Diving in Mabul
Most people who come to dive the Sipadan area stay on nearby Mabul Island and their diving experience is a combination of its macro sites and critters and Sipadan's walls and big fish action.
Mabul is a small sandy island with coconut trees, dive resorts and a local fishing village, and only 25 minutes or so from Sipadan itself. It has long lived in the shadow of its famous neighbour but is now emerging as a dive destination in its own right.
As critter-diving has increased in popularity many divers come here, not for the big fish action of Sipadan, but for the incredible array of macro-life to be seen at Mabul Island. Sandy sea-beds, coral outcrops, small walls and artificial reefs and jetties, are all home to some of the seas most amazing little creatures.
It is often a good sign when underwater photographers are around and there are always a few diving at Mabul (often only here, and not Sipadan!), so you can be sure there are a wealth of interesting sights lurking in every nook and cranny around the island.
Froggy Lair - Typically for Mabul, this site is full of wonderful critters and a keen pair of eyes can be treated to sights such as crocodilefish, an awesome variety of nudibranchs, garden eels, mantis shrimps and, as the name of the site suggests, lots of different species of frogfish in various colours and sizes. Photographers tend to love the line up of critters here and if you are lucky you may even spot the likes of a flamboyant cuttlefish and blue-ringed octopus.
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Artificial Reef - Along the east side of Mabul Island, several dive resorts have collaborated to create an artificial reef. Old dive boats and a variety of man-made structures in the shapes of pyramids and crates have been sunk into the sand and now support a myriad of marine life.
A huge school of bigeye trevally roam the reef while giant potato groupers, some over 2 metres long, lurk in the shadows. Frogfish can be seen attached to pieces of the structure and lionfish and scorpionfish are everywhere. Look out also for messmate pipefish in the rubble at the structure base and giant stingrays half-buried in the sand.
How to Dive Mabul Island
Staying in a resort on Mabul means that on days when you are not diving Sipadan, you can concentrate on all the local sites around the island where the critters abound.
There are several resorts on the island that should have something for everyone, from a budget resort to stilted bungalow luxury. See our Malaysia resorts section for more details. Special local rates apply at many of these resorts for Malaysians, Singaporeans and expatriates living in those countries with work permits.
There is also 1 liveaboard in the area which stays overnight at Mabul Island and from which you can dive many of the local dive sites.
Got a question?
Have a look through our Frequently asked questions
You can dive in Mabul year round with the best conditions occurring outside the rainy season which normally occurs between December and March. However the weather and diving conditions are often very good at this time too.
This is a very popular destination and some periods are so popular that you really should book long in advance. These periods include March to August, Christmas, New Year and Chinese New Year. If you wish to travel at these times please let us know as soon as possible.
Good for: Small animals, underwater photography and beginner divers
Not so good for: Visibility and non-diving activities
Depth: 5 - 20m
Visibility: 5 - 15m
Surface conditions: Calm
Water temperature: 27 - 29°C
Experience level: Beginner - advanced
Number of dive sites: 12
Distance: 12 km (25 minutes) north from Sipadan and 5 km west of Kapalai
Access: Mabul resorts
Recommended length of stay: 5 - 14 days
Dive Site Descriptions
For more information on the detailed Mabul dive sites:
• Mabul Island travel information
View a map of:
• Sabah - Borneo - Malay Peninsula
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