Voice for ‘Ocean Deep’ top dog – Sipadan
Published on: Sunday, July 11, 2021
By: Kan Yaw Chong
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Pulau Sipadan – note dark water foreground, known as the ‘Big Drop’.
FROM mountain high to ocean deep. There is no fight, is there? Sabah beat them all, be it in mountain high or ocean deep.

I think Tengku Adlin meant that 100pc in his heydays as Chairman of Sabah Tourism Board. Here’s voice for the ocean deep which cannot speak for itself. 

Everybody knows Clement pioneered diving in Sabah along with Randy Davies, the late Ron Holland and Samson Shak in 1983, from which he retired in 2012. 

Resurfacing with stunning pictures of Sabah’s birds, this dive patriarch makes a perfect conduit for what “From Mountain High to Ocean Deep” means.   

What he has proven is that one can switch from ocean deep to mountain high and see the same astonishing diversity in planet of life Sabah chapter.     

Yes, Sabah has it all but Sabah can also lose it all – be warned.  

Now we have an intelligent witness on the best of both mountain high and ocean deep, why not add “Ambassador for Planet of Life Sabah Chapter” to what he already was – Dive Ambassador Malaysia or Padi Ambassadiver.

Recognising real experience in 

land and ocean biodiversity

Environment is big stuff, planet earth is much bigger and yet for Sabahans, it is all about what will happen to this Planet of Life Sabah Chapter. 

Taping into and recognising people with proven ground experience, real knowledge, merit, will, heart, mind and competence on land and ocean biodiversity we are sure can be particularly useful to gain ground to avoid steady losses.   

Sabah has already lost the charismatic Big Two to extinction – Sumatran rhino and dugongs that originally flourished locally in Pulau Mantanani had vanished, according to Simon Christopher and Monica Chin who talked sadly about it.

That’s why for World Environment Day 2021 on June 6, I decided to write a Special Report with a cynical spin dubbed “Mars Environment Day”, which might be a better knocker against largely dead environmental interest.     

But Clement’s astonishing bird pictures turned that cynical mood to an optimistic one. 

Stunning plumage, infinite species diversity, venturous habitats on high, dramatic bird behaviour – even better underwater dives than Clement to capture fish by an Driental darter really did the trick: Wow: Sabah is that great? Yes, true.    

Ocean deep – Sipadan equals to none    

So, last Sunday, we published magic moments of birds and their endless possibilities captured by Clement. 

Today, Clement takes us to Ocean deep Sabah chapter – where his heart originally was.         

Again here, we publish selected pictures from ocean deep, not necessarily taken by Clement in this case.

Specifically, I was keen to hear a verdict from him about Ocean Deep Sabah Chapter, focussed on Sipadan.

So I asked “The Man Himself”: What do you think? 

“A lot of people asked me this – Clement: What is the best dive site in the world?”

“My answer is: Sipadan is equal to none!”

Famous for concentration of 

marine life in one location

“I have seen it all, I have dived in all continents except North and South Poles, there are a lot of good destinations such as Raja Ampat in West Papua, Maldives, Galapagos, Thailand, Philippines etc, they have most of the marine life that we have in Sipadan, but none of them have the full concentration of marine life and species in just one location like Sipadan!”   

Clement starts citing but he clearly lost count, like some divers have recalled trying to count turtles up to 30 at South Point and then lost count, meaning just too many.   

“We have a concentration of barracuda, Jack fish, sharks, Bull sharks, huge Hammerhead, Thresher sharks, Leopard sharks, Whale sharks, even killer whales of orca, yellow fin tunas, giant manta rays, moon fish, pilot whales, dolphhins, turtles, Giant bumphead parrot fish, Napoleon wrasse, walls, caverns, caves, and small macro creatures like leaf fish, nudibranch, shrimps, crabs, gobies, big and small critters 

“All in one location. This is what makes Sipadan famous.”

