A Hawksbill Turtle off Sipadan © Jnpet
This mushroom-shaped island is known among divers around the world for its unique seascape and exceptional beauty. A rich variety of marine life shimmers through the translucent waters surrounding this oceanic island: something like 3,000 species of fish, hundreds of species of coral, and numerous turtles, rays and sharks frequent the area. Sipadan Island tops the Malaysian itinerary for serious scuba divers; it is located in the world's most bio-diverse marine habitat, and is frequently called the best dive site on the planet. The famous underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau described the underwater world of Sipadan as 'an untouched piece of art'.
In an attempt to keep it untouched, the Malaysian government has taken measures to preserve the fragile ecosystem. The island was a disputed territory, claimed by both Malaysia and Indonesia, until 2002 when it was ruled part of Malaysia. Since then the dive resorts were ordered off the island, the amount of divers allowed in the water per day was limited, and night dives were banned. This means you can't stay on the island itself, but there are popular resorts nearby, like the Sipadan Kapalai Dive Resort and the Sipadan Pom Pom Resort.