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“Beyond expectation...staff's the best” 5 of 5 bubbles
Review of Sipadan Mabul Resort

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Sipadan Mabul Resort
Ranked #1 of 2 Hotels in Pulau Mabul
Penang Island, Malaysia
Level Contributor
10 reviews
10 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 11 helpful votes
“Beyond expectation...staff's the best”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed May 29, 2012

Hotel is surrounded by nature which is wonderfully comfortable & relaxing. Room is clean & comfortable with all the necessities (water heater, air-con, ceiling fan).
Not sure about other rooms, but one thing lacking though is hair dryer (which i think is very handy with all the diving & snorkelling)
Noticed comments about lack of TV, but wasn't a concern to me, didn't need it with all the activities around (diving, snorkelling, kayaking, explore the island, swimming, volleyball, or just relax outdoors and enjoy the breeze.)

Enjoyed the food there throughout my 4D3N stay, not the western food you normally have in hotels, more to oriental food but tasty and varies day to day which I appreciate alot. Had a big feast on the grill night. much enjoyable!

Best of all had to be their staff & service. I only went snorkelling and was a bit uncomfortable at first. But my dive master was very patient and help me until i got use to it. He's also knowledgeable and direct us where to discover the wonders (turtles, school of jack fish, sharks etc) I also liked their attitude which seem genuinely happy and enjoying what they do which is infectious. All in all a wonderful stay!

  • Stayed May 2012, traveled with friends
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
6 Thank Viviene T
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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183 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Sleep Quality
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    3.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    4 of 5 bubbles
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (38)
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Munich
Level Contributor
11 reviews
9 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 28 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed May 22, 2012

We just returned from 10 days at SMART. We love this area... this was our 4th visit, having stayed twice on Kapalai and once here. We had a wonderful holiday! Below you will find my review of the hotel as well as my concerns about the future of this special place.

Concerns about the area:
* Since our last visit 3 years ago, many more resorts have opened in the area. We counted 10 resorts and backpacker hotels on Mabul Island, plus a new one under construction. The local people are being slowly pushed off the island to make way for more tourists, and putting more pressure on this fragile eco system. Additional mainland divebases in Semporna are springing up, and also run daily boats to Mabul/Kapalai/Sipadan.
* There are only 120 permits granted daily to dive Sipadan. These permits are divided among the divebases in the area. There is already a sort of black market trade in permits, with some permits being sold at a premium price (when we were there, the going rate was about $175 on top of your diving package - but that was in low season)
* Excessive boat traffic and overcrowded dive sites have become the norm, with 3 or 4 boats on each dive site at any given time. With the expansion in the number of accomodations, it is no longer primarily serious, responsible divers coming....it was frustrating for us, as photographers, to suddenly see a big group of flapping arms and legs coming through the water and then to suddenly have people on top of us and kicking up the sand with their fins.

Ok, I got that off my chest, so now I will tell you the great things about Mabul!

Hotel:
* The hotel is well run and has a laid back atmosphere. Very friendly staff who will do everything they can to make your trip enjoyable. We were a party of 3 and had 2 stand-alone chalets facing the beach - we spent some perfect evenings sitting on the patio and watching fruit bats in the trees. Our room was clean and comfortable, but could have used a coat of paint to spruce the place up a bit.
* The food served in the restaurant is good and plentiful - they have a different theme every night, like grill night, satay night, sasheemi night...the food is somewhat simple but well prepared and tasty.
* Advice for animal lovers: there are quite a few cats hanging around...they are hungry and some of them need extra help. We brought some dry cat food with us to feed them. The kittens have particular problems - sand gets in their eyes and they can be blinded. The blind ones die. We found 2 kittens with crusty infected eyes and were able to carefully clean their eyes and apply an antibiotic eye creme which we had with us (polyspectran, which can be used on both humans and cats). After 2 days their eyes were clear and open....their lives are hard, and any small kindness you can show them will help.There is also a resident dog who seems to live under the chalets - he is very sweet and not aggressive - appears to be well fed and in good condition.

