Sipadan, Malaysia

Sipadan is a small island of oceanic origin with a size of no more than 12 hectares. This Malay tropical paradise can be walked around in just 25 minutes, along the way seeing beautiful sandy beaches framing the rainforest located in the depths. You won’t be able to get acquainted with representatives of the forest flora and fauna nearby: local authorities forbid tourists to move deeper into the island. However, as eyewitnesses testify, monitor lizards and other living creatures sometimes roam along the coast. In addition, Sipadan is a nature reserve – a habitat for many birds, more than three thousand species of fish, hundreds of species of corals, green turtles and hawksbill turtles.

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The marine splendor of Malaysia’s only oceanic island is created by numerous corals that have grown on top of an extinct volcano. This process took hundreds of years. Sipadan is located at a distance of about 700 meters from the bottom.

Divers all over the world talk about Sipadan with a breath. In the late 80s, the island was visited by the legendary Jacques Yves Cousteau, who authoritatively recognized it as one of the best diving sites on earth (read more about dive sites in the article “.

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Diving in Sipadan

There are schools of barracuda and tuna, patrols of hammerhead fish, millions of coral fish and dozens of sea turtles hovering above all this abundance.


Sipadan is located near the port city of Semporna, which is part of the state of Sabah in East Malaysia. However, in this case, the proximity to civilization in the form of the huge island of Borneo rather played a bad role in history. The fact is that Sipadan was a disputed territory for a long time, which either Indonesia, which owns more than 70% of Borneo, or Malaysia, tried to appropriate. At the end of 2002, as a result, by decision of the International Court of Justice, Sipadan went to the Malay side along with Ligitan. Previously, the Philippines claimed the island, but their claim was not satisfied.

One of the most tragic pages in the history of Sipadan is associated with Filipino terrorists who took 21 victims hostage on the island, of which 11 were ordinary tourists.

How to get to Sipadan

Getting to Sipadan is not so easy.

By plane

There are several options. The first step is to get to the city of Tawau, the third largest settlement in the state of Sabah. This requires either a domestic flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu (two and a half hours), and then a flight from the state capital to the city of Tawau (about 50 minutes), or immediately a direct flight from Kuala Lumpur, which is much more convenient and faster. Another option with transfers is a flight from the main Malay city to Sandakan, and then from the latter to Tawau (about 40 minutes).

Tawau International Airport is the second largest in Malaysia and is mainly served by Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia.

By taxi

The second stage of the journey is a trip from Tawau to the port of Semporna, located 35 km from the island of Sipadan. The most convenient way, but not cheap, is a taxi from the airport. Travel time varies from one to two hours.

On the boat

After arriving in Semporna, depending on accommodation, you either immediately go to Sipadan by speedboat, or get on the water to the island of Mabul, which will serve as the starting point for future trips to the diving paradise. Travel time from Semporna to Sipadan is about an hour, from Semporna to Mabul Island about 30 minutes.

Mabul Island is one of the closest “points” to Sipadan. Divers from all over the world also come here, and unlike Sipadan, the tourist infrastructure is developed here. Mabul itself is extremely small. The whole territory is sandy beaches, artificially expanded; numerous coconut palms planted on the site of the destroyed jungle, and hotels designed for different budgets.

Sipadan Hotels

Since Sipadan is a nature reserve, the number of divers on the island at the same time is limited (this is how the authorities try to protect the unique local reefs). No more than 120 dives can be made during the day. Accordingly, it will not be possible to live on the island either: tourists are usually accommodated on two nearby islands – Mabul and Kapalai, where comfortable chalets are built.

Cuisine and restaurants

You will not find cafes in Sipadan. Food and water must be taken with you.

Shopping and shops

Sipadan Island is not a place for trade, but a nature reserve. This is its charm. Souvenirs can be purchased in Semporna or on other islands such as Maboule or Kapalai.

Sipadan, Malaysia