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Scuba Diving at Sipadan Island, Borneo
Dive Site: Barracuda Point
Location: Sipadan Island
Description: Reef / drift
Depth: 57 metres (187 feet)
Visibility: 30 metres (100 feet)
Wow! I have never seen so many fish in such large groups and in such close proximity to each other. Barracuda Point is quite simply a "must dive" if you visit Sipadan. It has a slightly different topography than the other deep walls of Sipadan. The drop off point for the boats is a sheer wall, however as you head towards the south this curves in over a ledge at around the 22m mark creating a sort of wide step like an underwater runway. If you follow this ledge around at the 20m mark, then it would seem to be a dead certainty that you'll see schools of white tip sharks. We had 3 dives on Barracuda Point and each one was stunning. As you drop in over the deep wall the proliferation of fish is nothing short of unbelievable. The coral wall has turtle after turtle in the top 10m and as you descend deeper, you are met by shoals of batfish, jacks and barracuda, numbering in their hundreds. One of the more unique sights was not just the sheer number of each species but the way the large shoals merged. Whilst primarily remaining in their own groups the edges of the shoals would integrate and the species mixed, due in part to the reef just not being big enough. On our first dive here we chose to follow the 22m ledge which proved a good plan as this was a resting place for schools of white-tips. We saw dozens in small clusters of about 6 - 8, as we drifted over them. Sometimes we would come too close for comfort and they would begrudgingly swim a short distance away before resettling (likely to be disturbed again by the divers behind us).
On our second dive here we decided to stay shallower and spent around 40 minutes of our dive above 10 metres. This also proved to be a good choice and we counted more than 50 turtles during the dive - proving that Sipadan simply is the Center of the turtle universe. At times I took photographs with 4 turtles in a single shot. These serene creatures were obviously used to divers, making them ideal for close-up photographs, although we were careful not to disturb them. If turtles are your thing, this is heaven. Towards the end of this dive and in just 6m of water we came across one of the most impressive and memorable things I have seen whilst diving - a ball of jacks spiralling from 6m to the surface. There were simply thousands, their silver bodies flashing as they twisted and caught the light from the surface. At one point they were actually spiralling around us encasing us in a giant swirling, living sphere. This is something I will never forget and what we didn't know at this stage is that the very next day we would find ourselves caught in an even denser ball, with even more jacks and this time with white-tip reef sharks circling the perimeter at a nearby dive site called Turtle Patch. The photographs I have of this phenomenon in no way do it justice and by no means illustrate the enormous number of fish involved, so it's lucky I videoed it too! This can now be seen on the Turtle Patch page.
Rik Vercoe, BSAC Advanced Instructor
The best dive site I've ever been to is Barracuda Point at Sipidan in Malaysia. This dive starts off as a slow drift, very deep along a wall. You hover in the blue, the wall just in sight straining to make out pelagics. As you approach the point proper, the water gets faster and faster and it becomes like a roller coaster as you are whipped around the point. Here at the fastest part of the dive is a school of thousands of barracuda. Eventually it all slows down and you offgass in the shallows of the coral garden. You'll see tens of turtles on every dive, giant schools of jacks, and everything from nudibranchs to hammerhead sharks!
One of the best dives ever! The reef is teeming with life. On the first dive here I entered the water to be greeted by a large shoal of humphead parrotfish. Turtles are so frequent - average 10 + per dive. At depth we saw 4 grey reef sharks and a zebra shark and also a large shoal of barracuda. And all in a 35 minute dive - amazing.
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