BrotherDive 2013 - Mabul Island - Malaysia

In this review we’ll discuss the first part of our trip to Malaysia.
Actually the entire trip was based to dive on Sipadan Island.
The first week we stayed on Mabul, a small Island close to Sipadan. We were guests at the Borneo Divers Resort.

(For the second part of the trip see the review of Kapalai)

Mabul (Malay: Pulau Mabul) is a small island off the south-eastern coast of Sabah in Malaysia.
The island has been a fishing village since the 1970s. In the 1990s, it first became popular to divers due to its proximity to Sipadan island. (20 min. by boat)

Located 15 km from Sipadan, this 20-hectare piece of land surfaces 2–3 meters above sea level, consists mostly flat grounds and aerial view is oval-shaped. Surrounding it are sandy beaches, perched on the northwest corner of a larger two square kilometre reef.
Mabul island is administered as a part of Semporna, Tawau district.

There are two main villages on the island, "Kampung Mabul" and "Kampung Musu". They count approximately 2000 villagers, half of them children below 14 years old. The majority are immigrants from relatively nearby clusters of islands in the southern Philippines. They all live on one side of the Island.

The History

Now we have found an untouched piece of art” – Jacques Cousteau on Sipadan Island

The year was 1983 when Borneo Divers began their dive trips to Sipadan, the secret oceanic paradise discovered by Ron Holland. Subsequently, Mr. Holland welcomed underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau and his film crew to Sipadan Island which resulted in Mr. Cousteau’s movie “Borneo: Ghost of the Sea Turtle”.

This documented Sipadan’s beauty and lush marine life, bringing the island international fame.

Sipadan Island

The diving scene in Borneo exploded as a result and prompted Clement Lee and his dive buddies, Randy Davis, Ron Holland and Samson Shak to incorporate Borneo Divers, the first recreational diving operations in Sabah.

In 1984, Clement Lee became a PADI dive instructor and pioneered the very first dive school in Tanjung Aru with the approval of PADI’s American headquarters.

Inspired to share his passion for diving with more people, Lee also founded the first Child Academy in Sabah, produced Malaysia’s first female dive instructor, and pioneered a multi-racial multi-cultural dive instructor team, amongst many other innovative projects.

Today, Borneo Divers is still one of the leading professional dive operation in Sabah, Malaysia.

The arrival

We had a transfer by minibus via Borneo divers from Tawau airport to Semporna, which is about an 80 minutes’ drive. In Semporna Borneo Divers has a small office in the harbor of Semporna, from which they transported us by boat to Mabul Island.

This was a really fast beat, and it took us around 45 minutes to reach the Island. We had a warm welcome and after we arranged all the necessary paperwork we could directly check-in at the dive center.

The resort

Borneo Divers Mabul Resort is ideally located on a pristine stretch of white sand beach on the island of Mabul. Easy access to the water provides for effortless shore and boat diving.

The resort holds 30 wooden chalets.

The Chalets

All the rooms have been tastefully decorated in traditional style. These spacious and comfortable semi-detached chalets offer ethnic touches such as beautifully hand-carved lamps, hand-woven tapestries or other cultural pieces.

All chalets are located around a central garden with a nice swimming pool. The resort starts directly at the beach. At the end of the garden, at the opposite side of the beach, is a building that contains the reception, a small gift shop, conference room and the restaurant.

Chalet facilities:

- air conditioning
- ceiling fan
- private verandah
- Private ensuite bathroom with hot/cold shower
- hair dryer
- writing desk
- Dressing table
- Available with twin or double beds
- Tea and coffee making facilities
- Safety-deposit box
- Size: 180 ft² / 17 m²

The Room

The rooms itself are not overwhelmed with luxury, our room was rather basic but it’s more than enough for divers like us. The bathroom is the most ‘basic’ area in the chalet, there is a sink and a shower area, warm water is produced via an indoor electrical boiler. Daily cleaning is done in a decent way.

Outside there’s a small outdoor terrace with a couple of chairs.

