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Also take a look at: Sipadan | Mabul | Layang Layang | Liveaboard

Mabul Island Diving, Malaysia: An Introduction

mabul divingThis small island Mabul, located just 15 minutes northwest of Sipadan, is surrounded by sandy beaches and perched on the northwest corner of a 200 hectare reef and is notably known as one of the worlds best 'muck diving' sites. The reef is on the edge of the continental shelf and the surrounding seabed slopes out to a depth of 30m. Mabul is arguably one of the richest single destinations in the world for exotic, macro-biotic life. Diving at Mabul will present you with many underwater treasures, many that are indigenous to the Indo-Pacific; Ghost Pipefish, Frogfish, a numerous variety of nudibranchs, gobies, shrimp, Crocodile Fish, sea moths and the elusive Paintpot Cuttlefish to name just a few.

The diving both at Mabul and its neighbouring island Kapalai provide a completely different diving experience than that of nearby Sipadan. There are no plunging drop-offs and sheer walls and very few, if any, pelagic predators, the unique habitat here has provided a home for fish and invertebrates to live without the pressure of large predators. The reefs are still recovering from the damage of past dynamite fishing, though this coupled with the reefs shallowness has since provided a new lease of life.

Dive sites from both islands are mostly within a short boat ride and the divemasters take pride in closing in on the unusual. Dives are usually taken at depths between 3 and 20m allowing maximum bottom time to hunt around and enjoy the fascinating macro life. Several species of ray, including Blue-spotted Fantail Rays, Blue-spotted Mask Rays and Leopard Whiprays, have made their home at Paradise 1 alongside shrimps, gobies and a wealth of small reef fish. Whereas Paradise 2 is adorned in Staghorn Coral and the elusive but exceptionally beautiful Mandarin Fish can be seen darting between the horns.

Kapalai has been more heavily affected through dynamite fishing than Mabul though out of the devastation arises hope in the natural adaptation of exceptional and unusual creatures to this environment. The rare Humbug Dascyllus hovers over the Staghorn Coral and the Ornate Ghost Pipefish can be seen if looking very carefully, thankfully due to the shallow depth of the reef divers have the time to explore the coral intricacies. Painted Frogfish in many different adaptable colours are there to be searched for and Ribbon Eels pop up from the sand out of curiosity as you hover over the remnants of the reef.

Although Mabul and Kapalai do not offer the excitement of the walls and numerous pelagics, the macro-biotic life is better than anywhere else in the world. In combining both or all destinations within a holiday divers will experience a rare diversity of life within a narrow distance, a truly unforgettable diving encounter.


Accommodation at Mabul, Malaysia: Dive Resort

sipidan water village
Sipadan Water Village Resort is located on the island Mabul, neighbouring both Sipadan and Kapalai, all of which offer some of the most astounding dive sites of the world. The resort has a first class PADI and CMAS certified dive centre and qualified dive professionals offer certification courses, night dives and dive trips off Mabul, Sipadan and Kapalai.

The Water Village accommodation is set on stilts above the flat coral reefs of the Celebes Sea with a backdrop of a typical oceanic fishing village. For guests there is the choice of, 2 deluxe water cottages, 27 standard water cottages and 6 semi-detached water cottages, all benefiting from private sundeck. The cottages have a luxurious feel and are styled with a Bajau influence, all have ceiling fans, private bathroom and modern conveniences.

For dining there is the resort restaurant serving daily buffets featuring a variety of Asian and Continental delicacies. There is an open-air bar that has a breathtaking sea view and evening entertainment of live music and videos for entertainment when out of the ocean.


The Dive Centre is responsible for all in-water activities and scuba training and education. The centre opens from 0700hrs onwards and is equipped with lockers, showers, toilet and a common area for resting between dives with complimentary snack, hot coffee and tea. It carries 5 Bauer compressors for refilling tanks, over 300 aluminium 3000 psi / 80 cubic foot tanks with American style "K" valves, rental sets of scuba diving equipment that are mainly Scuba Pro.

The centre equipped with custom-built fibreglass dive boats that carry 12 passengers each. Each boat goes out 3 trips daily accompanied by a boatman and a Dive Master. All Dive Masters are specially trained in the marine ecology of Mabul Island and will not only show divers the attractions but also impart their knowledge of the marine life so that guests may return from their memorable holiday with a better understanding of the environment. This is what differentiated the Dive Masters at Sipadan Water Village from elsewhere: An attitude and passion for what Mabul has to offer.

Due to the fact that the marine life found around Mabul Island varies greatly from that of Sipadan Island, combination of the two islands for diving make a diver's diving holiday more complete. Mabul and Kapalai is heaven for studying the micro aspects of marine life and guarantees hours of fascinating fish watching with ample opportunities for photography. At world-renowned Sipadan Island, divers get different experience as one dive amongst the giants of sea and its only 20 minutes away from the comforts of Sipadan Water Village.


There are about 13 dive sites in Sipadan. On a good sea condition, it takes about 20 minutes from Mabul to Sipadan. Most of the diving in Sipadan is combination of wall and drift diving. The walls are covered with hard corals, soft corals, gorgonians, sponges etc. You can see more turtles on one dive here than in a lifetime of diving anywhere else. Divers may also get to see huge resident school of barracudas, which make beautiful circling patterns on top of the reef, in 10 or 15 feet of water at the South Point.

