Pulau Sipadan Island Permits
Sipadan is one of the top 5 dive sites in the world. Sipadan is also covered with dense rainforest and host a variety of endemic birds.
Since 2005, all the resorts located on Sipadan island were relocated in order to help protecting this exceptional marine and land ecosystems.
Since then, visitors are brought by boat from resorts located on the nearby islands of Mabul, Kapalai, Mataking, etc.
In 2006, a permit quota system by was introduced whereby a visitor requires a permit for diving or snorkeling at Sipadan.
Please scroll down the page to understand better the Sipadan permit system.
Resorts and tour operators allocation of Sipadan island permits:
- Borneo Divers Mabul Resort: 14 permits
- Kapalai (Pulau Sipadan Resort): 14 permits
- Sipadan Water Village Resort: 14 permits
- Sipadan-Mabul Resort (with Mabul Water Bungalows): 14 permits
- Seaventures Dive Resort: 11 permits
- Celebes Explorer (Sipadan Liveaboard): 13 permits
- Mataking (The Reef Dive Resort): 7 permits
- Roach Reefs Resort: 6 permits
Budget Tour Operators
- Bharman Sipadan: 6 permits
- Borneo Jungle River Island Tours: 7 permits
- Scuba Junkie (Dive Semporna) (with Mabul Beach Resort): 7 permits
- North Borneo Dive: 7 permits
Understanding better the Sipadan permit system
Till the year 2004, most of the dive resorts in the area were based on Sipadan. There was not permit system and all the guest had to do was stay in one of the resorts and go on diving the whole day at Sipadan.
It was a wonderful time for divers but it was not sustainable for the island ecosystem. The studies of Marine Conservation Society and others clearly established that marine life was sustaining damage as a result of continuous encroachment and that the local marine ecosystem was unable to cope in the long term due the human interference.
In reaction to these warning signals, the Malaysian Government ordered that all the resorts on Sipadan Island shall be relocated by December 31, 2004. As a result, most resorts were shifted to the island Mabul and one to the island Kapalai. Later, on April 1, 2006, a system was introduced whereby a person required a permit for diving at Sipadan.
Approval of Sipadan Permits
The right to issue permits is vested with Sabah Parks. They issue 120 permits per day which is divided among only 12 dive resorts (as listed above). The number of permits each resort gets is based upon its size. One permit gives a diver the right to dive or visit Sipadan for one day.
However, everyone who stays at a resort does not automatically get a permit. The resort has to submit the names and other details of the guests to Sabah Parks for a permit to be issued.
Permits are compulsory only to dive or visit Sipadan island. Other islands do not have no such restrictions.
Who gets the Permit first?
During peak seasons, when the resorts are full, there could be as many as 600 guests in all the resorts together. 120 permits are obviously not sufficient for all of them. So, what system are the resorts using to distribute the available permits to guests?
Earlier, most of the resorts used the first-come first-served basis. According to this system, as soon as a diver books a room at that resort, he would be given the date(s) on which he can dive at Sipadan. Those, who did their booking first, benefitted by this procedure while latecomers rarely got an opportunity to dive. However, the process became chaotic as people often cancelled bookings or changed their dates.
Because of this, the resorts started using the rotation method to issue permits. This method, where permits are given without prioritizing, is simpler and less likely to create confusion. More or less every resort is nowadays relying on rotation scheduling. However, even this method does not guarantee everyone a slot to dive. When a guest stay is short (less than 3 nights), his chances of being able to dive are low. This is due to the fact that need full day to allow diving at Sipadan (usually not on arrival or departure day).
How to Increase your Chances to get a Sipadan Permit
You can increase your chances of getting a permit in the following ways:
- Stay longer at the resort.
- Book as early as possible.
- Avoiding peak seasons.
- Get a guaranteed permit for your length of stay.
- Fill the Sipadan Permit Purchase Form (if any).
- When arriving at the resort, inquire about Sipadan.
How to get extra Sipadan permit
If your stay is long enough, most resort will guarantee one Sipadan permit.
If you are looking for extra permit or even to dive most days at Sipadan, it is important to contact us to help you choose the right resort as there are many factors to take into accounts.
Plan longer Stays or Avoid Staying During the Peak Season
Since permits are distributed the rotation system, the longer you stay at a resort, the better your chances of getting a permit. It will take a few days for you to reach the head of the queue depending on the number of guests at the resort at a given time.
If you are ready to stay for 4D/3N or 5D/4N or 6D/5N, some resorts can officially guarantee a dive permit.
If you have financial or time constraints that do not allow you to stay long enough, another option is to plan your visit during low season. Since there will be less guests during low season, the resorts are bound to have plenty of permits available.
July and August is a peak season in Sipadan, and so are the Christmas and New Year period. Other peak seasons are the week of Easter holidays, the week of the Chinese New Year in February, the Golden Week which falls in May first week and the first week of October. The rest of the year is yours to choose from.
Advantages of booking early
There is no doubt that it is best to book your stay as early as possible. A lot of paperwork goes into the issuing of a permit, and this is something that cannot be hurried through.
Are the nearby islands good for diving?
Many visitors arrive with a focus on Sipadan. They overlook the fact there are amazing dive sites around the islands of Kapalai, Mabul, Mataking and Si Amil. These islands host rare and extraordinary macro marine life along with numerous sea turtles. If you ask any divemasters or instructors who stayed long term in the area, they will tell you that after a while they prefer the other islands around Sipadan. Sipadan which is better for pelagics and big fishes while nearby islands are more interesting because there are so many different rare marine species and colorful macro critters. So it is best to combine both Sipadan and the nearby islands.
When to Visit Sipadan?
You can dive at Sipadan any time of the year (there is no monsoon), even though the best season starts from March and continues till October. These are the dry season months which are good for visibility.