Outside magazine, January 1994
Maybe it'll happen on the long trip to Kota Kinabalu, when you realize you've lost two days to time zones. Or maybe it'll happen as you squirm into your life jacket while crossing the Mabul Passage. But at some point en route to Sipadan Island, you will wonder, as Randy Wayne White did, whether getting there is any fun at all. Try not to think about the trip back, and keep telling yourself tidak apa--Malay for "it just doesn't matter"--because once you've seen the island's sea turtles, it'll all seem worthwhile.
Of the three dive outfitters that operate on Sipadan, Borneo Divers and Pulau Sipadan Resort are the easiest for Yanks to work with, as they both have agents in the States.
Borneo Divers pioneered diving off Sipadan in 1985. Today its PADI five-star center offers full certification courses on the island. Book trips through EastQuest (800-638-3449), whose nine-day, $2,450 package includes all the ground, air (via Malaysia Airlines), and sea transport needed to get you from Los Angeles to the island, two daily boat dives, unlimited shore dives, accommodations, and most meals, including American-style breakfasts. (Airfare for East Coast departures is an additional $290.) And, if you're just not ready to return to a larger landmass, EastQuest's postdive extensions are $110 per day.
Creative Adventure Club offers a 15-day, $3,450 scuba safari through Pulau Sipadan Resort, which includes excursions sans tanks to Mount Kinabalu and other land sites, but its ten-day, $1,999 Fly/Dive is for those who know the real reason to come to Sipadan. It includes airfare from Los Angeles, beach-hut living with full board, up to three boat dives per day, and unlimited shore dives. PADI certification courses are available upon request. Extensions are $100 per day. Call Creative Adventure Club at 800-544-5088.