The Sinking Of The MV Sipadan Mermaid At Mataking

The Reef Dive Resort at Mataking Island is situated just 45 minutes from the little coastal town of Semporna of the Eastern coast of Borneo. This resort has worked tirelessly in the past 6 years to develop the eco-system at the resort both on the surface and underwater which is something that they definitely seem proud of.

In 2006 the resort sank its first artificial reef in the shape of the wooden cargo vessel, “The Shipwreck Pos” and in just 3 years, great development was seen at this site as she became the first ever underwater post box in Malaysia.

September 2009 brought a new wreck to the coast of the resort in an effort to increase the bio-diversity of its ever expanding reef network.

The MV Sipadan Mermaid, a 52 ft steel hulled vessel had been purchased by the resort a number of years earlier when it was used for long-range trips at sea and a liveaboards vessel.

However, as the Mermaid became older and it became less cost effective to maintain her, great thought was put into what should be done with her.

It was the brainchild of the Resort manager and PADI Staff Instructor, Luke Cox, who decided that she should rest in peace on the reef edge and create a home for new life to flourish. “We had to think very carefully about how this great ship should be scuttled and where she should go in order to attract the very best of the marine life around Mataking Island, said Mr. Cox.

Although the resort had created artificial reefs before, this particular ship was going to present new challenges to the team at the island.

Originally built in 1985 in Norway, she began her life as a Norwegian fishing vessel and was in fact responsible for many deep sea fishing excursions off the coat of Malaysia, before being purchased by the resort.

2 months of solid work actually went into the preparations of the mermaid prior to sinking, as all engine oils and fluids were rained from the vessel, potential hazards removed for divers and aquatic life and bulkheads were repainted.

Finally, on September 26th 2009, after many months of hard work, the Mermaid was finally scuttled and sank to the clear blue depths of Mataking Island, The preparation crew flooded bow, mid-ships and stern sections of the vessel alternately, in order for the vessel to land upright at the bottom of the Celebes Sea.

Executive Director, Sophia Sie stated, “This was a particularly stressful time for the island team as it was essential that she landed upright and not on her roof and at the right depth too!”

In less than an hour, the late MV Sipadan Mermaid was laid to rest in the exact position and spot at which the team wanted her, less than 20ft away from the Shipwreck Pos, thus allowing the marine life to flourish!

It was the original plan of the resort to carry out a full coral transplant project on the Mermaid after she was scuttled; however it has not been necessary.

Managing Director, Mr. David Sie stated, “We have been absolutely amazed about how much life has found its way onto the Mermaid in just over 6 months”.

Staghorn coral has already started to grow prolifically all along the portside bow and wheelhouse of the wreck and with it, all of the macro life living amongst this very fragile eco-system can now be seen.

It is a regular site to see schools of 100-150 Big-Eye Trevally vortexing between both wrecks as both blue-spot stingray and devil-ray can often be seen nestling in the sandy crevices at the stern of the vessel.

With the bow of the vessel sitting in just 18 metres and the stern at 27metres, she is perfectly situated for recreational divers and ideal for Nitrox divers which is easy to obtain from the PADI 5 Star Dive Centre at the resort.

For the opportunity to dive this little piece of history, plus other great dives at the resort and surrounding islands, including the world-renowned Sipadan, why not e-mail one of the sales team on