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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sipadan island, 1 of the must visit island in Asia

Long before anyone donned scuba diving equipment and jumped into the water, Pulau Sipadan was already recognised as something special. Above the waterline the island is only 30 acres (12 hectares) in area and is covered by untouched rainforest. In 1933, this tiny island was declared a bird sanctuary and at the end of 2004 was closed to tourists.

As Pulau Sipadan is a protected area and a site of outstanding natural beauty, we urge you to behave responsibly when you visit, and make sure to control your buoyancy when diving. There is a National Park levy of US$ 12 per person per day entrance fee.

Mabul - Sweet Little Sister

Mabul Island has historically played a supporting role its famous neighbour in Sabah, Sipadan Island. Since Mabul is considerably larger, and Pulau Sipadan is now protected from overnight stays, its profile has greatly increased and resort owners have been able to construct

a much higher standard of accommodation, albeit within the constraints of a remote getaway.

The island is covered in palm trees and fringed with fine beaches. Villagers live next door to the resorts and guests are free to stroll around the island, mingling with the locals. From Mabul Island, guests are taken the 25 to 30 minutes to Sipadan every day for diving. In addition they can dive the macro-world of Mabul, normally once a day.

In year 2004, the Government of Malaysia ordered all on-site dive and resort operators of Sipadan to move their structures out of the island by 31 December 2004. This move is mainly to conserve a balanced eco-system for Sipadan and its surrounding. Arguable, however, the private resort operators took far better care of the island than the Government has done.Diving will continue to be allowed in Sipadan for divers who are ferried in and out by dive and resort operators from the mainland and surrounding islands. However, tourists and keen divers should be warned that the number of permits availiable for Sipadan each day is limited to 120 spread between 12 resorts and allocated

by the local authorities using unknown criteria. For example, a resort such as the Sipadan-Mabul Resort (SMART) may have 70 guests on any given day and only 10 permits available. A visit to Sipadan is not only not guaranteed for guests at the resort, regardless of the length of stay, but it is highly unlikely for those who stay less than a week or who want to snorkel rather than dive. Please keep this in mind to avoid disappointment.

On May 15, 2006, a barge carrying thousands of tonnes of building material beached on the island, destroying a significant portion of reef between the old pier and Barracuda Point, said to be about 372sq metres

The purpose of the building supplies (mainly concrete and gravel) was apparently for a USD 1.3 million tourist facility including resthouse, toilets and scuba shop.

How to Get There

Flights - Boat Transfer
The recommended flight from Kota Kinabalu to Tawau leaves at 7:00 hrs and arrives at 7:45 hrs, with Malaysia Airlines (www.MalaysiaAirlines.comOpens in a new window). This is the flight most resorts favour and guests will be collected here and driven for around one hour to Semporna, where the resort boat will transfer you the 45 minutes to Mabul Island. Your diving will start in the afternoon.

Later flights are available but can cause problems with transfers and will almost certainly mean no diving on the first day. Air Asia (www.AirAsia.comOpens in a new window) is free-seating and Malaysia Airlines is not. Both have emergency exit seats with acres of leg-room. For Air Asia you need to be at the front of the queue to secure one of these.

There are direct flights from Kuala Lumpur to Tawau (07:20-10:05) and from Johor Bahru to Tawau (07:50-10:35) with Air Asia - there may be transfers available to meet these flights but you are still not guaranteed diving on the first day. Malaysia Airlines has a later flight (13:15-14:00), but this will probably mean an overnight in Semporna and pick up from your hotel at 08:00 hrs. Semporna has a couple of hotels such as the Dragon Inn and the Seafest Hotel.

Due to the dangers of flying after diving, some Mabul resorts may require you to sign a waiver. This is because some guests want to squeeze in as many dives as possible regardless of the risks. Guests who will be flying within 24 hours after departure from the resorts may be subject to diving restrictions on the last day.

Flights back from Tawau are Malaysia Airlines to Kota Kinabalu (14:40-15:25 hrs or 21:00-21:45 hrs). If you do not wish to stay overnight in Kota Kinabalu, you can fliy direct to Kuala Lumpur with Air Asia (10:30-13:15 hrs or 21:00-21:45 hrs) or back to Johor Bahru (11:10-13:45 hrs).

Note - flight times are subject to change. Please refer to the airline web sites to check for changes and for booking information.

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