I fell in love with my room, only cause it came it a hammock out on the porch. All rooms have a hammock in front but finding a hammock is almost a rare commodity over here in Malaysia. So to find a resort that provides a hammock is heavenly!
*I love hammocks... obsessed might be the right word.
The rooms are simple, clean with an en-suite hot shower and a safety deposit box, which is perfect.
Mabul is one of the world’s single richest destinations for small marine life. One can find different types of Gobies, almost spot the whole Scorpion fish family, as well as Nudibranches, various cuttlefish and frogfish. Frogfishes are almost all over Mabul and Kapalai; From the Giant frogfish to the Painted and Clown frogfish, they can be spotted almost everywhere. Not to mention turtles! It’s a heaven for turtle watching. They are all over the place, and sometime you’ll dive across tons of them.
The local community on Mabul are mainly sea-fearers from the Bajau Laut and Suluk ethnic group, which live a nomadic lifestyle and naturally, live off the sea. One thing I found strange is the amount of children on the island. Don’t think I’ve ever seen these many kids compared to adults in one place other than a children’s theme park.
*How do you duck underwater? I have no idea.
All I felt was a hard hit on my left elbow and with the BCD inflated prior to plugging in, I naturally surfaced slowly to see a nice bruise on my arm. I’m just glad it wasn’t my head! My dive buddy and friend Andrew was suppose to dive in the same time as me, he did in fact, 3 seconds after I back crawled in. Unfortunately the current was quick and good thing I stayed under a few seconds longer before he came plugging down. Not a great start for a first dive… current dive and a bruised elbow. It wasn’t a strong current but when you’re out of the water for a while not diving and getting back into it, its not ideal to have current. Never the less it was a fun dive, all I did was ride the current and watch everything is semi-speed motion.
Diving around Mabul and Kapalai is amazing. The amount of little critters, and the sheer variety of them is stunning. Everywhere you turned was either a turtle, a Nudibranch or a Gobi. The reefs just off the island and towards the back of it are the best. They are colourful, in pristine condition and the marine life is healthy.
Artificial corals are being put in place due to the cyanide and dynamite fishing that had taken place previously. And due to over fishing by the locals, the resort has adopted the phrase ‘Fish are friends, NOT food’ policy so we never got served any form of seafood!
*There goes my hope for fresh seafood BBQ’s…
I have to admit, the chef is amazing! The food always taste good, abundant and a good variety too. Plus there is a pot of soup every evening at dinnertime that varies from day to day.
*This is one of those dive trips, which I hope to shed a few pounds. Instead I gained a few thanks to the amazing food spread!
Joe, one of the local Dive Master, took some of us for a little tour of the village. I was amazed to see a small mosque, a school and a basketball court in the centre of the village given the sheer scale of the island. It is a 10-minute walk from where we were living and its nice to visit the local community. Although the kids are friendly and like their pictures being taken, do keep an eye on your pockets and bags. One of them was caught red handed putting his little itchy hand into my friends bag.
*Mabul Island is relatively small. It takes one about 40 minutes to walk around the entire island on a leisure stroll.
*I took note of the little homestay’s that are available here in the village. I wouldn’t say it is the most appealing but if you’re on a budget, it will have to do. Some of them do offer dive trips but I would strongly advise against it as I’ve seen the equipment…
From one of these homestay piers, the sunset view is at its best. With nothing obstructing and just the vast sea and horizon ahead, it’s breath taking. As the sunsets and on our way back, the smell of food is spellbinding. The different curries, fish sautéed and BBQ not only smell delicious, looks delicious too.
*Didn't help with the fact that I won't be having seafood my entire stay here!
From Kuala Lumpur
You'll have to fly into Tawau and then take a taxi, almost an hour's journey, to Semporna where the ferry would take you to the island.
*For more information check out Scuba Junkie's page. They can also organise airport transfers as well as ferry transfers to the island. Do note that most resorts that you book with do provide these facilities so do check when you do your bookings.
Scuba Junkie Mabul Beach Resort
Like I said before, one of the best dive resorts I’ve come across and very organised. They are keener towards diving enthusiast so if you’re looking for a spa retreat, this is definitely not the place for you. Their local dive guides are good, especially Ismail and Khai as they have superb vision when it comes to spotting little critters.
