MV Celebes Explorer is the only Malaysian liveaboard operating in the Sipadan area. Although we have received several complaints concerning lack of maintenance on this boat, it represents the best option for maximizing the time you spend at Sipadan. Thanks to the high number of park diving permits that this boat has secured, you don't have to worry about whether or not you will make it to the most glamorous dive sites; you will be doing plenty of dives around the island. Choosing this liveaboard means you can dive at Sipadan every day of the week.
However, you will have to compromise on comfort since the Celebes Explorer is not a luxury option. Built in 2001, it is a wooden monohull motor yacht that can accommodate up to 13 divers. The downside of doing so many guaranteed dives at Sipadan means staying on a very simple and less-than-stylish liveaboard.
Facilities include air-conditioned (sometimes) cabins and an air conditioned saloon/restaurant with TV, DVD and music system. There is also a sundeck for soaking up the rays and a shaded area for keeping cool or enjoying a massage after a fun filled day diving around the Pulau Sipadan area.
You can choose to unwind in the cool of the saloon, perusing the marine library in a number of languages or in the shaded seating area of the sun deck where the views over the islands can be spectacular, particularly at sunset. For liveaboard lovers or keen divers who just want to dive Sipadan as much as possible, if you are not concerned about the little luxuries in life, the Celebes Explorer is your best option.
Notes: While Sipadan is a year round diving destination, 1 or 2 weeks during July and August may have a higher chance of choppier seas. In such circumstances, if the conditions make it unsafe to anchor at Sipadan island, speedboat trips may substituted as the best way to transfer guests to Sipadan dive sites.
Cruise price per person includes: Cabin accommodation, breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, drinking water, hot drinks, Tawau Airport -Tawau hotel or Semporna hotel - boat return transfers, dives (as detailed in the trips above), marine park fees of MYR 43 (approx. US$ 14 per person per day), Semporna jetty fees of MYR 11 (approx US$ 3 per tour booking), experienced English-speaking divemaster(s), tanks, weights and weightbelts. Goods & Services Tax (GST 6%) is included in our prices (unlike some other agency websites that you might visit).
Cruise price per person excludes (mandatory, unless customer provides own): Equipment rental (it needs to be pre-booked: please inform us while you are making your reservation. Booties, snorkel, dive computer and torches not available for rent), dive insurance. There is a transfer charge of US$ 150 per car (max. 5 people) for transfers outside the recommended flights, to be paid in advance. Unless otherwise stated, all the listed items need to be paid on arrival (cash only).
Optional extras: Soft drinks, alcoholic drinks, nitrox fills for enriched air certified divers (MYR 53, approx. US$ 17 per fill) to be paid in advance. Unless otherwise stated, all the listed items need to be paid on arrival.
How to get there: MV Celebes Explorer is moored in Semporna every Sunday morning when guests can join for trips of 3 or 7 night duration. Celebes Explorer stays at Semporna on Sunday and departs for Sipadan / Mabul on Monday early morning. Guests may also join a 4 night trip (transfer Wednesday morning) when the boat is moored at Mabul Island. Guests are advised to arrive on the morning of departure or to overnight in Semporna the previous night.
Only guests who arrive at Tawau or Semporna at least one day earlier could do 2-3 dives on Sundays at Sipadan, Mabul or Kapalai, with packed lunch via diving boat (day trip style).
Tawau arrival flights:
From Kota Kinabalu: Malaysia Airlines: MH2121 (07:30-08:15), MH2137 (14:15-15:00)
From Kuala Lumpur: Air Asia: AK5744 (07:15-10:05); Malaysia Airlines: MH 2660 (07:30 - 10:20)
Guests arriving on flights other than recommended may have to wait for guests arriving on recommended flights. Sunday Transfers times: 1. Hotel in Tawau 05:30 or from Tawau Airport with arrival before 08:15 / 2. Hotel in Semporna 09:45 - 10:00 or from Tawau Airport with arrival before 10:15 / 3. Hotel in Semporna around 12:00.
Car transfer for guests who arrive at Tawau Airport later than 15:30 can be arranged, at a late surcharge of RM53 per person per way ( minimum 2 pax ). Wednesday Transfers: 1. Hotel in Tawau 05:30 or from Hotel in Semporna 07:15 - 07:30. Please be ready at Seafest hotel lobby at least 30 minutes before the scheduled boat departure if you transfer to Semporna overland from Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan or Lahad Datu.
