Once again you delivered a spectacular dive experience. Our expedition to Malaysia on the islands of Mabul and Sipadan was one of the greatest we have ever undertaken with you.

Your pre trip dive site inspections helped provide another flawless outing. As usual you provided the TOTAL dive adventure.

From top flight accommodations, to knowledgeable and thoroughly experienced local dive masters, to help with photographic questions, to some of the greatest dives I have ever seen; you did it all.

Your encyclopedic knowledge of our oceans' fishes and corals always adds that extra facet which makes GDE's trips so wonderful.

...I can safely say Sipadan ranks up there with the world's best dive sites. Thanks for providing ANOTHER in a string of 'Once in a lifetime adventure.
~ Jerry & Susan Braet, Founding members since 2003.

Malaysia and Sipadan

Destination Review: Malaysia and Sipadan Diving

First Thoughts

Malaysian Borneo is your ultimate reef and rainforest destination. The jungles of Borneo still hold a multitude of diversity from elephants to birds to the endemic proboscis monkey. While palm oil plantations are taking over the lowland forests, protected areas still allow room for the wildlife. Underwater the diversity is as rich as on terra firma. From macro to pelagic life…it has quickly risen to the absolute top of the list!

Why We Think Malaysia and Sipadan Rock or Don’t

Because between Mabul, Kapalai, Si Amil & Sipadan, there is world class macro diving and stunningly pristine reefs and big walls. You get to stay in your own overwater resort and watch sunsets from your deck. You step right off the deck for your night dives!

Things that Rock

  1. most accommodations in overwater village very cool
  2. play basketball with locals
  3. friendly people
  4. Borneo is adventure capital
  5. Sipadan is gem well protected
  6. World class macro

Things that Don’t

  1. can be a bit of a schlep
  2. sharks all gone

The Diving

The Diving Areas of Malaysia

Sipadan Island- is the jewel of Malaysian diving with an incredibly healthy coral structure that rings the tiny islet. In 2004, the Malaysian government had all resorts removed from the island. Now, through a lottery system, 120 divers per day are allowed to dive the reefs. Nothing like getting PELTED with turtles! At low tide you can find piles of turtles at cleaning stations. So many that it’s impossible to get them all in your wide angle lens! A tornado of jack and barracuda await at Barracuda Point and if you can catch the right moment, you will be rewarded with HUNDREDS of bumphead parrotfish. An incredible dive spot!

Mabul Island- Forty minutes by boat from the crowded town of Semporna, Mabul Island hosts a number of hotels and two distinctive and beautiful over water dive resorts. Two separate villages that blend into one crowd the small island. Underwater it’s a treasure trove! While Mabul doesn’t boast the healthy corals of Sipadan, it’s critters can’t be beat! Everything from sea snakes to OrangUtan crabs (yes, these 2-3 crabs DO resemble their namesakes!) to mating mandarianfish can be found. We’re still looking for the flamboyant cuddle fish…..we know it’s here but it keeps alluding us! It is unparalleled! Mabul/Sipadan make for a perfect wide angle/macro combo!

Sea Venture- Ok, this place is just downright weird….and wonderful! Above water, it is an converted oil rig cum dive hotel and you can use the word dive in whichever form you’d like! Because of its height above the water, divers are carried up and down to the water level in an underwater elevator cage (yep, remember, I did say weird!). Below the surface it is a junkyard of well….stuff lying on a sand/muck/rubble bottom. They have created huge junkpiles and structures such as a playhouse with a suspension bridge and sunken boats. It’s almost erie! But this underwater playground is also a playground for eels, crocodilefish, frogfish, ornate ghost pipefish, juv. sweetlips and TONS of other critters. Ugly but fabulous! We keep going back and back and back to this dive site just a 42 second boat ride from Sipadan Water Village Resort.

