Sipadan has now become a famous tourist destination and attracts a large number of tourists every year. This place not only has magnificent nature but also impresses by the chill, clear blue water full of romance. You also have the opportunity to participate in many interesting activities such as diving to see corals, swimming with sharks and turtles and experiencing many other exciting sports and games.
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So, is Sipadan island (Sipadan Malaysia) worth visiting, how to visit Sipadan, what to do in Sipadan and how to plan a budget trip to Sipadan for the first-time perfectly? Let’s check out our Sipadan travel blog (Sipadan blog) with the fullest Sipadan travel guide from how to get to Sipadan, best places to visit, best time to come, what to eat as well as top things to do in Sipadan to help you maximize your trip as follows!
For those who love marine life and want to “change the wind” during their trip, this will be a destination not to be missed. To have more beautiful memories, follow us to find out the article about the experience of visiting the island below.
Overview of the most beautiful island in Malaysia (#sipadan blog)
Located in the Celebes Sea, the island is known as a volcanic island that appeared long ago in Malaysia and has ceased to function. After a long time, this place has formed a diverse and rich ecological strip and created a beautiful island from nature, to sandy beaches, fresh green coast.
Currently, Sipadan is also home to more than 3,000 species of fish and corals of different sizes, types and colors, all contributing to a unique landscape and flora for the island. Thanks to the favors bestowed by nature, in 2004 it was recognized as a large-scale ocean park and protected with existing natural beauty.
Every day, visitors who want to experience scuba diving need to register in advance and get a diving license. The diving time is also clearly regulated from 6 am to 4 pm, in order to limit the impact of man-made impacts on the island ecosystem. Although there are separate regulations, but every year this land still welcomes a lot of tourists to visit.
Therefore, when coming to Sipadan island, you need a diving permit sold at resorts or tour operators with daily diving time from 6 am to 4 pm, visitors are not allowed to dive at night.
When is the best time to visit Sipadan Island? (#sipadan travel blog)
Possessing the advantage of beautiful and rich natural scenery, each time of the year Sipadan will bring different beauty. Therefore, you can easily arrange your trip itinerary according to your wishes during the year.
However the best time to visit the island is in months of April, August, and September. Because at this time the weather is quite cool and pleasant, suitable for exploring the ocean or participating in activities, adventure activities at sea.
Sipadan is beautiful in any season, but you should go in April, August and September because this time there are many types of fish to see. The time of August, September is the period when turtles lay eggs and hatching, if you are lucky, you will see baby turtles swimming into the sea and swimming with them.
In addition, you should avoid going to the island during holidays or weekends to avoid overcrowding that makes it difficult to have fun. Please register early if you want to dive to see corals and fishes, because each day the island only allows 120 dives.
How to get to Sipadan? (#sipadan travel guide)
The journey to Sipadan is indeed not easy. You have to buy a ticket from Saigon to Kuala Lumpur, transfer to Tawau, take a 2 hour bus to Semporna and take a 1 hour canoe to Mabul island. At the same time, you also have to register online in advance to get a diving/snorkel permit in Sipadan because the government limits only 120 people to go into the water every day to preserve the coral reefs as well as not change the marine environment in Sipadan. this is too much.
To get to Sipadan island, you need to go to Malaysia first by air, because there are no airlines that operate direct flights to the island. Travelers need to buy a ticket to Malaysia to Kuala Lumpur airport and then, buy a ticket to the domestic airport to Tawau or Semporna.
There are many airlines flying from Saigon to Kuala Lumpur such as Airasia, Vietjet, Malaysia Airline, Vietnam Airlines… You should buy at the airline’s promotions to get cheap air tickets. Then you buy a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Tawau or Semporna. If you book a resort at Mabul island, they will have a boat to pick you up from Semporna to the island.
What to do and where to go in Sipadan?
Discover the romantic and peaceful beauty of the island (#sipadan blog)
As a famous tourist destination in Malaysia, it is not too difficult to find fun activities and experiences when coming to this beautiful island. And the first activity that any visitor is interested in is exploring the nature on the way to the island. With the clear blue water, when you take a canoe, you will easily see the lovely dolphins swimming along the boat, like an invitation to come down with them. Surrounded by the vast, blue sea, this image is like a paradise Maldives. You can enjoy the fresh air here or indulge in check-in with so deep frames.
One of the highlights of Sipadan is its beautiful natural landscape, no different from the romantic Maldives paradise. The combination of clear blue sea water and cool sky, vast space makes anyone fall in love when seeing.
Visitors come here comfortably to admire the scenery and check in at every corner with a very “genuine” background. You can also experience the feeling of sitting in a canoe in direct contact with the clear and cool water and see the dolphins playing with your own eyes.
Experience snorkeling, scuba diving to see corals and fishes (#sipadan travel blog)
For visitors when coming to the most beautiful island in Malaysia, snorkeling, scuba diving to see corals and explore the ocean is indispensable. This is also an experience that many visitors look forward to and register in advance to avoid losing seats.
