Sipadan Island, off northern Borneo coast, is a splendid place to take a dive

TRAVEL Q&A

January 03, 1993|By New York Times News Service

Q: I have heard that Sipadan Island off the coast of Borneo has outstanding scuba diving. I would like to combine a trip there with one to the Kirabantan River in Borneo. Is this possible?

A: The diving off Sipadan, about 12 miles from the northeastern part of Borneo, is superlative, especially for those who like to dive from shore. About 30 feet from the beach, and starting in only about 6 to 10 feet of water, is a coral wall that drops about 2,800 feet and teems with marine life, including a large concentration of sea turtles. There is also diving from boats, the farthest site being only about a 10-minute ride from shore.

Sipadan is 30 acres, with thick jungle surrounded by white sand beach. Borneo Divers resort, which accommodates 36, is most often recommended by American dive operators. It is on the beach closest to the coral wall; there are two other resorts on the island, but getting to the wall requires swimming several hundred yards over rocky coral. Borneo Divers consists of several small thatched huts on stilts, one main hut for dining and a dive shop. The huts have electricity. There are hot showers in outbuildings and outhouses with flush toilets.

The Kirabantan River and other sites on Borneo are commonly included in Sipadan expeditions. Near the entrance to the river is an orangutan reserve, and along the river are proboscis and other monkeys, and tropical birds. Visitors may stay in a small lodge up the river and do more extensive exploring.

Dive operators report that the relatively few rooms on the island fill up as much as a year ahead, especially from July through October, when conditions are the best.

Getting to Sipadan involves three days of traveling with several changes of plane, a drive and a boat ride. One company on Sipadan is Tropical Adventures, 111 Second North, Seattle, Wash. 98109; (800) 247-3483, fax (206) 441-5431.

A 13-day package leaving Los Angeles includes seven nights at Sipadan, and a visit to the orangutan preserve and other Borneo sites. The cost is $2,535 a person, double occupancy, including airfare, meals, diving and transfers. Tropical Adventure's most popular Sipadan package is a 16-day trip, $2,699, including seven nights on Sipadan and a day trip up the Kirabantan among other visits. A 22-day tour, $3,385, includes 10 nights on the island and two overnights up the river.

Another company, Sea Safaris, offers a 14-day package from the West Coast at $2,750. That includes a week on Sipadan and four days of sightseeing, two of them devoted to a trip on the Kirabantan. Additional days are about $100 a person. Sea Safaris, 3770 Highland Ave., Suite 102, Manhattan Beach, Calif. 90266; (800) 821-6670, fax (310) 545-1672.

Q: Are there cruise ships offering freshly prepared kosher food?

A: Go-Kosher Tours is offering a Caribbean cruise aboard the Regent Star Feb. 14-21 that will include fresh glatt, or rigorous, kosher meals. The cruise starts in Jamaica (Montego Bay) and calls at Aruba, Cartagena and the Panama Canal before returning to Jamaica.

Organizers expect 50 or 60 of the ship's 950 passengers to be part of their group, which will get four kosher meals a day in a special section of the dining room. Part of the ship's kitchen will be made kosher and rabbis will be on board to supervise food preparation. Prices start at $1,609 a person in double occupancy, including airfare from most Eastern and Southern cities ($95 or $125 additional for flights from other areas). Go-Kosher Tours, 1373 Delaware Ave., Buffalo, N.Y. 14209.

The Kosher Club, an organization that helps members find kosher restaurants, says there is no cruise ship with a permanently kosher kitchen and that on cruises other than the one mentioned here, passengers who request kosher food are likely to get frozen meals. The Kosher Club is at 82-84 Genung St., Middletown, N.Y. 10940; (914) 344-1933.

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