Kapalai– Just eight minutes from Mabul is Kapalai island. At low tide you can almost see an island but mainly it’s an overwater bungalow dive resort. Off it’s shores is fantastic macro diving though the sand and a small bit of coral reef. While the macro is fantastic, we often see large turtles and cuddle fish. Just put on your little eyes and go for it! Biologists are still finding and cataloging new species in these islands!

Si-Amil- This island lies about an hour off of Mabul Island and is a hilly, forested island home to monkeys and a military base. Diving here is a treat as it is chock a block with leap scorpionfish, blue ribbon eels, ornate ghostpipefish, frog fish and more.

Our Favorite Things to Do Out of the Water

We believe in Surf and Turf checking out the best of underwater AND on land. It just so happens that most of the worlds best SCUBA diving destinations have other amazing things going for them in addition to kick ass diving. Don’t miss it.

  1. Go up the River without a Paddle! The Kinabatangan River just outside of Sandakan supports an incredible world of animals including, but definitely not limited to…pygmy elephants, at least 7 species of monkey, snakes including a python (by the way don’t get too close or you’ll freak out your guide…oops), bird galore including eight species of hornbill, orangutans and the endemic proboscis monkey, quite a sight to check out! Stay over a few nights at one of the lodges.
  2. Climb Mt. Kinabalu- located in a world heritage site just outside of Kota Kinabalu (or KK as the cool people say) , Mt. Kinabalu is the highest peak in southeast Asia between PNG and the Himalayas. At 4100 meters (that’s over 13,000 feet) it’s a great hike. Put it on the list!
  3. Visit Sepilok Orangutan sanctuary– While it may sound touristy, the sanctuary is working actually really cool and diligently working to restore the Bornean orangutan population. They feed at 10:00 in the morning which means they bring out some food and just hang out in case the animals come to eat. But after everyone leaves the feeding hang around and often they come right up to you. The sanctuary is located in Sandakan, Sabah.
  4. Bird Watch in an Oxbow Lake. During its meandering, several oxbow lakes were created from the Kinabatangan River. Take your binoculars and go out early in the morning for bird watching. The hornbills are other worldly!
  5. Swim with the crocodiles in the rivers – HA, Totally Joking!!!! They’ll eat you for a quick snack!
  1. Hike through the jungle and try to avoid the leeches. This is actually fun. The leeches here are small and they hang out under leaves. When you go by them, they sense your body heat and reach out to catch a ride and a meal! See how agile you truly are…..only one bit me!
  2. Visit Tabin and Danum Valleys for MORE wildlife encounters!
  3. Petronas Towers- On your way home if you fly through KL (Kuala Lumpur) be sure to stop at Petronas Towers. It’s definitely THE Malaysian landmark!
  4. Play basketball with the locals!– The local b-ball team is always looking for a game from 5:00-600pm on Mabul Island. Game ends promptly with the call to prayer at 6:00. Be prepared to get beat by guys in flip flops!!

Malaysia and Sipadan Seasonality

The climate is influenced by the Northeast and South-West Monsoons, which blows alternately during the year. The North-East Monsoon blows from November till April, bringing rain, to Sabah and Sarawak. The South-West Monsoon season is a drier period for the whole country. (Humidity: 85 % 95%). Generally the best time to travel is between April and November, but diving is year-round. January and February generally are windy and therefore choppy seas are common.

Overall

Sharkman and Mantagirl give Indonesia and Bali

Two Fins UP

Request a Free Quote or Make a Reservation

Interested in traveling to Sipadan?  We are here to help by sharing our global expertise.  Create your own personalized diving adventure by requesting a risk free quote.  It’s easy and there’s no obligation.  Or, if you already know what you want, you can make a reservation.

Or, join us on a Guided Diving Adventure.

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Destination Guide Sipadan/Mabul, Malaysian Borneo Extras!

