When it comes to Southeast Asia, there is one word that comes to mind – archipelago. The region of Southeast Asia is unique in itself simply because it consists of over 15,000 different islands. Even better, each island offers its own uniqueness and a beautiful view of the surrounding vast ocean. Each one of them is also home to different locals who have turned the island into their very own backyard and make it into their primary source of livelihood. With islands being one of the region’s richest and most unique appeal, it makes sense to tap into these natural landmasses and turn them into a paradise on earth. Indeed, there is much to see from the islands of Southeast Asia – the lush forest, the scenic ocean view, the pristine beach and the beautiful inhabitants of both the island’s forest and ocean ecosystem. As for tourist, the proliferation of islands allows for one more favourite pastime – island hopping.
Bird's eye view of Mabul Island.
Experience the many charms and the different attractions of Sipadan Island and its neighbouring islands as you make your way around the brilliant Celebes Sea. Be surprised to find that each island is more than meets the eye. Let us explore some of the many islands in the surrounding Celebes Sea that you definitely do not want to miss:
Mabul Island is a prime diving and snorkelling destination for you diving enthusiasts out there. This beautiful fishing island became popular due to its proximity to Sipadan Island but that is not the only thing Mabul Island offers. With two villages in the island (Kampung Mabul and Kampung Musu), the area makes for an excellent culinary journey as you get to dine in the local delicacy prepared specially for you by the local professionals. What’s more, you will be able to witness just how local fishermen start their day and how they haul in their catch for the day. Your journey in Mabul Island will be an eye-opening experience with plenty of cultural immersion as you try out different local food and learn of the local livelihood.
The local villagers on Mabul Island. (Image Credit: Flickr//Jarrod Hawthorne)
Of course, as a popular diving destination, Mabul Island offers a wonderful diving experience as well. Unveil the hidden underwater world of the Celebes Sea as you swim around with spike-fin gobby, giant frogfish and flamboyant cuttlefish found around the water. Do spare the time to also explore the beautiful reefs decorating the seabed. In the meantime, do exercise caution and refrain yourself from touching any toxic sea creatures such as the blue-ringed octopus.
Bum Bum Island
Unlike Mabul and Sipadan Island, Bum Bum Island is not a diving destination. This being the case, the fact does not detract tourists from visiting the island for some local experience as well. With a population of 20,000 to 30,000 people, you will be able to get your fair share of local exposure and cultural experience during your time in Bum Bum Island. Find out more on how local people utilise the richness of the sea to make ends meet as they go about settings sails early in the morning. Once they haul in their catch for the day, they will sell their fishes at the nearby city of Semporna before getting back onto their boat and heading back home.
Twenty minutes away from the island is the Tun Sakaran Marine Park which houses one of the most diverse marine species in all of Malaysia. It is home to at least 528 species of reef fish, 240 species of marine invertebrate, 70 species of soft coral and 6 species of seagrass. With its rich biodiversity and beautiful seascape, this pristine marine park is sure to impress and surprise you with many of its amazing secrets so be sure to not miss out on it!
Sibuan Island is an untouched paradise overlooking the Celebes Sea.
Before Sipadan becomes as famous as it is today, it was Sibuan Island that was first known to possess one of the most beautiful sea view overlooking the Celebes Sea. Located next to the church reef, Sibuan Island’s untouched and pristine beaches and primary forests is the primary driver behind its renowned beauty. Whether you are there for a dive, snorkel or for a simple family picnic, you will find that Sibuan Island is hard to beat when it comes to ocean splendour.
Beachgoers and divers will be happy to know that the water in Sibuan Island is safe for some quick dip. Explore the underwater world of the island as you behold a whole new marine world as you have never seen before. When you are not out at sea, kick back and relax by the beach as you bask yourself under the sun and enjoy the warm sunlight in this tropical beach.
The Bajau Laut are local people who have made homes over stilted houses in the area.
There is also a small community of Bajau Laut (sea gipsies) living in and around Sibuan Island. Their nomadic, seafaring way of life will give you a breath of fresh air as they show you just how homely the seemingly unmerciful sea can be. While some of the community members have settled permanently on land (Bajau Darat), there is still an upward estimate of 3,000 sea gipsies living in the vicinity of Sibuan Island. It might also surprise you that they have always lived their life close to the sea with their houses made out of wooden houseboats or stilt huts built atop coral reefs. With so much of their life revolving around the sea, it is not an exaggeration to dub them as the “master of the ocean”.
You can learn and discover so much more aside from just diving and snorkelling around Sipadan Island. Be sure to include some island hopping and island exploration into your travel itinerary as you make room for a much more fulfilling travel experience in Sipadan.