Diving:
* Diving is at Sipadan (if you can get a permit) or locally.
* Local diving: we found the local dive sites improved since our last visit 3 years ago, with many more turtles and better coral growth. The SMART house reef is excellent, with an extensive artificial reef. There is a large school of jacks living there, and we have also seen bumpheads, turtles, and lots of critters. The boat dives are to Kapalai, Seaventure, or around Mabul. While we were there they were not offering any trips to Siamil Island.
* Sipadan diving: Sipadan to me is the most fantastic place on earth. I fully agree with the need to protect it and am glad they are limiting the number of divers (although I am not convinced that the allocation is being done in the best way). SMART is allocated 14 permits per day, and they can only guarantee 1 day at Sipadan for every 6 days you stay at the resort (depending on the package you have booked). However, if they are not fully booked there is a good chance to get an additional day. If you are staying less than 6 days there is no guarantee, but you can request to buy a permit on the open market - some resorts sell their "unused" permits and if you let the divebase know you want to buy one, they will try to get one for you this way. The SMART divebase did a good job of trying to maximize the permits given to their guests - we were given 3 permits on a 10 day trip.

So will we go back? My heart says yes, I would love to dive Sipadan again.
A lot hinges on the permit situation. With the ever increasing number of hotels, I believe it will become increasingly difficult and expensive to get a Sipadan permit.

  • Stayed May 2012, traveled with friends
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
8 Thank Batfish-B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed April 26, 2012

We, total 12 persons, had travelled to this gate of paradise during April 14-18, 2012 for scuba diving trip purpose. It had been some dificultiies to travel from Bangkok to this resort, 2 filghts+1 hour speed boat from nearest pier Semporna to the Mabul island.
But once we reached there, all tired gone away.

All staffs is very nice and friendly. The atmosphere is naturally and peacefully.
Room is good, neat and clean. No TV inside may be inconvenient to sombody, but outdoor is more interesting.
Diving service team is very great. All is specialist & very friendly service. Our safety is their 1st priority. We can do both snorkeling & scuba diving around this Mabul island, Kapalai island, or go to Sipadan island.

Due to Malaysia law has restricted only 120 divers entry allowances per day to Sipadan island. And this resort get only 14 divers/day only. It's better check & confirm with the resort before travel. Otherwise, you have to buy this entry quota from others resort which is cost 550 RM.

Our group were lucky to get entry quota to Sipadan island. We had found all sea creatures we wish to see. To our group, paradise is under water around these islands.

Ofcourse, we will be back again soon.

Room Tip: Water Bungalow is better view & near to snorkeling point. But beach bungalow is also good.
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  • Stayed April 2012, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
4 Thank MadMee
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Hoofddorp, The Netherlands
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed April 13, 2012

First off, we loved our stay at the Sipadan Mabul Resort. I have read many reviews, and can agree with many of the positive but also less positive reviews. Still, the so-called 'negative' comments I make below are merely made for anyone to whom those things are important. Given the reason why we stayed at this resort in the first place, which you'll read at the end of this review, well, I guess you'll probably understand why the joy we had the 'negatives' couldn't take it away.

For the price you pay to stay at the resort the room could be better equipped. It had no tv (no problem for us!), and no telephone (so you'll need to go over to the office for any queries). The air-con worked fine, but the ceiling fan worked whenever it felt like doing so.

I agree with another review that it's like a breath of fresh air to see they do not put price tags on everything in the room. However, while you are at the resort, and if you would like to make a few extra dives, or when the resort offers you an extra trip to Sipadan, make sure you iron out the details before signing on to make sure you don't pay more than expected. It's not that there are 'hidden' costs, but it is our experience that details are not always communicated clear enough. So you'll need to ask in detail what you may expect from the arrangement, and what is expected from you, especially in terms of payment.

Having said so, the friendliness of all the staff makes you forget any such concerns as those mentioned above. They really go to lengths to make your stay as comfortable and enjoyable as it can get. We went to Mabul primarily to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We had inquired after the possibility of dining on the beach, instead of the restaurant. We didn't expect too much, which made the surprise even bigger. The night of our anniversary the resort surprised us with a beautiful table, set with several dishes of delightful food, a song sung by some 15 staff, including the manager, and an enormous wedding anniversary cake.

I took a refresher course with a divemaster, Patrick, and enjoyed every minute of it. It had been many years since my last dive, but Patrick made me feel as if it was only yesterday. He is a sublime instructor. I'd love to dive with him again. I also joined my wife for some snorkeling, and the boat crew took us to the best snorkeling sides around Mabul.