Why Malaysia? Is this the right destination for you? This is what we know and love about Sipadan/Mabul:

  1. Incredible macro life around Mabul, the rare and the wonderful!!
  2. Diving from beginner to expert
  3. Macro and Wide Angle
  4. Some of the best divemasters in the world
  5. Fabulous corals and pelagics on Sipadan
  6. Island has been protected since the 1930’s
  7. FAMOUS Sipadan Turtles, so many turtles they land on your head!
  8. Amazing land opportunities for wildlife
  9. Local villages to visit and opportunities to meet the people

 

Here are some things you won’t find in the Sipadan/Mabul area:

  1. High rise resorts
  2. Beach life
  3. Wreck diving
  4. Night life or restaurants

 

Land Based or Live aboard?

Currently there is only one option for live aboard, the Celebes Explorer. While it offers options for night diving beyond the shore, it is not a high end experience. With Sipadan only 20 minutes from Mabul, Kapalai 8 minutes and Sea Venture 42 seconds away, there is plenty of world class diving with great shore accommodation offerings.

Water Temperature and Seasonality

The climate is influenced by the Northeast and South-West Monsoons, which blows alternately during the year. The North-East Monsoon blows from November till April, bringing rain, to Sabah and Sarawak. The South-West Monsoon season is a drier period for the whole country. (Humidity: 85 % 95%). Generally the best time to travel is between April and November, but diving can be done year-round. January and February generally are windy and therefore choppy seas are common and best avoided.

Making Travel Easy & Fun

PASSPORT AND HEALTH REQUIREMENTS

Passport

A valid passport is required to enter and exit the Malaysia. Please make sure that your passport is valid for three months from the date of exit out of the country and that you have enough space for entry/exit stamps. If you do not hold a valid passport, apply as soon as possible as it may take some time to receive. Always keep a copy of the face page of your passport located in a separate place than your passport.

Departure Tax

Departure tax is generally included in the price of your airline ticket. Check with your carrier to be sure.

Health

The following information is current as of 2009. The CDC is not requiring any vaccines at this time while traveling in Malaysia. Inoculation will not be required unless a traveler is entering from a designated infected area. A good source for information is the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. Call their 24 hour toll-free information at 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636). The CDC also is on line at http:/www.cdc.gov. Remote areas of Malaysia may have Malaria, the use of mosquito repellant is always recommended when the insect is present.

Food

As when traveling anywhere in foreign countries, take general common sense precautions with food. Bottled water is recommended.

GENERAL TRAVEL INFORMATION

PRACTICAL INFORMATION ON MALAYSIAN BORNEO

Electricity/Water

In Malaysia voltage is 240Volt
Grounded plug adapters WA-7
Ungrounded plug adapters #5.
These are the recommended wall outlet plug adapters for MALAYSIA.

Tipping

Tipping is not a common practice in Malaysia. However, with that said, resorts that cater to Americans are learning to welcome them. We recommend tipping your dive guides and bartenders.

Telephone

To make a phone call you can use a scratch card, available in in supermarkets and most souvenir shops. They’re very easy to use and the instructions are on the card. Dial the (free) number on the card and type in the code and then the number you want to call. You can also phone from many resorts at the front desk. Inquire at your individual hotel.

Fax

Fax service is available at most hotels for a fee.

Time Zones

Malaysia is GMT+8.

Currency

As of September, 2009 the exchange rate
1 US Dollar = 3.2 Malaysian Ringgit

Here’s a great web site to check http://www.x-rates.com/calculator.html
The Malaysian currency is the ringgit, informally known as the dollar (the “$” symbol can be seen on older notes) and abbreviated RM or MYR, is divided into 100 sen. There are coins of 5, 10, 20, and 50 sen as well as bills of RM1, 2 (rare), 5, 10, 50 and 100. 5 sen coins are mainly given as change in large establishments and supermarkets, peddlers and street vendors might be reluctant to accept them.
Ringgits are freely convertible and the exchange rate is US$1 = RM3.6 (April 2009). Foreign currencies are not generally accepted. The major exception is Singapore dollars, which are accepted by KTMB and toll roads, but at a highly unfavorable 1:1 exchange rate (an anomaly dating back to when the ringgit was interchangeable with the Singapore dollar, prior to the 1970s).

