Pulau Sipadan Diving Holidays
Mabul Travel Information
Long before anyone donned scuba diving equipment and jumped into the water, Pulau Sipadan was already recognised as something special. Above the waterline the island is only 30 acres (12 hectares) in area and is covered by untouched rainforest. In 1933, this tiny island was declared a bird sanctuary and at the end of 2004 was closed to tourists.
As Sipadan is a protected area and a site of outstanding natural beauty, we urge you to behave responsibly when you visit, and make sure to control your buoyancy when diving. There is a National Park levy of US$ 13 per person per day entrance fee.
Mabul Island has historically played a supporting role its famous neighbour in Sabah, Sipadan Island. Since Mabul is considerably larger, and Pulau Sipadan is now protected from overnight stays, its profile has greatly increased and resort owners have been able to construct a much higher standard of accommodation, albeit within the constraints of a remote getaway.
The island is covered in palm trees and fringed with fine beaches. Villagers live next door to the resorts and guests are free to stroll around the island, mingling with the locals. From Mabul Island, guests are taken the 25 to 30 minutes to Sipadan every day for diving. In addition they can dive the macro-world of Mabul, normally once a day.
• View a map of Sabah
• Watch our Malaysian diving videos
The rest of this page contains information about:
Got a question?
Have a look through our Frequently asked questions
How to Get There
Flights - Boat Transfer
The recommended flight from Kota Kinabalu to Tawau leaves at 7:00 hrs and arrives at 7:45 hrs, with Malaysia Airlines (www.MalaysiaAirlines.com). This is the flight most resorts favour and guests will be collected here and driven for around 1 hour to Semporna, where the resort boat will transfer you the 45 minutes to Mabul Island. Your diving at Sipadan and Mabul will start in the afternoon.
Later flights are available but can cause problems with transfers and will almost certainly mean no diving on the first day. Air Asia (www.AirAsia.com) is free-seating and Malaysia Airlines is not. Both have emergency exit seats with acres of leg-room. For Air Asia you need to be at the front of the queue to secure one of these.
There are direct flights from Kuala Lumpur to Tawau (07:20-10:05) and from Johor Bahru to Tawau (07:50-10:35) with Air Asia - there may be transfers available to meet these flights but you are still not guaranteed diving on the first day. Malaysia Airlines has a later flight (13:15-14:00), but this will probably mean an overnight in Semporna and pick up from your hotel at 08:00 hrs. Semporna has a couple of hotels such as the Dragon Inn and the Seafest Hotel.
Due to the dangers of flying after diving, some Mabul resorts may require you to sign a waiver. This is because some guests want to squeeze in as many dives as possible regardless of the risks. Guests who will be flying within 24 hours after departure from the resorts may be subject to diving restrictions on the last day.
Flights back from Tawau are Malaysia Airlines to Kota Kinabalu (14:40-15:25 hrs or 21:00-21:45 hrs). If you do not wish to stay overnight in Kota Kinabalu, you can fliy direct to Kuala Lumpur with Air Asia (10:30-13:15 hrs or 21:00-21:45 hrs) or back to Johor Bahru (11:10-13:45 hrs).
Note - flight times are subject to change. Please refer to the airline web sites to check for changes and for booking information.
The islands enjoy an equatorial climate, so the temperature generally varies between 28 - 34°C during the day and drops to about 22°C during the warm evenings. The region is generally unaffected by the monsoon seasons which affect other places in 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.
Sightseeing and Adventure
Activities on Mabul Island often depend on which resort you choose to stay in. From the simple and inexpensive beach chalets to the more expensive and luxurious water bungalows built out over clear, shallow waters, in a style reminiscent of the Maldives. Activities can include Snorkelling, sea kayaking, beach volleyball, as well as relaxing in the pool or Jacuzzi.
It is forbidden to land on Pulau Sipadan so the best sightseeing option is to enjoy the other attractions that nearby Borneo has to offer - See Sabah tourist information for more details.
Due to its rich ecological heritage, for years the ownership of Pulau Sipadan was regularly disputed between Indonesia and Malaysia. In 1998, the 2 countries went to the International Court of Justice at The Hague to resolve the matter. A decision was made in 2002 where the Court found in favour of Malaysia. Read more about the history of Sipadan Island.
The Local People
To preserve its fragile environment, the Malaysian government does not allow tourists to stay on Sipadan Island. Its future has yet to become clear but it seems that some buildings will be allowed to stay for Sabah Parks' employees. The island is undoubtedly too small to accommodate the number of builidngs and visitors it experienced in recent years, so in principle this new arrangement should be of benefit to the flora and fauna of the island and its surrounding waters.
Mabul Island does have a small population of Malays that work in the resorts, and migrants from nearby Philippines.
If you're keen to immerse yourself in the world famous waters of Pulau Sipadan, then click below to check your options now for:
Be sure to book in plenty of time to avoid limited choice! The best diving opportunities are booked by repeat customers who book well in advance to ensure their reservation!
Back to Sabah tourist information index