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Pandanan Island, in the Celebes Sea, is entirely surrounded by a coral reef. Along the western side of the island, the reef is majestically covered with hard corals and populated by an interesting amount of fish with the occasional sight of green turtles.

Coral reef at Pulau Pandanan
Pandanan Island vibrant coral reef.

How to get to Pulau Pandanan snorkeling spot?

Pandanan Island is located in the Celebes Sea, just a 40 minutes boat ride from Semporna, Borneo.

There are two main ways to access this spot:

  • To participate in a snorkeling tour organized by the nearby resorts of Mataking, Pom Pom and Mabul, or via the tour operators located in Semporna harbor. Snorkeling tours usually combine snorkeling in Pandanan and Timba Timba.
  • To stay at Arcadia Beach Resort, Pulau Pandanan only resort. With this option, the reef will be free for you to explore from the shore.

Pulau Pandanan snorkeling map

Water entrance for snorkeling Pulau Pandanan

If you are on a snorkeling tour, you will enter the water from the boat following the instructions of your guide, based on currents and conditions.

If you stay at Arcadia Beach Resort, you will enter the water from shore. Check the sea conditions with the resort’s dive club.

Pulau Pandanan snorkeling exploration tips

This spot is densely covered by hard corals (clubbed finger, starlet, finger, and staghorn corals) but also presents a good variety of fish which includes angelfish, threadfin butterflyfish, brown chromis, sergeants, and black triggerfish. Green turtles are occasionally spotted although less frequently than in neighboring Sipadan Island.

Green sea turtle in Pulau Pandanan
Encounter with a green sea turtle on the reef drop-off.

The corals are denser towards the shore and become more scattered on the open ocean until leaving room for a sandy seabed. Exploit the current and let it drift you alongside the shore keeping it on your left.

You would want to stick to the area that has an average deepness of 3 to 10 ft/1 to 3 meters, this is where the fish is more abundant and the colorful corals make for good photo opportunities.

Branching coral at Pulau Pandanan
Branching coral at Pulau Pandanan.

Visibility and difficulty conditions are dependent on the conditions you will find, there is little protection from the island hence the water can get rough at times.

Restaurants and accommodation nearby

This spot is Arcadia Beach Resort‘s house reef.


  • Level required Intermediate
  • Maximum depth10ft/3m over the reef, 30ft/10m on the drop-off
  • Water entranceFrom a boat or from the shore
  • Potential DangersCurrent
  • Visitor numbersLow
  • Access costsSnorkeling tour or stay at Arcadia Beach Resort

MAP Spot

These spots are accessible to anyone with basic snorkeling skills, and feeling comfortable in the water and with his snorkeling gear. You will enter the water from the shore (beach, pontoon, ladder, rocks) or from a boat. The water height in the sea entrance area is reasonable, but you will not necessarily be within your depth. Moderate currents can occur in the area, even when the sea conditions are good. The distance to swim to reach the most interesting snorkeling areas of the spot does not exceed 200 meters.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.