Travel Borneo: Embracing Sipadan – The Ultimate Nature Escape

green turtle

Today’s post is by guest author Jacob Mojiwat, owner of

Travel Borneo!

Why do coral atoll islands make such glorious diving destinations? If you want to see a place of breathtaking beauty, one that few people around the world have ever viewed with their own eyes, you need only go scuba diving at a coral atoll such as Pulau Sipadan, or “border island” in Malay.

This beautiful island, grown from living coral that originally settled on the caldera of an ancient submerged volcano, is only 12 hectares across. You can circumnavigate the island by walking in less than half an hour.

As beautiful as this island is, I personally recommend the view from underneath the island. One of the reasons that coral atolls do make such glorious dive spots is that, by blocking the free flow of water,they create swirling vortex-like currents that local fish use to such advantage that scientists are now studying the movements of fish through water vortices in order to gain insights that might help in the design of an underwater robot.

If you are an advanced diver and prepared to handle stronger currents, you might want to visit Sipadan’s Barracuda Point. Here, a sheer wall of coral creates vortices of water known for producing what look like tornados made up of thousands of barracudas. Given that a barracuda is not a small fish – they can be up to two meters long – you can imagine what a sight a barracuda vortex can be.

Another reason for the beauty of tropical atolls is that a wall of coral can contain so many unique ecosystems – tiny creatures living in small niches and large predators, such as reef sharks, hammerheads, and of course the barracudas (sometimes described as the ocean’s “eating machines”) prowling about in search of a cephalopod snack.

At Sipadan, you can reach such a wall by walking off the beach at the spot that is aptly named “Drop Off.” At Drop Off, the water is shallow for almost 10 meters. Then it drops off, suddenly, forming an underwater cliff that goes down to 600 meters.

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There you can find not only sharks (hammerhead, grey reef, and whale sharks) and barracudas, but also the comical looking bumphead parrotfish – a corallivore which bumps its head into pieces of coral in order to break them into smaller pieces – and many many many sea turtles. In fact, there are so many turtles that you would never imagine that sea turtles are endangered in other parts of the world. There are Olive Ridley sea turtles, leatherback turtles, hawksbill turtles, and green turtles.

You can also see the gentle giants of tropical seas, manta rays,which can be about the size of a horse and typically weigh in at over a ton (the largest on record was over two tons!).

Of course, there is a reason that few people have ever seen Sipadan – the government of Malaysia declared it a national park in 2005, and all resorts on Sipadan immediately closed.

To get there, you must travel to nearby Mabul or Kalapalai (beautiful destinations in and of themselves) and then travel by speedboat to Sipadan, which is about an hour away. But before you do that, you will need to obtain a permit. The government of Malaysia does not allow more than 120 visitors to Sipadan on any given day. Permits must be obtained in advance when you are arranging your trip.

You can ask your travel agent to find out about the permit process for you. However, don’t let the permit process dissuade you from coming. Remember, this is the island Jacques Cousteau called “an untouched piece of art.”

About the Author

Jacob Mojiwat is passionate about sharing the wonders of scuba diving with others. He is the owner of His dive company offers diving in Sipadan Malaysia as well as other Asia dive destinations.

Giant bumphead parrotfish

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Post Author: Carrie Kellenberger

I'm a chronically ill Canadian who has been living in Asia since 2003. I moved from China to Taiwan in 2006. I'm an experienced businesswoman and have worked in many leadership positions in Asia. In addition to my own work, I've been writing professionally about Asia, travel and health advocacy since 2007, providing regular content to publishing companies and travel publications in Asia and North America. I started writing about my health journey in 2009 after being diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis. In 2014, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS, which came with other massive health issues. These diagnoses were the start of my journey as a health advocate and patient leader. Since then, My Several Worlds has been recognized worldwide as a top site for AS, fibromyalgia, and chronic illness by WEGO Health and Healthline.

9 thoughts on “Travel Borneo: Embracing Sipadan – The Ultimate Nature Escape

    Ava Apollo

    (December 8, 2010 - 4:45 pm)

    Thanks for sharing! As a diver, I’m putting this on my list. It sounds really special and unique, which I’m always searching for.


    (December 15, 2010 - 3:55 pm)

    Untouch piece of art and for a very good reason the Malaysian government should limit visits to secure and protect the island. This is a wonderful post! It’s true only a number of people on earth were fortunate to explore this hidden piece of heave on earth.


    (December 23, 2010 - 12:37 pm)

    So gorgeous, I love diving, the wonders you see underwater are overwhelming!

    David @ Malaysia Asia

    (December 24, 2010 - 9:08 am)

    Very nice! I am headed to Spiadan/Mabul in January 2011 to open my travel year! On the other hand, I have heard how the permits are distributed among the operators and resorts… such a shame that it is done in such a way even though they have a quota. I’ll be there to experience it first hand this January.


    PNR Enquiry

    (January 6, 2011 - 10:06 am)

    Nice post. I have heard how the permits are distributed among the operators and resorts… such a shame that it is done in such a way even though they have a quota.


    (January 21, 2011 - 5:08 am)

    cool… love the seaworld..


    (February 7, 2011 - 7:15 am)

    I’m booked and paid for 5 days diving in mabul, sibuan and sipadan on april. Jacob just got me more excited with his piece. I’ll write my own reflections after the trip.


      (February 10, 2011 - 11:51 am)

      Hi Sunni,

      I am glad to hear that Jacob did his job so well. You’ll have to let us know if you decide to write about your dive trip on Multiply!


    (November 16, 2011 - 7:09 pm)

    I am heading to Borneo this Chistmas, will it be terrible due to the rainy season or will I still have good time. i am diving for most of the time and then a few days on land doing the rain forrest thing

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