August, 2002
April, 2003
The region combining mainly waters of Sulu Sea and Celebes sea and surrounded by Borneo, Sulawesi and Philippines harbours the richest variety of marine species in the world. WWF identified this area as Sulu-Sulawesi marine ecoregion - the global center of marine biodiversity. There are many good dive sites in the region, but in my opinion the two most exciting spots are Sipadan Island (East Borneo) and North Sulawesi (including Lembeh strait and a few islands approachable from Manado). There are a few other dive spots in the world that are more scenic but nowhere else you can find such concentration of various species that are within minutes reach from the same resort.

Sipadan Island / Kapalai / Mabul

Sipadan island became wold famous after Jacques Yves-Cousteau's famous documentary. Sipadan is a small island that is actually a tip of the very tall mushroom-like pinnacle. It has fantastic drop-offs that are often under negative angle.

Turtles can be seen literally everywhere. Schools of hundreds to thousands of chevron barracudas and jacks (Bigeye trevally) are very common. I have seen huge schools of barracudas and jacks in Myanmar, Galapagos and Papua New Guinea, but nothing were like those around Sipadan. There are lots of white tip sharks, some gray reef and leopard sharks.
Besides large animals, Sipadan is also rich in macro subjects. Night dives are fantastic especially for crustaceans (you should be careful at night because of negative drop-off).
Recently the decision has been made to close all resorts on Sipa
dan. Currently only day visits to the island are allowed. Fortunately, there are alternative places to stay and dive. Kapalai resort and Mabul island are only about 20 minutes away and have some of the best macro dive sites I have visited.

Kapalai resort is unique: an array of spacious wooden houses with large balconies are built on wooden piles on top of the reef, mainly covered with water (only a small stripe of sand is exposed during low tide). Water is everywhere - it feels like you are on a boat but without annoying motion sickness. Even from your balcony you can observe a lot of underwater action - batfish, hunting barracudas, octopi etc. The houses are linked by long wooden bridges, connecting you to the restaurant, jetty and the dive station... Diving is good even under the houses. Mandarinfish can be seen just five meters away from the jetty.
Mabul lsland, which is 15 minutes from Kapalai, has some great dive spots as well. Altogether these three islands offer an amazing variety of marine species and can easily satisfy those who like big stuff and those macro freaks... just like me
Batfish / Spadefish Bigeye trevally - Caranx sexfasciatus Bumphead parrotfish
Bolbometopon muricatum
Blackfin / Chevron barracuda
Sphyraena qenie
Star puffer
Arothron stellatus
Gorgonian sea fan
Annella sp.
Coral catshark
Atelomycterus marmoratus
Yellow boxfish
Ostracion cubicus
Leafy filefish
Chaetoderma penicilligera
Seagrass filefish
Acreichthys tomentosus
Ornate ghost pipefish
Solenostomus paradoxus
Ornate ghost pipefish
Solenostomus paradoxus
Ornate ghost pipefish
Solenostomus paradoxus
Ornate ghost pipefish
Solenostomus paradoxus
Solenostomus sp.
Aulostomus chinensis
Scribbled pipefish
Corythoichthys intestinalis
Aeoliscus strigatus
Urchin cling fish
Diademichthys lineatus
Blue ribbon eel
Rhinomuraena quaesita
Spotted garden eel
Heteroconger hassi
Splendid garden eel
Gorgasia preclara
Whitespotted garden eel
Gorgasia maculata
Giant frogfish
Antennarius commersonii
Giant frogfish
Antennarius commersonii
Giant frogfish
Antennarius commersonii
Painted frogfish
Antennarius cf. pictus
Warty clown frogfish
Antennarius maculatus
Warty clown frogfish
Antennarius maculatus
Leaf scorpionfish
Taenianotus triacanthus
Leaf scorpionfish
Taenianotus triacanthus
Tassled scorpionfish
Scorpaenopsis oxycephala
Beaufort's crocodilefish
Cymbacephalus beauforti
Synanceia verrucosa
Synanceia verrucosa
Lionfish - Pterois cf. volitan Shortfin lionfish
Dendrochirus brachypterus
Flying gurnard
Dactyloptena sp.
Ocellated flounder
Pseudorhombus dupliciocellatus
Flounder Zebra sole - Zebrias sp. Orange anemonefish
Amphiprion sandaracinos
Synchiropus splendidus
Striped poison-fang blenny
Meiacanthus grammistes
Spotted prawn goby
Amblyeleotris guttata
Blue-streak / Blueband goby
Valenciennea strigata
Beaufort's crocodilefish - Cymbacephalus beauforti Coral catshark
Atelomycterus marmoratus
Mantis shrimp Spearer mantis shrimp
Lysiosquillina lisa
Bumblebee shrimp
Gnathophyllum americanum
Emperor shrimp
Periclimenes imperator
Leander plumosus Palaemonella pottsi Cleaner shrimp - Urocaridella sp.
White-banded cleaner shrimp
Lysmata amboinensis
Thor amboinensis Skeleton shrimp - Caprella sp. Hermit crab
Trizopagurus strigatus
Majid crab
Hoplophrys oatesii
Commensal shrimp
Latreutes anoplonyx
Swimming crab in jellyfish Square crab
Quadrella maculosa
Arrowhead crab Spider crab - Naxioides taurus Spider crab
Achaeus spinosus
Spider Crab
Xenocarcinus conicus
Flamboyant cuttlefish
Metasepia pfefferi
Bobtail squid - Euprymna berryi Reef octopus - Octopus cyanea Flatworm
Pseudoceros ferrugineus
Chromodoris annae Chromodoris dianae Chromodoris leopardus Chromodoris coi
Chromodoris geometrica Hypselodoris cf. bullocki Nembrotha cristata Nembrotha kubaryana
Halgerda batangas Nembrotha lineolata Nembrotha milleri Roboastra luteolineata
Atagema intecta Thecacera sp.
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