If you normally only see the Ocean through movies or clips, then coming to Sipadan you will be able to admire the coral reefs of various colors and sizes. Or swim with schools of fish, turtles, even sharks in the vast ocean. In particular, some famous diving spots not to be missed on the island such as:
The first diving spot that you should not miss in Sipadan Island is Barracuda Point. It is known that this is a long sheer wall with strong currents flowing through it. Visitors will see coral reefs along the bottom of it and some species such as moray eel, scorpion fish, green turtle, etc.
This is a long steep wall with a strong channel flowing through and possessing a variety of unique corals in terms of type, size, and color. In addition, you also find many other fancy sea fish such as scorpion fish, green turtle…
Coral Garden, White-Tip Avenue
With dive sites in the East, the best time to dive is in the morning. At this time, you will admire the coral reefs or giant tuna, penguins…
At Coral Gardens, in the shallow part of the diving peak, you can see quite a few species of coral reef fish in Sipadan waters – fire goby, goldfish, coral trout…
If you dive at this spot in the morning, you will have the opportunity to admire the beauty of the immense ocean, with diverse corals and especially the appearance of giant tuna. Besides, the appearance of white sharks, angelfish, fire goby… will also surprise you when you come to Sipadan.
Lobster Lairs, West Ridge, Staghorn Crest
Diverse natural creatures is one of the attractions when traveling to Sipadan Island. In the western part is where you can admire the height and depth of the steep cliffs above the clear and blue sea level.
The best time to dive in West Sipadan is in the afternoon, when the currents head south.
People often participate in scuba diving when the water has a visibility of 40m to clearly see the sea creatures living on the seabed such as lobsters, red snappers, hammerhead sharks, coral sharks…
Besides, you will also have the opportunity to see the Staghorn Crest coral garden in the shallow water, which has many species of seahorses and soft corals at the West Ridge. Especially when going to explore the western area, you should go in a group to ensure your safety.
Swimming with sharks
I am a swimmer, go to the beach a lot, but for the first time, I experienced the feeling of swimming with sharks. The baby shark was bigger than me and swam next to me, just reaching out my hand to touch it. The moment I looked into the eyes of the shark next to me, my heart as if stopped beating and my whole body froze.
Although it is known in advance that human meat is not in the shark’s food chain and this shark is very gentle, it never attacks humans but is still afraid. After it swam by, I calmed down and started to get addicted to that feeling, every time I saw a shark, I followed it and swam with it. Sharks are just as gentle and cute as any other fish.
The special thing when diving in Sipadan area is that you will not see the seabed because this area has a 600m deep seabed with countless currents, you will experience the feeling of diving with countercurrents like in the movie Finding Nemo. In an area with a countercurrent, you can tell with the naked eye because the water in this area feels thick and coiled, as well as a lot of fish in this current.
Sipadan’s specialty is the many currents and at the intersection between the two hot and cold currents, you will see the water roll up like smoke on land and then you step into the cold current area, it’s cold horrible, like ice. In return, in the area of cold currents, there are many larger and colorful fish species. You will see discus, sharks, rays… and hundreds of other fish in unimaginable numbers while diving in Sipadan.
To be able to preserve memories quickly and uniquely, visitors can choose to “check in” right under the ocean with sealife. Surely, this will create unbelievable photos and attract everyone.
What to eat?
Malaysia is a Muslim country so in its cuisine does not use pork. This is also the reason why in addition to dishes made from goat meat, beef, pork, and chicken in Sipadan Island all use seafood as the main ingredient. The ration is mostly chicken and beans.
Depending on your preferences and needs, you can choose dishes made from fresh seafood such as lobster, crab, fish, etc. Or enjoy other specialties: Nasi Lemak rice dish, Chukka lamb, Wagyu beef dumplings, Rusuk Panggang grilled ribs.
You can also walk around the village and enjoy some super cheap snacks. Like grilled chicken skin, the price is only 0.12 / skewer, grilled fish or noodle soup is around $0.25… The noodle soup here is very strange, packed in a small bag like a sweets bag and contains only noodles and broth.
Besides all kinds of fish, mantis shrimp are sold in Mabul a lot and at very cheap prices, live shrimp are kept in a bottle of mineral water and are almost as big as a bottle of spring water, the price is only about $1.2/head. But not every bottle, shrimp is the same size, and the seller has said challenge, so remember to bargain. You should also remember to buy fruit from the supermarket in Semporna before getting on the boat to Mabul Island because on the island, the only fruit on the island is expensive and only bananas.
In addition, my group stayed at Uncle Chang resort included food and room, so they would prepare a buffet for us 3 meals a day. If you want to eat something more, you can buy it at the market on the island or from the street vendors and the kitchen will prepare it for you for a fee of 20rm/kg.
