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Last updated on September 8, 2023
Pulau Pandanan is a remote island located in the Celebes Sea, off the eastern coast of Sabah, Malaysia. It is known for its pristine natural beauty, featuring white sandy beaches and clear turquoise waters.
Pulau Pandanan is relatively undeveloped and primitive, providing a tranquil experience for visitors.
The island is entirely surrounded by a coral reef. Along the western and eastern sides of the island, this majestic reef is covered with hard corals and populated by an interesting amount of fish with the occasional sight of green turtles.
Pandanan Island is located in the Celebes Sea, just a 40 minute boat ride from Semporna, Borneo.
There are two main ways to access this spot:
If you are on a snorkeling tour, you will enter the water from the boat. Follow the instructions of your guide, who will make decisions 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.
No matter which area you snorkel (the two most popular snorkeling areas at Pulau Pandanan are marked on the map above), this spot is densely covered by hard corals such as clubbed finger, starlet, finger, and staghorn corals.
Pulau Pandanan has a good variety of fish present which includes angelfish, threadfin butterflyfish, brown chromis, sergeants, and black triggerfish. Green turtles are occasionally spotted, although less frequently than in neighboring Sipadan Island.
The corals are denser towards the shore and become more scattered on the open ocean until being replaced by a sandy seabed. Use the current to drift alongside the shore, always keeping it on your left.
You will want to stick to the area that has an average deepness of 3 to 10 ft, this is where the fish are more abundant and the colorful corals make for good photo opportunities.
Visibility and current conditions are dependent on the weather at the time you are there. Know that there is little protection from the island, so the water can get rough at times.
The Arcadia Beach Resort‘s has rooms and a dining hall.
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.
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Snorkeling spots are part of a wild environment and their aspect can be significantly altered by weather, seasons, sea conditions, human impact and climate events (storms, hurricanes, seawater-warming episodes…). The consequences can be an alteration of the seabed (coral bleaching, coral destruction, and invasive seagrass), a poor underwater visibility, or a decrease of the sea life present in the area. Snorkeling Report makes every effort to ensure that all the information displayed on this website is accurate and up-to-date, but no guarantee is given that the underwater visibility and seabed aspect will be exactly as described on this page the day you will snorkel the spot. If you recently snorkeled this area and noticed some changes compared to the information contained on this page, please contact us.
The data contained in this website is for general information purposes only, and is not legal advice. It is intended to provide snorkelers with the information that will enable them to engage in safe and enjoyable snorkeling, and it is not meant as a substitute for swim level, physical condition, experience, or local knowledge. Remember that all marine activities, including snorkeling, are potentially dangerous, and that you enter the water at your own risk. You must take an individual weather, sea conditions and hazards assessment before entering the water. If snorkeling conditions are degraded, postpone your snorkeling or select an alternate site. Know and obey local laws and regulations, including regulated areas, protected species, wildlife interaction and dive flag laws.
Vibrant coral reef with an abundance of fish
Vibrant reef drop off loaded with fish
Steep drop off with corals, turtles and reef fish
Coral reef with turtles and fish
Reef wall with corals, fish and sea turtles
Small island fringed by a shallow coral reef