At the end of 2004, for conservation purposes, Sipadan Island was closed to tourist stays and the resorts based there had to find new homes. Nowadays in order to visit this tiny island, tourists stay on either of the nearby islands of Mabul or Kapalai, or on the more distant mainland of Sabah in the port town of Semporna. From Mabul Island and Kapalai, guests are taken the 25 to 30 minutes to dive at Sipadan. Both of these islands offer some exciting macro dives themselves with many unusual critters to discover, and they complement the spectacular main attraction of Sipadan very well.
Stay in Sipadan Island
Mabul resorts – Since the island of Mabul is considerably larger and Pulau Sipadan is off limits for overnight stays, dive resort owners have been able to construct a much higher standard of accommodation, albeit within the constraints of a remote getaway. There is now a range of accommodation options available, from backpacker rooms and simple, inexpensive beach chalets, to the more expensive and luxurious stilted water bungalows built out over clear, shallow waters in a style reminiscent of the Maldives. The resorts of Mabul allow you a little more space and the ability to explore the island; options that are absent if you visited here by liveaboard boat.
Sipadan Kapalai Dive Resort – This is a gorgeous secluded property, built on stilts over water. It is an exclusive, one of a kind accommodation option. Only a thin strip of sand rises above the water at low tide. From Kapalai island, Pulau Sipadan is at 10 o’clock and Mabul at 2 o’clock, and this isolated sandbar enjoys a serene peace and calming tranquility that can sometimes be missing from its better known neighbouring islands.
There are over 40 dive sites to explore so, whichever option you choose, stays of one week are ideal. However, if you are short of time then you can still have a great time with as little as just 4 nights stay. Packages normally include full board accommodation, diving (including unlimited unguided shore dives) and airport transfers.
It’s also possible to visit these dive sites by live aboard cruise, if you prefer.