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Kraken de Mabini

Sipadan-Kapalai trip report

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Sipadan Island was a legendary resort operated by Borneo Divers (out of Kuala Lumpur), which was shutdown after terrorists kidnapped several divers and resort staff in 2004.

The Malaysian government now allows day diving there, with a quota of some 120 persons per day, divided among several dive operators and resorts located int the town of Semporna, on the mainland of Borneo.


Sipadan-Kapalai Resort is built in the open ocean, on a submerged sand bar. The resort is built on thousands of stilts and consists of very long wood walkways with cabins on each side. The cabins number at least 100, and the walkways are set in a flat triangle with one side looking to me to be about 1,000 meters long. Security is by the Malaysian military, with a resident squad, very well armed, with speed boats and automatic cannons.


Most of the guests were Asian, majority from Taiwan, ages late teens to mid 30's, singles and many couples. A great place for honeymooners, married or not, most were there for 3 days or so.


The entire operation is very well designed and run, the meals are offered three times a day in a cafeteria style dining room. Diving is out of a well run and staffed platform and large storage rooms, with ample room and excellent staffing.


Now for the real stuff:

In the resort there is nothing to do except eat, sleep, swim and dive.

There is no camera room, charging tables or any other facility for photographers.


Trips to Sipadan Island are by speed boat, which bang hard on the water; a camera and housing might be badly damaged by the bangs, the boat crew are kids who could care less about passenger comfort or camera safety, they are untrained for this.

The facilities on Sipadan Island are two open dining huts on the beach, with food shipped in by each resort; primitive but adequate.

I was there for 10 days, managed to get in four trips to Sipadan with 2, 3, 3 and 4 dives respectively, starting out at 5 am. Each dive was from the boat, 50-55 minutes, with my air tank over half full..


The marine life in Sipadan was the same as it was in the good old days, it has been protected. Beautiful and great variety of fish, barracuda, bump-heads, reef sharks. The turtles are amazing and friendly. Great photo opps.


There are other diving areas, such as off an oil rig (convereted to living quarters), but they water is full of sand from boats and other divers.


Conclusion: Sipadan-Kapalai is a honeymooner's resort, not for serious diver or photographers.


Would I go there again? No, Would I recommend it to a serious Scuba diver? No.


If a photographer wants to go to Sipadan, I would suggest she arrange the boat and diving arrangements in advance, in detail, with a reputable diver's resort operator such as Borneo Divers.

Edited by Kraken de Mabini

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Sorry to hear about your experience, but thanks very much for posting.

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