As said, it’s basic but good!

The restaurant

The dining hall is the center of social life at the Borneo Divers resort.
They serve dishes of Malaysian, Thai, Chinese, Japanese and Western Cuisines.
All meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) are served in buffet style.

The food is really good, and has a great variety. For divers it’s also important to know that the lunch which is served during your daily diving trip is also very good!

The food is included, drinks are not included during your stay.


Resort Facilities

The Borneo Divers Mabul Island Resort features the following facilities:

- Restaurant and Dining Hall
- Swimming pool
- Event and conference hall
- 3 bars (including one sunset beach bar)
- Recreational and sport facilities
- Professional underwater photo and video services
- Library and Satellite TV room
- Jacuzzi
- Gift & Souvenir Shop
- Free WIFI broadband internet access

Borneo Divers has a variety of activities that will also keep you entertained while not diving.

- Spa offering massage, manicure & pedicure
- Mini Soccer Field
- Beach Volley
- Beach Loungers and Umbrellas
- Board Games
- Babysitting Services


The dive center

Borneo Divers is a 5 star PADI IDC Dive Center and a 5 star PADI Palm resort
As said before Borneo Divers was the first dive center which made Sipadan known around the world. Their team consists of PADI professionals and range from Divemasters to a Course Director. We had a very positive experience with all of the guides we dived with. Also the dive center and boat crew were very friendly and helpful.
The guides are really experienced divers in the waters around Mabul and Sipadan. Just name it, and they’ll find it for you……
And they are always in for a ‘deco beer’ at the end of the day!

The dive center itself is located on the beach at the end of the pier.
They also have a lounge area next to the dive center on the pier.
All your personal equipment can be stored at the dive center, you can hire a complete set as well. They have plenty of tanks available, including Nitrox.

There are a couple of outdoor showers at the dive center and facilities to rinse your gear as well.
For house reef dives there’s an easy entrance via a large stair directly at the dive center.
From there you can also hop on the boats.

The boats all look very decent and well maintained. (And they are fast!)

We had a very positive experience with the dive center and the entire crew!
Note: Diving at Sipadan Island is limited to a certain amount of divers per day. This is to prevent that too many divers will dive on Sipadan at the same time and disturb / affect the underwater environment.
This means that you’ll need a permit to dive at Sipadan Island.
Borneo Divers can provide you a permit, however they are limited. (All permits are being divided over all dive centers who are allowed to dive on Sipadan.
We were lucky that during our stay there were not many divers at the resort. Due to that we were able to dive on Sipadan Island every day. The ‘normal’ procedure for diving at Sipadan (during our stay in 2013) was that for every 3 days you stay at Borneo Divers, you can go 1 day to Sipadan.
So don’t forget to check before you book!


Our evaluation

Our ratings below are based on our personal experiences. They are also adapted to our needs as divers. Meaning that we’re less focused on additional features.
Therefore you should only pay attention to our ratings if you’re planning a diving holiday.

Where we base our score on:

Accommodation: Room size, beds, cleaning, bathroom, location, environmentally friendly, etc.
Facilities: Pool, sport activities, organized trips, TV, Internet, phone, area etc.
Dive center: Quality of equipment, boats, crew, dive guides, location, service, marine conservation, etc.

Scoring matrix


The Borneo Divers Resort on Mabul is a very good diving resort. However if you don’t dive or snorkel we won’t recommend it.
As said, it’s a diving resort (like most of the other resort in this area)
The resort itself is basic but good, it has all the facilities you need especially as a diver.
The food is also very good.

With regards to the dive center, we can be quite clear; this is the dive center you want to dive if you’re in this area. They have a great crew and a well-organized dive operation.
Especially the personal approach and the ‘down to earth’ attitude is something that we both liked about this dive center.
Good equipment and facilities makes it all complete.

Besides all this, it also has a great value for money!

Therefore we can highly recommend the Borneo Dive Resort to all divers who like to visit Sipadan.
Our verdict
Dive Center:
Total score: