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Borneo Dive Lodges & Wildlife Safari

Tel 0844 412 0848
Int'l +44 1428 620012

Ask anyone who has dived in Malaysian Borneo what they most remember and they are likely to say Sipadan and Lankayan. These two islands are world-renowned for their thriving reefs and abundance of species. Sipadan has legendary wall dives and is one of the best places in the world to see turtles underwater. Lankayan island has some beautiful unspoilt reefs, fascinating wreck and 'muck' dives and a staggering array of species, all surrounding a stunning tropical island. Combined, this trip incorporates everything that diving in the tropics should: colourful reefs, beautiful fish, exciting dives and unrivalled surroundings.

In 2004, Sipadan's marine ecosystem received an increased level of protection which precluded the opportunity of staying on the island. Our recommended approach the island is by speedboat from the neighbouring island of Mataking: a beautiful forested idyll, surrounded by own extensive coral reef system, where you can stay in our specially selected waterside lodge, ideal for divers and non-divers alike. Here you have the option of diving at Sipadan as well many other islands from your base island of Mataking. In addition to Mataking Island,  we can if you prefer use the 'muck diving' paradises of Mabul and Kapalai as bases.

In addition to diving at Sipadan, this trip takes you then to our recommended dive lodge on Lankayan Island, which is nestled in the Sulu Sea, off the north eastern tip of Borneo.

Borneo's sapphire waters are sure to reveal their natural treasures, satisfying even the most avid of divers, but the Borneo Dive Lodges & Wildlife Safari experience takes you both above and below the waters. Whilst this experience has its emphasis on the sub-aqua, it also combines close encounters with two of the island's most well known animals: sea turtles and orangutans. On your journey with us, you will visit and experience one of the world's most famous wildlife rehabilitation and conservation programmes at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, where young ex-captive or abandoned orangutans, often the orphans of deforestation, are being helped by highly trained and motivated staff to readjust to a life back in the wild.

Sea turtles abound in this part of the world and the reefs are often full of these languid ocean travellers. As well as encountering them below the water whilst diving, we will take you to a protected Turtle Island sanctuary where they can come to lay their eggs throughout the year. You will also have the opportunity here to see work being carried out by the Sabah Parks authorities and watch the transplanting of eggs to protected hatcheries. Opportunities may also exist to witness baby turtles entering the sea for the very first time as hatchlings.

You have the option of extending your safari with an exploration of the rainforest and wetlands along one of Borneo's most majestic rivers: the Kinabatangan. The river and its surrounding habitats make up one of the richest ecosystems on the planet and is one of only a few places on Earth where ten primate species can be found together. These include the largest population of orangutans in Malaysia and several other species that are endemic to Borneo, such as the proboscis monkey, the maroon langur and Bornean white bearded gibbon.

If time allows, we can also take you to other wildlife areas in Borneo, or you can choose to stay longer on its islands. Please Contact Us to discuss your interests further.

Pulau Lankayan

You will take a speedboat from the northeast Borneo town of Sandakan to the verdant oasis of Lankayan, where a myriad of diving opportunities surrounds this small island. In addition to the rich diversity of life residing on its reefs, Lankayan provides an excellent combination of macro life and pelagic species, including the large shoals of bumphead parrot fish and reef sharks, along with occasional visiting whale shark. Set against the gently sloping sandy seabed, the array of sponges, gorgonians and corals are home to rare rhinopia scorpion fish, beautifully-flamboyant nudibranchs such as Chromodoris kunei, and inquisitive little jawfish coming out to investigate you as you pass by. The wrecks of scuppered illegal fishing boats around the reef make ideal habitats for many species and offer the chance for some great wreck dives.

Pulau Sipadan 

Pulau Sipadan is Malaysia's only volcanic island and was made famous by the French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau in his documentary 'Ghosts of the Sea Turtle'. Both green and hawksbill turtles are prolific here and are so accustomed to divers that they are happy to go about their daily lives in your presence. Although nothing is guaranteed in the natural world, seeing over twenty turtles on a dive is not uncommon whilst at Sipadan. Enigmatic species are regular around these reefs, with enormous schools of barracuda and trevally, eagle rays and white tip reef sharks.

With healthy, vibrant reefs, Sipadan is home for many unexpected treasures, such as the amazing flamboyant cuttlefish. These tiny bright coloured cephalopods walk across the sand hunting for their food, confident that their bright colours and waving arms will alert predators to their deadly poison. This behaviour is unique amongst cuttlefish and only recently discovered.

Pulau Mataking

Mataking Island is a beautiful forested island in the Sulu Archipelago about 1 hour boat ride to East of Semporna. Cloaked in dense forest and ringed by lovely beaches, the island also boasts a large and diverse system of reefs on its doorstep. The healthy surrounding reefs,  dense with hard and soft corals shelter diverse macro and pelagic species ranging from barracuda and eagle rays through to suitably named orangutan crab. Mataking and it's surrounding islands boast at least 30 excellent dive sites, and this is also an island base from where we can guarantee to allocate you Sipadan dive permits in advance.
Pulau Mabul

Mabul is located just 25 minutes to the North of Sipadan and in contrast to the steep drop offs, coral reefs and pelagic species found around Sipadan, Mabul is known and loved for a very different reason.  A 'muck diving' paradise, Mabul is great for macro life with every hole in the sand and coral rubble inhabited by ghost pipefish, frogfish, devil scorpionfish, stonefish, crocodile fish, cuttlefish, cowfish and nudibranchs.  Macro photographers will find great opportunities to capture some rare and flamboyant species that inhabit the sandy bottom of Mabul's marine environment. 

Pulau Kapalai

Just a few miles from Sipadan, Kapalai is another macro diving destination with all the species found at Mabul including blue-ringed octopuses, dragonets, mandarin gobies, jawfish and cuttlefish.  Other sites around Kapalai are likely to reveal humphead wrasse, blue spotted ribbontail rays and bumphead parrotfish. Kapalai is quite unique because from a distance, it looks as though it is a large traditional orang asli settlement, built straight out of the water. It is in fact built on a sand bank, so beaches are included at low tide!

Malaysian Borneo's islands are jewels in South-East Asia's rich tapestry of marine habitat - and long may they remain that way.  The diversity of life within them is of global importance, but like many reefs around the world, they are beautiful but fragile environments that are under pressure.  We therefore urge all divers to dive responsibly and safely, avoiding any contact with the reef.

Photographs kindly provided by David Slater, Ralph Pannell, Charlotte Caffrey, Alan Oh, SMART, Albert Teo, Andrew Oates, Nick Bramley, Lawrence Lee & PSR