The pontoon of Sipadan. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013.

Divers under supervision in Sipadan

#MALAISIE

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic Google translation from a post originally written in French. My apologies for the weird sentences and the funny mistakes that could have been generated during the process. If you can read French, the original and correct version can be found here:

  Borneo: Indonesia + Malaysia - July 2013

Sipadan. An island explored by Cousteau. A dream of divers. But a dream under military surveillance, for the safety of tourists and the preservation of the reef.

For crazy diving

Sipadan, a small island off Borneo, in eastern Malaysia, is one of the most famous diving spots in Asia. Reputation not usurped.

Of course, it is better to love the fish to appreciate the place as it deserves ... 👌

School of jacks in Sipadan. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013.

I am irresistibly addicted to bubbles and fish, I returned to Sipadan, for the third time, in July 2013, after two first trips in 2006 and 2009.

I have already posted some articles on this new journey of 2013:

For the atmosphere under water → Sipadan underwater in pictures
To see a shark up close → Sipadan: a video, a shark, a minute
For details my July 2013 trip to Borneo → Diving in the blue of Borneo

Sipadan, where and how are we going?

A few small practical and geographical details to start, because I am inundated with emails asking me for information about Sipadan ... 😉

Sipadan is a tiny island, located in eastern Malaysia, in northeastern Borneo, near the border with Indonesia. The island is part of the Malaysian state of Sabah.

A great advantage of this fabulous diving spot is its ease of access, via Tawau airport: there are direct connections with Kuala Lumpur in Peninsular Malaysia, or Kota Kinabalu in East Malaysia on Borneo (see the sites ofAir Asia and Malaysia Airlines).

Kuala Lumpur - Tawau.

Aircraft MAS Wings, a subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines for domestic flights. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013.

Once in Tawau, you have to go to Semporna, the port from which boats leave for Sipadan and Mabul, the neighboring island. The journey by road takes about an hour. There are many taxis waiting for the client at the airport.

It takes about an hour to cross Semporna to Mabul by boat. Then, since Mabul it takes another twenty minutes to reach the island of Sipadan itself (be careful, as long as there are waves, the crossing time is easily doubled).

An oceanic island explored by Cousteau

Sipadan, when we approach, it looks like this:

Sipadan. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013.

Sipadan. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013.

The pontoon of Sipadan. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013.

The pontoon of Sipadan. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013.

Turquoise water and white sand ... "Wow" effect guaranteed when it's sunny.

Sipadan is a very particular island. It is the only oceanic island in Malaysia. This means that it is not just an emergent zone in the extension of a continent, but an island of volcanic origin, created by the activity of the earth's crust at the seafloor.

Sipadan herself is very small. The island is perched on a vast coral reef, atop an ancient volcano.

This forms a vertiginous underwater cliff, which sinks to about 600 m below the surface. These particular geological conditions have favored an incredible abundance of life and underwater biodiversity. (Click on the pictures to see them big.)

Malaysians Clement Lee and Samson Shak, Britain's Ronald Holland and American Randy Davis are considered "discoverers" of the underwater riches of the island and the "pioneers" of diving in Sipadan. In 1984, they started the first commercial diving operation, which still exists, Borneo Divers.

But it is the Frenchman Jacques-Yves Cousteau who made the island famous, after his passage with the Calypso, in 1988. Amazed, he would have said, in essence: "I've seen places like Sipadan, but it was 45 years ago. What we have here is an intact work of art. "

In Sipadan, Cousteau shot a documentary entitled The specter of the turtle (1989), whose spectacular images of the cave sheltering a turtle cemetery, with whitish skulls and carapaces on a sandy bottom, have made their mark. There is a rational explanation to this tomb of turtles: lost in the guts of the cave, they would have perished there suffocated, for lack of having been able to return to the surface to breathe.

Turtle Tomb Cave. Sipadan, Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013.

My name is not Cousteau and I only visited the entrance to the Turtle Tomb Cave, a vast room in the dark intimidating. I still brought a small video, which I will post in a future article ... (EDIT: the video is online, to see here.)

An island under high surveillance

Sipadan is also known outside the small world of diving because of the dramatic history of hostages of Jolo, in 2000.

