Along the fall, sharks are everywhere. Sipadan, Malaysia. July 2006.

Sipadan: swimming with sharks

  Malaysia: Peninsula and Borneo - July 2006

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation of an article originally written in French. I apologise for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have resulted. If you read French, click on the French flag below to access the original, correct text: 

The big day has arrived. Today, finally, I dive in Sipadan. The site does not usurp its reputation. It is spectacular. Sharks and turtles in abundance. Fishes everywhere. The whole along a vertiginous "wall" where corals abound, which sinks into the blue.

Sharks and turtles

The island is in fact the top of a limestone peak that plunges 600 meters below the surface. The drop-off is about 25 meters from the beach.

It is there that the boat drops us, on the site of Barracuda Point.

Along the fall, sharks are everywhere. Sipadan, Malaysia. July 2006.

White tip sharks. Sipadan, Malaysia.

I am in partnership with Sabrina, a very nice French girl. She has barbed for about ten months in Southeast Asia and, between two stages in Thailand and Malaysia, she fell in love with Burma and Laos.

She is an experienced diver, and like me, she takes pictures. That counts for something, and it adds to the pleasure of diving, to be with someone on the same wavelength. It's annoying when someone gives you a buddy not at ease with the current or with big animals, and who scares the fish by getting too agitated underwater... In short. She and I are perfectly synchronized for this mythical dive.

The first impression is breathtaking (figuratively speaking, of course, it's better to keep breathing in your regulator!). I don't know where to put my head. The reef is teeming with life.

White tip sharks. Sipadan, Malaysia.

We start by going down to the 30 meters zone, where the reef sharks, grey and white tip, cross. The heartbeat accelerates when the shadow of the first shark appears, approaching very, very close to the divers, then moving away, with a soft lateral undulation of the tail.

And then Mike, our dive master, bangs on his bottle with his iron rod. Ding, ding. He gestures us to raise our heads. A huge barracudas bench above us.

But here comes another shark, and then two others, in the other direction. Damn. I should have removed the flash. My photo is a failure, the beast went a little too far. I got tangled up with my camera, switched to video mode and filmed another white tip (See the video below, at the end of the article.)

Then we go up to the height of a huge coral plateau, in the 14 meters zone. There, there are big and small.

Sharks, always, coming to rest on the bottom. Turtles, everywhere. There are so many of them that you feel like you are walking on them. They are the biggest I have ever seen.

Tortoise. Sipadan, Malaysia.

The small tropical fauna

And then here the hunt for smaller animals among the corals resumes: moray eels, frog fishes, shrimps, porcelain crabs, nudibranchs, garden eels who stick their little eel heads out of the sand like tiny periscopes (I have to find the names in French at all costs)...

Garden eel. Sipadan, Malaysia.

Ding, ding. Ding, ding. Mike has something to show us every 30 seconds. I don't even have time to take my pictures quietly anymore!

Moray. Sipadan, Malaysia.

The dive at Barracuda Point ends smoothly in shallow water on the coral reef, teeming with life and colors.

The usual tropical fauna is there: angel fish, triggerfish, parrot fish, clown fish, diagrams, groupers and even a huge greenish napoleon with its hump on the forehead...

Napoleon. Sipadan, Malaysia.

A "wall" of barracudas

Barracuda Point, well named site ...

I will verify it the following days, during another dive: in a crazy current, which forces us to hold on to the reef and makes us float like little flags in the wind, we contemplate, amazed, the endless parade of a huge school of barracudas.

Barracudas. Sipadan, Malaysia.

An impressive wall of bright silver, dense, formed by a moving mass of fish with the patient mouth, which swim all in the same direction, propelled at high speed by the current...

The video

As a bonus, then, a little video of the Sipadan sharks:

Added on 02.09.2009

I returned to Sipadan, three years after the dives I tell you about above. New stories, photos and films... Here are the links to these more recent articles:

  Malaysia: Peninsula and Borneo - July 2006

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  1. Bravo for your stories and photos, it's a pleasure to find the atmosphere of Sipadan so well evoked.
    And congratulations also for your interventions in the forums.

    Incidentally, although I imagine you didn't wait for me to answer your question: "I must find the names in French at all costs...".

    frogfish : antennary

    garden eel : Spotted Heteroconger (Heteroconger hassi)

  2. @ François:

    Thank you so much for all the "bravos"... So much praise goes straight to my heart... 😉

    It's true that I didn't get back to the French names of the bugs, but since then I've made progress in this area... I'm thinking of opening a little page giving the French-English equivalents of the most common tropical species. I'm working on it soon.

    As for frog fishes, I came across a lot of them during my dives in Lembeh (Sulawesi) in July 2007, and I've since learned to call them what they are in French.

    On the other hand, for the "garden eels", I did not get any more information than that, and put myself at the time to call them poetically "eels of garden" ... They are therefore spotted heterocongres! Much less glamorous, like name ... I take note.

    Thank you very much for these indications, François!

  3. It's been a long time since I've been on your site; I can't believe the trips you've made since last year; the images are excellent, including the photos on dry land, and the site is well kept up to date; it's a pleasure to wander through it. For my part, this year, two more diving trips to Egypt, and still a lot of immersions in good old Brittany. Say hello to Samuel N. if you come across him at work.

  4. @Jean Paul: How nice of you to come back and pay me a visit! I'm delighted that you continue to enjoy your stroll through my "Petites Bulles d'Ailleurs"...
    As for me, I'm still unable to immerse myself in our cool Breton waters and still prefer tropical waters, as you can see. I'll have to discover the Red Sea, though, one day soon.
    As for Sam, he's away from the editorial office at the moment (he's entitled to a bit of a vacation, too), but I'll be sure to pass on your greetings and any kind words that come to mind to describe him as soon as he gets back...