Tawau departure flights:
To Kota Kinabalu: Malaysia Airlines: MH2134 (15:40-16:30)
To Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia Airlines: MH2665 (15:15-17:55)
To Kuala Lumpur: Air Asia: AK5747 (10:10-12:55)
To Kuala Lumpur: Air Asia: AK5747 (13:15-16:00)
Disembark from Celebes Explorer and boat transfer to Semporna is at 06:30 hrs.Transfer arrives at Tawau Airport around 08:00 hrs.
Guests departing on flights other than proposed may have to wait for guests departing on proposed flights. Private transfers can also be arranged at an extra cost. The last dive of the trip will be at around 15:00 hrs. Please wait at least 24 hours before flying (for recommended flights please see above) after diving.
Non-diver rate: 9% off the published rate.
Single supplement (if you do not want to share accommodation): This is optional - single travellers may choose to share a cabin or pay a supplement of approximately 45% of the published price depending on length of cruise. Please check with us.
Dive clubs and group discounts: Pay for 4 guests and 2 extra persons can join the cruise (total 6 guests), but only if you are the first booking of the trip. Please ask us for more details.
Whole boat charter rate (per night): 7 nights - US$ 3,890. For alternative trip prices, please check with us.
Add-on package: If this is your only planned visit to Borneo Malaysia then we strongly recommend that you consider a 2 night add-on stay at the Sepilok Nature Resort, Sandakan in Sabah, to allow you to witness the not-to-be-missed jungle adventures with Orangutans.
There are 8 Standard cabins on this Malaysia liveaboard. 2 Queen-size double bed cabins that feature windows are located on the main deck, and 6 double/twin bed cabins that feature portholes are located on the lower deck.
All the cabins have:
Private en-suite bathrooms with hot water shower
Towels, hairdryer and soap
Cabinet, shelves & mirror
24-hour, 240V electricity supply with UK-style sockets
2 Eight-man purpose-built motorised dive tenders - Camera table and separate rinse tank for cameras - 50m² air-conditioned saloon with TV, DVD, sound system and PC computer that serves as a restaurant area too - Internet - Movie and book libraries - Fish ID and diving books - Water dispenser - Well-stocked bar - 30m² shaded area - 20m² sun deck with sun chairs and mattresses
Weekly re-provisioning means that only the freshest ingredients are used by the chef of the MV Celebes Explorer Sipadan liveaboard. Meals are served buffet-style with waited table clearing and assistance. Dishes tend to feature Asian cuisine with elements of international food.
The menus are not fixed and meals are served in the air-conditioned restaurant.
Main meals comprise breakfast, lunch & dinner.
Biscuits, bread/toast, fruit, tea & coffee, drinking water are available free of charge.
Soft drinks, mineral water, beer, wine and spirits are available at extra cost.
Vegetarians and most other special diets are catered for with prior notice.
"I am so happy I went on the Celebes. I would have hated to have dives Mabul all the time with only one day at Sipadan. It's well worth putting up with the boat to get the dives. The service onboard is excellent. Food very good. The boat itself is not very good - room was smelly which was the worst thing. Public areas good." - Jeremy Philpott, UK, 30 November 2017 ...
"The condition of the boat is just so so. You can not expect too much. But the diving guides and boat crew are fun and try to service you. Sipadan is most beautiful. My trip is a great one." - Yuan Yuan, China, 13 October 2017 ...
"Excellent service from the crew who made the liveaboard experience very memorable. The chef was great, our divemasters were brilliant and the remainder of the crew were friendly without being imposing." - Mital Patel, Hong Kong, 15 August 2017 ...
"Great dive guides. Poor service by support staff. Terrible boat. Exceptional diving!" - Hugh Perks, Australia, 15 May 2017 ...
"The Celebes explorer was great fun for me. I'll try again! Thank you so much for your help. They gave me everyday Sipadan dives. There was one day when we dive in Kapalai due to bad weather but after that they moved to Sipadan! Very great!" - Yasuyuki Nakashima, South Korea, 3 January 2017 ...
"Meal: pretty delicious, It's not fixed serving time. All staff is kind. when I need to something, they tried to solve asap. When I lost my fin, my divemaster contacted another diveshop, and finally I recovered my fin!!! Divemaster tried to find and share all our group. leading speed is good.(not fast, not slow). Every maximum dive time is up to 45 min. and we did always safety stop 5m/3min." - Jeuk Hwang, South Korea, 14 November 2016 ...