About 20 people - a group of foreign divers and Malaysians - were kidnapped in Sipadan by Filipinos of the Islamist separatist group Abu Sayyaf, then taken away and sequestered on the nearby island of Jolo. extreme south of the Philippine archipelago.

Since then, the Malaysian army has deployed men to Sipadan and the surrounding islands. They are there permanently, patrols plow the waters of the region. The security of the tourists is thus (in principle) assured, but it is always a little odd to see guys with weapons and trellises on the white sand beaches ... I already talked about it during my first stay in 2006.

UPDATE: Security at Semporna / Mabul / Sipadan. I receive many questions on this subject, I remind you that this article, published initially in December 2013, concerns my stay there in July 2013. I added in comments new information, in answer to readers ...  

June 15, 2014, after new tourist kidnappings occurred in November 2013 and April 2014, in two isolated resorts of the region, I published a first long commentary under this article, compiling several infos and updates on this subject, which you can read at the end of this link:
https://petitesbullesdailleurs.fr/2013/12/15/plongeurs-securite-sipadan/comment-page-1/#comment-6754

August 26, 2017, I published a new comment, in response to a reader, compiling the latest information I found on the situation at that date, to see by clicking on this links:
→ https://petitesbullesdailleurs.fr/2013/12/15/plongeurs-securite-sipadan/comment-page-1/#comment-7960

A soldier on duty on the small island of Sibuan, off Semporna. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2006.
A soldier on duty on the small island of Sibuan, off Semporna. (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2006.)

Various measures were also taken for the environmental protection of Sipadan and its reef, after the island, litigated with neighboring Indonesia, was officially attributed to Malaysia in 2002 & #160: closing of the few hotels built on Sipadan same in 2004 & #160; introduction of a quota of divers and snorkelers limited to 120 per day, and now increased to 176 per day [info from 2019].

Inside the Sipadan registration desk, the list of authorized dive operators, with the number of permits for the day for each. Total: 120. (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013.)
Inside the Sipadan registration desk, the list of authorized dive operators, with the number of permits for the day for each. Total & #160 ;: 120. It was in 2013. The quota has increased to 176 now. (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013.)

Today, most of the tourists-divers stay on Mabul, the neighboring island of Sipadan - where the accommodations, from the cheapest to the most chic, pile up around the village. Others make the day trip from Semporna, the port on the mainland in Borneo.

Read also → A brief history of Pulau Sipadan

Sipadan. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013.

The only permanent residents of Sipadan are now military rangers and some lizards and not fierce lizards ...

The military-rangers' post at Sipadan. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013.

Varan in Sipadan. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013.

These measures seem to be paying off - as far as I can judge from my three visits, a few years apart (2006, 2009, 2013) ...

In terms of safety, the tourists came back - and an impressive business developed around diving, in Mabul and Semporna.

On the environmental front, the underwater life on the Sipadan reef has remained spectacular! It comforts after my disappointment in Maratua and Sangalaki, Indonesian side of Borneo.

Signs on the Sipadan pontoon remind us of the rules to observe in the island's marine reserve. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013.
Signs on the Sipadan pontoon remind us of the rules to observe in the island's marine reserve. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013.

Controlled freedom

In Sipadan, each visitor must first land and sign the permit register before diving, swimming or strolling. Each boat receives a pennant for the day, identifying it as being allowed to sail around the island.

Signature of the register at Sipadan. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013.

Sipadan. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013.

It is forbidden to travel on the island beyond a restricted area to the large beach near the pontoon and to the area provided for divers under the trees - with tables, wooden awnings and sanitary facilities. As much to ensure the tranquility of the turtles that lay on the sand all around the island, as to keep tourists within sight.

The atmosphere is more unusual than heavy. We return to the island between dives to eat, rest, take souvenir photos ...

Beach portion allowed to tourists, in Sipadan. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013.
Beach portion allowed to tourists, in Sipadan. (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013)
Lunch break between two dives on Sipadan. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013.
Lunch break between two dives on Sipadan. (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013)

On site, the military rangers, often in flip flops but with weapons at hand, monitor the comings and goings of tourists between two naps.

Sometimes the siren sounds when an intrepid or daze ventures beyond the limit. Better not to laugh with this, warn the guides before landing a group. An offense and it is the whole boat that finds itself not only expelled but prohibited from diving ...

