Text and Photos : Christian Fournier; View the photos on section "reportage"
Hard to reach, off shore from Borneo, in Malaysia, Sipadan is a tiny island. You can walk around it in 20 minutes, all along the immaculate white sandy beach. Completely surrounded by a beautiful atoll, Sipadan is the summit of a 6000 feet tall underwater pinnacle. Surprisingly, there is a fresh water well on the island. A thick forest thrives all over, providing habitat for land crabs and birds. The crabs are a rare specie that has a claw powerful enough to open coconuts. Apart from hundreds of varieties of fish, the tiny island is home to thousands of leatherback turtles : you cannot make a dive, or snorkel, without meeting them ! They usually rest inside small holes on the wall all around the island, and wake up slowly as you pet them. You can also watch them, year round, lay their eggs at night on the beach : just walk along with a flashlight until you cross a tractor-like trail in the sand coming straight from the sea and heading to the nearest bush. The turtle has dug a hole with its fins and lay its eggs, heaving heart rending sighs and you can even see it cry. If you get up early enough, you might also see tiny turtles, newly hatched, but not from last night's turtle, of course, crawl awkwardly towards the sea : they are adorable ! All turtles are now protected on Sipadan by the Malaysian government, and there is a ranger permanently residing there to enforce the law. There are three dive operations on the island, with accommodation (wooden huts) for six dozen divers, The atoll is large, so there is no "overcrowded" feeling. The water is beautiful, the temperature very comfortable, the currents gentle : Sipadan is a great place to dive, even Jacques Cousteau said so !