Climate

The climate in Malaysia is tropical. The north-east monsoon (October to February) deluges Borneo and the east coast in rain and often causes flooding, while the west coast (particularly Langkawi and Penang) escape unscathed. The milder south-west monsoon (April to October) reverses the pattern. The southern parts of peninsular Malaysia, including perennially soggy Kuala Lumpur, are exposed to both but even during the rainy season, the showers tend to be intense but brief.
The terrain consists of coastal plains rising to hills and mountains.

Country in Profile

History

Malaysia was formed in the year 1957 and became independent from British Colonialization. The Union Jack was lowered and the first Malaysian flag was raised in the Merdeka (independence) square on midnight 31st August, 1957. Six years later, Malaysia was formed in 1963 through a merging of Malaya and Singapore, including the East Malaysian states of Sabah (known then as North Borneo) and Sarawak on the northern coast of Borneo. The first several years of the country’s history were marred by Indonesian efforts to control Malaysia, Philippines’ claims to Sabah, and Singapore’s expulsion in 1965.
Today’s Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy, nominally headed by the Paramount Ruler (Yang di-Pertuan Agong), who is elected for a five-year term from among the nine sultans of the Malay states. The current king, from Terengganu, was sworn in on 13 Dec 2006. In practice, however, power is held by the Prime Minister, who is the leader of elected government. The United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party and its National Alliance (Barisan Nasional) coalition have ruled Malaysia uninterrupted since its independence, and while periodic elections are contested by feisty opposition parties, the balance has so far always been shifted in the government’s favor by press control and use of restrictive security legislation dating from the colonial era.

Population

The population of Malaysia as of 2010 is estimated at 29 million.

Language and People

Malaysia is a multicultural society. While Malays make up a 50.4% majority, there are also 23.7% Chinese (especially visible in the cities), 7.1% Indian and a miscellaneous grouping of 7.8% “others”, such as the Portugese clan in Melaka and 11% of indigenous peoples (Aborigines) [CIA Factbook on Malaysia]. There is hence also a profusion of faiths and religions, with Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Sikhism and even shamanism on the map.
Most notably in Malaysia, unlike in other countries, the Chinese community is not assimilated and has managed to maintain a distinct cultural identity from the rest of the population. Many traditional Chinese customs, including some no longer practiced in China itself due to the cultural revolution, are widely practiced by the Malaysian Chinese

Bahasa Malayu is the official language in Malaysia.In the more popular tourist areas and pretty much all dive resorts, the locals speak English, but even in the more remote places there’s usually someone who knows at least a bit of English.

Religion

Muslim 60.4%, Buddhist 19.2%, Christian 9.1%, Hindu 6.3%, Confucianism, Taoism, other traditional Chinese religions 2.6%, other or unknown 1.5%, none 0.8% (2000 census)

Respect

As in any predominantly Muslim country, you should dress respectfully, particularly in rural areas (wearing trousers not shorts and covering your shoulders is recommended but not essential). In more metropolitan areas such as Kuala Lumpur, as well as towns and cities such as Penang and Ipoh with a larger non Muslim population, attitudes are more liberal.
As a tourist, it is best not to criticize the Government and especially the Malay royal families.
When entering a home or a place of worship, always take off your shoes. Also, never eat with your left hand, or give a gift with your left hand; and never point with your forefinger (you may use a closed fist with the thumb instead), point the bottoms of your feet at a person or touch a person’s head. Malaysians greet each other by shaking hands and then placing one hand over your heart as a sign that you have embraced them into your heart.
Public showing of affection in larger cities is tolerated but might invite unnecessary attention from the public. In more rural areas it is frowned upon and is to be avoided.
Same-sex relationships is a taboo subject in Malaysia. Gay and lesbian travelers should avoid any outward signs of affection, including holding hands in public. Likewise, due to strong influence of Islam, homosexuality is technically illegal.

