Mabul, an hour boat ride from the northeastern Borneo coastline, is the closest island to the renowned dive spot Sipadan and the only place for divers to stay. Since you have to travel a good long way to get to Sipadan most divers stay at least 3-7 days to get the most out of the journey. Since I basically have time to burn, I stayed a week.
Here’re your options for staying on Mabul:
For honeymooners, working professionals, and those without a budget – water bungalows are for you! I was supremely envious of the bungalow dwellers – posh rooms floating above the water. I tried every which way to fit it into my budget but $$250 a night wasn’t going to work out. I did talk my way into the gift shop to buy a Coke though — just to see how the other half were living. Nice!
Before I arrived on Mabul, I really wanted to stay on the dive rig – just because I think it might be the only one in the world and I think it’s a cool idea to stay right on the water, directly over your diving spots. (In fact, one of the dives I did was the “house reef” under the rig.) Alas, at $150 a night it was still beyond my budget.
And I have to admit, when I saw the rig (which you can see from the island), I was happy to be on Mabul proper. See, once on the rig, you’re on the rig. The island at least gives you a chance to walk around and meet some of the locals. I still think the dive rig is a cool idea though and would’ve loved it for a few days. Next time!
My choice of abode was a long house for $30 a night for a single room with my own bath and full board. Just right! I stayed at the family-owned Arung Hayat (“Arung” means sea nymph and “Hayat” is the family name – so named after the family’s beloved aunt). It was pretty basic, but clean, and there was plenty of good food.
Hanif and Dandy and all the guys made me feel right at home, sharing their rum and songs every night. Dandy also took me around to see bits of the island, like a band playing at another dive resort and a local island wedding. With no internet access and electricity after 6:00 pm, you’re pretty cut off. I did 1-2 dives most days, hung out on the beach, walked around the village and read 2 books. My type of place!
Thinking about diving Sipadan? Write me and I’ll share some hard-won advice on how to get to Mabul. It’s a little convoluted to get there, but so worth the trip!
This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 13th, 2012 and is filed under Home.