Sipadan (Malay: Pulau 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, Malaysia. 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 400 species of fish and hundreds of coral species have been classified in this ecosystem. Sipadan Island was at the top of Rodale's Scuba Diving Magazine Gold List for 'The Top Dive Destination in the World'. In fact it shared its top spot with 2 other destinations known for the diversity of their marine life — the Galápagos Islands and Truk in Micronesia.
Location of Sipadan Island in Darvel Bay of Celebes Sea
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. Visiting Sipadan Island requires a permit issued by Sabah Parks, a Sabah Government agency. Since 2019, there are 178 permits available each day. Sipadan Island will be closed from 1st December until 31st December 2020 for 'Marine Life Recuperation'. It will open again to tourism operations from 1st January 2021.
In the past, the island was at the centre 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 their claim to Northern Borneo, but their request was turned down by the Court early in 2001.
The island was declared a bird sanctuary in 1933 by the colonial government of North Borneo and re-gazetted in 1963 by the Malaysian government. In the 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".
Filipino militant attacks
On 23 April 2000, 21 people were kidnapped by the Filipino Moro pirate group Abu Sayyaf. The armed terrorists arrived by boat, forcing 10 tourists and 11 resort workers to board the vessels at gunpoint, after which they brought the victims to Jolo. All of the victims were eventually released. As a result of the attacks, the island management together with Ligitan was put under the Malaysian National Security Council (NSC).
On 8 July 2019, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has agreed in principle to return the management of both islands from the NSC back to the Sabah government under Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry with the takeover will be done once the federal Cabinet approving the request.
- 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
- "The Court finds that sovereignty over the islands of Ligitan and Sipadan belongs to Malaysia". International Court of Justice. 17 December 2002. Archived from the original on 9 April 2014. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
- "Sipadan Island". Tourism Malaysia. Retrieved 23 May 2014.
- "Cousteau Theatrical Films and Television Programs" (PDF). Cousteau Society. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
- "Diving Sites [A Brief History of Pulau Sipadan]". Semporna District Council. Archived from the original on 16 February 2009. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
- Durie Rainer Fong (8 July 2019). "Sabah govt to take charge of Sipadan Island". Free Malaysia Today. Archived from the original on 28 July 2019. Retrieved 28 July 2019.
- "Sipadan, Ligitan to come under Sabah in consensus by MA63 committee". Free Malaysia Today. 19 August 2019. Archived from the original on 22 August 2019. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
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