 

What’s the Adventure?

Beach

The resort does not really have a beach. The beach on the island of Mabul is used by the villagers and would not be appropriate for taking a towel and laying out. There are many boats off the beach which are actually lived on as the villagers closest to the resort come from the Bajau tradition, a culture of sea gypsies. You can swim, snorkel and dive off the dock at the dive center. There is no pool at SWV.

Snorkeling

You can snorkel off the dock at the resort and snorkel to your hearts content around and under the resort pilings. It’s very interesting snorkeling and you can find everything from lionfish to sea snakes and crocodile fish to mandarianfish in just a few feet of water. At low tide the coral under the resort is just about exposed meaning the water is VERY shallow so you need to be careful and know if the tide is going out or in. Alternately the highest tides bring the water just a foot or two below the wood pathways of the resort. You can also join the dive boat to Sipadan Island (extra fee) and snorkel on some of the most pristine coral in the world.

The reefs of Mabul are known more for muck style diving and so the coral is not prolific and there is lots of sand. But you can find really cool stuff in the sand if you look! If you want beautiful corals, Sipadan is the only place in the area as it is an oceanic island away from the shore.

Bars and Restaurants

There is only one restaurant at the resort and it is all inclusive so you won’t find any prices listed which is a nice way to not worry about spending more on your dive trip. All meals are buffet with a number of different stations. So if you abhore buffets, you may have a problem here. There is a salad station, a dessert and fruit area, hot pans with both Asian and Contintental food and a grill station at which you can find everything from hamburgers to tempura to spicy pasta. If you are at the resort for more than a couple of weeks, the food may get tiresome but I like the ease of in and out and no waiting for plated service. This works well if you have a group.

While there is technically bar service at the restaurant, you will need to ask for it as most people I noticed didn’t drink at meals. But if you want something, they will be happy to arrange it.

There is one bar on the property which is fine as it’s a small property and more than one is definitely not needed. It’s open from around noon until the last person leaves. There are about 10 bar stools and then some comfy chairs and couches along with a TV for movies (no regular TV service) or you can plug in your video and show the underwater footage you shot that day. There is an internet station also in the bar but the service is so slow as it’s usually unusable. Free wifi if you are lucky enough to get a signal.

The bar serves all types of mixed drinks as well as beer and wine. Wine is only available by the bottle and is limited to only two or three kinds. I just plan into my finances a bottle a day for the two of us to share and chalk up $30. It is such a homey atmosphere that none of these little issues cause anyone any real concern.

Spa

If you are looking for a spa type resort, this is not the place for you. There is one masseuse on duty and for $30 (yes, this price seems to be a theme!) she will come to your room. She is a 70 year old woman from the local village who doesn’t have a lot of strength nor does she have a table or probably any formal training. She lays you down on the lounge chair on your deck and does her best. She would make a wonderful subject for a National Geographic photo shoot and she is as kind as can be.

 

Getting There- Malaysia

Getting to Malaysia takes a little bit more planning because there are so many routes to get there but once you see the layout it’s not that difficult. Just remember you will go over the dateline so add in the extra day on the way out and give it back to yourself on the return!

Getting to your final destination airport of Tawau is as easy as THREE Steps from LAX. You can do similar routes via San Francisco or Seattle.

