Get in
Getting in requires some effort. Most visitors fly to Tawau from either Kuala Lumpur (3 hr) or Kota Kinabalu (50 min), continue by minivan or taxi to the port town of Semporna (1-2 hr) and from there to Sipadan itself (1 hr by fast boat).
 Get around
Walking along the beautiful sandy beaches, snorkelling sites on all sides of the island can be reached. Scuba divers usually will take a boat a few minutes from the beach to their dive site.
It is no longer possible to stay on Sipadan itself
[add listing] See
The beautiful sandy beaches and the coral reef with its rich marine life. On the island there are large monitor lizards (more than 1 m in length) which sometimes come out onto the beach or even into the water.
[add listing] Do
Sipadan claims to be the world's best dive site. While this is a big claim, the diving here is certainly world class. Sipadan used to have resorts but to protect the environment these were closed around the year 2002. To dive on Sipadan you have to stay somewhere nearby, such as on Mabul or in Semporna, and take a boat onto the island.
Because Sipadan is now a protected site, only 120 divers are allowed daily (April 2013). It is only permissible to be on the island 08:00-15:00. As such, all dive operators will begin and end your dives around the island during this time frame
From the main beach of the original resort it is a mere 20 m wade over the reef to reach the top of the reef wall dropping 1,000-2,000m. Sipadan is surrounded by very rich reef life consisting of both hard and soft coral as well as all manner of reef fish. Sea turtles and white tip reef sharks can be seen on almost every dive and hammerhead and leopard sharks can also be seen at times. Visibility ranges from 10 m to 30 m and more.
The rate for three dives at Sipadan is around RM800 (April 2013). Rates vary slightly among different operators. Boat transfers and packed lunch are included. Permits are limited to 120 per day and are obtained by the dive operators. It is not possible to dive Sipadan without a permit.
Check diver reviews of dive operators in the area before choosing. Many have had customer complaints regarding faulty equipment.
Dive shops include:
For non-divers snorkelling is an option on Sipadan. From the beach the reef is easily accessible, and parts of the reef further out can be reached by boat. A wide variety and number of reef fishes, corals, and with a bit of luck, the sharks, barracuda and turtles can be seen without leaving the surface. Note that currents and boat traffic (especially if duck diving) are the major hazards in the offshore areas, and cryptically coloured stone fish may be a hazard in the shallows.
A buoyed-off area from the 'safe' side of the jetty gives snorkellers the safest and potentially most productive snorkelling area. The phenomenal drop-off that makes this island so special, starts where the jetty ends.
Several dive tour operators bring snorkellers to the island at an all-inclusive rate of around RM490.
Only Sipadan Liveaboard in Semporna is MV Celebes Explorer with 8 cabins. Guaranteed Sipadan permit
[add listing] Buy
With all resorts closed down, there is nothing to buy on the island.
[add listing] Eat
There are no restaurants, and dive tours bring their own lunch and snacks with them.
[add listing] Drink
Dive tours bring their own water and drinks with them.
[add listing] Sleep
All resorts on Sipadan have been closed in order to preserve the island in a pristine state. Diving is still permitted and possible by day-trips from the nearby town Semporna. Alternatively, there are also resorts on the nearby islands of Mabul (25 min by boat) and Kapalai (15 min by boat).
 Stay safe
The islands were previously disputed between Malaysia and Indonesia, leading to instability and a highly publicized case of 20 tourists being kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf rebels in 2000. However, an International Court of Justice decision sided with Malaysia, and the area is now regularly patrolled by the Royal Malaysian Navy.
 Get out