40 Meter Visibility

Diving. In. Sipidan. Was. Amazing.

If you are a diver, do whatever you need to do to get your wetsuit wearing, 21% oxygen-breathing ass here.

The catch is it is a protected marine park and only 120 diving permits are issued each day. So, BOOK AHEAD. Like months in advance.

I did not follow my own advice. I tried booking less than a week before we arrived.

How “lucky” we were that there has been some civil unrest (i.e. Filipino Pirates attempting to retake the island.. don’t worry, Mom and Dad, the pirates are gone and all is safe again) in Malaysian Borneo; because of travel warnings (which we conveniently ignored) we were able to score permits to dive on not only one, but two different days. Z lucked out and scored a third day of diving at Sipidan.

We stayed at Seaventures Rig Resort which is a deconverted oil rig that’s been turned into a dive “resort”/dive center.

Aside from the amazing diving underneath the rig itself, at Mabul and Kapalai islands, and at Sipidan island of course, we spent the remainder of the five days rocking out to impromptu dance parties with our new “Belsh” friends (and Frenchie, of course), laughing at the Chinese people who showed up to dive one of the world’s most amazing dive spots but suspiciously didn’t even know how to swim, jumping off the 9 meter high elevator/lift into the water (OK, I did it only once and screamed the whole way down), and learning new words to the song “Come Together” (thanks, Miji).

Here’s the downlow on Sipidan for those researching their own trip.

Sipidan is an island off the coast of Malaysian Borneo; the mainland city is called Semporna. Sipidan is THE place to dive. In the diving world, you will also hear of Mabul Island and Kapalai Island as nearby diving spots, but Sipidan is the place where you’ll see sharks, turtles, giant swirling schools of barracudas, huge groups bumphead parrotfish, etc. This is due to the fact that it is an island that rises directly from the seabed rather than the continental shelf, so the surrounding sea is deeper and the bigger/better/more interesting sealife congregates around it.

Permits are only offered by the resorts that are allotted a portion of the 120 daily permits. I have seen 140 written on some blogs, but this is incorrect. ONLY 120 permits are issued per day! We were just there a few days ago and I saw the list of permits myself at the island check-in desk.

Because of the limited permits, most resorts will require you stay four or more days for them to guarantee you one day of diving at Sipidan. We’ve met people along the way who had to stay several weeks just to get a few days of diving at Sipidan. You can also put yourself on a waiting list and potentially get one of the leftover daily permits, but there is NO guarantee for this and in high season it’s extremely unlikely. If you plan to come here, don’t waste your money “hoping” you can score a permit when you arrive if you haven’t booked with a resort already. Book to stay with a resort that guarantees you a permit. The other nearby islands, Mabul and Kapalai, are good, but NOTHING compared to Sipidan. Don’t bother coming here to dive if you can’t dive Sipidan. There are plenty of other places in the world comparable to Mabul and Kapalai.

Seaventures was awesome. We originally booked four days but ended up staying one more. You’d think being on a dive rig all day you might get bored, but you do not. You’re diving basically all day so the downtime is pretty limited. It also might be best to come with a group of friends, as the vibe is heavily determined by the other people on the rig, and if you get a lame group, well, then it’ll probably be lame.

The rig setup itself is perfect- they have a really organized dive shop where you’re issued one set of equipment at the beginning and keep it in a numbered bin the whole time. No switching equipment every day, which is great. Designated freshwater wash bins for rinsing reg separately from wetsuit, and that sort of thing. Free towels to use after the dive. Freshwater showers right near the elevator/lift. Any rental equipment you need, including camera equipment and dive computers. Nitrox, too, if you’re certified. And on the guided boat dives, the DM and crew will load up your tank and BCD/reg so it makes life really easy. You can also use as many tanks as you want to dive on your own when you’re not going off on the guided boat dives with the DM. There are a stash of fresh, full, tanks… just grab one, take the elevator straight down into the water, and dive underneath the rig. Some pretty cool stuff down there! We even rented torches and did a night dive one night underneath. We got a little lost, but, hey, what can you do.

A very small sampling of what we experienced last week:

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