Korean Air/Delta

  1. Fly LAX to Seoul, S. Korea (ICN)
  2. Fly Seoul to Kota Kinabalu (BKI)
  3. Fly Kota Kinabalau to Tawau (TWU)

China Southern Air

  1. Fly LAX to Guangzhou, China (CAN)
  2. Fly Guangzhou to Kuala Lumpur (KUL)
  3. Fly Kuala Lumpur to Tawau TWU)

Cathay Pacific/ Malaysia Air

  1. Fly Los Angeles to Hong Kong (HKG)
  2. Fly Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur
  3. Fly Kuala Lumpur to Tawau

Malaysia Airlines

  1. Fly Los Angeles to Taipei (TPE)
  2. Fly Taipei to Kuala Lumpur
  3. Fly Kuala Lumpur to Tawau

Singapore Airlines/Malaysia Airlines

  1. Fly Los Angeles to Singapore (SIN)
  2. Fly Singapore to Kota Kinabalu
  3. Fly Kota Kinabalu to Tawau

BUT….I live on the East Coast of the US?

No problems…….we go either way!

 

Sipadan Water Village (SWV) is simply one of my most favorite places on earth. But don’t worry! You’ll get, as always, an honest review of the place. Yep, it’s definitely a schlep to get to; halfway around the world if you live in the US like I do. But to me, getting there is half the fun. If you don’t believe me, check out my ebook on the subject at http://www.live-adventurously.com/adventure-store/ . At any rate, this place is extremely romantic, definitely cultural and out of this world for diving. How can you resist an all over-water bungalow resort? And if you like sea snakes….well…EVEN BETTER!!

From www.swvresort.com

Sipadan Water Village is a resort beautifully constructed with Bajau architectural design. Part of the Mabul Island is also home to groups of Bajau fishermen who have built their traditional palm thatched houses.
The entire resort is built over water on stilts. In its design, Sipadan Water Village has achieved near utopia in its over-the-water layout, splendid water cottage accommodations with flowered sidewalks, wonderfully prepared Asian and Continental cuisine, and impeccable and personable service.

Overall Feel of Sipadan Water Village

SWV has only 45 chalets and as mentioned, not only are all the rooms over the water but the entire resort is built on stilts off the sheltered side of Mabul Island. At night the lights of the resort shine into the brilliant blue water and I can watch the fish swim around. It’s quiet, only the sound of flip flops on the wood walkways. At the bar, you might hear music from an underwater video or a few people bellied up at the bar. If it’s nightlife you want, go elsewhere but if it’s absolutely world class diving in the remote Celebes Sea you’ve found it!

It’s an easy 30 minute circumnavigation of the island of Mabul which has two small villages kind of smushed together as one. The people are friendly and there are a gazillion children and it’s fun to walk over and hang out with them. I learned a couple of cool new games from the kids including a variation on marbles and a jumping game which involves keeping a flipflop between your knees. This is the kind of place Mabul Island and Sipadan Water Village are.

Resort Spec Highlights

  1. 45 bunaglows
  2. 1 restaurant
  3. 1 bar
  4. On site dive center
  5. world class diving right off the dock
  6. Incredible friendly staff
  7. Peace and quiet
  8. One masseuse as a last resort only
  9. All inclusive

Beach

The resort does not really have a beach. The beach on the island of Mabul is used by the villagers and would not be appropriate for taking a towel and playing out. There are many boats off the beach which are actually lived on as the villagers closest to the resort come from the Bajau tradition, a culture of sea gypsies. You can swim, snorkel and dive off the dock at the dive center. There is no pool at SWV.

Snorkeling

You can snorkel off the dock at the resort and snorkel to your hearts content around and under the resort pilings. It’s very interesting snorkeling and you can find everything from lionfish to sea snakes and crocodile fish to mandarianfish in just a few feet of water. At low tide the coral under the resort is just about exposed meaning the water is VERY shallow so you need to be careful and know if the tide is going out or in. Alternately the highest tides bring the water just a foot or two below the wood pathways of the resort. You can also join the dive boat to Sipadan Island (extra fee) and snorkel on some of the most pristine coral in the world.

The reefs of Mabul are known more for muck style diving and so the coral is not prolific and there is lots of sand. But you can find really cool stuff in the sand if you look! If you want beautiful corals, Sipadan is the only place in the area as it is an oceanic island away from the shore.

