The internationally famous island of Sipadan lies 5 degrees north of the equator on the northern margin of the Sulawesi Sea. A mere 35km south of the town of Semporna in the State of Sabah on the mainland, it barely covers 12 hectares. Like any tropical island, it is thickly forested and surrounded by sandy beaches, but there, the similarities end. Sipadan is Malaysia's only oceanic island and was formed by living coral growing on top of an extinct undersea volcano, an isolated column of rock rising defiantly 600 to 700m from the sea floor 10km south of the continental shelf.

A dramatic feature of Sipadan's underwater paradise is its precipitous reef walls, for which the island is justifiably famous among divers who have been there. The 'Drop-Off' is literally steps away from the beach at the northern end of the island, where the shallow sand gives way suddenly to a vertical wall 600m deep that is rich in marine life and delightful for macro photography. The marine life is prolific. More than 200 species of fish have been recorded and over 70 genera of coral, placing the area on a par with Australia's Great Barrier Reef in terms of species diversity.

Thousands of residential Bigeye Trevally and Barracuda shoal in spectacular formations. Hundreds of Batfish and ever increasing numbers of Humphead Parrotfish are now so accustomed to divers that many approach them inquisitively. At least nine different varieties of clownfish inhabit the colourful sea anemones here. Add the rich coral growth, huge sea fans and gigantic barrel sponges in deeper water, Pulau Sipadan is without doubt special for divers and underwater photographers.


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