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 made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and 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 pour tes récits et tes photos , c’est un plaisir que de retrouver si bien évoquée l’ambiance de Sipadan.
    And congratulations also for your interventions in the forums.

    Incidemment , et quoi que j’imagine que tu ne m’as pas attendu pour répondre à ta question : “Il faut à tout prix que je retrouve les noms en français…”

    frogfish : antennary

    garden eel : Spotted Heteroconger (Heteroconger hassi)

  2. @ François:

    Grand merci pour tous ces « bravos »… Tant d’éloges me vont droit au cœur… 😉

    C’est vrai que je ne suis pas revenue sur les noms en français des bestioles, alors que depuis, j’ai fait des progrès en la matière… Je songe d’ailleurs à ouvrir une petite page donnant les équivalents français-anglais des espèces tropicales les plus courantes. Je prépare ça pour bientôt.

    Pour les antennaires (frog fishes), j’en ai croisé beaucoup, lors de mes plongées à Lembeh (Sulawesi) en juillet 2007, et j’ai appris, depuis, à les désigner comme il faut en français.

    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. Il y a longtemps que je n’avais pas été sur ton site; J’en reviens pas des voyages que tu a fait depuis l’an dernier; les images sont excellentes, y compris les photos sur la terre ferme, et le site est bien tenu à jour; C’est un plaisir de s’y promener. pour ma part, cette année, encore deux voyages plongée en Egypte, et toujours beaucoup d’immersions dans cette bonne vieille Bretagne. Bonjour à Samuel N. si tu croises ce grand dadais au boulot.

  4. @Jean Paul: Ah! Ben, ça, c’est gentil de revenir me rendre une petite visite!!! Ravie que la balade parmi mes “Petites Bulles d’Ailleurs” continue de te plaire…
    Pour ma part, je suis toujours aussi incapable de m’immerger dans notre fraîches eaux bretonnes et continue de préférer les eaux tropicales, comme tu vois. Il faudra cependant que je découvre la Mer Rouge, un jour prochain.
    Quant à Sam, il est pour l’instant loin de la rédac (il a bien droit à quelques vacances, lui aussi), mais je me charge dès son retour de lui transmettre ton bonjour et les doux qualificatifs qui te viennent à l’esprit pour évoquer son cas…