Bars and Restaurants

There is only one restaurant at the resort and it is all inclusive so you won’t find any prices listed which is a nice way to not worry about spending more on your dive trip. All meals are buffet with a number of different stations. So if you abhore buffets, you may have a problem here. There is a salad station, a dessert and fruit area, hot pans with both Asian and Contintental food and a grill station at which you can find everything from hamburgers to tempura to spicy pasta. If you are at the resort for more than a couple of weeks, the food may get tiresome but I like the ease of in and out and no waiting for plated service. This works well if you have a group.

While there is technically bar service at the restaurant, you will need to ask for it as most people I noticed didn’t drink at meals. But if you want something, they will be happy to arrange it.

There is one bar on the property which is fine as it’s a small property and more than one is definitely not needed. It’s open from around noon until the last person leaves. There are about 10 bar stools and then some comfy chairs and couches along with a TV for movies (no regular TV service) or you can plug in your video and show the underwater footage you shot that day. There is an internet station also in the bar but the service is so slow as it’s usually unusable. Free wifi if you are lucky enough to get a signal.

The bar serves all types of mixed drinks as well as beer and wine. Wine is only available by the bottle and is limited to only two or three kinds. I just plan into my finances a bottle a day for the two of us to share and chalk up $30. It is such a homey atmosphere that none of these little issues cause anyone any real concern.

Spa

If you are looking for a spa type resort, this is not the place for you. There is one masseuse on duty and for $30 (yes, this price seems to be a theme!) she will come to your room. She is a 70 year old woman from the local village who doesn’t have a lot of strength nor does she have a table or probably any formal training. She lays you down on the lounge chair on your deck and does her best. She would make a wonderful subject for a National Geographic photo shoot and she is as kind as can be.

Accommodations

SWV has four levels of chalets. The junior suites are the smallest at 552 sq. ft. They share a deck and are definitely older looking and feeling. Unless specifically requested I do not book these accommodations. Sometimes they are specifically requested since they are within about 10 steps of the dive shop and divers who have lots of gear to carry back and forth or want to be ready to jump on the boat at a moments notice prefer these.

The next level up is the standard bungalow which is considerably larger at 714 sq. ft. There are a couple of these which are semi-detached but I prefer the completely separate units of which there are 29, the majority of the resort. These have a large bedroom area, separate large bathroom with shower (no tub) and a fantastic deck! The folding doors on two sides of the bungalow fold out to give a real open air feel to the place. However, if you do open everything up you lose a little bit of privacy.

The Deluxe chalets are bigger yet at 1068 sq ft and these two units have bathtubs and larger everything.

Finally the Grand Deluxe (4) are the most opulent with their own private hot tub, not a jacuzzi tub but a true hot tub.

The higher the level of accommodation, the longer your walk. The Junior Suites are very close to the dive shop, main building with reception and the bar and the separate palapa with the restaurant. On the far side of the main building the walkway goes in a long L shape with the Grand Deluxe Chalets at the end with the most privacy and the longest walk if you forget something on the way to the dive boat.

Snakes

I must mention the snakes. It is certainly something that makes SWV unique. There is a very healthy population of sea snakes in the area and at times they slither up into the resort. It is always a good idea to check for snakes. They are found most often in and around the junior suites and around rooms 109-113. They especially come up during times of high tide. I never did find one in my room but I found three one night in the
bathroom at the bar and one under the couch near the TV. We took brooms and basically swept them out and back into the water. What’s a vacation without a little sea snake action!!

PS: Oh yes, they also like the dive gear and camera storage rooms!

Overall

Sipadan Water Village is so unique that you can’t help but fall in love with it. The super sweet staff, the divemaster team and the local village color make it unforgettable. It is not five star luxury given the buffet style meals and lack of spa services. But it has an amazing charm that will sweep you off your feet. And the prices are reasonable as well.

