Is it safe to travel to Sipadan Island in Eastern Sabah for diving? The Australian Government are warning of kidnapping attempts.
My husband is booked on a liveaboard boat for diving in the Sipadan Island area in early July but we are wondering about security concerns.
Indeed, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are saying that you should reconsider your need to travel to the East Sabah region. There are high risks for terrorist activities and kidnapping attempts - these risks, according to the Malaysian government, have been reduced due to boosted security and army patrols.
The main concern in Eastern Sabah is activity by Al Quaeda linked terror group Abu Sayyaf. Kidnapping efforts are thought to be funding their organisation. Sometimes there are raids, and sometimes much worse (There have been beheadings in the late 90s)
The US government, in their travel advisory, states: "There are indications that both criminal and terrorist groups are planning, or intend, acts of violence against foreigners in eastern Sabah. The Abu Sayyaf Group, based in southern Philippines, has kidnapped foreigners in eastern Sabah in the past. Criminal elements are also responsible for kidnapping and piracy committed against foreigners."
The Malaysian government naturally strongly rejected these advisories as "misleading" - and despite their efforts to quell terror threat, it's hard to determine how effective these efforts actually are.
Our call? We wouldn’t go to far eastern Sabah especially the town of Semporna, and the nearby islands of Mabul and Sipadan (despite the excellent dive sites). Stay right away from the border region with the Philippines. Abu Sayyaf are a group you do not want to meet.
Jesse - World Nomads Travel Safety Hub over 6 years ago
if you want to dive, just go to its neighbor Indonesia, there are many places in Indonesia for diving, you can try bangka belitung in sumatra, bali, komodo island, lombok, bunaken in celebes, or you can try the eden of the east "Raja Ampat" in papua region Indonesian eastern most province, it is 100% safe in there... over 5 years agoAnswered by traveler via WorldNomads.com
some good news! As of July 24th 2013 Australia's foreign office is NO LONGER warning against all travel to Eastern Sabah. Other foreign government's will most likely follow suit soon.
They've determined that the situation has calmed enough for it to be relatively safe to visit. But be warned, they do still suggest you exercise a high degree of caution. The Malaysian government does STILL have an emergency security zone order in place so if you come across military patrols you must comply with their orders. about 5 years ago