Vacation in Mabul Island, Sabah, Malaysia- A Complete Beach Paradise

Mabul Island is surrounded by the Celebes Sea. The waters are teeming with macro sea life waiting to be discovered by you. Quiet and idyllic, a Mabul island getaway is minutes away from Sipadan Island by speed boat. With a population of about 2,000 people, you will feel welcome on this spectacular island.  

One of its main attractions is the marine life that lives on the edge of the continental sea bed.  Extraordinary sea creatures call Mabul Island’s reefs home. Dive resorts line the island as it has become a destination for muck diving and for photography. 

The white sand of the beaches contrasts with the blue sea water crashing up against it.  Coconut trees cover a large part of the island. The scenery is beautiful and soothing. 

Mabul Island is open for visits all year round. But the best time to visit Mabul Island is in the dry season (May to October) where the chances of rain are less. 


Where is Mabul Island in Sabah?

Mabul Island is situated off the southeastern coast of Sabah in Malaysia. It is close to the Sipadan islands, separated by 15 kilometers of seawater. The island is under the administration of Semporna, Tawau district. 

How to get to Mabul Island?

Getting to this beautiful Malaysian island requires you to make several stops. You can take a flight from Kaulu Lumpur or Kota Kinabalu to Tawau airport. Here is the easy way to get to Mabul Island from Kota Kinabalu:

Getting to Mabul Island from Kota Kinabalu

Catch a flight from an airport in Kota Kinabalu to Tawau Airport. Then board a taxi or a minivan to the port of Semporna. The trip will last for about 2 hours. From the harbor at Semporna, get on a fast boat ride to Mabul Island. The boat ride should take about 35 minutes. It is best to take an early flight so that you can complete the journey in one day. 

Another option is to come in from the Sipadan islands. They are quite close to each other. The boat ride from Sipadan Island is 30 minutes.


Accommodation on Mabul Island 

Where you stay on Mabul Island depends on

  1. Your budget 
  2. Your preferred location 
  3. Your activities

There are luxurious lodgings as well as comfortable places for a modest fee.      

It is advisable to book a room at a resort or hotel before arriving at the location.  You could also opt to stay in the fisherman’s villages. Here is a list of Mabul Island’s hotels and resorts:


Hotels and resorts on Mabul Island

  1. Mabul Water Bungalows

The exclusive Mabul water bungalows stand on stilts above the water. The balconies give you a sweeping view of the beautiful waters of the Celebes Sea. A stay at the resort covers guided boat tours and dives. 

  1. Seaventures Dive Rig Resort

This resort is peculiar because guests stay in what was once an oil rig. Repurposed and furnished for luxury, the Seaventures dive rig resort was recreated for divers. It is 10 meters above sea level giving an unparalleled view of the sea.

  1. Sipadan Mabul resort

Sipadan Mabul resort has quaint bungalows nestled among coconut trees. Unlike the other resorts, it is built on land.

  1. Borneo Divers Mabul Resort

Built with diving in mind, this resort offers diving classes along with a perfect view of Mabul Island. It is a great bargain if you are diving on a budget. Meals served to guests.  


Hotels and resorts on neighboring islands

You could also choose to stay in a hotel or resort nearby and travel by boat to Mabul Island. 

  1. Sipadan-Kapalai resort

15-20 minutes away from Mabul Island, the Sipadan Kapalai resort stands in the Celebes Sea. It is an amazing experience because there is no land as far as the eyes can see near the resort. The resort lets you go reef diving during your stay. 

  1. Mv Celebes Explorer

The Mv Celebes Explorer offers the chance to tourists to live aboard a ship anchored at the Celebes Sea. It takes in guests at Semporna Jetty. You can dive every day aboard the Mv Celebes.  The liveaboard experience gives you the most of the two worlds as the ship is positioned between the Sipadan and Mabul Islands. 


