Shark in Sipadan. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013.
Me, very busy filming a shark in Sipadan (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013).

Sipadan: a video, a shark, a minute

  Borneo: Indonesia + Malaysia - July 2013

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: 

Let's go to Malaysia to dive in Sipadan... As a start, I made it simple: a video, a shark, one minute.

White tip shark (coral shark)

I thought that this short shot of a shark (a harmless white tip reef shark) in the middle of corals full of life, would make a nice introduction, to start my series of articles on Sipadan

This is a "rough" video, without editing - with a white balance that is a little too orange, but that's okay. It gives a good idea of the atmosphere...

Funny: while searching through my impressive stock of images brought back from these dives in Sipadan, I came across this picture of me, which I had completely forgotten about... It was taken by Vicente, a Spaniard who was in my group. It corresponds exactly to the moment when I shot the small video above, with my 7D !

Shark in Sipadan. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013.
Me, very busy filming a shark in Sipadan (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2013).

Diver and shark. Sipadan, Borneo, Malaysia. July 2013.

Hello, Vicente! There you go. Another one who loves pose with sharks from Sipadan

Sipadan III: the return of the revenge of the bubbles of the girl who takes pictures underwater

Sipadan was the highlight of this new trip to Borneo in July 2013. I was going back for the third time...

Sipadan, episode 3! July 2013.
Sipadan, episode 3! July 2013.

And I was not disappointed, unlike Sangalaki and Maratua. So I keep Sipadan in my little top 3 staff of the best dive sites in Asia (with Raja Ampat and Komodo) !!!

To see the articles about my previous dives in Sipadan, in 2006 and 2009, it is here :

Linda and me in Sipadan ... Turtles and sharks galore !!! (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2009)
Linda and me in Sipadan ... Turtles and sharks galore !!! (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2009.)

But please note that in 2006 and 2009, I had not yet my 7Dfor photos and videos. Nor the experience I have acquired since then for the underwater shooting. So I had to go back to Sipadan, for a third episode. I had to check my progress in underwater photography, in the same context.

Very gratifying and very pleasant, I must admit...

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

But I'm really behind in my articles. We are already in mid-October and I rediscover, at the bottom of the hard drive, my images taken in July, full of sharks, turtles, barracuda swirls and jacks.

I evaluate them with a fresh eye. I sort, I discard, I select. It's going to take me some more time...

However, I had already managed to put some of them online on the Facebook pageI was staying on Mabul island (thanks to the mobile connection of an Indonesian diver, who had pity to see me rowing on the poor common wifi of the center). You can have a look, just to wait.

More will be to be discovered (soon) in the next post !!!

Sipadan. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2009.


Travel to Indonesia and Malaysia: Borneo - July 2013

  Borneo: Indonesia + Malaysia - July 2013

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    1. @Martine: ah, I envy you... I'd love to go back right now... I hope you have some great encounters: barracudas, schools of jacks, turtles, sharks.
      Good bubbles !!!

  1. Hello,
    A great introduction to this shark video, I can't wait to see what happens next!
    On which airline did you travel? I'm planning to spend a week in Sipadan at the end of July and then go on to Bali for 3 weeks. We usually travel on Thai, so I tend to prefer Star Alliance airlines. However, I couldn't find a direct Air Asia flight from Singapore to Tawau. The most direct route seems to be Paris - KL - Tawau on Malaysian Airlines. And I'm a bit worried about low-cost airlines because of the baggage surcharges.

    1. @Patrick: oh, for this trip, I took a rather complicated route, as I chose to pass through the Derawan archipelago, in the Indonesian part of Borneo first:

      But usually, for Sipadan, I recommend flying to Kula Lumpur, then Tawau. Malaysia Airlines is very good. The easiest way is to go to their website to see the possible connections and timetables to Tawau.

      There's no particular problem with AirAsia for luggage: you just need to buy the number of kilos you need in advance at the time of booking. In fact, what sometimes poses a problem is changing airports: you have to move from KLIA, where the international flight arrives, to board at LCCT (the low-cost terminal). The two airports aren't very far apart, but it's an added constraint, and the flight schedules don't necessarily mesh well.

      Finally, I like to fly to Asia with Emirates Airlines. Very often, I choose to land in Kuala Lumpur, which has excellent connections to many other destinations in Asia (whether with AirAsia or other airlines).

      Good preparations!

    2. Thanks Corinne. I'm taking my housing, dome and flash in a Pelicase suitcase and camera, lenses and Macbook Air 🙂 in a backpack, which makes two carry-on bags weighing at least 10 kg each. How are things on Air Asia? I don't really want to put this suitcase in the hold, it's a bit like writing "Steal me" on it!

