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

Sipadan underwater in pictures

# Borneo #Malaysia

  Borneo: Indonesia + Malaysia - July 2013

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: 

Sipadan. Three mythical syllables for divers in Asia! Sharks, turtles, swirls of barracudas and jacks...

Fish swirls

July 2013. This is my 3rd trip to Sipadan. To be pronounced "if no donkey"... 😁

This small island off Borneo, in eastern Malaysia, is one of the most renowned diving spots in Southeast Asia. Cousteau is the first to have explored it in his time. Today it is a protected site that attracts divers from all over the world. I put it in my little top 3 staff of the best dive sites in the Indo-Pacific area, with Raja Ampat and Komodo.

As for the neighboring islands of Mabul and Kapalai, the dives have nothing to do with the big show offered by Sipadan, but they remain very interesting for the muck-dive and the small fauna. What mix photo macro and wide angle with happiness ...

I already talked a little bit about this new trip and my impressions underwater in the previous posts:

→ A video, a shark, a minute
→ Diving in the blue of Borneo

New compared to my previous dives there in 2006 and 2009: I have this time my Canon Eos 7D with me. A beautiful toy acquired in 2010, with the waterproof box that goes well to take him under water ...

I knew I was going to have fun with ... ????

Among the highly appreciated divers, this spectacular school of jacks. (Sipadan, Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013)
Among the highly appreciated divers, this spectacular school of jacks. (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013)
The school of fish is incredibly dense. (Sipadan, Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013)
The school of fish is incredibly dense. (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013)
Sometimes the jacks start spinning, forming a ball of silvery scales. (Sipadan, Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013)
Sometimes the jacks start spinning, forming a ball of silvery scales. (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013)
The school of jacks is just below the surface, shallow. (Sipadan, Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013)
The school of jacks is just below the surface, shallow. (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013)
Great show! (Sipadan, Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013)
Great show! (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013)

I gave myself to my heart, question photos, with this impressive whirlpool of jacks. The bench is easy to see, as it usually stays at about the same spot in the shallow area near the reef.

It's a show I do not get tired of. See this mass of silvery scales split in two, regroup, stretch, reform, roll into a ball and start again is absolutely fascinating. I was able to photograph and film this big school of jacks on each of my trips to Sipadan, in July 2013. And it gave me the impression of being even bigger than in previous years ... ????

Barracudas of Sipadan

We also regularly come across a school of barracudas, which play hide and seek in the blue or near the reef. The encounter is more random, however. Sometimes, we don't find them at the site they are supposed to be, Barracuda Point... But it happens that they appear unexpectedly, during another dive. A small preview in the video below:

I had the chance to meet him three times during my dives this summer. But there, the bench seemed to me less spectacular, less fat and less dense than the years passed ...

Would it have decreased, or is it just part of the bench, or was I more impressionable then? It's hard to say.

An exceptional dive spot

Anyway, in Sipadan, the dives are systematically exceptional. They really are. You get a real kick out of it. Impossible to get in the water without coming across dozens of sharks and turtles!!!

It's so huge that it's become a joke, and some divers pretend to be jaded at the end of the day. ???? "Yeah, well, sharks again, it's completely overrated. Didn't we see that yesterday? And the day before yesterday too. And all these turtles, they're really everywhere... It's a bit boring, we don't even pay attention to them anymore... " 

I marvel endlessly, my heart beating with each new immersion. Such an abundance of turtles and sharks, concentrated in the same place, it's magical!

Turtle in Sipadan. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013.

Sharks in Sipadan. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013.

Shark and jacks. Sipadan, Borneo, Malaysia. July 2013.

Solitary Barracuda. Sipadan, Borneo, Malaysia. July 2013.

Batfish. Sipadan, Borneo, Malaysia. July 2013.

Shark. Sipadan, Borneo, Malaysia. July 2013.

Shark in Sipadan. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013.

Thanks to one of my diving companions, Vicente Garcia, for the picture above, where I can be seen in action, filming a white tip reef shark (or coral shark)! (And the video that goes with it is here.)

This third trip to Sipadan delighted me. I would be ready to go back a fourth time ... (And it will surely happen.) I am very pleasantly surprised to note that despite its popularity, the site has not deteriorated over the years. I really feel that the funds are as spectacular as when I first visited in 2006.

See also → All my articles on Sipadan

This incredible underwater wealth is due to the particular geological situation of the island, as well as the measures taken to preserve the site, by limiting in particular the number of divers and visitors to 120 per day ... A quota that seems to bear its fruits.

I tell you this in the next post, read here → Divers under supervision in Sipadan

  Borneo: Indonesia + Malaysia - July 2013

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  1. Good evening,

    I want to go around the world soon and I would like to know what is called this dive spot, in which city exactly.

    beautiful pictures, we would almost envy.


    1. @Alex: What's the name of this dive spot? Well, its name is not only in the title, but repeated everywhere in the few lines of text between the pictures... 😆

      Sipadan is a small island located off Borneo, Malaysia. The nearest port from which we depart to go diving in Sipadan is Semporna. It is easily accessible via Tawau airport.

      Looking for these names in Google, you should already find a lot of information to locate the place. But I will give some geographical and practical information on Sipadan in a future post.

  2. Just a little cuckoo Corinne for once again greet the quality of your travel reports (wow the tofs!), It is always a pleasure to read a new article of Little Bubbles Elsewhere.
    I also take this opportunity to thank you for the information you gave on Raja Ampat where I enjoyed a month last summer. Know, as well as your readers, that we can now easily stay there for "reasonable" prices; on the other hand the dives remain expensive and difficult to negotiate (but so beautiful !!!) if we compare with other Indo spots ...

