The late Jacques Cousteau, the world-renowned oceanographer, described Sipadan Island as ‘an untouched piece of art’, while divers around the world voted it as one of the top five dive sites in the world.
Malaysia’s only oceanic island, it is very small – only 12ha. in size. A 25-minute walk is all that is required to circle the island on foot. As an oceanic island, it rises about 700 metres from the sea floor, attracting diverse marine life from the blackness of the open sea. Surrounded by crystal clear waters, this crown jewel is a treasure trove of some of the most amazing marine animals.
Declared a bird sanctuary in 1933 by the Colonial Government of North Borneo and re-gazetted in 1963 by the Malaysian Government, the dense vegetation on Sipadan Island supports a large variety of tropical birds which include sea eagles, kingfishers, sunbirds, starlings and wood pigeons. Exotic crustaceans including the amazing coconut crab roam the beaches and scurry among the undergrowth.
When diving here, encounters with turtles, resident schools of jacks, bumphead parrotfish and barracudas are almost assured around the tiny coral island.
Try to be part of an early-morning dive to Sipadan at the famous Barracuda Point. In the early hours of the morning, you are most likely to swim amongst big schools of swirling barracuda…
How to get there
The jump off point to Sipadan Island is Kota Kinabalu or Tawau.
Continue the journey by a 1-hour drive to Semporna town.
A 30-minute speedboat will take you to Mabul, which is the jump off point for Sipadan Island explorations.
Since last year, Sipadan has been turned into a sanctuary so accommodation is now only available on nearby islands like Mabul.
SOURCE: TOURISM MALAYSIA
Malaysian Food, 24 Hours A Day
Love eating and trying out an eclectic selection of new food?
Come to Malaysia and check out the variety of delectable dishes and a colourful array of foodstuff that is the result of the country’s multicultural population. Different states have different specialties but you can pretty much find everything everywhere!
Food is an integral part of the Malaysian culture and is available 24 hours a day! You’ll never fail to find a scrumptious spread of goodies to fit all budgets and tastes. For casual dining or just a snack, head on to the “mamak” food stalls or roadside stalls for local favourites at Very Low prices. There are also mid-range cafes which offer everything from Italian, Japanese, Malay, Indonesian, Thai, Tex-Mex, Mediterranean to Fusion food, and the usual fast-food outlets.
Fine dining restaurants are aplenty, especially in the big cities like Kuala Lumpur. You can find many great eateries in hotels too. Buffets are a popular offering, so check those out if you’re one for variety and great value for money.
Big Tip – Check out travel and lifestyle magazines (or even shopping receipts) for discount coupons which can save you heaps at assorted food places.
If you’re particularly fond of certain hotels e.g. Hilton, Renaissance and Shangri La, and their eateries, you can sign up for their special membership card which entitles you to free stays and amazing discounts on food and beverage e.g. up to 50% off the bill! Definitely the smart way to dine often at these otherwise expensive places. There’s absolutely no need to break the bank to indulge yourself and your loved ones.
The Madai Caves are an important place for harvesting birds’ nests. These nests are considered a delicacy and something of a medicine among the Chinese, and the export market is huge. The village at the entrance of the largest cave comes alive twice a year when the Idahan tribe comes to harvest the birds’ nests from various parts of the caves. It is a special communal event, almost like a festival. The harvesting is a dramatic event with the men risking their lives to pry precious nests from the cave roof. Nowadays, the harvesters are hired. The Idahans have held their rights to the Madai Caves for over 20 generations.
To visit the caves, permission must be obtained from the Idahan elders. Visitors may visit the District Office in Lahad Datu town to make prior arrangements for entrance permission.
The most valuable – and rarest – nests are the white ones, which can fetch RM2, 000 or more per kg.
How to get there
The caves are near the Lahad Datu-Tawau Highway. The turn-off is 69km from Lahad Datu. Watch out for the signpost that says ‘Gua Madai’. From the turn-off, it is 3km to the caves.
All buses between Lahad Datu and Semporna or Tawau will pass the turn-off to the caves. From here, you’ll be able to find a minivan to take you to the caves. But you might have to walk back out to the highway to catch your ride back.
These caves are between the towns of Lahad Datu and Semporna. As such, you would be day-tripping from either place where the full range of accommodation is available.