    3. @Patrick: ah yes, when I mentioned luggage above, I meant "checked luggage"... A Pelicase, of course, lacks discretion if you put it in the hold, and it's rather heavy and cumbersome in the cabin.

      Personally, I make sure that anything precious and/or fragile never leaves my side. I pack my camera body, dome, viewfinder, lenses, 7D, MacBook Air, spare hard disk, etc. in a "small", innocuous-looking backpack, which I take with me in my cabin bag, pretending it weighs nothing (when in fact it weighs well over 10 kg, I think)... In general, I put on an illusion and it passes.

      On the rare occasions when the staff asks to weigh the bag, I remove the SLR and put it around my neck, put the lenses in my pockets and take my computer under my arm. This way the bag is lighter for the weighing. And it passes... 😀 (I then rush to put everything back in of course.)

      You'd have to go to the AirAsia website to check their specifications for cabin baggage weight and volume. But then, baggage tolerance often depends on who you bump into at the check-in counter... So far, I've never had any complaints about AirAsia in this respect, and I've never been hassled for either cabin or hold baggage.

      For my logistical strategy as a traveler-diver-phographer sub, as for luggage, I had talked about it here :


  2. I'm glad to see that you worked well on Sunday. It was really great to find Vicente's photo while you were filming the same whitetip shark!
    Who is the star on the photo? The shark, but you, of course, also ... at Vicente, he has adopted the shark fin break, a good subject to photograph.
    Bravo Corinne, I prefer to read this post compared to the previous one that depresses me, if only we could say STOP the abuse and it works!
    PS: Why is it so expensive to go flipper diving in Raja Ampat, the Galapagos or the Cocos Islands???? It's not those who have the most in their wallet who respect or appreciate these magical places the the same time, there has to be a selection, otherwise it would be a mass invasion of tourists, and that's no!
    We're going to put some clean money under the mattress to make our night-time dreams come true in 2015....

    1. @Lisemet: In Sipadan, you end up getting used to sharks, and even find it normal, given that they're there on almost every dive... What would be great is if there were more protected sites like this one (and like Raja Ampat, the Galapagos, the Cocos Islands...).

    1. @ Bloc18: These are my brand new flippers, and I've just tried them out on this trip. I love them. Nothing to do with the ones I had before, not flexible enough for me, in fact... I now feel like "Speedy Gonzales" underwater, even when there's juice in the wrong direction I'm able to move forward, whereas before, even when finning hard, I'd go backwards... 😆

      I also really liked this little video when I rediscovered it on my hard drive, so I thought I'd put it online straight away. For the closeness to the beast, as you say, when the shark turns around, frightened by the group, and comes back towards me, straight in my direction, passing very close... Great moment.

  3. Hello,
    The video of the shark diva among the divers is really cool! Well, I can see that underwater, Sipadan still keeps its promises and that makes me really want to go back! I see on the photo where you're posing on the pontoon that there's a structure under construction, do you know what it is?
    I haven't yet had the chance to go diving in Raja Ampat, but I agree with you about Sipadan and Komodo (where I had the opportunity to get my hair mussed underwater last August). Have you ever been diving in South Sulawesi (WaKaToBi)?
    Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences,
    Sincerely, Nani.

    1. @Nani: Yes, I was pleased to find, on returning for the 3rd time, three years apart, that Sipadan still lived up to my memories and expectations...

      The building under construction will be the new office. It will replace the current small wooden building at the end of the pontoon, where divers sign the logbook and operators pick up the mandatory flag to be displayed on the boat.

      Of the dive sites in Sulawesi, I only know those in the north and the Togians. I've never been as far south as Wakatobi. I read mixed reviews of the place some time ago. But it might have improved, I don't know. Maybe I'll go one day...


  4. This kind of video drives me crazy, all I want to do is go and work in Asia so I can get there faster!

    Superb video and photos, but that's just the usual!

    1. @Brice: thank you 🙄 Once you're based in Asia, it's really convenient to go diving in lots of nice places.

      As far as I'm concerned, Rennes-Sipadan is a few too many hours' drive, so it's hard to schedule that for next weekend... 😡

  5. Nice video ➡ I have to go back, except that after your post on Maratua-Sangalaki I'm wondering where to spend the 1st week ❓
    You were staying in Mabul ❓
    What resort did you take ❓
    How many times have you dived on Sipadan ❓ because with all this licensing stuff we don't know which shark to go for 😆
    Too bad this time there's no game of 7 errors, I thought I'd win again 😀

    Sipadan. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2009.

    1. @Alimata: For the game of 7 differences, here's plenty of fun, on the pontoon and underwater... 😆

      Sipadan. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2009. Sipadan. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2009. Sipadan. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2009. Sipadan. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2009. Shark in Sipadan. Borneo, Malaysia. July 2009. Sipadan. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2009.