“Maldives have barracuda too but to see them you boat 35 minutes, then boat another 40 minutes to see jackfish but in Sipadan, you see both barracuda and jackfish practically in one place. That’s why I always say it’s natural aquarium,” Clement noted.      

“I remember years ago, Past Padi Chairman, Brian Cronin, came diving. After seeing the tornadoes of barracuda, jack fish schools, mixing with schools of Bumphead parrot fish, sharks, multicolour leaf fish, flamboyant cuttlefish, he popped up just after the first dive and asked: ‘Clement, what did you do to make this happen?” 

‘It’s the depth of Sipadan’- Clement  

“I attribute this full concentration of marine life to the depth of Sipadan,” Clement asserted. 

Dead right – ocean deep, a ‘bottomless island’ phenomenon first reported to Clement by a fishermen friend in the 70s. 

Here is a lonesome reality of a 40-acre Sipadan island reef that is totally unconnected to any other reefs.

Supporting it below is a dead volcanic stump soaring 1,968ft (600m) high. 

From the top, Sipadan looks as if it plummets sheer 1,968ft to a bottomless ocean deep. 

Best dives are wall dives

Most of the best dives in a dozen world class dive sites are wall dives.

Which earned it numerous top dog reputation like “The Best Wall Dive” or “The Best Shore Dive” in the world awards etc.

No wonder just 5 metres from shore, a Big Drop plunges straight down to a famed Giant Cavern and underwater cave system with many ghostly turtle skeletons lying on floor nick-named Turtle Tomb at about 16 metres below, made famous by Jacques Cousteau’s ‘Ghost of the Sea Turtle’ documentary.      

But this Special Report is not about the Sipadan’s famous dive sites.

Rather, we invoke the widely publicised marine science behind the “full concentration of marine life in one location” reported by Clement. 

Epicentre of global marine 


Marine scientists all over the world have said it all along. The Indo Pacific region is the epi-centre of global marine biodiversity – a famous six million sq km Coral Triangle which occupies only 1.6pc of earth’s ocean areas but it delivers a concentration of 76pc of all known coral species in the world, 86pc of Indo-Pacific reef fish, 37pc of world reef fish, more than 3,000 species of bony fish in more than 90pc of the Coral Triangle, all of which support the livelihood of millions in Sabah, Philippines, Indonesia, the Solomon Islands, Timor Leste and Papua New Guinea combined.

But the best part is that Sipadan is located right at “the heart” of this Indo-Pacific region and Sipadan literally is the apex of this epi-centre of global marine biodiversity!   

In other words, top of the top dog marine life treasure trove! 

Exclusive to Sabah only   

But only the East Coast of Sabah is ranked among the Coral Triangle. Even Sabah’s West Coast is not included.   

West Malaysia is definitely not part of the Coral Triangle, not high brow deep sea fishing nation Japan or China, Singapore etc.       So it’s true Planet of Life Sabah Chapter is a Goldilock Zone of its own – really top dog ecosystem housing the richest marine life on Planet Earth “From mountain high to ocean deep”.

From Mountain high to Ocean deep, Sabah beats them all. But what really counts in the end is Sabah must beat everybody in protection.

Glad we have Clement to drive that point into the head of everybody, the established powers, especially so Planet of Life Sabah Chapter will be upheld and not marginalised.   


Turtle with a diver in Sipadan.

Manta Ray in Sipadan. 

Giant Humphead Parrot fish in Sipadan. 

Napoleon Wrasse. (Pic: Tim Ecott) 

Soft coral in Hanging Garden. (Pic by Gerald Oskoboiny)

The most famous sight in Sipadan – the massive vortex of barracuda at Barracuda Point –Sabah Tourism Board picture (Inset) Clement

A whaleshark in Sipadan. 

A huge school of Hammerhead sharks. (Pic: Burt Jones / Maurine Shimlock)


Killer whales in Sipadan. (Pic: Arapat Abdurahim) 

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