Sipadan Diving - No Guarantees

There has been a lot of comment recently on various online scuba notice boards regarding the quota of permits to dive Sipadan Island with many divers asking, “will I be able to dive Sipadan?!?”

It used to be simple. Divers staying on Mabul Island or Kapalai did two dives in the morning at Sipadan followed by an afternoon dive at Mabul or Kapalai. Divers could also pay for extra dives to Sipadan if they wished. However since the introduction of the 120 divers per day quota for Sipadan entry there has been much confusion and uncertainty. Barracuda at Barracuda Point, Sipadan Island

There are 46 double/twin rooms at Sipadan Mabul Resort, 30 at Borneo Divers and 41 at Kapalai resort. That’s already well over 120 divers and doesn’t include the other resorts and the daytrippers from Semporna. So if the 120 diver quota is being enforced, divers must be getting turned away.

Travelling divers who have booked a resort around Sipadan Island are therefore anxious that they may not get to dive Sipadan dive sites as much as they would like, if at all. They are not told until they arrive if they have the permit or not. This is an understandable concern. The diving at the surrounding islands like Mabul and Kapalai is superb especially for macro dive fanatics. But the main reason that most people pay a lot of money to travel to the area is to dive the world class Sipadan dive sites. For many it's a trip of a life time that they have saved for for years.

There are reports on forums of divers being promised permits but arriving at the resort to be told that it was not possible to dive Sipadan. (like this on the Lonely Planet Forum).

There are also rumours and reports of resorts bending the rules and sending more divers to Sipadan than their quota allows. See this report in the Underwater Times).

Some suggest that if you book early, you are guaranteed a permit, others say that permits are only issued the day prior to arrival.

All this uncertainty may well persuade divers to choose a different dive holiday destination such as Thailand or Indonesia instead of Sipadan because they don’t want to risk traveling all that way just to be barred from the best dives.

So what is the real story? Can the dive resorts guarantee Sipadan permits? Is it best to book early? How can you improve your chances? How many dives can you do at Sipadan each day? We decided to ask the resorts themselves to try and get a clearer picture.

Continued >>


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