In addition, if you have time, do not forget the Malaysian specialties such as:
- Mutton Chukka: The dish is made from lamb, marinated with various spices and cooked. When enjoying, the meat is rich, adding a little spicy of chili… making diners eat forever not bored.
- Nasi Lemak: Also a dish to enjoy when traveling to Sipadan Island. This is a traditional rice dish, representing the culinary culture of Malaysia. With Nasi Lemak, people cook rice with coconut milk to create aroma. Then put the rice on the plate and surrounded by many side dishes such as: Peanuts, dried fish, venison, chicken,…
- Wagyu Beef Dumplings: A perfect combination of Asian and South American flavors. The beef dumplings are delicious and rich, when eaten with spicy sauce, it’s even harder to resist.
- Grilled ribs Rusuk Panggang: The ribs are cut into long pieces, marinated with typical Malaysian spices and put in the oven to cook. When the meat is fragrant, yellow dye will be taken out to enjoy. This rib dish served with raw vegetables is absolutely delicious.
In addition, there are still countless other delicious dishes you should not miss such as: Char siu noodles, pancakes, Nasi Kerabu rice, Curry Mee…
Where to stay?
Seafest Hotel Semporna is centrally located and close to Semporna airport for easy travel. With this 2-star hotel, each room of the hotel is equipped with amenities such as: air conditioning, coffee maker, water heater, free wifi and breakfast. Depending on the needs of each guest, you can choose from different room sizes from single rooms to double rooms. Along with stable and affordable quality, a night at the hotel will cost about $45/night.
Sipadan Inn 1 Semporna belongs to the segment of 3-star budget hotels with all necessary modern amenities for travelers. In each room is fully equipped from air conditioning, television, refrigerator, to other necessary tools.
Besides, the room is always kept clean and hygienic for tourists to experience the best quality stopover for themselves. You also save time traveling from Semporna airport when it is just over 4km away and easy to reach Sipadan, or nearby diving spots. Currently, the room rate at this hotel is only from $25/room/night.
With luxurious design and comfortable space, Han Palace Hotel Semporna is always the ideal choice for travelers who want to travel to the most beautiful island in Malaysia. Each room is guaranteed to be fully equipped with necessary amenities such as: refrigerator, air conditioner, wifi,… The hotel also has free parking, breakfast, cafe, private smoking room… With the price from only $23/room/night this will be the hotel in Malaysia suitable for those who want to travel on a budget.
Located in the heart of Semporna, Chan’s Smart Living Inn Semporna has become a favorite stop for many travelers for easy travel. You just need to move more than 1 km from Semporna airport and it is not difficult to reach the beautiful island of Sipadan. In addition, each room is built modern, comfortable and has all the necessary items according to 3-star standard. Currently, the room rate here is about $51/room/night.
Grace Hotel Semporna is one of the 2-star hotels located close to the seaport and convenient for moving to the island. When you come here, you will be free to choose the size of the bedroom that suits your requirements and desires. Each room is also fully equipped with amenities such as: air conditioning, washing machine, cable TV,… and many other public facilities for a satisfying experience.
We chose Uncle Chang Sipadan Mabul Dive Lodge on Mabul Island to stay because it has a beautiful view and a super romantic wharf. During the 4 days we stayed here, we went to this boat dock no matter what. Watch the sunrise, practice yoga, watch the sunset, watch the moon and stars at night with the sound of waves. As soon as we set foot on the resort, we were extremely excited because there was a school of thousands of fish swimming right at the resort, making us all rush to take pictures.
Below we recommend more best budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.
Travel costs and things to know
Trip cost: Our total cost of food, accommodation, travel, and scuba diving for 7 days is $511/person, excluding airfare. If you don’t scuba diving, the cost will be very cheap, only about $250/person.
3G/Internet: One note is that there is no wifi on Mabul island, you should buy a 3G sim at the airport. There is a tourist sim for 30rm that can be used for free on social networks such as instagam, facebook… According to personal experience, Maxis’s 3G signal is stronger than Digi’s.
The travel experience in Sipadan will surely bring you unforgettable memories through diving, exploring the magical ocean world. Besides, the peaceful scenery and cool sea water will create an interesting trip for you.
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Sipadan and Semporna you can refer to
- 3D2N Sipadan Kapalai Resort Full Board with Snorkeling and Boat Transfers
- Sipadan Kapalai Dive Resort 3 Days 2 Nights Full Board for Couples
- Mabul and Kapalai Island Snorkeling Tour in Semporna
- Sea Walking Experience in Semporna
- Leisure Diving Experience in Semporna Island
- Timba-Timba, Mataking and Pom Pom Island Day Tour in Semporna
- The Reef Dive Resort Overnight Package at Mataking Island in Semporna
- Semporna Island Snorkeling Experience
Read more Malaysia guide here.