It's a very nice location to stay for a week or more, if you plan to dive. If you plan to enjoy the view, or go for some snorkeling, I'd suggest you cut it short to 4 or 5 days. If you don't like polution, well, I suggest you stay within the resort, because next to the resort is the village (it's more of a slum, actually), where many of the workers and other people live. The backpackers dive centres, located at these slums, contribute probably to most of the polution (the locals at least try to clear the rubbish, as far as we could see it). It's cheap to stay and dive there, but you really get what you pay for. It's like "close your eyes while you're at the dive centre, and only open them when you're safely under water at one of the nicer dive locations" (it's probably wise to open them at least to check your gear, before getting into to the water). Anyway, the sea there is really polluted, with all sorts of plastic floating around. One of the turtles we saw actually tried to poop out plastic that it had swallowed.

Would we go again? Probably not. Because of the staff? No. Because of the condition of the resort? No. Because of price-quality comparison? Yes. Because of pollution and overcrowding? Yes. Because the diving and snorkeling was less exciting than expected? Yes.

But, of course, that's all just my opinion.

Room Tip: Room 152 has a nice beach view.
See more room tips
  • Stayed April 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
5 Thank PRDGLIVG
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa
Level Contributor
4 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed April 11, 2012

I read review after review for this trip and am SO happy that we finally chose to stay at Sipadan Mabul Resort. Everything was fantastic. We were in one of the stand alone chalets which I would definitely recommend. It had everything you need - VERY comfy beds, toiletries, warm shower and good aircon. The food was also good. Dont expect 5 star western cuisine - but I was never left hungry that is for sure! The resort is also very clean and tehre is a pool and jacuzzi. The highlights were the amazing people - all of staff were so warm and welcoming -Jacki, Jen and Neneng were especially great - and of course SIPADAN! WOW just breathtaking. We saw loads of turtles, schools of barracuda, bumphead parrotfish and white tip reef sharks. So many fish and beautiful corals. It really is a piece of paradise and I feel so priveledged to have been there.

Absolutely no complaints - would go back there in a heartbeat.

  • Stayed April 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
3 Thank DebbieKusel
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Level Contributor
23 reviews
16 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 24 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed April 8, 2012

We had two very nice bungalows with AC and fridge. The whole area is cleaned and raked constantly. All the staff is smiling and friendly. You can go snorkeling at the water bungalows (or have a drink there).
The diving is very well organized for the divers as well as for the snorkelers which is not always the case in diving places. We could all go to sipadan on the same day which was great.
There was always snacks and drinks available. Buffet was in good quantity and you could find something for everyone. The dive master (King) was excellent and showed us so many things.
There was an atmosphere of trust (not with price list of everything which is in the room like you find now) which is also not so common nowadays.
There are nasty stingrays near the beach so you cannot swim there, I think that is the only drawback.
I would love to go back.

Room Tip: The deluxe bungalows are really bigger and woth it.
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  • Stayed July 2011, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
3 Thank ChineseTea
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Level Contributor
32 reviews
19 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 42 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed February 7, 2012

Jewel of the island. Great dive spot. Staff are friendly and service are good. Will come back again...

  • Stayed February 2012
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
1 Thank Sharlinhms
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Sipadan Mabul Resort

Property: Sipadan Mabul Resort
Address: P O Box 15571 Kota Kinabalu, Pulau Mabul 88865, Malaysia
Location: Malaysia > Sabah > Semporna District > Pulau Mabul
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Restaurant Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 2 Hotels in Pulau Mabul
Number of rooms: 42
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
SIPADAN-MABUL RESORT (SMART) is situated at Mabul Island overlooking the well-known Sipadan Island. It is a dive destination resort that began its modest operations back in 1993 and has since grown into a well-established and reputable resort as it is today. SMART has 42 land-based chalets (22 unit stand-alone detached chalets, 18 unit standard semi-detached chalets and 2 unit suite chalets) which can accommodate up to 84 guests at any one time. All chalets are built from native materials of Borneo, mostly twin-bedded, equipped with mosquito screens, air-conditioning and come with attached bathrooms with hot shower facilities as well as free Wi-Fi internet access in the room. Other facilities include a swimming pool, Jacuzzi whirlpool spa, large dining hall and bars. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Sipadan Mabul Hotel Pulau Mabul

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