How to Get to Sipadan

Have you heard about Sipadan? It is the only oceanic island in Malaysia, located in the Celebes Sea. It was voted one of top 5 diving places in the whole world, so it definitely is a place worth seeing. However, getting to Sipadan can be a little tricky; it would be a good idea to get as much information as possible before you start your trip. So, here are the things you need to know.

1. There is no Accommodation on the Island

Kapalai island with exotic tropical resort

The island of Sipadan has been declared a bird sanctuary and due to environmental protection, all resorts have been closed in 2004. This means that you can’t find any place to stay on the island. There are also no shops or restaurants, so make sure to bring food and water with you.

Seek accommodation on one of the nearby islands. Two closest islands are Kapalai and Mabul, 15 and 20 minutes away from Sipadan respectively. Further away are Mataking and Pom Pom islands, 1.5 hours and 2 hours away from Sipadan respectively. All islands offer a variety of accommodation, but I would surely recommend staying in a water villa, which is basically a bungalow above water. You can find detailed information about accommodation near Sipadan at this link.

2. Getting There

stilt houses in sipadan mabul kapalai resort

If you’re already located in one of the aforementioned islands, you can easily get to Sipadan by dive boat or speedboat. Dive boats depart every 20-30 minutes from the islands of Kapalai and Mabul, and every 1 – 2 hours from the islands of Mataking and Pom Pom. All speedboats depart from the town of Semporna on Malaysian Borneo. The trip from Semporna to Kapalai or Mabul lasts around 30 minutes; once there you can catch a dive boat to Sipadan.

Bear in mind that every person needs to have a permit to visit Sipadan, regardless of whether you are a diver or not. The permit costs 40 RM per person per day, which is around 13$, and can be obtained through your diving operator or the resort you’re staying in. Only licensed diving operators are allowed to dive on the island.

On the other hand, if you are not willing to stay on one of the islands near by, there are several other ways to get to Sipadan.

By Air

Malaysia Airlines flies to Kota Kinabalu every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. From there you can catch a daily connecting flight to Tuwau. Bear in mind that flights from Singapore usually come to Kota Kinabalu late in the evening, so you will have some time to kill before the flight to Tuwau. It is better to stay overnight in Kota Kinabalu, because the accommodation is better than in Tuwau, and then catch a morning flight to Tuwau. Air Asia flies daily directly from Kuala Lumpur to Tuwau.

By Bus

It is possible to catch a bus from Tuwau to Semporna, it departs from the station near the marketplace in Tuwau. However, be prepared for some waiting, the bus is usually late. You can also return from Semporna to Tuwau by bus.

By Taxi

If you feel like travelling on your own and you don’t like crowded buses, you can take a cab from Tuwau airport to Semporna. It will cost you around 80 RM, which is around 26$, but you can try to negotiate a lower price with the taxi driver.

Sipadan is truly a beautiful place and you should visit it at least once in your life. Now that you have all necessary information, you can plan your trip and enjoy all the beauties of Sipadan.

If you’ve already been to Sipadan, feel free to share your experience.

About the author


I’m a free spirit who likes to travel, cook and fly. Licensed paraglider pilot, I spend all my spare time flying. In the meantime, I like to share my recipes and travel experiences.

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