😠

Admit that it was a pity ...

A white tip shark in Sipadan. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013.
A white tip shark in Sipadan. (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013)

(Thanks to one of my diving companions, Vicente Garcia, for the photo above, where I am seen filming a white tip shark! And the video that goes with it is here.)

  Borneo: Indonesia + Malaysia - July 2013

  1. Thank you very much for this geography lesson but also for these beautiful photos. It's always a pleasure to read you.

    1. Hello,
      how many days is it possible to dive in Sipadan?
      can we go on the island of Mobul a week and come dive in Sipadan a week?
      sat

    2. @Sat : you do not stay on Sipadan, so you have to stay in Mabul, the island that is right next door. The dive centers, as I explain in the article, can each bring a limited number of divers every day to Sipadan. The best is to contact the structure with which you intend to dive and ask them. He can tell you how many days of diving they can guarantee or not in Sipadan itself ... Good preparations!

  2. Super interesting.
    I like to have the "frame" of these dive photos that you publish, the terrestrial context.
    It opens the mind, I think. 🙂

    1. @Marie: Sipadan is a well-known spot, but not really that much ... I realized, via e-mails and inquiries, that many people, including divers, did not know much about little recent history of the island, very interesting elsewhere. I had planned to talk a little bit about Mabul and Semporna too, but I keep these other aspects "earthly" for a future post ...
      😉

    1. @Mali: no, it's not "scary", it does not feel like that when you're there. On the island, at breaks, there is a whole fauna of tourists, from all horizons, Western and Asian, backpackers and people, those who land for the first time and those who are familiar with the world. place, who hang out and cross in wet neoprene wetsuit or swimsuit. It distracts the rangers, who must be bored a bit ... When one of the tourists goes beyond the limits, it gives them something to do. The atmosphere is rather fun in the background, not disturbing.
      8)

  3. magical as always, this is twice that we move this destination to not go without a friend who has health concerns ... but in 2015 to us Mabul and Sipadan.
    For 2014 it will be the Philippines with a stay on Cabilao and excursions on Bohol.
    In the meantime I'm enjoying with your photos ....

  4. @Corinne: I have been away from dive blogs for a long time and it is with great courage that I come back to an article about diving ... Courage ... .Yes..I needed it, because for I dive, it's over ... A serious diving accident in the Maldives last November put an end to this passion and obviously, I have a hard time to recover ... Because it is a real ordeal that I I lived there, between evacuation, hospitalization, caisson, etc .... And now exam on examination .... In any case, thank you to DAN and Europe Assistance, because without them, I do not know what I will become !! Because it is also very expensive! About $ 8000 !! Here, I write the story of my galley, and wanted to publish it, to make divers aware that this does not happen to others, but finally I gave up .... So continue to enjoy your dives, and sorry if I will be rarer on these topics .... 😥

    1. @Didier: you know how much I sympathize, after this sad adventure ...
      I tell you again here, after our private e-mail exchanges, your experience will encourage me to be more vigilant than ever! #8230; I would be very unhappy too, if I had to give up diving. 👿
      But the most important thing is that you are always there to talk about it and that you do not have any consequences, to continue to travel and enjoy your other passions.

    2. Hello ! I write to you today because my daughter lucie fronty 26 years after 3 dives not day on the 13th and the 14th of September did a decompression accident.a Semporna in Malaysia. She made a box by the Malaysian army 18 hours after her accident and repatriated by car through the consul kota kinabalu al kota kinabalu hospital where she made four times the box by the Navy! Currently it's been 3 weeks since she was hospitalized at the Garches wheelchair hospital! She feels her legs but can not walk a few steps in a walker. We talk to him about months or years of rehabilitation. Can you tell me if you have recovered to date or if you are handicapped for life? Thank you

  5. Good evening,
    Super article that reminds me of good memories: I went there in 2007. Not being a diver, I had done snorkeling and it was already magic!
    Safeguarding the environment is paying off? I heard that prices had soared to go to Sipadan?
    Good night

    1. @Nath ': I did not find that prices had soared. As for the reef around Sipadan, I found it full of life, which makes me think that the measures taken locally to preserve the place must still bear fruit.