"Information was clear enough, and there were reviews of all kind bad and good about the boat so it seemed reliable. And it was. Procedures was quick and clear." - Fosca Romani, Italy, 16 April 2016 ...
"The cabin was not in a good condition: very often the toilet failed to flush; the room sometimes smelled; there was not enough towels for divers. Also divers had to stay on Sipadan Island between dives, not able to rest back on the big boat, as the speedboat was always used to transfer divers to Sipadan. The staff were not helping enough: in the morning I could see dirty cups and trash of last night still remaining there; one of the dive master was very condescending." - Yuyao Wang, China, 13 August 2015 ...
"The only advantage of being aboard was permits for Sipadan every day - in every other way it was worse than being based on Mabul...Most guests said they would never dive with Celebes Explorer again, even after they replace the boat, although on the other hand one Japanese guy there was going for his 17th trip aboard in December so I suppose some people quite like it." - James Knoedler, UK, 10 August 2015 ...
"Equipment was fine - not a huge selection though. Food was very good. Service was good and friendly. Dive Masters were knowledgeable but one did not have a dive computer during the length of the trip as his battery died. I think they also need to be more harsh with some of the customers who could not dive properly or were touching sea life/kicking coral. Overall very nice service and staff was very accommodating. I would book another trip with them." - Anita Xie, USA, 1 September 2014 ...
"Excellent customer service- all staff were very helpful and accommodating not only with food and diving but extra things like taking us to Semporna on the last night." - Hillary Twigg, Australia, 13 March 2014 ...
"Rental equipment was a decent standard, though I consider it to be quite expensive per day. The Celebes Explorer was great, comfortable rooms. The dive boat however was pretty dilapidated. Would have been nice to get more choice in the juice and snacks. The food was generally very nice, but was a bit samey after a week! Staff were generally very friendly and professional." - Ben Wadsworth, UK, 3 September 2013 ...
"Staff were all very friendly but there didn't seem to be a 'go to' person to ask questions, and there was minimal direction. The diving was fantastic. I wasn't allocated a buddy, and there were no safety checks done with a partner to ensure all gear was working. As a relatively new diver I found this challenging. It was a shame dive computers are not available for hire. The cabins are quite damp. It would have been great if towels were changed - I had the one towel for the entire trip and it was saturated." - Elizabeth Treasure, Australia, 15 August 2013 ...
"The Celebes Explorer live aboard trip was great, nice boat with excellent staff. There was a wide variety of delicious food. The dive sites were amazing with loads of sea life to sea." - Derek Lanthier, Canada, 19 April 2013 ...
"Facilities were good. Food was only fair (we had made a request for non-fried, low fat type dishes, grilled, etc.). Even though there was only 1 other couple on board besides us, it did not appear that our food requests were granted any consideration. ... Staff was fair (only moderately friendly. Could have put more effort into it). Dive guide: Good ... although not all that warm, fuzzy and engaging. Our dive guide Jerry really knew his stuff and pointed out many things of interest during the dives. ... Dives, however, were limited to only 45 minutes. We would have liked to have had up to an hour. We surfaced many time at 45 minutes with plenty of air to spare and could have easily stayed down another 15 minutes without any deco or air issues. Mabul day dives were not that great. The visibility was poor due to the sandy bottom. The night dives at Mabul are much more interesting then the day dives ... lots to see at night! Sipadan diving was awesome!! ... Some of the best 2 days of diving I have ever experienced!
... Based on the permit issues with diving Sipadan, I would highly recommend the Explorer as long as the reservation covers at least 2 of the scheduled Sipadan dive days. Having guaranteed diving at Sipadan is important if one is making the trip all the way to Borneo. Also, being able to re-board the liveaboard after every dive at Sipadan sure beats the multiple interval and lunch stays on all the smaller day boats." - Jeff Berry, USA, 8 November 2010 ...
"The gear was reasonable and any issues were sorted out promptly. The staff were a bit abrupt at the beginning but warmed up once they got to know you and realised that you could dive. The facilities were basic but clean (like any dive boat we've ever been on), and the aircon was a definite bonus. The diving at Sipadan itself was incredible. Probably the best diving we've ever done!" - Michelle Reeves, New Zealand, 11 May 2010 ...
"Staff were very friendly and very helpful. Tom and Gerry were very good DM's and communicated well with everyone. The boat was always very clean." - Steve Howarth, Hong Kong, 12 April 2010 ...
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