lodging in the form of two rows of appealing a/c or fan-
cooled chalets with porches amid sculpted grounds and
beach access. The lounge/b ar above the din ing roo m has
occasional live music. Dorm RM125 , double RM150
Seaventures T 088 251669, W seaventuresdive.com.
A little way out to sea, this brightly painted, refurbished oil
rig is for serious divers only. There are lifts that go right
down into the sea, and diving below the rig is amazing.
The accommodation is l ess so, wi th compact, dated rooms.
Uncle Chang's T 089 782002, W ucsipadan.com. This
lively budget spot, located in the Filipino village, is always
popular with backpackers in spite of rarely cleaned rooms,
an indifferent proprietor and occasionally surly diving
instructors, but because of its chilled-out vibe, alcohol-
fuelled camar aderie and ine xpensive dives. Boat transfer
RM100; dorm RM75 , double RM110
he reef surrounds nearly ninety
percent of the island and the ledges are
a common resting point for turtles.
Barracuda Point is a popular site on the
dive circuit and is so called for the vortex
of chevron barracuda that lurk in these
waters. South Point - on the opposite side
of the island from Barracuda Point -
attracts large pelagic (open sea) species,
such as grey reef sharks and (very rarely)
manta rays and whale sharks.
Snorkellers accompanying divers to the
island can expect to see everything that
the divers see (barring hammerheads)
without having to leave the surface; in
fact, they are more likely than divers to
swim among schools of giant parrotfish
and jackfish as they tend to congregate in
he island is a fully protected
conservation zone; numbers are limited to
120 visitors per day, and the dive operators
(see box opposite) are responsible for
sorting out who gets to go and when
according to their stipulated number of
daily permits; some diving companies are
allocated more permits than others. Make
reservations several weeks in advance in low
season and six months in advance for high
season (July & August).
SIPADAN is a name spoken with reverence
by divers worldwide, and with good
cause. he waters around the tiny island,
36km south of Semporna in the Celebes
Sea, which so impressed the venerable
marine biologist Jacques Cousteau, teem
with green turtles, sharks, barracuda, vast
schools of tropical fish, and a huge
diversity of coral.
Twenty metres from the shore, the
bottom plunges to over 180m, delving to
a vast wall of coral. Divers will find
themselves face to face with moray eels,
large schools of jacks, batfish, parrotfish,
and white-tipped and grey reef sharks.
he luckiest may catch a glimpse of a
hammerhead or two; Sipadan is one of
the last strongholds of the scalloped
hammerhead and a large school lives
around 60m deep.
TAWAU , Sabah's southernmost town of
any size, is a busy commercial centre
and timber port and you're only likely
to stop here en route to or from
Semporna (if flying in) or on your way
THE PLIGHT OF SHARKS
If you've come from KK, you may have seen posters around town campaigning against shark's
fin soup. In Mabul, Scuba Junkie takes the lead in the campaign, pushing for shark fishing to
be banned altogether and for the Malay government to extend protected marine park status
beyond Sipadan - one of the world's last strongholds of the scalloped hammerhead shark - to
the rest of Semporna Archipelago. The plan is to work together with the local fishing
community to ensure that they get alternative sources of income that don't involve shark
fishing. Though shark's fin soup is a pricey delicacy on the menus of many Chinese
restaurants, many consumers don't realize that when the shark is caught, the fin is chopped off
straightaway and the shark, still alive, is tossed back into the sea to drown, because it cannot
swim, or to bleed to death on the ocean floor, torn apart by other predators. Not only are all
shark species now endangered, but since the shark is one of the biggest marine predators, its
fin contains a toxic amount of mercury which is detrimental to your health.