  6. well done; great your site; we sign tomorrow for sipadan (for June 2014) I would have wanted to have precise details on the problems of didier maldives; it can serve me; I dive with my wife; Are there more things to know about sipadan? For those who read this email, a nasty anecdote arrived at Bali (diving cruise). Arriving at the airport, customs repressed us because there was no room to paste the visa bought at the arrival !!! but repressed for real; return direct bets and loss of all cruises (insurance does not work) so keep room in your passports; enjoy reading you. MARC

    1. @Marc: thin, so ... You talk about an "anecdote", what a tile! In any case, thank you for the info, it's worth thinking to check the pages of the passport well in advance before leaving, to be added if necessary.

      For Sipadan, nothing more to know than I have already mentioned in my various articles, I think. It will be best to ask all the questions you have in mind before leaving by e-mail to the structure that will welcome you.

      As for Didier, his problems in the Maldives he did not want to spread are medical. He had a decompression accident following a dive. Without going into detail, you can imagine the galleys that followed (emergency care and evacuation to the caisson, repatriation, fees, insurance, paperwork, new health exams, etc.).

      Good preparations for Sipadan !!!
      8)

    2. Hello Marc
      When in June?
      I have a pre-reservation in June 2014 but I can not decide definitely for the last events of April 2nd.
      What do you think?
      /pascal

    3. from June 7th to 16th with my wife; with malaysian Airlines! but no more worried than that; We'll see. I hate (with ultramarina)
      ciaociao

  7. Hello,
    Is the December period good? And for snorkeling and those who do not swim very well who accompany divers? If you can also tell me the precautions to avoid serious accidents (Didier), it would be useful for our first experience in Sipadan.
    Thank you for your site.

    1. @Ming: we can dive all year round in Sipadan. I think it's OK in December, we'd have to take a closer look at weather related sites or ask the question to an on-site structure.

      For snorkeling, yes, no worries, snorkelers usually stay with a boat on the surface while divers dive.

      To avoid problems in scuba diving and to limit the risk of breathing compressed air under water, follow the recommendations given during training. I will not list them here. But even following the rules, one is not immune to a decompression sickness or barotrauma. That's how it's diving, it's not natural for our body ... In general, it takes a lot to drink well to hydrate, always go up very slowly, dive nitrox if you have it possibility to limit the accumulation of nitrogen in the body, etc. etc. Finally, it is better to give up a dive if you feel a little tired, anxious, or if you do not feel it. A dive, we can always put it back to another day.

      Good preparations!
      🙂

  8. Hello Corinne
    Great site, very informative, and great pictures. Congratulations !
    With which club did you dive and which hotel do you recommend, knowing that we will be 4 divers and 4 children who snorkel?
    Alain

    1. @Alain: sorry for not answering the moment. I went to Billabong Scuba in Mabul, which is not expensive, but I would not necessarily recommend this choice with children (or better than they are a bit tall). I would rather recommend Borneo Divers, their resort in Mabul is very good, the service for both diving and accommodation is very good from what I read here and there in the comments of divers who are there went.

  9. Hello Corinne,

    Congratulations for this site which is full of useful information and makes us dream a little while waiting to leave!
    I would love to go to Mabul / Sipadan in August, but the diplomatie.gouv.fr travel advice site classifies this area as "inadvisable except imperative reason", there was a kidnapping and a murder of Taiwanese tourists in November 2013 on Pom Pom Island off Semporna ... Are kidnappings common in the region?
    Another question, do you need a good level of diving for Sipadan or Mabul? I am N3 but my friend just has his open-water and dive little.

    thank you in advance

    Vanessa

    1. Hello, without giving in to panic or psychosis but for information, an abduction still took place in Semporna early April 2014.

      We are ourselves completely indecisive, we have already booked for a long time diving in July 2014 from Mabul ... 🙁

      Good bubbles anyway ...

      Yohann

  10. Hello Corinne,
    For us it is almost done.
    Your article has finished convincing us
    We took the tickets and hotel for 6 days in kampalai in august then travel on land.
    I realized that sipadan diving was limited. How can one be sure of having the right to dive?
    Should we book a permit in advance?

