower parts of the reef.

Dive 198: Coral Gardens, Pulau Sipadan (Malaysia)

Dive time:  00:47:00
Max depth:  32.9 metres
Temperature:  29 C
Visibility:  30 metres
Buddy:  Jose
Surface interval:  14:51:00

This was my last day of diving so I made a special request to dive in Sipadan and the people here at Kapalai were kind enough to indulge me!

There was no storm last night for once, and the visibility was just amazing.  We dropped in on the coral gardens quite shallow and I immediately saw a green moray, just the first of at least 4 green morays of the dive!  The site here gradually slopes down with a relatively sandy bottom but with patches of coral everywhere.  We saw a few barracuda cruising around, a few turtles, white tip reef sharks, and as we came up shallower for our safety stop we saw a school of around 20 bumpheaded parrot fish.