Browse the SWV website for pricing and more at www.swvresort.com or contact us for an all inclusive, guided adventure with Sharkman and Mantagirl.

Sipadan Water Village Dive Operation

SWV has a very nice dive operation. When you arrive you do a check out dive which is normal operating procedures. You can simply jump in off the dock. Once that’s done your name is put on the big board listed under a particular boat and DM which will change every day. There are a few different dive areas and you will have the opportunity to visit them all during your trip.

Facility

They have a great set up at SWV for diving. When you walk into the dive area the first thing you notice is that it’s HUGE. There are six or eight picnic style tables where you can sit and wait, drink a cup of coffee or have a slice of warm cake from the warmer right there at the shop. A large white board displays all of the daily diving activity who is in which boat, departure time and destination as well as night diving activities. There is plenty of room for everyone to hang out, work on camera gear or brag about their dive exploits!

There is a large gear room for hanging your BCD and regulator (this is the one the snakes like!) and a separate room with lockers for you to lock up your mask, fins, weight belt and hang your wetsuit. The funniest thing is that you store your key (with the locker number on it) on the wall outside the gear room. I’ve never had problems with gear going missing.

There are also bathrooms (though rarely TP) at the dive area as well as plenty of outdoor showers and rinse tanks. The staff rig all your gear in the morning and carry the tanks to and from the boats.

There are four separate camera gear rooms which are available to rent for $5/day if you don’t want to schlep your camera back and forth to your room. Remember it’s a long walk from the Deluxe rooms!

Boats

The boats work pretty well for the area though in rough seas you’ll want to sit as far back as possible in the boat to keep your kidneys in working order. But except for Si Amil Island, the longest ride is only about 20 minutes.

The boats hold about eight divers each which makes the groups small and each boat has a DM and a driver. Boats are equipped with the necessary emergency equipment and some boats are definitely faster than others. Since we return to the dock after every dive (except Sipadan and Si Amil) there is no need to have lots of storage space for dry bags etc… All gear is stowed under the bench style seats (with cushions) and pre-rigged tanks are in the bow.

The Diving Operation

I would not necessarily give the DMs at SWV the highest marks for dive briefings BUT I would give them a 10+ on critter finding. They are simply amazing and I say that as an instructor with 7500 dives. They can find anything..well almost…I’m still looking for a mimic octopus! They all carry metal pointers to point out camouflaged critters along the way. And with the exception of one DM (who was no longer there during my most recent trip) they are all happiest when they are in the water. This means that they don’t have DM attitude, they want to be in the water finding you critters. These are DMs who spend their time looking through the ID books and continue to find more and more rare inhabitants of the sea. These are the DMs I would hire if I were to open my own dive resort!

*A note about diving Sipadan*

Most people come expressly to dive at Sipadan which is a UNESCO world heritage protected side. Because of it’s protected status, the government limits the number of divers daily to the island and split that between the local dive operators. While they never guarantee you will dive there, they typically get you out there 3 days per week. But the other dive sites have totally cool stuff so I’m never disappointed.

Safety and Environment

Unfortunately most of the people in the areas around Borneo do not have enough respect for the ocean to keep from using it as a trash receptacle. Especially when leaving mainland Borneo for the 40 minute ride to Mabul the trash in the water is unbelievable. With that said, the staff at SWV are committed to the environment and also spend a week each year teaching marine conservation to the local villages on the island. I feel that the DMs were very conscientious about their marine practices.

I feel that SWV also does a great job making sure their program is safe and the operation runs smoothly.

Overall

What can I say? I will return to SWV at every chance I have to dive these waters and be in the company of the Malaysian and Filipino people and these great critter finding divemasters. They make me feel at home and have a wonderful sense of hospitality. I keep in touch by email and FB with staff from the resort and look forward to my next trip…and perhaps THIS time a mimic octopus!