Mabul Island (Pulau Mabul in Malay) is a small island off the south-east coast of Sabah in Malaysian Borneo. The island is known as one of the best (viewing exotic and/or small organisms in the sediment at the bottom of the ocean) destinations in the world.
The island is covered in palm trees and fringed with fine beaches. It is a famous diving spot for divers, both international and local alike, and is well known as the macro diving paradise.
It is located near Pulau Sipadan.
Make your way to Semporna, then take a boat from there. The journey takes about 30 minutes by speed boat, 1½ hours by slow boat. Resorts and lodges provide boat transfers for their guests. Visitors can also come in on day tours by joining a dive trip organized by one of the dive operators in Semporna.
You can also easily get a boat at the public jetty in Semporna for RM 75 (Feb 2020) one way per person (60 rm with a good bargaining which is still expensive for a short 45 minutes boat ride, but everything is overpriced 5 times in Mabul, specially accommodation!)
Mabul is small enough to be explored entirely on foot. There are no roads or cars. Boats take visitors to various diving and snorkeling sites around the island.
Mabul possesses beautiful sandy beaches lined with coconut palm trees. However, the indiscriminate throwing of litter by the local fishermen does much to detract from this beauty, particularly on the island's west side.
Scuba diving - While its famous neighbour Sipadan is a home to large pelagic species, Mabul is the place to find the smaller macro species. Scorpionfishes, frogfishes, nudibranchs, crocodilefishes, various crustaceans and many other interesting and rare forms of marine life can be found here. Most dive sites are quite shallow - 12-18 m - with a maximum depth of around 30 m in a few places. Visibility is around 5-8 m at the real muck sites like Froggy Lair, Paradise Reef, and Seaventure Platform, reaching around 15 m at the seaward site Lobster Wall. Turtles can also be seen in places, although by far not as many as at Sipadan.
Most of the dive shops, if not all of them, are operated by the home stay and resorts. They don't like divers to live but dive with other operators. They also may not allow you to dive with them if you're not staying with them.
Snorkeling - A few sites close to shore are suitable for snorkeling, primarily around Paradise Reef anr Lobster Wall.
In front of Borneo Divers, you can swim just from the beach and for free to see good corals and many fish and even turtles if you're lucky. Unfortunately there are also lots of plastic bags floating in the water. Beware of the boats, too.
Besides small shops in resorts and lodges there are no shops on the island.
Resorts and lodges provide their guests all meals. Very much overpriced for what you really get, like everything in Mabul, while the local people are so poor. It's a shame. Far better value to eat in one of the few small restaurants own by the local inhabitants, like Mabul Café Papa & Mama in the center of the real village, just at the rear of Scuba Jeff resort: big plate of fried rice with chicken RM 5 or huge hamburgers RM 3 to RM 5, noodles, soup, drinks, all at very reasonable prices and with good quality (Feb 2020). Also small barbecue stands in the village selling at lunch and dinner time grilled tuna: RM 3 per slice, enough for one person.
Resorts and lodges provide drinks to their guests. Other than that there are no choices on Mabul.
There are several resorts in the island, all overpriced and very expensive for Malaysia (even for the dorms) as there are no local guest houses but only big resorts. It's a kind of rip off but you don't have other choice if you want to stay on Mabul.
- Billabong Scuba, ☏ . Is a backpackers lodge with diving facility/Sipadan permit. Accommodation range from RM 70 - RM 120 with all meals during stay. Sipadan permit available. English, French, Chinese guides on site. Aircon room/attached bathroom/basic room available. Diving package from RM 300 to 1600.
- Scuba Jeff Sipadan, Mabul Island, ☏ . Check-in: anytime, check-out: noon. Offers budget accommodation. RM 40 but it's very dirty. Sometimes there's even no running water during the day for toilets or washing..
- Uncle Chang's Sipadan Mabul Dive Lodge (book at Uncle Chang's office right on the causeway in Semporna next to the Dragon Inn or at the second office near the dive shops at Semporna town, and get your transfer to the island arranged). RM 80 per person per night including all meals.
- Big John Scuba, ☏ . Nice homestay and diveschool with friendly staff. person/night RM 70.
- Summer Friends Homestay. An accommodation with diving, snorkelling and hiking packages at Mabul, Sipadan, Kapalai and Bohey Dulang. Accommodation rate is at RM 70 per person per night with meals and snacks.
- Borneo Divers Mabul Dive Resort, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 1 Scuba Junkie/Mabul Beach Resort, email@example.com. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. RM 450-500 dive Sipadan, RM 250-300 dive other island.
- Seaventures Dive Resort, firstname.lastname@example.org. An old accommodation barge (not an oil rig) that has been converted to a dive resort, just off the north shore of Mabul
- Sipadan Mabul Resort, email@example.com.
- Mabul Water Bungalows. starts at US$394 per non-diver for 2 days, 1 night twin share.
- Sipadan Water Village Resort (fly into Tawau, then get picked up at the airport for transfer to the resort), ☏ , , , , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org. Very nice chalets on stilts above the water, but very pricey. starts at US$425 per person for 2 days, 1 night twin share.
Take a boat back to Semporna.