The only divers in Sipadan

Alone with the whole reef system to ourselves, we couldn’t believe our luck at being the only divers in Sipadan. Consistently voted one of the world’s top three dive sites, this unique experience is unknown. Most divers, even professionals, never get the chance to see this extraordinary place with no-one else in the water.

Perhaps this was our reward for enduring almost two years of lockdown?

the only divers in Sipadan

Closed borders and lockdown

With SE Asia’s borders closed since March 2020, we have been limited to a tiny area of Sabah with next to no sailing or even inland travel. It’s been frustrating, at times depressing. But when Sabah announced the opening of inter-district travel and an easing of restrictions, hotels and resorts brushed off the dust and threw open their doors.

It seemed the perfect opportunity to go back to Sipadan and relive our 2020 adventure there.

The only divers in Sipadan
Turtle, remoras and Liz

The lack of tourism, although bad for Sabah’s people and the economy, has been fantastic for Borneo’s wildlife. The mountains and interior have been allowed to heal and grow, and with the reef untroubled for several seasons, life has flourished there too.

We’re the only people here

We had to pinch ourselves when we arrived and discovered no-one else was there. We will always be grateful for this incredible experience, undoubtedly the highlight of our cruising career so far.

We had close encounters with sharks, turtles, schooling jacks, bumphead parrotfish, baracuda and plenty of impressive reef fish.

The only divers in Sipadan
Bumphead parrotfish, about 1m from tip to tail
The only divers in Sipadan
Two dancing ribbon eels (see them in action in the video)

And from the world-renowned Kapala-Sipadan Dive Resort, we took in a cave dive, wreck dive and several night dives.

Sometimes this lockdown has its rewards.

wreck dive
cave dive
The only divers in Sipadan
Night diving with moray eels
Macro and Muck

This area is also famous for its “muck” diving, which may not sound appetising but is often the most interesting part of any dive. Tiny creatures come in every kind of shape, colour and texture, and when you look carefully can be seen in some of the least inviting places away from the reef.

Macro photography has become Jamie’s passion and you can see lots of his work under his own Instagram account. There are plenty more images in the video…

Nembrotha Cristata (one of hundreds of nudibranchs we saw)
Ornate ghost pipefish (Liz’s favourite)

The peacock mantis shrimp was one of the weirdest animals we came across. Its high front legs make it look like a conductor leading a fishy orchestra. But the most amazing fact is that its front “clubs” can punch at 50 mph (about the same acceleration as a 22-calibre bullet). It stuns its prey, but don’t get too close or it’ll stun you too!

Faster than a butterfly or bee.

This is just a taster of what we saw.

Watch the full video for plenty more video footage and lots of beautiful stills…

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Peace and fair winds!

Liz trying to camouflage as well as this turtle

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