For all I’ve heard of Sipadan, I arrived expecting nothing short of an underwater Eden. Although initially disappointed due to the over-hype, once I got over a rainy day, some low visability and my own expectations, this was the best dive trip yet.
Perhaps not Eden, but at times it definitely felt like I was in the Discovery Channel.
We stayed on Mabul island, and dived around there and Sipadan, another island about a 20-min boat ride away. There used to be resorts on Sipadan, but they’ve closed them all down a few years ago to protect the delicate environment. Today, visitors are limited to 120 per day (incl. divers, snorklers, day-trippers) and permits are highly coveted. I was very lucky to be able to go on two days during my trip.
Saw lots of white-tip reef sharks and some grey sharks. We even spotted the elusive leopard shark.
Once when my entire dive group was preoccupied by shark-watching in one direction and I was behind everyone, I turned around and spotted a white-tip making a direct beeline for me. I looked at it. Then I looked at everyone else. No one was looking my way. We were underwater, I couldn’t shout. I looked back at the shark.
It came straight at me and when just out of reach, turned round and went away. Then it came back again. Straight at me. I waved my arms. Finally one of the guys noticed.We both stayed still and stared at the shark. It came, stopped short, went away, then came back again. Repeat. Although it wasn’t a Great White and was relatively small, I still didn’t feel like getting nipped from behind, so we just stared at it, until it went away and finally didn’t come back again.
We were in huge schools of jackfish and barracudas swimming round and round and round. You could go into the middle of them all and they would swim around you so thick you couldn’t see outside of them. It was like a tornado of fish. Going from the bottom all the way up to the surface, they blocked out the sun.
We saw giant groupers. Bigger in width than me and longer than I am tall.
There were lots of sea turtles. At one point, looking out into the open ocean, two turtles almost mated right in front of us! But the male was a tad too aggressive (he went at the female so fast he actually crashed into her), so I wouldn’t be surprised the lady was turned off!
One single moment made my dive trip. A lone giant sea turtle slowly cruising through the sea. Sea turtles awe me and I went right up to it. We gently finned along, side by side, just chilling in the water. It was probably a third of my length. It was just me and the turtle, with nothing but this rich blue colour behind us. That was definitely a Discovery Channel moment. It was beautiful. It was serene. I came away wanting to cry…
We also got caught up in what I now call the Current of Death. We almost got swept away to the Philipines. I saw my life flash before my eyes….but realise they were just coral and fish. :)
Actually, it wasn’t major at all. But a couple of us, including me, have never encountered currents like that and so I had a major underwater freak out. If you’ve seen Finding Nemo and remember how the turtles were flying through the EAC, that’s how it was. We got into this strong current and we just got swept. Coral, fish and everything else just whizzed by. The best moment was when as I was flying by, this turtle was actually going in the opposite direction in a very lazy and effortless way. I was like woah….just proves who owns these waters huh?