    Thank you
    Pierre-Alain

    1. @ Pierre-Alain: ask the structure that welcomes you, how many days with license they can guarantee you to dive in Sipadan. Each structure is allocated by the authorities a certain amount of permits per day, according to its size. It is a good idea to ask the dive center in advance what days they plan to dive you in Sipadan and have it confirmed in writing. Even to insist on getting one or two more days, it can work.

  11. Hello
    Super page, congratulations!
    After the Philippines up and down (from Palawan to Malapascua via MualBoal, Dumaguette and Boracay), we are 80% committed to Mabul Island and Sipadan.
    I'm leaving with my son and knowing the story of Filipino separatists related to Al Qaeda, it's true that this trip is a bit stressful (to say a lot).
    We received assurances from the authorities that the security of the army was protecting the scene.
    Mabul Island is further south than Pom Pom Island and Singamat Island where the last 2 kidnappings and murders took place (November 2013 and April 2, 2014).
    it still gives shivers and reflection.
    Impossible to decide ...
    Congratulations on this wonderful blog.

    1. Congratulations for the blog.

      Pascal, have you decided? What authorities did you contact and how did you go about it?
      I'm in Palawan and plan to fly to Borneo in July, but I'm also thinking about the April kidnapping. As for the permit for Sipadan, where does it take exactly?
      Thank you in advance for the answers ?
      Antoine

    2. @Antoine: Permits are allocated by the local authorities to the dive structures, depending on their size (see picture of the chart I took at the Ranger station in Sipadan, in my article above). It is not the tourists who "take" the permits. On-site dive operators should be asked what day they have availability for Sipadan. If we reserve in advance, we can ensure to have the guarantee of diving in Sipadan. If you come in walk-in, you often have to do several dive-shops before finding one that has a non-allocated permit for the next day or the days to come.

      Finally, for security reasons, I come from my side to add a lower answer:
      http://petitesbullesdailleurs.fr/2013/12/15/plongeurs-securite-sipadan/comment-page-1/#comment-6754

    3. @Pascal: thank you for your message and sorry to answer only now. Recent attacks against tourists have taken place in two isolated resorts, indeed, this is not the same situation as Mabul. But like you, and many other travelers, it makes me think. I get a lot of questions about it and I obviously can not decide instead of people, so I ended up posting a long comment compiling some info:
      http://petitesbullesdailleurs.fr/2013/12/15/plongeurs-securite-sipadan/comment-page-1/#comment-6754
      But I see you're pretty familiar with the situation. What did you decide, to finish?

    4. hello, we come back this Monday from sipadan; we were on the MV boat celebrations; 4 dives per day over 6 days: the site is Super and its top 10 is validated; sharks of fish, sharks, turtles and a leopard shark; a quick hammer etc .. + 1 dive 0 mabul and 1 0 kapalai which changes a little bit. pB particular (except our air connections a little difficult but everything is back in order) the crew of the boat just told us Do not let your luggage hang around when you were in the port of Semporna, that's all. very good dives. to pleasure; in nov c es will be similan; Does anyone have any information? FRIENDLY MARC

  12. I realize that I have not taken the time to answer all the comments above, on security issues ... A reader of the blog, who plans to go to Sipadan, during this summer 2014, m sent an e-mail, asking the same questions. Suddenly, I give you below the elements of the answer that I made him. I do not allow myself to make a recommendation here one way or the other. It's up to everyone to make their decision, their responsibilities.

    Do you also say that I live in Brittany, not in Borneo. I have not conducted an investigation on the situation there and I have no other information than that which can be found on the internet ...

    * * *

    First of all, the press releases on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' travel advice website are still very disturbing. If we followed all their recommendations, we would not go anywhere, of course ... But they do their job of information, it's normal that they report the security problems that have been reported and they issue bets in proportion to the seriousness of the facts reported. When I went to Sipadan in July 2013 (see my blog post, above), they were already discouraged from going to the north and east of Sabah, in Borneo, Malaysia (this was before the attacks and kidnappings November 2013 and April 2014 mentioned in your comments and that I mention below).

    These kidnappings (accompanied by a murder) are indeed worrying because they targeted tourists directly. From what I have read here and there, it is, as in 2000, Filipinos claiming the separatist movement Abu Sayyaf who are the authors.

