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Let's visit and look islands in Malaysia. Idyllic beaches, clear blue waters, palm trees gently swaying to the rhythm of crashing waves' visitors have always been enchanted by the unspoilt beauty and tranquillity of Malaysia's islands. Many of them are famous worldwide, more than one Malaysian island has been called a tropical paradise, and aptly so. Cuti-cuti Malaysia. Travel Around Malaysia

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Pulau Sipadan, Sabah

Sipadan Island has been closed to all accommodation. This small tropical island is to be preserved by the Malaysian Government as a World Heritage area. For this reason, all existing structures on the island will be demolished and all dive operators which have operated from Sipadan in the past, will need to source nearby islands to build their new bases to bring divers in for the world famous Wall Diving called "DROP - OFF" at Pulau Sipadan.



Acknowledged as one of the best diving and unique spots in Southeast Asia, Pulau Sipadan is located off the small coastal town of Semporna on Sabah's eastern coast. Just 15 feet from the beach, the water turns indigo blue as the sea drops abruptly to 2,850ft deep! It is rather awe-inspiring. Myriad of colorful tropical fish swim in the warm water near the surface whereas huge groupers nose about. Moreover, the water gets so dark that one would not really know what lurks below. This famous feature won Sipadan island a "Best Beach Dive in the World" award in 1993.

The sea is overflowing with marine life. The main attraction for divers is the rich and unique variety of corals both soft and hard. Reef fish of every shape and hue can be found in these waters. Colorful butterfly fishes, angel fishes, damsel fishes of electric blue and bright orange colors inhabit the coral reefs, thus adding to the splendor of the underwater havens.

Between April and September, the Green and Hawksbill turtles will come ashore in droves to nest in the soft golden sands of Sipadan. When you dive during this time, you are bound to encounter these harmless denizens of the deep.



A beautiful white-sand beach fringes Sipadan but the real beauty of this island is in its waters. The season for diving is from mid-February to mid-December. Visibility ranges from 60 feet to over 200 feet. Several dive spots have even been identified and given exotic names after the variety of corals and marine life that are unique to these spots. There is the "Hanging Gardens", the "Barracuda Point", and the exciting "Turtle Cavern".

Professional diving companies operate on the island, complete with water, electricity, food, drinks, and comfortable accommodation for an unforgettable experience. To get there, one can take the 45-minute boat ride from Semporna.

The name of Sipadan is simply legendary in diving circles, conjuring images of twirling tornados of barracudas and jacks, patrolling hammerhead sharks, millions of technicolored reef fish and, above all, dozens of sea turtles swimming peacefully everywhere.

"Sipidan, Borneo: The waters of Indonesia meet the waters of Malaysia at the 'Ring of Fire'. Within this underwater circus lies one of the world's freshest dive sites - Borneo's Sipidan Island. Seeing 10 green and hawksbill turtles in one dive is not uncommon, nor is seeing a school of 300 barracuda and hammerheads The proximity of dives to shore allows you to gear up, swim out a few yards, and get some of the best diving of your life."



As I discovered, most people go to Mabul to dive Sipadan, that great pelagic sea mount made famous by Jacques Cousteau, home to the turtle tomb, thousands of live turtles and millions of schooling pelagics. The reason they choose Mabul over Sipadan is mainly because the accommodation at Smart Diver Resort on Mabul is slightly more upmarket than that found on Sipadan, offering private en-suites, fresh (not brackish) showers and loads of hot water.

If you're diving Sipadan from Mabul (only 15 minutes away by boat), then you're out for the whole day. This isn't a problem because the boats are huge with lots of room, full awnings and even shelves overhead for dry gear. Between dives, have your surface interval sitting on the famous Sipadan wharf, or perhaps,walking along the beach. Lunch is a picnic affair on the back side of Sipadan Island. After three dives, you'reback on Mabul in timefor a hot shower and a late-afternoon cup of tea or coffee, which is always accompanied by a scrumptious Asian pastry of some sort.

Sipadan is the only oceanic island in Malaysia; rising 2,000 feet or 600m from the seabed; it has been formed by living corals growing on top of an extinct volcanic cone that took thousands of years to develop. Sipadan is located at the heart of the Indo-Pacific basin, the centre of one of the richest marine habitats in the world. More than 3,000 species of fish and hundreds of coral species have been classified in this ecosystem.



Rare diving scenes such as schools of greenback turtles and hawksbill turtles nesting and mating, schools of barracuda & big-eye trevally in tornado-like formations, pelagic species such as manta rays, eagle rays, scalloped hammerhead sharks and whale sharks can be seen here.

A mysterious turtle tomb lies underneath the column of the island, formed by an underwater limestone cave with a labyrinth of tunnels and chambers that contain many skeletal remains of turtles.

History

In the past, the island was at the centre of a territorial dispute between Malaysia and Indonesia. This matter was brought to the International Court of Justice for trial. In Dec 2002, the court awarded Sipadan to Malaysia along with Ligitan island based on "effective occupation".



In year 2004, the Government of Malaysia ordered all on-site dive & resort operators of Sipadan to move their structures out of the island by the 31st of December 2004. This move is mainly to conserve a balanced eco-system for Sipadan and its surrounding. Diving will continue to be allowed in Sipadan for divers who are ferried in and out by dive & resort operators from the mainland and surrounding islands.

On May 15, 2006, a barge carrying thousands of tonnes of building material breached on the island, destroying a significant portion of reef between the old pier and Barracuda Point, said to be about 372sq metres

The purpose of the building supplies (mainly concrete and gravel) was apparently for a USD1.3 million tourist facility including resthouse, toilets and scuba shop, said the State Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat but denied by the Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman. Later, it was reported that it was a Federal Government funded project.



Diving Sipadan

Ever since diving celebrity Jacques Cousteau raved about the diversity of marine life, this dive mecca has been indisputably the most famous scuba destination in Malaysia. It is located off the east coast of Sabah, Malaysia's eastern most state, and lies on the north-eastern corner of Borneo, the world's third largest island.

The Sipadan diving legend has passed through the world's dive community to the extent that all divers with an interest in visiting the best sites in the world, have this small island near the top of their wish list.

Pulau Sipadan Island was at the top of Rodale's Scuba Diving Magazine Gold List for 'The Top Dive Destination in the World'. In fact the island shared its top spot with two other destinations known for the amazing diversity of their marine life - the Galapagos Islands and Truk in Micronesia

The list of attractions is quite staggering and all the more exceptional as it involves big fish encounters, something very rare in Asia these days - at Barracuda Point you can find yourself surrounded by a spiralling vortex of barracuda, so large that the sunlight is often clouded out. At South Point there are scores of reef sharks, large schools of passing trevally and herds of massive marauding bumphead parrotfish. When diving in Sipadan everywhere you turn you'll see turtles, munching on the sponges and algae, or lazing on the wall ledges. If you take the time to look closely at the walls you'll see a wealth of macro life and fish species to rival most destinations, although this is often overlooked due to the other major attractions vying for your attention.



How to Get There

Most international flights arrive in Kota Kinabalu. Visitors to Borneo who are on their way to dive at Sipadan spend their first night in one of Kota Kinabalu's fine hotels and fly to Tawau early the following morning.

Some guests opt to fly to Tawau on their arrival day and overnight there before going on to Sipadan. From Tawau Borneo Divers transports you by road to the seaside town of Semporna where the ferry boat departs for Sipadan each morning.

The flight from Kota Kinabalu to Tawau takes about 40 minutes. The ride from Tawau to Semporna takes a little over an hour. The boat ride to Sipadan from Semporna takes about an hour, depending on weather conditions.

Map of Sipadan Island





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