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Scuba Diving in Malaysia > Dive Sites > Semporna group of island

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Some idyllic but mostly uninhabited island, off the town of Semporna in southeastern Sabah, have an underwater species diversity alleged to be on par with that of Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Being on the continental shelf, the surrounding waters of these islands are relatively shallow, wit a maximum depth of a mere 25m. There are two groups if island present: the Ligitan group and the more important Gaya group.

Semporna, a very small but lively town, renowned for its cheap and delicious seafood, is the gateway to these islands. Mostly populated by fisherfolk of Filipino and Indonesia origin, their shanty hamlets on the sea front have unfortunately been termed unsanitary quarter that need serious attention from the relevant authorities. Tustic chalets, near to the jetty, provide some modest accommodation for the visitor. The seas around here are, however, still richly blessed with an abundant marine life. Fish markets on the waterfront sell crabs, lobsters, prawns and many varieties of fish and fishery products. Semporna is also the gate-way to Sipadan, Mabul, Kapalai islands.

Dive sites: Pulau Mantabuan is approximately 3 km long and 1.5 km wide. It lies about an hour by speed boat North-East of Semporna.

The entire island is beautifully clean - almost no flotsam on the clean beaches. The island is totally uninhabited, and the ocean is calm and inviting for scuba diving. If you are planning a day in the area, it is advisable to bring along your own drinks and food, as there are no facilities available.

Around the island are a number of reefs:

Mantabuan West: The reef has two separate crests. The first is shallow water and has a reef front which drops to a depth of 5 meters. This is then followed by a wide, gently shelving slope which extends outwards for several hundred meters.

Mantabuan South-West: The South-West facing reef at the closest point to the island is both shallow and narrow. The reef drops from the shallow crest to a sandy bottom at 10 meters. A low tide reef is exposed and prevents even shallow fraught boats from reaching the island.

Mantuan East: The Eastern reef borders on the deep water. The reef in its shallower sections slopes quite gently but the angle of the slope gradually increases. The reef top and shallow edges are mainly coral covered with a few sandy patches.

Pulau Sibuan lies approximately 16 km from Semporna, which is about a half hour speed boat trip. There is no drinkable water on the island, other than water which is shipped in from Semporna

Like Pulau Mantabuan, the island is clean with almost no flotsam on the beaches, and the water is clear and inviting.

About five families of the Sea Bajau tribe (sea gypsies) live on the Northern end of the island. There are no facilities on the island, or as previously noted, on Pulau Mantabuan, both islands being part of the Bodgaya Group of islands which are under the protection of Sabah Parks.

The island is generally surrounded by a reef:

Sibuan Reef: The Southern end of the island falls steeply without the formation of a reef. Elsewhere around the island there are well developed reefs with the steepest slope along the Eastern and South-Eastern sides.

The reef lies at a depth of 3 - 6 meters. The reef then drops away steeply before ending at about 22 meters. Beyond this is a slightly less steep sand and boulder slope with the occasional coral outcrop. There are two separate crests. The first is shallow water and has a reef front which drops to a depth of 5 meters. This is then followed by a wide, gently shelving slope which extends outwards for several hundred meters.

Thanks to North Borneo Dive and Sea Sports for the above information.

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