Homestays on Mabul Island

Living in a homestay on the island is a great way to save money as well as get an authentic feel of the locals too.  You can take a pick of several homestay options



Activities to enjoy on Mabul Island

There are many things to do on the island. It has amazing marine life and intriguing people. Exploring the island itself is easy as it is small enough to be covered by foot in less than an hour. 

1. Diving

Diving is the primary activity for tourists at Mabul Island. The Celebes Sea has amazing corals, reefs and sea creatures swimming around them. The best time to go diving is in the dry season between March to October. If you are interested in diving, you have two options to choose from:

2. Muck diving 

The sand underneath the Celebes Sea is home to macro sea creatures. Exploring these sandy bottoms is every muck divers dream. Frogfishes, scorpionfishes, nudibranchs, pipefish, jawfish, blue ring octopuses, crocodile fishes, cuttlefish, and many crustaceans live in the waters. The depths of the Froggy Lair and Eel Garden are great places for day or night dives.


3. Scuba diving 

The waters of Mabul Island get deeper as you venture out to sea. Colorful reefs abound as well as larger marine life like turtles, napoleon wrasses, and reef sharks. Divers usually visit Lobster wall and Crocodile Avenue. 

Taking a dive under Seaventures’ oil rig platform can prove to be an exciting experience. A visit to the artificial reefs is a sure way to discover new sea creatures.

4. Photography

Mabul Island is picture-perfect. It is a photographers dream. Take pictures of the cottages, blue clear waters, white sandy beaches, people and diverse marine life. A great way to pass the time on the island would be to spend time capturing memories with your camera. You should try to take some amazing underwater pictures while diving or snorkeling. 

5. Snorkeling

Snorkeling is one of the best ways to enjoy a stay at Mabul Island. While swimming in the clear blue waters you are sure to come across sea turtles.  You might find the green turtle, the hawksbill turtle, the olive ridley turtle or the leatherback turtle amongst the reefs of the Celebes Sea. 


6. Kayaking

Rent a kayak and enjoy the beautiful sea. Using the Molokini, a transparent kayak feels phenomenal. You will get to see all that goes on underneath the kayak without getting into the water.


7. Visit the beach

Spend a laid back day at the Mabul Island beach. Enjoy the simple pleasure of relaxing at the beach. Soak up the sun at the edge of the water while you enjoy the scent of the sea. 


8. Watching the sunrise 

While the rest of Malaysia sleeps, Mabul Island receives the first rays of the sun. At 5:45 am, sunlight is visible on the horizon. Watching the sunrise is one of life’s simple pleasures you should enjoy on the island.


9. Stargazing 

The night sky shows the Milky Way in all its wonder. Staying up to gaze into the stars in the quiet of the island’s night air is unforgettable.


10. Try out the local cuisine

The food on Mabul Island can never get boring. There is a wide range of dishes made from seafood and vegetables to try out. Most establishments provide delicious vegan and non-vegan meals made from local ingredients. 

You could also get to buy some raw seafood from the locals and try eating it. But you should find out if your resort or homestay will make a meal with it for you first. 


11. Attend the Regatta Lepa festival

In March/April, the Bajau Laut celebrate a water festival called Regatta Lepa. Festivities go on for 2-3 days. Join in the tug-of-war, duck catching competitions or the dragon boat race. It takes place at Semporna, so you will have to take a boat ride to join in the celebration. 


12. Visit the sea gypsies

A visit to the people of two fishing villages is one of the things you need to do while you are on the island. The culture of the Bajau Laut revolves the water and you can find out more about it by discussing with the people. 

The architecture of the Bajau Laut is also quite intriguing. Walking through the villages you will see the sturdy wooden houses they built by themselves. 

Final words:

Mabul Island is a paradise on Earth. Quiet and simple, its waters and white beaches are welcoming and enjoyable. Take a visit to this breathtaking island. Experience the pure beauty of nature in Mabul Island.

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