I was fortunate enough to go on a trip of a lifetime to Malaysian Borneo a couple of years ago and dive on the infamous Sipidan Island, as well as some other very notable islands. Sipidan is like a pinnacle with an island perched on top and has some of the best pelagic diving I have seen. The walls plunge to the bottom of a trench and the deep blue is full of creatures. A few years ago, the dive shops on the island voluntarily vacated it so it could be protected and preserved. Since it is no longer inhabited except for marine park rangers, the reef is very well protected and the wildlife is very prolific. There are only a few permits issued to a few dive shops daily so the number of divers is strictly controlled but you will usually get one opportunity in a 7 night trip. There are very few places on earth where you can swim along and see dozens of sharks resting on the reef like the two above. You can see up to 40+ sharks on a single dive.
There is a dive site called Barracuda Point that is one of my favorite dive sites. You drop in and are greeted by a large school of Jacks (above & below). They can blot out the sun there are so many. Then you swim along the wall and see lots of fun critters like the fire dart fish above until you feel the current pick you up. Then you are flying around a point and out of the current. Here is where you can see a massive school of Barracuda circling above you like a funnel. My little camera just couldn’t capture the scene but believe me, it is spectacular. Turtles and rays are common sites at Sipidan also. You can tell by the sea life and fish numbers that they do a great job of protecting the island. And did I mention sharks? Remember, this is Asia and the center of the shark finning controversy so it really speaks highly about the job the rangers do that sharks have a sanctuary here.
The diving in Malaysian Borneo is really special all over but Sipidan rated a post all by itself because of how unique it is in the world of diving. I would definitely recommend adding it to your bucket list! If you get the chance to dive it, you become a member of a pretty select club because of the limits on divers. As with several places we all want to dive, it takes a little work to get there, but it is worth it!
Roatan, one of the Bay Islands of Honduras, is one of the few places I have visited twice to go scuba diving. There are several reasons for this. One is the reasonable prices for a dive trip there and another is that the diving is fantastic! I stayed at different resorts each time but they are next to each other. The first time, I stayed at Cocoview and the next time Fantasy Island. For the resort, I preferred Fantasy Island because of the grounds. They have a pool and a very nice crescent white sand beach for relaxing when not diving. They both offer great shore diving, as there are two walls within swimming distance of both resorts. There is also a wreck between the walls. Both resorts also have top-notch dive operations.
There is a lot of variety in the diving here. Most are beautiful shallow coral gardens on the edge of a wall. The edge can be sudden or gradual but the walls and coral gardens are stunning and very nice for diving. You have a lot of fun critters like the arrow crab and octopus above. There are seahorses too. I did a shark feeding dive the second trip and it was pretty fun. I prefer to see sharks in a natural feeding environment but these feeding dives can be very exciting and get the old adrenaline pumping!
The signature dive on Roatan is Mary’s Place. It is a swim-through crack in the wall with some very beautiful growth and the lighting from above adds a stunning effect. After a turn you rise and exit in the shallows on top of the wall. It is capacity controlled to minimize the potential for damage by too many divers at once but each resort has an opportunity to take divers there weekly. It is definitely the must do dive when on Roatan. Another swim-through is Calvin’s Crack and it too is a great dive. Calvin’s starts straight down from the shallows and comes out on the side of the wall after making an elbow turn.
The local shore dives from both resorts are on Newman’s Wall and Cocoview Wall. Both are great dives and in between them is the wreck called the Prince Albert. The wreck has been down long enough to have some impressive growth on it so it makes for a very enjoyable dive. There used to be (and may still be) a resident Green Moray eel on Newman’s wall that followed along with the divers weaving in and out of the wall as you swim along. He was pretty fun to watch. There is a picture of him below.
Roatan as some of the biggest crabs I have ever seen. They look like they could be a cousin of the Alaska king crab. They are a little shy but you are almost assured to see one on your dive trip. After the diving, there is a really fun zip line adventure available there. The spans are long and fast so it is really fun! We stopped for shopping at a couple of places on the way back including a cameo factory. They carve cameos out of conch shell that are amazing! For any diver of any level, I would highly recommend trying out Roatan. There are a lot of different resorts and different prices and getting there is pretty easy. The pricing seems to be going up some in the last few years but it is still a good value for the money.