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This dive safari provides the perfect opportunity to comprehensively experience the best of Malaysian Borneo's marine environment and close encounters with the island's most famous wildlife. Combining diving at Layang Layang atoll, with Lankayan Island and of course Sipadan gives you the best possible chances of sighting everything that Borneo has to offer from pelagics such as sea turtles, sharks and barracuda, to tiny marine life such as frogfish, crocodile fish and nudibranchs.
Since Sipadan has received increasing environmental protection, it is no-longer possible to stay on the island, so travel to sites there is via speedboat from your accommodation at one of our selected waterside lodges on the islands of Mataking, Mabul or Kapalai. You can also opt to visit by dive liveaboard.
In addition to Sipadan, you will stay at one of our recommended dive lodges on the Layang Layang atoll, located off Borneo's northern coast and also Lankayan Island, which is located in the Sulu Sea, off the north eastern tip of Borneo.
Although these sapphire waters reveal a wealth of natural treasures to satisfy the most avid of divers, Borneo has as much to offer above the waves as below them. No trip to Borneo would be complete without having the opportunity to come face to face with the beautiful and charismatic Bornean orangutan and on the Borneo Underwater Safari trip, you have the chance to do just this. By visiting the world-famous Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, you are able to see orphaned orangutans, victims of deforestation and the illegal pet trade, being cared for by a team of dedicated and trained staff, who are working their hardest to safely release these peaceful apes back into the wild.
Travelling by speedboat from the north-eastern town of Sandakan, the tropical oasis of Lankayan offers a wealth of diving opportunities, all situated around this marine haven. As well as a rich diversity of marine life residing on its reefs, Lankayan is renowned for its rich dichotomy of both large, enigmatic pelagic species and wonderful and interesting macro life; from occasional hammerhead sharks and ghostly manta rays to dazzling nudibranchs and quirky little frogfish hunting for their supper with their own little fishing 'rods'. Finish off your time in Lankayan with a dive on one of the wrecks made by the scuppering of illegal fishing boats, where the reefs have reclaimed what was taken, making these boats homes for secretive moray eels and shoals of barracuda.
The Layang Layang Atoll
Layang Layang is an atoll of 13 linked coral reefs and part of the 600 or so islands, cays and reefs in the South China Sea known as the Spratly Islands. Located just 300km from Borneo's northern coast, Layang Layang offers extraordinary visibility and a rich diversity of marine life. The diving is characterised by steep walls that descend as deep as 2000 metres and encounters with pelagic species such as dogtooth tuna, barracuda, humphead wrasse and bigeye trevally are common. Grey reef, white tip and black tip reef sharks abound in the waters here and leopard sharks are to be found slumbering on the sand beneath the corals. Turtles and triggerfish are common and with dolphins frequenting the waters above the reefs, diving on this atoll provides an outstanding opportunity to view some of the most spectacular diving in this part of the world. Schools of hammerhead sharks are a highlight which are usually best seen between the middle of March - and middle of May.
Pulau Sipadan is Malaysia's only volcanic island and was made famous by French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau in his documentary Ghosts of the Sea Turtle. Sea turtles are in great numbers here and divers often meet more than a dozen of these oceanic nomads on a single dive, watching them as they calmly feed and come to age old breeding spots. The turtles here are so relaxed around divers that they hardly even notice your presence. The reefs around Sipadan are in good health, meaning that the waters are rich in hundreds if not thousands of reef species, from long, delicate gorgonians and immense staghorn corals, to camouflaged leaf scorpion fish and dazzling fire gobies, with trevally, jack and barracuda moving around in immeasurable shoals. Sipadan offers some of the best 'wall' diving in the world, with the species rich reefs dropping off thousands of feet in places, just a few metres from the shore.
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.
Mabul is located some 25 minutes north of Sipadan. In contrast to the steep drop offs, coral reefs and pelagic species of Sipadan, Mabul is renowned internationally for a very different reason. A 'muck diving' paradise, Mabul is great for macro life, with every hole in the coral rubble and sand inhabited by crocodile fish, scorpion fish, pipefish, frogfish, nudibranchs and octopuses. Photographers looking for macro-life will be spoilt for choice here, as they watch many rare and fascinating species found in Mabul's sandy marine environment.
Kapalai is Sipadan's other near neighbour, located around 20 minutes from Sipadan. It is another macro diving destination with all the species found at Mabul including blue-ringed octopuses, dragonets, mating mandarin fish, jawfish and cuttlefish. Other sites around Kapalai are likely to reveal humphead wrasse, blue spotted ribbontail rays and bumphead parrotfish.
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 Ralph Pannell, Charlotte Caffrey, Alan Oh, SMART, Albert Teo, Nick Bramley, Lawrence Lee & PSR