    The two recent kidnappings took place in isolated resorts (which I do not know):
    - One to that of Pom Pom Island : a Taiwanese tourist kidnapped and her husband killed, in November 2013.
    - The other one Singamata Reef Resort : a Chinese tourist and a Filipino employee kidnapped, in April 2014.
    Both attacks took place at night.
    The first woman was recovered in Jolo, Philippines, in December 2013:
    http://news.asiaone.com/news/malaysia/semporna-kidnap-taiwanese-tourist-freed
    The other two women were released in May in the Sulu province of the Philippines:
    http://www.mindanaoexaminer.com/news.php?news_id=20140530113057

    I'm thinking that it is probably better to avoid staying in this type of accommodation too isolated and therefore very vulnerable. This article also reports that the possibility of closing the few resorts located on small islands far from everything was considered:
    http://www.thestar.com.my/News/Nation/2014/04/08/Semporna-resort-kidnap-Sabah-will-not-close-island-resorts/

    Now, for what I know of the places: I do not believe that this kind of attack would have been possible on Mabul same, neither in Sipadan, nor in the port of Semporna (too many people on the spot and visible presence of the Malaysian army ). These three places are very touristy, very busy and very secure. The army patrols around the two islands of Mabul and Sipadan, seriously downplaying the possibility of a raid, in my humble opinion. However, given the context of previous attacks, I would be more circumspect about Kapalai, which is a resort on stilts a bit off Mabul, isolated in the middle of the sea.

    I have friends who went diving in Sipadan in May 2014, without any particular concern. They lived on the island of Mabul, Scuba Junkie, everything went well. I do not have the impression that the recent events have so far had a lot of impact on the diving business there, but I could be wrong (maybe there are already fewer tourists , Chinese in particular?). The Malaysian authorities say they want to reinforce the security measures, I came across this recent article (June 5, 2014):
    http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/malaysia-to-boost-sabah/1138282.html

    Anyway, keep in mind that the guys from Abu Sayyaf did not hesitate to resume their incursions into Malaysia, to kidnap tourists, and so they can start again. This explains the particularly alarming message of the Foreign Ministry's website for travelers in this region, which I give you the link:
    http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/fr/conseils-aux-voyageurs/conseils-par-pays/malaisie-12284/

  13. Still concerning security: I discover, via the media on the internet, this July 13, 2014, that an attack this time took place on the island of Mabul same, at the luxury hotel Mabul Water Bungalows Resort. One policeman was killed, another kidnapped ...

    A raid by armed men on Mabul, the island where tourists are staying, is really disturbing. Here are some links:
    http://online.wsj.com/articles/gunmen-attack-borneo-diving-resort-1405235722
    http://www.skynews.com.au/news/world/asiapacific/2014/07/13/gunmen-attack-diving-resort-on-borneo.html
    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/07/13/al-qaeda-linked-militants_n_5581878.html

    1. Indeed it is worrying. I'm going to Mabul in early August as a couple and this 13 July raid is scary! I do not even ask myself if the risk exists (the answer is yes!). I am now wondering about the measures that the Malaysian authorities have taken to (further) secure the premises and whether they are not "overwhelmed" by these repeated attacks by the Filipino separatists, which we do not know if they plan to renew them targeting "key" (tourist) areas. If someone has info, I'm interested, thank you.

    2. I come back from Malaysia where I dive the first half of August in the Semporna archipelago and everything went well.
      The resort / dive center where I was staying (which was full) did not seem to care more than that, any more than the guests.

      I take this opportunity to warmly recommend it: Scuba Junckie. Great value for money on accommodation / service and dive guide at the top. Special mention to Dave for introducing me to the Sipadan sites (which are really exceptional)

      The attack in July 2014 occurred at Mabul Water Bungalows on one of the pontoons with overwater bungalows. Given the large military presence on the island, I can not imagine an attack on the "mainland" of Mabul. We must still be vigilant and follow the news in this area.

      Anyway, if some hesitates to go, my message is to reassure them 😉

    3. Hello,
      we have been with my wife in Sipadan from August 14th to August 21st.
      We are lucky to be able to settle in luxury at the KAPALAI resort.

