Mabul Island lied 35 km south east to Semporna town, a fish village on the south eastern part of Sabah. With an area of 200-hectare, the island is quiet flat and is almost completely covered with coconuts trees. Beautiful sandy beaches surround the oval shaped island, and guest can easily walk around the island in less than an hour, and during low tide Mabul Island seems to be bigger as the shoreline extends further out to the sea. Wooden houses, on stilts with atap roof top are inhabited by the Bajaus, can be seen at numerous spot on the Island. The Bajaus are traditional fishermen and with their generations of pass down knowledge on the Celebes Sea, today many of them work as boat men, ferrying divers to Sipadan Island and the other surround Islands, including Mataking Island and the Kapalai reef.
In 2005 the state government of Sabah has outlawed all resorts and accommodation in Sipadan Island in the hope that by stopping the human interaction on the island will further help preserve the island ecology system. With this directive some of the resorts have relocated to Mabul Island, about 25 minutes away from Sipadan Island by speed boats. As many as five resorts or lodges are located in and around Mabul Island. Today most divers to Sipadan will have to pass by Mabul Island, making it a sister island to Sipadan. There are no restriction on the number of persons can stay in Mabul Island at any time.
Duded as one of the world’s best muck-diving sites, Mabul offers a very different kind of diving compares with Sipadan. Muck diving is a term used to describe limited visibility dives at shallow sites with usually sandy bottoms. Where in Sipadan coral reef, steep walls and pelagic life are the major attarction, over here at Mabul the bizarre, tiny and unusual marine life hiding at the sea bed are waiting to be discovered. Diving at Mabul also gives marco photogarphers a great opportunities to capture some extremely rare ecological species.
The tiny sponge like nudibranches with their multicoloured family are one of the most fascinated to watch as they glide through the water. The experience diver maters will show where the hide out for the frogfishs, with their tiny hand like fins, never cedes to amaze the divers. During night dive ones can see the wild sex play out by school of mandarin fish. As many as four types of gobies are found here, there are spike-fins goby, black sail-fin goby, and metalic shrimp goby. Numerous types of cephalapods like the blue-ringed octopus, cuttlefish, mimic octopus, and bobtail squids are found on the Mabul’s reef. Others residential marco marine life are crocodile fish, devil scorpoinfish, ghost pipefish, mantis shrimps, moral eels, ribbon eels, and seahorses.
Here are some of the dive sites in Mabul area:
Old House Reef
Crocodile Avenue (2-15 m)
Coral Reef Garden (5-15 m)
Seaventure Rig (17 m)
Froggy Lair (5-20 m)
Panglima Reef (5-20 m)
Eel Garden (18-20 m)
Ray Point (15-25 m)
Lobster Wall (40-75 m)
Mabul, Crocodile Avenue is located at a flat sandy area from 5 to 20 metres. There are about 8 seahorses that make their home at this empty stretch of sand. Apart from these seahorses, sand eels, double-ended pipefish, crocodile fish, special tube anemones, ghost pipefish and cowfish are also seen here. Some time one can see larger creatures like turlte, humpback parrotfish, barracudas, mackerels and small eagle ray.
Located towards the southern end of Mabul Island, Eel Garden is one of the deeper dives around this area. Divers descend to a sandy flat between 20 to 25 metres sloping towards the open sea. Divers are advice to fin carefully, so that they will avoid stirring up the silty bottom. Divers can observe gobies seeking refuge in the tiny crevices and moray eels occcupying the larger holes. Looking towards the sandy patch, you will see what appear to be blades of long glass swaying with the current. These are the elusive garden eels (Heteroconger Hassi) living in colonies that quickly dart back into their burrows on approaching shadows or excessive movement in the water.
Pay Point is a dive site that slopes to about 30 metres at the sandy bottom. It is also located on the southern tip of Mabul Island. A constant currents sweeping through this point bringing clear water and good visibility all year round. Sea fans and soft corals that thrive in current areas are home to many species like blennies, butterfly fish, damselfish, gobies, parrotfish and stonefish.
Borneo Divers Mabul Dive Resort, Sipadan Mabul Resort, and the Sipadan Water Village Resort are the high end accommodation at Mabul Island. The Seaventures Dive Resort is the only converted dive rig in the world, which is located just off shore from Mabul Island. And Uncle Chang’s Sipadan Mabul Dive Lodge offers more budget accommodation.
Borneo Divers Mabul Resort
There are daily flights (45 minutes) from Kota Kinabalu International Airport to Tawau Airport. From Tawau Airport an one hour car ride to Semporna, and from Semporna jetty to Mabul island is two and half hours boat ride.
Also see Diving Quota at Sipadan Island