i came from Kuala Lumpur and had never been INTO the open seas what more diving despite being an excellent swimmer. one day, a friend invited me and some friends to hang at scuba jeff to take up the PADI license and we all just agreed considering the fact that we had some days of annual leave yet to be utilized. at first, many of us were unsure what to expect because the trip to get to scuba jeff was a long haul one.
the trip from KL to Tawau takes up to 2.5 hours and from Tawau to the jetty in Semporna will consume another 1-1.5 hours or so. then its another hour from the jetty to scuba jeff. when we got there however, we were really really caught off guard with what i would call 'an experience on another level'.
below is the summary.
place: the place is B&B therefore no frills. you get a long-house like layout with about 10 twin sharing rooms. the whole place is big enough to fit a large group of people and there're benches and tables both in and outside the shack for people to sit and relax and also eat. a hammock is placed at the edge of the shack where you can rest and look at the beautiful sunset or sleep under a sea of stars. the exterior part of the shack is used primarily for hanging out and also for the guests to sleep with the sky naked to the eyes and the sea breeze to soothe the hot air. mind you, i saw shooting stars and dead stars many a time, more than what i see in the city i live in for the past 25 years. in short, life here is simple and very much unlike the luxury living in the city and do not expect the pizzaz you would find in 5 stars and resorts.
activities: there's nothing much to do in mabul unless you really plan for it and for us we planned to take up the PADI license and did some free snorkelling along with free dives. if you dont plan well, you might get bored. also, be warned that this place is always fully booked despite its reputation as a no frills B&B so booking at least 3-6 months earlier is recommended. the owner, jeff can recommend what to do and what to see but sufficient to say, its the sea activities you should be looking forward to.the diving is conducted by trained instructors and dive masters from Blue Sea Divers based in Semporna and these guys are highly trained and seasoned divers whom are friendly, knowledgeable and very very helpful in training rookies to be professional divers. therefore, taking up PADI here is HIGHLY recommended.
rooms: the rooms are tidy and simple. you get 2 malaysian standard sockets (equivalent to singapore and united kingdom's electrical sockets) and a table fan to keep the bugs and heat away (although the fans might need some fixing as they are quite err..weak). you get 2 prince sized bed with above average bed sheets. you also get a big window to enjoy the sunset and the sea breeze and also the view of the sea huts.
staff: the staff, save for jeff, spoke basic english and good malay so communication is not that hard but stick to basic english. they are very friendly and helpful but do not mind them when they do not break a smile or greet you as that is not part of their culture. one of jeff's staff, jimsen is really good at everything. just tip him with a good dollar and he'll run errands for you at no time no questionas asked. both jimsen and also another staff, maisarah will entertain the guests at night with both local songs or english songs and also some songs in tagalog (which i personally thought was excellent).
food: the food is nothing short of great because they mostly contain a lot of seafood and nothing else save for some veggies and fruits. some local delights might appear tempting to the local guests, but foreigners might want to stay away from nastily hot and spicy food (but since im a local, i lick them off my plate). do not expect gourmet food or buffet kind of international cuisine cuz again its a no frills B&B. im a bodybuilder and i find the high protein, medium carb and fat diet there is sufficient for muscle conditioning (although there aint no gym in mabul) but its okay since i went there during my off week.
services: again, its a no frills B&B, so do not expect free complimentary wall street journal, financial times or local newspaper because PEOPLE DO NOT READ THE NEWSPAPER on such islands an i personally think its a waste of time and money to have those things. i however would advise anyone planning to stay in mabul or any other island for that matter to prepare extra stuff like spectacles or other things that might break cuz the journey to the closest town (Semporna) to and fro might take you about 2 hours. there're 2 functioning toilets which were more than enough.
other than that, scuba jeff is a great place to be. learn the sipadan song so that you'll understand why even the seasoned and experienced foreign divers chose mabul over the great barrier reef or maldives or mexico.
check this place out for a good time. seriously.
the place is safe, the sea rocks and the time you spend there will be a memorable one.
but always be prepared for surprises and get all the information you need from jeff.
sincerely, Muzzil of Kuala Lumpur
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.