      Physical security was one of the palpable preoccupations. more than thirty soldiers armed with M16 who evolved among us.
      a destroyer off Mabul to have an H24 radar coverage of what was happening in the air and on the sea.
      Regular overflights by helicopter and a curfew during the night. Moreover in most bungalows have an emergency device (red button) that triggers the intervention of the military.
      Finally following the events of July the resort had itself reinforced the security by posting the night of additional security personnel.

      Extraordinarily, this atmosphere far from being heavy was totally transparent if not the armed but very friendly soldiers and the deceleration of the first dive at SIPADAN which was done at 6am instead of 5:30.
      So for me it is confirmed the risk is real but the measures taken were totally satisfactory.

      The dives:
      Extraordinary: turtle ball, swims with sharks, swirls of baraccudas, jack fishs you want it here, dinner with fish parrot hump, corals, the multitude of aure fish. Certainly among the most beautiful dives that we can achieve.

      The resort:
      Insofar as the financial means allow it, it is the top.
      10% of Westerners. however, the Chinese are far from unpleasant: the resort is known as a must for honeymoon photos and snorkeling. So people rather relaxed and who throw themselves on the buffet in the same way as the occidentaus.
      The large bungalows, ventilated and having a total visual intimacy.
      Service with Malay very smiling and caring for their customers.

      The club: TOP no bottle to carry, 4 dives per day at SIPADAN, 3 dives per day otherwise + 1 in the morning or evening from the resort (guaranteed fish)

      So probably one of our best trips.
      To do despite the risks of piracy / terrorism.

      Pierre-Alain

  14. Hello,
    We came back
    today a stay of 5 nights surd Mabul
    (Sipadan Mabul Resort).
    I confirm the words of Pierre Alain, superb dives and soldiers in the hotel.
    However, there is one
    Atmosphere quite heavy and
    We have the impression that we are not told everything.
    In the evening, the police are so discreet that we do not see them.
    Finally, I do not know if this is a combination of circumstances or not but the hotels are really not filled on Mabul.
    In summary, very good dive site but unhealthy atmosphere.

  15. Hello and thank you for all the info found on the blog, it's really informative ...
    Go to read more closely the links in English because we have the idea to leave in October with our son of soon 10 years - in December -
    So, one, I must see what is possible diving level for him, because according to the information Padi is possible from 10 years and sometimes before ...
    2 / in relation to security,
    3 / palu
    in short, everything is really envy but still a lot of parameters to check before 😉
    And if not, I take for pretty spots where to do the PADI with a little guy in the area ...
    As we have a flight to Bangkok, it's pretty open then.

    1. Are in Mabuĺ right now. Security to the max but the funds make us good!
      The reconverted diving platform is ideal for 4-7 dives per day.
      Very well organized, efficient, service "almost" nonexistent. Compared to other resorts the price is attractive.
      8 Military permanently at night for our safety. We took the VIP room & #8230; No view, but spacious!
      After seeing a lot during my 31 years diving ... I must say that we spend an incredible course here ... !!!
      François
      OWSI - SWITZERLAND
      08.12.2014

  16. Hi Corinne,
    I'm going with two friends on Mabul from 21 to 28 February 2016. On the program, 3 days of diving on Sipadan including 😀
    We take the risk because Sipadan is really one of the most fabulous diving places in the world ...
    For the resort, we hesitate between Billabong and Uncle Chang ...
    See you soon for news back 😉
    Gaël, fan of your blog and dive

    1. Hello,
      I love the blog about diving ...
      I am currently preparing my next trip to Asia for 1 month, and I would have liked to go diving in Sipadan ... .. could you give me a feedback on your trip in February (Gael travel coffee)
      It makes you want to see all this underwater wealth 🙂
      Thank you

  17. I booked at various terminals in June but I hesitate again thank you for the follow up ... in fact with the latest events I hesitate even for Malaysia ...

    1. Your story touched me enormously because my daughter lucie 26 years has just done an ADD after 3 dives in Semporna Malaysia and currently she is in the hospital in Garches rehabilitation for difficulties walking. Where are you now? Did you recover from your accident?

