5 Mind-blowing Activities to Take Part in on Sipadan Island

As the only oceanic island in Malaysia, Sipadan measures a mere half-kilometer in length and just 200 meters in width. But whatever it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in beauty and diversity. Most famous for being one of the world’s premiere dive sites, Sipadan Island activities also offer plenty of other fun to the intrepid traveler, which explains the island’s growing popularity among people of all ages and levels of experience.

5 Mind-blowing Sipadan Island Activities

Things were not always like this. The island was formed by living corals growing on top of an extinct volcanic cone that took several thousands of years to develop. By 1933, Sipadan had garnered enough of a reputation to be declared a bird sanctuary by the British due its status as an important stopover for various species like the greater sand plover and the wood sandpiper. But it was its portrayal in the Jacques Cousteau film “The ghost of the sea turtle” that brought international fame to this small island. Despite recent disputes between Indonesia and Malaysia over possession of the island, Sipadan has continued to thrive as a tourist destination. Among the many Sipadan Island activities travelers can engage in while on the Island, the following five should figure high up on anybody’s list:

School of Barracudas on Sipadan Island. Sipadan Island activities
School of Barracudas on Sipadan Island: Photo on Flickr by Felix Esteban / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

1. Scuba diving

As the activity that put Sipadan Island on the map, scuba diving here can indeed be an absolutely unforgettable experience. The waters around the island are filled with all sorts of exotic creatures, including the likes of leopard sharks, hammerheads and sea turtles. It’s best to avoid traveling during monsoon season, as the rain greatly affects underwater visibility, which is otherwise pristine enough that several amazing videos have already been shot in the waters around Sipadan. Also, be aware that only 120 divers are allowed per day in an effort to keep the area as unadulterated as possible, so booking your Sipadan Island activities ahead of time is mandatory.

Sipadan Island- The Beauty of Scuba Diving. Sipadan Island activities
Sipadan Island- The Beauty of Scuba Diving

2. Snorkeling

Snorkeling often comes bundled together with scuba diving as two of the most common activities in Sipadan, but it actually offers a very different experience. Snorkeling can be done in the absence of any qualifications, and involves staying at the surface of the ocean. Nonetheless, the waters of Sipadan are clear enough to allow excellent views of the corals and reef fishes below, and may even allow occasional turtle and shark sightings as well.

Photographing turtles on Sipadan Island. Sipadan Island activities
Photographing turtles on Sipadan Island: Photo on Flickr by William Warby / CC BY 2.0

3. Sightseeing

While Sipadan is by no means a large island, it can still be an immensely rewarding experience to explore it and see how life has developed with very little human presence to alter its course, especially now that all resorts and eateries have been closed off for preservation purposes. You can circle the Sipadan in less than half an hour, but be sure to also peek at the oceanic life as it appears through the crystal clear waters that surround the island on all sides.

Sipadan Water Village Malaysia. Sipadan Island activities
Sipadan Water Village: Photo on Flickr by Matthew Lee / CC BY 2.0

4. Bird watching

As befits a place that was first known as a bird sanctuary, Sipadan Island is a true avian paradise. Many species of colorful birds can be witnessed here in their natural habitat, including wood pigeons, kingfishers, sea eagles and sun birds. Be sure to bring a good pair of binoculars to better see these amazing creatures, and try to minimize your environmental impact so as to not disturb their delicate ecosystem.

Sipadan Island, Malaysia. Sipadan Island activities
Sipadan Island, Malaysia. Flickr: Jared Kelly / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

5. Boating

Finally, if you only have time for more Sipadan Island activities before departing, make sure you opt for a Sipadan Liveaboard cruise. This will allow you to explore the island via yacht, thereby ensuring a comfortable stay that includes all the amenities you could possibly hope for, including food and accommodation. Travelers who don’t want to go back and forth between Sipadan and Mabul Island, where most of the resorts and restaurants in the area are located, will likely find this option to be a much better alternative.

Dive boat in sunset. Sipadan Island activities
Dive boat at sunset. Flickr: wajakemek | rashdanothman / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

That concludes our quick rundown of the top five Sipadan Island activities you can take part in while you are there. If you want to see what one of the last untouched corners of the world looks like, this Malaysian paradise fits the bill as an exotic destination that won’t break the bank. It truly is a magical place that deserves to be seen at least once in a lifetime.

About Tommy Birn

Hey you modern nomads, I'm Tommy, just another guy who likes to travel and meet new people. And yes, I like to write about places I have visited so far.

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