Sipadan is the only oceanic island in Malaysia, rising 600 metres (2,000 ft) from the seabed. It is located in the Celebes Sea off the east coast of Sabah, East Malaysia (which is on the island of Borneo). It was formed by living corals growing on top of an extinct volcanic cone that took thousands of years to develop. Sipadan is located at the heart of the Indo-Pacific basin, the centre of one of the richest marine habitats in the world. More than 3,000 species of fish and hundreds of coral species have been classified in this ecosystem. Sipadan has been rated by many dive journals as one of the top destinations for diving in the world.
Frequently seen in the waters around Sipadan: green and hawksbill turtles (which mate and nest there), enormous schools of barracuda in tornado-like formations as well as large schools of big-eye trevally, and bumphead parrotfish. Pelagic species such as manta rays, eagle rays, scalloped hammerhead sharks and whale sharks also visit Sipadan.
A turtle tomb lies underneath the column of the island, formed by an underwater limestone cave with a labyrinth of tunnels and chambers that contain many skeletal remains of turtles that become lost and drown before finding the surface.
In the past, the island was at the center of a territorial dispute between Malaysia and Indonesia. The matter was brought for adjudication before the International Court of Justice and, at the end of 2002, the Court awarded the island along with the island of Ligitan to Malaysia, on the basis of the "effective occupation" displayed by the latter's predecessor (Malaysia's former colonial power, the United Kingdom) and the absence of any other superior title. The Philippines had applied to intervene in the proceedings on the basis of its claim to Northern Borneo, but its request was turned down by the Court early in 2001. On April 23, 2000, 21 people were kidnapped by the Filipino Islamist terrorist group Abu Sayyaf. The armed terrorists arrived by boat and forced 10 tourists and 11 resort workers at gun point to board the vessels and brought the victims to Jolo. All victims were eventually released.
In his film Borneo: The Ghost of the Sea Turtle (1989) Jacques Cousteau said, "I have seen other places like Sipadan, 45 years ago, but now no more. Now we have found an untouched piece of art."
- Here you can see the turtles of Sipadan. It was filmed by Christoph Brüx
- Fabio Spadi (2003) "Pulau Ligitan and Pulau Sipadan: New Parameters for the Concept of Dependency in the Maritime Environment? The ICJ judgment of 17 December 2002",The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law 18: 295-310
- Sipadan Island Tourism Official Website
- Sipadan.com - Scuba Diving Photos, Videos and Local Information
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