Day 2 & 4 – Sipadan Island
Better late than never…as I returned from this trip the first week in January, but we were busy diving all day for the week and then returning to real life got a little crazy and with so many amazing underwater photos (1,500 or so) I’m now finally posting the best of Sipadan island and I know it’s March. Figured gotta post these before I flee the country again next week.
Sipadan Island was the main reason Milena and I came to this part of the world and I’m so glad we did as the diving was amazing. Sipadan Island was formed by living corals growing on top of an extinct volcanic cone that took thousands of years to develop. Sipadan Island was at the top of Rodale’s Scuba Diving Magazine Gold List for ‘The Top Dive Destination in the World’. Sipadan shared this top spot with 2 other destinations known for the diversity of their marine life (The Galapagos Islands and Truk in Micronesia….possible next dive trips?).
Jacques Costeau said: “I have seen other places like Sipadan, 45 years ago, but now no more. Now we have found an untouched piece of art” and Sipadan is still that untouched place. Part of this has to do with how heavily regulated the permit process is and the country limits the number of visitors a day (I’m guessing less than 50 visators in total as our dive resort got 12 permits a day and I think there were about 4 dive companies a day in total). There is also an armed army team on guard at all times as other neighboring countries want to take over this island.
We were hoping to go out to the “deep blue” in search of the Hammerhead shark. They like the deeper water so while looking for them, there isn’t much else. You are really just out in the open water searching for sharks. I have friends that think I’m crazy for this, but when you come across one out of the blue, it’s amazing. We were very fortunately and saw one Hammerhead Shark swim right by us. I was lucky to get a decent photo (love the hammer shape on the head), as they swim fast and always away from us.
Sharks, Sharks and More Sharks:
Sipadan was full of sharks. After finding the Hammerhead the second dive, we also were luck to see White Tip Sharks and Gray Reed Sharks. On one dive, we saw 7 white tips sharks 3 at the same time.
Sipadan is know to have enormous schools of barracuda that swim in tornado-like formations. My first day in Sipadan, we didn’t see any, but the second time I went back, we were rewarded with about a thousand and they swam in a tornado formation around me!
The Giant Bumphead Parrot Fish
We came across a large school of bumphead parrotfish and we were told before the dive we could find them and we would “hear” them. This seemed odd to say we would hear a fish eating, but we really did. These are the nosiest eaters ever and while they may not be the most beautiful fish, we were memorized watching and listening to them for a while. I mean just look at the funny teeth? This really was a fun experience to watch them munch their way through acres of coral reef. We were also told they would poop a lot since all they do is eat and this we saw too.
With large green bodies, blunt pink heads and gaping, prominent teeth, they may not win any beauty contests, but make for great photo.
I just love the turtles and we were so lucky to see at least one turtle on all 14 dives over the 4 days. One dive we say 13 turtles which was great. The swim with such ease and a few times came right up to us within arms reach.
The Harlequin Sweetlips change color from white to black and gain additional spots as they age (don’t we all?) and is named for their juicy lips.
The giant trevally is distinguished by its steep head profile, strong tail scute (bony external plate overlaid with horn, like a turtle shell, crocodile skin or birds feet.). They often travel in schools of a 1,000 like here. I was able to swim in the middle of the swarm and take an underwater selfie with them surrounding me.
First two times I came to Malaysia, there was no beer made locally. There finally is and I had to enjoy a local Anchor beer at Sipadan as it was just such a pretty place to dive