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Located near Sabah’s south-eastern coastline in Malaysia, Mabul Island is a tiny oval-shaped island with plenty to offer. Mabul boasts sandy beaches and a brilliant location on the corner of a 2km2 reef known for some of the best muck diving opportunities around.
Mabul is just 15 minutes by speedoat north of Sipadan Island, but these two islands could not be more different from each other. Mabul is a small continental island that can easily be walked in under an hour while Sipadan is an even smaller oceanic island. Mabul Island has two small Bajaut Laut villages as well as several resorts while Sipadan doesn’t have any.
Unlike nearby Sipadan, Mabul Island doesn’t have colourful coral reefs or sponge-covered walls with masses of big fish swimming around the clear blue waters. In fact, Mabul is quite the opposite, with a sandy sea floor that makes visibility quite limited at times.
These conditions are of course ideal for muck divers and underwater photographers looking to capture images of the odd-looking macro critters living in the sand. Often dubbed ‘Macro Heaven, Mabul’s sandy seabed is of huge interest to divers and is one of the most popular muck diving sites in the world.
If it’s exotic marine life you’re after, it doesn’t get much better than the area around Mabul Island. The sandy seabed surrounds a sloping reef which lies on the edge of a continental shelf, bringing together a host of rare and wonderful creatures.
Muck divers can expect to see bobtail squids, mimic octopus, stunning flamboyant cuttlefish and possibly even the deadly blue-ringed octopus. There are a number of crustaceans around the area too such as boxer crabs and harlequin shrimp which can often be seen feeding on sea stars. An abundance and wide variety of gobies can be seen such as metallic shrimp gobies, spike-fin gobies and black-sail fin gobies to name just a few. Unlike many places, frogfish are plentiful in this region and you might even see some painted, clown or giant frogfish as well as various others in the scorpion fish family.
There are several resorts on Mabul Island:
There are also several backpackers, hostels & longhouses in the village for those on a budget.
The dive resorts on Mabul organize daily diving and snorkeling trips to nearby Sipadan.
The underwater experience at Sipadan and Mabul are poles apart. While one offers large pelagics and colourful corals, the other is known for its silty conditions with a focus on the miniscule rather than the massive.
Diving at Sipadan will clear water and swarms of large pelagic fish to marvel at.
Divers at Sipadan will be searching the big blue for barracuda swirling tornadoe, sharks, bumpheads, giant sea turtles and trevallies.
Most visitors fly to Tawau Airport from Kuala Lumpur (2h50) or Kota Kinabalu (45mn). From Tawau airport, your resort will arrange a land transfer to Semporna (1h20) and onward to Mabul island by speedboat (45mn).
Only a few resorts do have allocated Sipadan Permits. As only 120 visitors/day are allowed to Sipadan, it is highly recommended to arrange a permit in advance.
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