Mabul and Kapalai

There are about 17 dive sites in Mabul and about 13 dive sites in Kapalai. It takes less than 15 minutes to get from the resort to any of the Mabul dive sites by the dive boat and less than 15 minutes to Kapalai. Most of the diving in Mabul and Kapalai is very shallow with depths from 60 feet to as shallow as 10 feet. These places are "macro heaven on earth". On one given dive, divers may get to see as many as 25 or 30 remarkable photo subjects including squid, cuttlefish, anemone shrimp, gobies with blind cleaner shrimp, porcelain crabs, juvenile batfish, harlequin ghost pipefish, mushroom coral pipefish, mandarin fish, dragonets and many more.


Diver Prices 1 January to 31 December 2014

Room type

Grand Deluxe

Deluxe Cottage

Standard Cottage

Junior Cottage









































Extra night





Packages start from Tawau, inclusive of the following services: Prices above are per person in twin/double sharing accommodation and include:

         Airport Meeting Services in Tawau

         Return Land transfer from Tawau to Semporna

         Return Speedboat Transfer from Semporna to SWV Resort

         Twin share Water Cottage Accommodation with private sundeck

         Buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner

Diving Package -  includes 3 boat dives daily ( except on arrival and no diving on departure days ) Covering Mabul Island, Kapalai and Sipadan Island, Unlimited Mabul House Reef shore diving open from 06:00 AM to 06:00 PM, weights, weight belt and tanks. Single supplement from 40 per person per night. Please call for more information.

Combine a stay at Sipadan Water Village with Layang Layang Dive Resort for a unique diving and wildlife experience. Please call our tailor-made itineraries specialists on 020 7407 0019 or email surf@diving-world.com

hotels mabul


Stopover hotel en route to Sipadan and Mabul, Malaysia

Shangri-La's Tanjung Aru Resort sits amidst 25 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens at the edge of the South China Sea in the East Malaysian State of Sabah. Its lush tropical setting is just outside Sabah's sprawling capital of Kota Kinabalu, seated in the surrounding shadow of Southeast Asia's highest mountain, Mount Kinabalu.

Tanjung Aru Resort offers beautifully appointed rooms designed to reflect the laidback and tranquil lifestyle of Sabah. All rooms have private balconies offering panoramic views of the gardens, ocean and outlying islands. The 500 appointed rooms have all been designed using natural timber, bamboo and indigenous fabrics, offering guests a feeling of natural luxury.

There are a host of amenities and recreational activities at Tanjung Aru Resort to keep guests entertained at all times. Activities include tennis, cycling, golf and most water sports imaginable from the private beach, for the more relaxing activities there is a complete health spa where aromatherapy and massage treatments can be enjoyed from professional staff.

For dining there are a multitude of restaurants and bars to choose from, Western and Asian food can be enjoyed from the Garden Terrace, Cantonese from Shang Palace, Italian from Peppino's, Sabahan and Seafood cooked to perfection at Pulau Baya or an amazing mix of snacks from the 2 bars. Tanjung Aru Resort is a paradise of luxury amidst a beautiful setting, it is the perfect stopover on route to any of Malaysia's or Indonesia's incredible dive destinations, enhancing a holiday that will truly be unforgettable.



Sipadan Water Village Resort 5*

Prices include flights, transfers, airport taxes, accommodation, board as stated and diving as stated.

Boat diving in the area - sites can only be accessed by boat at present.

Please contact us regarding Mabul as a holiday destination, or visit our Malaysia liveaboards page for prices and confirmed excursions.


The islands enjoy an equatorial climate, so temperature generally varies between 28 - 34°C during the day and drops to about 22°C during the nights. They are generally unaffected by the monsoon seasons which affect this part of South East Asia, although sporadic heavy rains come down around December and January.

Being islands, Sipadan and Mabul have cooling sea breezes that make even the high humidity level of 85 - 95% quite pleasant

Malaysia Airlines B747 non-stop to Kuala Lumpur
Depart Heathrow/Manchester daily AM / PM
Heathrow/Manchester daily AM / PM
Flight time to Kota Kinabalu approx 15 hours
Economy Class Seat pitch 34 inches
Domestic connections to Layang Layang & Tawau for Sipadan & Mabul after stopover night.

A passport is required for entry into Malaysia and Indonesia.  It needs to be valid for 6 months beyond your travel dates.

A visa is required for entry into Indonesia and can be acquired upon arrival in Indonesia at a fee.

How to Dive Mabul
For environmental reasons this tiny island has now closed its resorts. This means the best way to dive here is by staying in on one of the nearby resorts at Mabul or Kapalai.

The resorts also boast some excellent macro-diving which is a great complement to the breathtaking big fish action of Sipadan Island.

There are no quality liveaboards currently in operation around this area.

Diving Season
You can dive all year round. Overall, the best conditions exist from April to December, especially July and August. January to March can see some unsettled weather and a decrease in visibility but the resorts still see plenty of guests at this time as the diving in Sipadan can still be fine.

Reef Essentials

Great for: Large animals, wall diving, drift dives and advanced divers

Not so great for: Wrecks, beginner divers and non-diving activities

Depth: 5 - >40m

Visibility: 10 - 30m

Currents: Can be strong

Surface Conditions: Can be choppy

Water Temperature: 26 - 30°C

Experience Level: Intermediate - advanced

Number of dive sites: 12

Distance: 12 km (25 minutes) south from Mabul and 10 km (18 minutes) southwest from Kapalai

Access: Sipadan Island diving from Mabul and Kapalai resorts
Recommended length of stay: 5 - 14 days, including Mabul and Kapalai sites

Dive sites - list

Barracuda Point
The Drop Off
Staghorn Crest
Whitetip Avenue
Coral Gardens
Hanging Gardens
South Point
Turtle Cavern

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