The World’s Top Dive Sites in Sabah – Siadan, Mabul, Kapalai & Lankayan

Sabah is blessed with some of the most beautiful islands, coral reefs and atolls. The clear waters and exotic treasures of marine life found here have captivated visitors and divers from all over the world.

Sipadan Island
Rated as the world’s top dive sites. For the true diving enthusiast, the island needs no introduction. Praised by the internationally renowned oceanographer and filmaker Jacques Cousteau as one of the best diving spots in the world, it is unique as the only oceanic island in Malaysia.

Sipadan IslandIts geographic position puts Sipadan in the centre of the richest marine habitat in the world, the heart of the Indo-Pacific basin. Sipadan rises 600 meters from the seabed to provide spectacular wall dives and underwater garden. More than 3,000 species of fish and hundreds of coral species have been classified in this richest of ecosystem. Sipadan is also renowned for its unusually large numbers of green and hawksbill turtles, which gather there to mate and nest. It is not unsual to see more than 20 turtles on each dive.

Another unique feature to divers is the turtle tomb that contains many skeletal remains of turtles. The residential schooling barracuda and big-eye trevally are one of the highlights on every diver’s Wish-list, which often gather in thousands forming spectacular tornado-like formations. Mantas, eagle-rays, scalloped hammerhead sharks and whale sharks may also be seen, as well as as abundance of macro life.

For sustainable and conservation purpose, there will be no onsite dive resorts operating on SIpadan Island. Diving activity will continue for divers to be ferried in by operators operating from the mainland or nearby islands other than the islands of Sipadan and Ligitan.

Mabul Island
Situated only about 15 minutes by speedboat from Sipadan, Mabul is recognised as one of the world’s best “muck-diving” sites, one of the richest single destinations for exotic small marine life in the world. Flamboyant cuttlefish, blue-ringed octopus, mimic octopus, gobies and frogfishes are everywhere, as are moray, snake eels and practically the whole scorpionfish family. There is no doubt about it, mabul is a magical macro site! The beauty af Mabul and Kapalai will also appeal greatly to non-divers as well. There are two resorts on Mabul Island, with the third resort ad off-shore refurbished oil-rig.

Kapalai Reef
Kapalai Reef Actually a sandbar, Kapalai sits on top of the Ligitan Reefs. The sole resort is built water-village-style. Together with Mabul and Lankayan, Kapalai offers some of the best “muck-diving” in the world. Flamboyant cuttlefish, blue-ringed octopus, sea moths and mating mandarinfish, giant frogfish, ribbon eels, harlequin ghost pipefish and crab-eye gobies are found right by the jetty! While the abundance of other marine life like the various gobies, ambonian shrimps, mantis shrimps, crocodilefish, lionfis and scorpionfish, are unusually almost ignored as being too common here!

Lankayan Island
Lankayan Island Located in the Sulu Sea, the northeast coast of Sandakan. This is a small island paradise with only one dive resort, surrounded by stretches of white sandy beaches, swaying casuarinas and beautiful sunsets.

Described as a true macro-world paradise, there are also larger marine creatures such as leopard sharks, marbled stingray and giant grouper as well as schools of bumphead parrotfish, yellowtail barracude and scads. Nearby is the Turtle Islands Park, so the hawksbill and green turtles are also ‘visitors’ in its dive sites.

This entry was posted in Discover Sabah on by .

About drizad

A self employed General Practitioner who lives with his lovely family in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. He dedicates his spare time serving people with precious information on climbing the Majestic Mountain of the Borneo, Mt Kinabalu. Reachable at drizad(at)

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