Photo: And even more beautiful below.

Diving and snorkelling

Our rating:

The islands around Semporna hold a treasure trove of riches below their jewel-toned seas, with the biggest drawcard being Sipadan, one of the world’s best dive sites and made famous by Jacques Cousteau. Sipadan and the other islands are not only limited to divers—it’s possible to snorkel here, too.

The islands teem with sea life beneath the clear waters, and some hold delights above ground too: Bohey Dulang in Tun Sakaran Marine Park offers jungle trekking with one of the best views in Sabah. Many of the islands are popular to visit on daytrips, but unfortunately in several of the shallower sites we saw a lot of coral damage from inexperienced snorkellers stepping on the reef. Many operators offer no briefing or information about reef protection, and are reluctant to stop ignorant clients from causing damage. If you see something, you should say something.

Another day, another dive. Photo taken in or around Diving and snorkelling, Semporna And Sipadan Island, Malaysia by Sally Arnold.

Another day, another dive. Photo: Sally Arnold

The archipelago is home to the often stateless Bajau Laut “sea gypsies” (you’ll notice the women wearing traditional yellow sun-protection made from rice, seaweed and spices). Some daytrips include a gawk around their stilted villages, often conducted in a dehumanising “human zoo” manner. We suggest avoiding these trips; at the very least ask if the operator supports the villages in any way or the NGOs that help the Bajau Laut.

Just one hour from Semporna or 20 minutes from Mabul, Sipadan is famed for its clear, clear waters and huge sea creatures: sharks, rays, barracudas and turtles. To visit Sipadan requires a permit (40 ringgit), and they are limited to 120 per day. To obtain one of the highly sought after permits, dive shops often require you to do at least one other dive with them. You are more likely to be rewarded one if you book early and avoid the peak seasons of July and August, however staying longer can also increase your chances. Several of the sites around Sipadan are for advanced divers only due to ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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Popular attractions in Semporna And Sipadan Island

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Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Semporna and Sipadan Island? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Malaysia.

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