The food is brilliant and the bar upstairs is pretty decent too. Covered in lounge chairs and beanbags, it’s a comfortable place to chill after sunset with a good view of the surroundings.
They organise dives to Sipadan daily but this would have to be booked in advance as they are only limited to certain amount of people a day, as diving in Sipadan is done on a permit basis. Best time to dive is from April till August-September.
*Scuba Junkie has a dive centre in Semporna as well as in Kota Kinabalu. Those wanting to dive Mataking Island, Tun Sakaran Marine Park - Mantabuan, Boheydulang and Sibuan Island, have to stay on mainland at Semporna. For those wanting to dive Mantanani, Kota Kinabalu’s Scuba Junkie is the centre to contact.
These are the general marine population on both Mabul and Kapalai Island. Mandarin Fish, Stonefish, Frogfish, Ghost Pipefish, cuttlefish and octopus are a common sight. Also giant groupers, moray eels, turtles and my personal favourite, nudibranches! Sea horses can also be spotted on some of the dive sites around these islands, plus they also have a few beautiful artificial reefs.
Lobster Wall: Beautiful coral wall obviously populated with lobsters, if you’re good at spotting them. But apart from that there are turtles, a large variety of nudibranches, Crocodile Flathead fish, Giant Moray Eel and Undulated Moray Eel. Those are just some of the things I’ve spotted as we hit current so it was a case of spot-things-on-semi-fast-forward mode. The depth that they’ll normally take you too is about 25m.
Paradise & Froggy's: It’s not so much of a deep dive, mostly above 18m with a sunken boat. Spotted a few nudibranches one the move! Soft corals are also popular here hence the anemone cleaner shrimp! It starts off with a rather sandy bottom, where the sunken boat is located and gradually builds up towards a beautiful coral system.
Eel Garden: Maximum depth of 18m with beautiful Ribbon Eels. Again beautiful coral reef and a good number of Hinged Back Shrimp spotted as well as a juvenile Pinnacle Batfish.
Panglima Reef: Depth of 18m – 20m. This is one of my favourite dives as the vertical wall has a lot of crevices, and in these crevices are hinged with sleeping turtles. We had turtles on the left, right, above us and below us. Some taking off to the surface, some diving deeper, some swimming along us… it was turtle traffic underwater. Apart from the turtle mania, there are the common Crocodile Flathead fish, octopus, nudibranches, Lionfish and various Scorpion fish.
Stingray City: Beautiful coral reef, absolutely beautiful. As the name suggest, you’ll definitely spot a lot of Blue Spotted Ribbontail Ray. Managed to spot a few Frogfish, like the Blue Giant Frog Fish and the Painted Spring Lobster. With the amount of soft coral, you’ll definitely find a Porcelain Crab among each one of them, as well as Anemone Cleaner Shrimps. A spot worth diving! Depth: 20m - 25m.
Awas: Visibility wasn’t too great when we dived but its great for Muck diving (about 16+m). Due to the Cyanide and Dynamite fishing being done in the past by the locals, artificial reefs are being put in place to help bring the marine life back to this spot. This spot is right in front of the Scuba Junkie pier, in a fashion it’s like a beach dive but off the pier. This place is packed Scorpion fish, Fabellina Nudibranch, Ghost Pipefish and Turtles among the wreck and artificial reef.
Other sites around Mabul:
- Artifical Reef
- Sea Venture
- Ribbon Valley 1,2 & 3
- Coral Hills
- Nudi Point
House Reef: Only managed to do one dive in Kapalai as the weather this morning isn’t too great and visibility was a mere 12m – 15m. It as almost the same type of reef system as Mabul Island with a lot of macro life but the one thing that leaves an impression on people is Elvis, the Giant Moray Eel. And it is a GIANT of a Moray Eel!
Other sites around Kapalai:
- Black Ray Channel
- Little Okinawa
- Twin Peak
- Kapalai Rock
- Mantis Ground
- Lonely Reef
*Current can pick up at anytime around these Islands. They are not strong, perhaps a class 2 – 2.5 the most.
View the gallery for more photographs.