Mabul Island, or as locally known, Pulau Mabul is a teeny-tiny island spread across just around 20 hectares. Whether you’re an enthusiastic diver or merely a corporate traveler, this is the exact getaway you’d need from your mundane lifestyle.
With so much happening on the other side of the world, Mabul has its own pace, providing an out of the world experience to the outsiders. Around 2000 locals inhabit the island, mostly being fishermen by profession. With no rush or traffic and definitely no honk-honk, this beauty is definitely a must-visit.
Pulau Mabul is located off the Southeastern coast of Sabah in Malaysia, just 15 kilometers away from the famous Sipadan Island.
Best time to visit:
The diving activities take place year round. Though visiting the island during the dry season is recommended as you can witness several sea creatures including its famous sea-turtles, and even get a higher visibility underwater. The dry season usually occurs during the months of summer ranging from April to July.
How to reach:
In order to reach Mabul, you first need to board a flight from Kuala Lumpur or even from Kota Kinabalu to Tawau airport. From there you can get to Semporna town by road, hire a taxi or van. It takes around 1 to 2 hours to reach Semporna Jetty. At Semporna Jetty hop on the boat which will take directly to your resort. It’ll take around half-an-hour to reach your resort.
The trip from Tawau airport might be included in your resort package. The boats are arranged by your pre-booked resort itself.
What to do while you’re here:
Pulau Mabul is home to local Bajaus, the Pelauk or Sea Gypsies with a number of beautiful resorts. One side of the island is occupied by water villages of the locals while the other side is occupied by the high-end resorts. The island could be explored on foot itself taking around half-an-hour or even less.While there is a lot you could do here, we’d suggest not doing anything. Just sit back and relax and let this beauty do its magic.
Having said all that, if you want an activity-filled vacation, go through this list of activities which make Mabul stand out:
- Scuba Diving: Mabul offers several diving sites for professionals or even first-timers. But, divers can also enjoy the world-class diving sites at Sipadan Island which merely takes around 20 minutes to reach.
- Ocean Kayaking: One can enjoy sea kayaking in Mabul and take in the serene beauty this place has in offer. You can go to stretches of sandy beaches to places which would otherwise be impossible to reach on foot.
- Visit Bajau Laut (Sea Gypsies) Village: A place is completely traveled only when you spend some time with the locals. Don’t forget to visit the nomadic Sea Gypsies who live mainly in makeshift homes on boats.
- Snorkeling: You might enjoy snorkeling and the beautiful submarine life.
- Enjoy Perfect Sunrise, Sunset and Stars: The Island is home to breathtaking views of natural beauties up-above.
- Photograph the Local Lifestyle: Don’t forget to ask for permission before doing so.
- Underwater Photography: Some packages might even include professional photography tours.
- Go Island Hopping: You can visit several beautiful islands while you’re here like Bum-Bum or Tun Sakaran Marine Park.
- Regatta Lepa Festival in Semporna: A tradition festival held at Semporna around March-April.
- Enjoy Miss Scuba International: Open for global participation, it is held every November.
Mabul offers several accommodation services ranging from luxury resorts to budget homestays and lodgings. A lot of them have Sipadan permits while a few may not. All of them have their own pros and cons, so choose wisely depending on what you are really looking for. Most of them provide complimentary breakfast. Here is the list of accommodation available on the island:
- Luxury Hotels
- Mabul Water Bungalows:Mabul Water Bungalows is a floating dive-resort, conveniently located nearby at Mabul Island. It is just 15 minutes speedboat ride away from the world famous dive sites of Mabul Island.This beautiful resort only has 15 bungalows, 3 Borneo Villa Suite, 1 Bougain Villa Suite and 1 Royale Villa Suite. Of the 15 bungalows, 8 are with double beds while the other 7 are with twin beds. These exclusive wooden type bungalows are built over the water and stand on stilts allowing you to enjoy the cool breeze and beautiful views.
- Sipadan Water Bungalows:Named after the Sipadan Island dive spot nearby, the Sipadan Water Village Resort is completely over the water, featuring 45 cottages in 4 different classes ranging from modest to enormous. It’s the popular diving packages that include transportation and the diving itself that are very popular here, so those who aren’t planning on scuba might be better off elsewhere.There are sandy beaches on Mabul Island, but otherwise there aren’t many activities on offer. There are no TVs or Wi-Fi in the rooms either, so again, this places is all about the excellent diving and its packages that include it.
- Mid-range Hotels
- Borneo Divers Mabul Dive Resort
- Scuba Junkie or Mabul Beach Resort
- Sipadan-Mabul Resort (SMART)
- Seaventures Dive Rig Resort
- MV Celebes Explore
- Budget Hotels
- Billabong Scuba
- Uncle Chang Sipadan
All of the above hotels include Sipadan permits. In case you are staying in a hotel without Sipadan permit, your diver can easily arrange it for you, just shed a little fortune.
- Other Budget Hotels
- Spheredivers Lodge
- Mabul Paradise Lodge
- Sipadan Micro Dive
- Sipadan Dive Centre (SDC) Mabul Lodge
- Seahorse Sipadan Scuba Lodge
- Arung Hayat Sipadan Adventures Dive Center
- Scuba Jeff Sipadan
- Summer Friends Homestay
Pulau Mabul used to be just a fishing village since around 1970s. In the 1990s, a part of the land on the east side of Mabul was purchased by Sipadan Mabul Resort (SMART), for tourism. Later it gained popularity due to its close proximity with the divers’ paradise, Sipadan Island.
Things to keep in mind:
- You might find several stalls selling many different kinds of seashells and the kind. Kindly refrain from buying anything from those places since it is considered an offense. People are not supposed to take anything of this kind out of Malaysia.
- Remember, you are going to a really small island which barely has any connection with the outer-world. Even though few local telecom companies provide comparatively better services, it’s better to not expect a high-speed internet. If you’re staying at a high-end resort, you’ll probably be provided with free Wi-Fi service or computer terminals.
- There is no ATM on the island yet, but most of the resorts usually accept major Visa and Mastercards. We’d recommend taking just enough cash with you before you visit the island.
- Please check in the facilities provided by the resorts you’re planning to stay at beforehand to avoid any disappointments. A lot of them provide common washrooms, cut electricity during the day, no AC, TV or Wi-Fi. So, know the deal before taking it!
- Avoid diving or snorkeling near the accommodation area for hygiene purpose.