    1. @Damien: the situation has not improved since 2013 (when I wrote and published this article) and there were new kidnappings until 2016. However, unless I am mistaken, none of them concerned tourists in 2015 and 2016. See the timeline from 2000 to 2016 via the link below:
      http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/sabah-abductions-since-2000-a-timeline

      In August 2017, the French government formally advises travel to the north-east of Sabbah for security reasons, which is normal in view of past events. This translates into a red colored zone, at the foot of the page, on the "Advice to travelers" site in the Borneo region concerned:
      http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/fr/conseils-aux-voyageurs/conseils-par-pays/malaisie/#securite

      A curfew was introduced by the Malaysian authorities in July 2014 in the critical area under military surveillance known as the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESSZone). In the article below, from August 17, 2017, a police chief says there has been no kidnapping so far in the area in 2017, but there are still threats to the safety of residents and tourists, and that the curfew will be maintained for as long as necessary:
      https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2017/08/268874/police-maintain-eastern-sabah-curfew-security-threats-remain

      According to this article of August 26, 2017, the curfew will be extended until September 11, 2017:
      http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/curfew-at-esszone-extended-until-sept-11-says-sabah-police-commissioner

      The Malaysian authorities also plan to intensify the controls and patrols at sea, according to this article published in early August 2017:
      http://www.theborneopost.com/2017/08/01/esszone-sea-checkpoints-to-increase-security-of-sabah/

      It is also interesting to read the testimonials of travelers, as here on Tripadvisor, in this conversation opened in March 2017:
      https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g635753-i13334-k10351122-Semporna_Sipadan_safety-Semporna_Semporna_District_Sabah.html
      It turns out that the islands and tourist spots are still very secure by the military, and that diving activities continue. Bookings of Western travelers are at half mast, the tourist clientele seems mainly Asian, at this moment. A Slovenian said she went there in April 2017 with her 5-year-old child, and felt rather safe because of the presence of soldiers ...

      Below is an update on the situation in 2017, according to a local tour operator, who, while calling for caution, believes that the situation has improved rather:
      https://www.borneoecotours.com/travel-info/advisory.php
      From the point of view of this tour operator, the battle of Marawi in the southern Philippines, mobilizing jihadists in the service of Abu Sayyaf against the Philippine army, paradoxically made the Malaysian territory of northern Borneo safer ...

      In any case, it seems that the Malaysian, Filipino and Indonesian authorities want to cooperate more, in order to better respond to this terrorist threat. Several Filipinos, alleged members of Abu Sayyaf, suspected of planning new kidnappings, or carrying out kidnappings in the northern area of Borneo, were killed or arrested in 2017. See some links below.
      Articles of April 2017:
      http://www.theborneopost.com/2017/04/18/20-abduction-cases-5-kidnapping-bids-between-2000-and-2016-in-sabah/
      http://www.tnp.sg/news/world/abu-sayyaf-plot-kidnap-tourists-sabah-islands-foiled
      Article of May 2017:
      http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2017/05/20/caught-abu-sayyaf-man-key-to-kidnappings-in-sabah/
      Article published on July 14, 2017:
      http://www.philstar.com/nation/2017/07/14/1719545/suspected-abu-sayyaf-member-involved-mass-abduction-foreigners-captured

      Here are the various information that I could collect this Saturday, August 26, 2017, by launching a Google search. I do not live there, but in Brittany, in Rennes, also I have other info than those that are accessible by internet, and I have not returned to the north-east of Sabbah since 2013. But the area seems even more secure today than it was four years ago by the Malaysian authorities. Unfortunately we know that terrorists can strike anywhere, in Sipadan, like Barcelona, London, Nice or Paris ...

  18. Hello, I would like to go diving in Sipadan in August, I wondered is it possible to book a permit for a specific day or should he go on Mabul and hope?

    Thank you!

    1. @Marie Menanteau: Hello, I do not know ... It all depends on the number of permits obtained by the different centers and resorts on site. Contact the structure with which you intend to dive to ask them the question. They will be able to inform you and tell you if they have the possibility to book dives in Sipadan for a specific day or not. Good preparations!

  19. Dives on the periphery islands are weaker than Sipadan. If it were up to us, we would be diving every day, all the time in Sipadan. That said, diving in Mabul is really fun. Given the high traffic of divers and snorkelers, the fish here are very sociable, probably because tourists have the habit of feeding them. At the site names

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