Top Sipadan Dive Sites
Before any, even the most short-term journey, it is useful to check your geographical knowledge. For example, to find on a world map that hangs in every decent Russian office, a country like Malaysia. Not badly, I tell you, I settled down: in the very center of Southeast Asia. The South China Sea delicately cuts the country into two almost equal segments: mainland Western and Eastern Malaysia in the North-Western part of Borneo.
The official language in the country is Malay, where locals usually brag about their flawless English. In monetary circulation – Malaysian ringgits (MYR). And although 1 USD is equal to 4 MYR, for some reason the local population likes it much more.
The main attraction of Kuala Lumpur – twin towers, one of the tallest buildings in the world. At the bottom of the towers are supermarkets and restaurants, at the top – numerous offices. Most of the law-abiding tourists, under the watchful eye of their official halves in the evenings, drearyly walks here. However, the main goal of our journey with you is still ahead. Early morning flight to the city of Tawau, from there – an hour transfer to the port of Semporna and an hour on a boat in the direction of the desired for all solvent divers of Sipadan Island, lost in the waters of the Sulawesi Sea.
Purpose of the visit
Sipadan is the only volcanic island in Malaysia that rises 600 meters above sea level, and its underwater realm harbors untold riches. Sipadan is also called the Island of turtles. Without quotes. Just – Turtle Island! It is here that large green turtles nest, which lay eggs right on the sandy shore. Not to see at least 10-15 turtles in the course of diving near the island means only one of two things: you are either extremely scattered or short-sighted for years. This is someone who definitely did not suffer from this, as is the famous documentary film director Jacques-Yves Cousteau. His film on Sipadan brought the island not only world-wide fame, but also universal troubles. Immediately after the demonstration of the ribbon, huge crowds of tourists reached out to the island, wishing to be photographed, at best, against the background, and at worst, at the most long-suffering tortoise. The worst, of course, for the tortoise itself. On the island, whose width did not exceed 200 meters, 5 hotels were opened at once. Every day hundreds of novice divers dive into the reefs of Sipadan, who, not possessing the appropriate skills, grasped everything that they encountered on their way. In one case – resisting the current, in the other – to personally get a souvenir in the form of a piece of coral, starfish or shell.
Underwater anarchy could only be prevented by the UNESCO Foundation. The respected organization took the unique national marine and natural park of Malaysia under its protection. The awakened government imposed severe restrictions on living (since 2005, living on Sipadan itself is generally prohibited) and diving in the vicinity of the island. Now at the same time, no more than 120 people a day can dive into its water area, who are brought there by boats with powerful engines – that is, approximately 10% of the “production capacity” of neighboring island hotels.
Where to stay
Divers are located on the neighboring islands of Mabul or Kapalai, where 5 hotels are located, as well as an oil drilling platform converted to a hotel. The motto of one of them sounds extremely lucidly: “We have no televisions, no telephones, no internet — only diving!” world-class.) 35 houses, chalets and paths connecting them built over the water in the national style and decorated with fresh flowers. By the way, the local hotel fund is made of “iron tree” – exceptionally durable and resistant to the effects of the ocean. Each chalet has a veranda, from where you can spy over the sea turtles swimming past, which occasionally rise to the surface to take a breath of fresh air and look at the guests of the establishment. All the houses are very spacious and equipped with all the necessary achievements of the civilized world: a fridge with a cola, a hairdryer and a shower with hot water. A pair of chalets is equipped with a special, closed from envious glances veranda, on which is located a giant Jacuzzi, where you can, without feeling embarrassed by social inequality, enjoy the seascapes in a gurgling environment (or at least cool alcohol there).
Two hundred meters from the houses there is a village in which fishermen and hotel staff live. The village is very poor: houses are scattered along the shore, the only advantage of which is the view from the window. Since there are no other attractions besides diving, tourists visit the village in the evenings, which is a source of additional income for locals. The main business is begging: it is quite profitable and does not require initial investments.