    With bizzzzz

    1. @Pit: Cuckoo Pit, always a pleasure also to find a word from you here. I just went to see your gallery on the festival of Baliem, in your series Papua 2013. Beautiful pictures, as always ...
      Thank you for your feedback on Raja Ampat and glad to have contributed a little to prepare this trip. I dream of going back ...

  3. Hello Corinne,
    We follow your blog since it exists or almost with a lot of pleasure and emotions especially when these are places where we also plunged, Komodo, Philippines, Bali and now in Sipadan at Billabong Scuba where we dive with Rinto who was your buddy right here.
    And for Fun: yesterday at Sipadan in Barracuda Point, on the same dive, we get into the water in the middle of the school of jacks, we know well that of Tulamben on the Liberty but it is much denser, then , sharks, turtles, turtles, sharks, sometimes 3 together, the super beautiful barracudas bench of course above our heads, we did not resist going to see them up close ... .. and cherry on the cake, but we understand that you know by Rinto, who put one of our photos on facebook, a whale shark ... .. !!!!!
    Even if we have already seen a lot, the 1st at Similan, then in the Philippines at Donsol, Leyte and the south of Cebu, it's always the first time ... .. !!!
    As with manta rays we never tire of it.
    The 3rd and final dive we unanimously decided to go back to the same site, all the actors were there, even the imposing mass of the whale shark flew over us.
    You imagine the joy of our team and the disbelief of other divemasters and divers when we arrived at Billabong ......
    As soon as a connection allows we will put pictures and perhaps movies on our blog.
    That said, tomorrow we go back ....
    Thank you again for the quality of your images, the pleasure of reading you and your advice, if we are at Billabong it is thanks to you, the place is not as select as others but precisely we like the side great family and friendly.
    Alain & Yolande the migratory Bretons in winter of Morbihan

    1. @ Alain & Yolande: it's a pleasure to read you and I'm glad to see that we like to make bubbles in the same places... 🙂 I went to see your photos and videos, what a chance to have met this whale shark !! Rinto taunted me on Facebook with your pictures, yes !!! : Mrgreen:

      I'm glad that my Little Bubbles Elsewhere inspire you for your travels, anyway. Looking forward to meeting you again, here or under water maybe someday?

    2. Hello Alain and Yolande,

      Like you, having prepared last year a trip to Raja Ampat partly thanks to the pretty little blog of small bubbles elsewhere,

      here I am back here to prepare a trip to Sipadan for this summer.

      I wanted to ask you a question about Billabong resort:

      Did you manage to dive several days in a row in Sipadan?
      Because of the daily divers limitations on the island, what is the formula proposed by the Billabong?

      Thank you in advance for your response,


      (also a Breton migrant.... 😉 )

  4. Superb photos as usual especially for aquatic photos. You who love diving and traveling I advise you the book of Jean Christophe Grangé: The black line. It's a crime novel mixing travel and diving. To read!

    Thanks again for these articles, I'm not lucky enough to be able to dive during my travels, I'm content with snorkelling 🙁

  5. @ Yohann: Alain and Yolande did not answer you, but you should be able to contact them via their website:

    For my part, yes, during the week spent at Billabong, I dived several days in a row at Sipadan. I asked in advance by email how many days they could guarantee me in Sipadan: I had 3 planned in advance, on the week spent there, the other days the dives were planned at Mabul Kapalai. The day in Sipadan is at a certain rate, that for Mabul / Kapalai to another, they add the amounts to make the overall score.

    Coup de bol, on the spot, there was a withdrawal for a day when I should have plunged to Mabul / Kapalai ... So, they offered to go instead of this client who had canceled. It made me one more day in Sipadan! Either 4 in all on the week, every other day ... Not bad! : Mrgreen:

  6. Hello,
    I allow myself to contact you because I wonder a lot about a stay to Mabul / sipadan.
    In fact my friend and my eight year old son want to learn diving, and as we leave in Malaysia this is the opportunity. Unfortunately we are not fortunate and I would like some advice to find an accommodation and an interesting club that welcomes children and beginners at an affordable price. Thank you a thousand times for your answers.

    Regis Lux

    1. @Lux: Most of the divers for Sipadan live in Mabul, the neighboring island, where there is plenty of accommodation and dive centers, from the simplest to the most luxurious. All centers welcome beginners. That said, I'm not sure that the cheapest accommodations or the island is very suitable for an 8 year old. It all depends if he is used to traveling, to eat everything, to adapt ...

      The cheapest accommodation and centers are the "longhouses" on stilts: the comfort is generally basic but the atmosphere is rather nice. The best known are Billabong Scuba and Uncle Chang.

      In the not too expensive but more comfortable (it has become a big resort on the beach) there is Scuba Junkie. In the same price range, there is the platform converted into Seaventures diving center.

      In the slightly more expensive, even more comfortable, with excellent service, there is Borneo Divers.

      Then we find the resorts more chic and more expensive ...

      They all have websites. With a Google search on their names, you should already be able to find a lot of information. Send e-mails to ask for rates etc.

      Good preparations!

  7. Hello, I wanted to thank you for your site which is very valuable and rich in information on countries, dives and photos! Congratulations:)

  8. Hello ... I do not get tired for a long time already browse your blog ... Sipadan tempts me ... .I just have a doubt because the beginning of November does not seem the best time ... Make us dream again !!! Go ahead and I'll go back to Bali.