The island nation of Indonesia straddles the equator between the Indian and Pacific Oceans and lies at the heart of the ‘Coral Triangle’ - the epicentre of the world’s marine biodiversity. Nowhere on ...
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Situated at the northern tip of Borneo is the Malaysian state of Sabah, home to some of South East Asia’s most exciting diving experiences as well as incredible opportunities to explore ancient rainforests. With its easy access and well-established tourism industry, Sabah easily ranks as one of Asia’s top tourist destinations.
Best time to visit: Best season March to November
Sabah lies deep within the Coral Triangle and as such, it’s seas are host to a fabulously rich assortment of marine life - from healthy coral reefs and amazing macro critters to schooling barracudas, pelagics and of course, the famous turtles. In fact, Sabah’s marine environments are amongst the richest on the planet. The state’s forests and mountains - including the famous Gunung Kinabalu, Danum Valley and Maliau Basin - are equally diverse and are home to a extraordinary collection of plants, insects, birds, reptiles and mammals.
Sabah’s amazing natural heritage makes for some unique adventure opportunities - visitors can dive with sharks, turtles and schooling fish one day, then head to the jungle to search for orangutans, pygmy elephants and proboscis monkeys the next.
Just a few kilometres from Kota Kinabalu - Sabah’s gateway city - is the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park, a collection of picture perfect tropical islands lined by white sand beaches and shallow reefs. The park is a great place to do a dive course or brush up on your skills before heading off to some of Sabah’s more demanding dive destinations, and between February and April, whale sharks regularly pass through the area - time your visit and you might be lucky enough to see one of these giants of the sea on your very first open water dive!
The real draw on Sabah’s west coast lies a lot further offshore - 300km away to be precise. Here, in the deep waters of the South China Sea, lies the atoll of Layang Layang. This remote reef is a mecca for divers in search of one of the ocean’s more enigmatic predators - scalloped hammerhead sharks. Their regular appearance means that Layang Layang is one of the few places in the world were encounters with hammerheads is almost guaranteed. But even without the sharks, the atoll’s dramatic reefs, schooling fish, manta and devil rays, stunning visibility and dolphin and whale sightings, make it an incredible destination, one that should rank highly on every divers bucket list.
On Sabah’s east coast lie sheltered bays, coral fringed islands and some of Sabah’s best diving destinations. From Sandakan, visitors can head out into the Sulu Sea to peaceful Lankayan Island where they can explore some interesting shallow reefs and wrecks as well as hunt for macro subjects - including an unusual giant jaw fish. Close by are the islands of Selingan, Bakkungan and Gulisan which are part of the Turtle Islands National Park. This area is an important nesting area for hawksbill and green turtles and visitors to Lankayan or the Turtle Islands have a very good chance of seeing turtles nesting on the beaches at night.
South of the Tun Sakaran Marine Park and accessible from the local town of Semporna lie Sabah’s most well-known diving destinations - the islands of Mabul, Kapalai and Sipadan. Lying in deeper water off the continental shelf and some 45 minutes by boat from nearby islands, Sipadan is THE place in Sabah to encounter green and hawksbill turtles, swirling tornadoes of barracudas and jackfish, coral-munching bumphead parrotfish, whitetip and grey reef sharks and clouds of colourful reef fish. Throw in the occasional scalloped hammerhead in the deep water off the reef, devil and manta rays, the occasional whale shark or thresher shark and the steep walls festooned with corals, and you have one the best dive destinations in the world.
Lying much closer to the mainland in the shallow waters of the continental shelf is the island of Mabul and the sandbar that is home to Kapalai. These two locations are perfect bases to dive Sipadan, but are also fantastic dive locations in their own right, being home to a wide variety of muck critters and reef species, as well as colourful corals and interesting artificial reef structures.
Sabah’s capital city of Kota Kinabalu - known simply as KK - is the main entry point for most visitors and one that is fast becoming an important hub for flights across the region. Guests can fly in directly from Japan, Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines and Taiwan, and from the rest of the world via Kuala Lumpur.
Once in Sabah, guests can fly across to Sandakan or Tawau to visit the islands and nature reserves of the east coast. For those with a little more time, buses run regularly services up and across the Crocker Range and past Mt Kinabalu, then to the east coast. Visitors can also head up to the northern tip of Borneo or to the interior around Tenom and Keningau - the heartland of Sabahan Kadazan-Dusun culture.
Sabah is nicknamed the ‘Land Below the Wind’, referring to its location just south of the typhoon belt to the north. Any tropical storms that develop in the Pacific Ocean track towards the Philippines, sparing Sabah the full force of these storms. However, Sabah will sometimes catch the tail end of any bad weather and as such, can get some rough seas and winds in the main typhoon season, particularly in August. The east coast can also experience storms in the middle of the wet season, especially in January.
Sabah has a typical equatorial climate - air temperatures are normally 27-32C, humidity is high and the sea temperatures are 26-29C, with some colder upwellings in deeper water. Sabah doesn’t have a well defined monsoon such as that of South Asia. Instead it typically rains all year round with more rain in the Northeast wet season between November and March, and less in the Southwest ‘dry’ season. On the west coast, the wet season typically starts a little earlier and January and February can already be dry. But be prepared for rain whatever time of year you visit.
The 8 day, 7 night package gives you 2 full days diving at Sipadan and to make the most of these days, Scuba Junkie schedules 4 dives on an extended day trip. And with only 4 guests per dive guide, you can enjoy the turtles, schooling fish and sharks without the crowds. Guests can choose from ensuite fan, AC or VIP rooms.