      We note that three years ago, in 2009, the welcome sign was on the beach, not on the pontoon, that I was already wearing the indestructible combi+lycra duo, and that, since then, I've changed cameras and fins, and that I still love posing with sharks... 😛

      For the rest (I'll come back to this in future posts):

      Yes, I was staying in Mabul and in the same place as three years earlier: Billabong Scuba. A little background:
      - The guesthouse has expanded and now offers "new comfortable chalets"... the comfort of which is in fact uncertain, especially on stormy evenings when a huge tropical downpour transforms the air into an impressive wall of water (as tested by myself, it rains in the room, with water coming in through the ceiling, the windows and under the door).
      - Ambience of places: international and friendly, with backpackers + young couples + some solo travelers + groups of Chinese tourists.
      - Food correct but monotonous (vary by going to eat elsewhere).
      - Motivation and organization of diving staff: from very good to very bad, depending on the customer's face, the weather, the tide, the presence of the boss, the current turnover, etc. etc. etc. For me, no worries, but I wouldn't necessarily advise beginners who need to feel "supervised" (I know this isn't your case, but as I'm often asked the question "where to go in Sipadan", I'm giving these details here for your information).

      I chose Billabong for several reasons:

      - 1 - the ratio number of permits / number of divers (they have as many permits per day as Scuba Junkie, for example, on the order of 6-7, but as they have fewer clients in total, we manage to dive more often at Sipadan). So, staying 9 days, I dived 5 days in Sipadan and 3 in Mabul/Kapalai!!!! 😈

      - 2 - the price: it's cheap to stay with them (even in a "new comfortable chalet" with a built-in ceiling shower), especially when you're traveling solo like me. No crazy "single" supplements. For tight budgets and backpackers, the basic shanties in the guesthouse's original building are really cheap, but there's no privacy there...

      - 3 - the atmosphere: it's easy to meet lots of people (which is even nicer when you're traveling solo), chatting on the pontoon around dinnertime, more so than in chic or more upscale resorts. Even the Scuba Junkie resort has become a huge thing, much more impersonal than it used to be (but the piaulas are much better, comfort-wise).

      From all the reviews collected from right to left, it seems that the most popular resorts in Mabul question comfort / price ratio are usually:
      - Mabul Resort by Scuba Junkie
      - the Seaventures platform
      - Borneo Divers (a bit more upscale)

      If it weren't for the extra "single" charge, I'd probably have chosen Borneo Divers (I was prepared to pay a few pennies for my own comfort), whose staff are really nice and offer all the service you could want. But then again, there's the thorny question of the ratio of number of permits to number of divers... The ideal is to aim for the low season, no doubt.

  6. Hi Corinne,

    aren't you some beautiful videos of the gigantic bank of bumpheads,
    this summer they were gently grazing the coral at the beginning of barracuda point ...
    It was my best diving memory, a hundred bumpheads on
    the coral plateau and on the other side, thousands of between,
    napoleons, sharks and turtles! 😀

    1. @Bebousse: Yes, I have some video footage of the school of humpback parrots raiding the reef... But these videos are not "beautiful". With all the particles they raise, and as I'm not close enough, the view is reduced and on my rushes you can mostly see a bluish cloud with silhouettes of fish a little too far away. In short, the rendering isn't great, so I don't think I'll be making much of these videos... But it was a great moment for me too!

      On the other hand, I do have some spectacular videos of the barracuda school. I'll put them online when I've found the time to dive back in and edit them... Patience!!!!

  7. Very impressive dive with the shark, even if it doesn't look big. The moment when he turned around to get closer to you, I got chills.
    I can't quite make it out on video, how big was it?

    1. @Chris: This poor shark turned back because he was frightened by the sight of more divers in front of him... I was happy that he got a little closer to me, so I could get away from the others, which gave me better pictures and a closer look... 😉

      It's always difficult to estimate its size underwater, as all objects and animals appear a little larger than they really are, but I imagine it must have been about a metre long... But it's nothing to shudder at, except for the emotion and magic of the encounter, it's just a harmless whitetip shark.

  8. Hello,

    I'm interested in diving in this region, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs clearly advises against it.

    What do you think?

    1. @Adrien: I've already mentioned it in this post:
      See also the comments below, for exchanges with other travelers on this topic.

      As I haven't kept up with the news in the region recently, I'm at a loss to give an informed opinion. There have been attacks involving tourists, so it's only natural that the Ministry advises against going there. Take the time to research the English-language articles in the local and international press, to see when the latest potentially worrying events took place. Check out the divers' forums for feedback from those who have recently gone diving in Sipadan. As far as I know, lots of tourists still go diving in Mabul / Sipadan despite everything...