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“Great place in greedy hands”

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Sipadan Mabul Resort
Ranked #1 of 2 Hotels in Pulau Mabul
Reviewed April 23, 2013

Really great place for diving at Sipadan, while Mabul and Kapalai – diving is below average, “housereef” near the oil rig – is place for greens to die (see photos attached). Be aware of the new invention by the SMART management – they sell you a “guarantee” to dive at Sipadan for the price USD 180 (on top of USD12 permit charge by the state). If you do not buy – you do not dive at Sipadan, and Mabul, Kapalai and sea rig is your place then. All is very expensive there, whereas the resort is obsolete, food is average (bbq is good, anyway), fruits are limited, no fresh juices, drinks are terribly expensive… What else to enjoy your stay with SMART? Rude and arrogant management. All they can do – blame your agent you bought the rip from. Important note - this is the place only for divers. Little sandy beach exist, but very shallow see - swimming is impossible. Nothing else to do there.
General impression – vacation is ruined. I will never come back to this place again.

  • Stayed: March 2013, traveled with friends
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7  Thank Igor I
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed March 4, 2013

We got lucky and got to head to Sipadan island 3 times over 7 days. Normally they only guarantee one pass every 7 days. All the big stuff is over here, schools of Jack, Barracuda, parrot fish. The amount of turtles we saw was unbelievable. Sipadan is a protected island so during peak times you may not be guaranteed a dive there. Each resort receives an allocation of passes per day. If you miss out you can always dive in Mabul or Kapalai, these two spots are better known for their Muck diving, plenty of Nudibranches and Seahorses. The instructors on Mabul were great, got my open water and advanced open water here. A little on the expensive side. The night dives in the house reef were also great!!! I highly recommend it.

  • Stayed: October 2012, traveled with friends
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3  Thank Charles C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 7, 2013

We've spent 4 nights 5 days at the resort, enjoying and diving. The service was great, dive instructors are all professional and helpful, in general all staff is very friendly. Though we didn't even apply for the Sipadan diving permit, the resort got the quotas for us and we had the most fabulous time of our life there. Food is quite good, though I would advice for more variety and more package-included beverages. 9.9999 of 10. Greatly recommended!!!

  • Stayed: January 2013, traveled as a couple
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4  Thank annaryabova11
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 6, 2013

A real tropical paradise, covering about one third of Mabul Island. The large island contains numerous other dive/backpacker joints and a few other resorts, and a large village of locals, so dont expect to be on an isolated island paradise.

The resort is spotlessly clean, and you can stay at either stay at the Water Bungalows (on stilts, and a little more up market), or at the Island resort (where we stayed). After a good look at both sections I really was very happy with the island section, as there is a pool, beach and great sunsets every night, and you can always walk over to the Water Bungalows for a drink and snorkel anytime. The food is buffet style with 6 hot selections (a mix of seafood and non seafood), and cold salads, and often a bbq special for the evening (whole roast lamb on NYE!). The food was good, apart form breakfast which tended to be greasy noodles and weird seafood deep fried dumplings. There was afternoon tea and snacks were always available.

The rooms were fantastic, and we had a standalone chalet, with ocean and beach views, a massive king bed, room safe, outdoor shower (mosquito proof), fridge, and deck. I would strongly suggest bringing your own alcohol supply, esp if you drink spirits as the prices are excessive (20 MR per 15ml shot, plus 8 MR for a can of mixer) and shots are 15ml single, which makes for $17 USD gin and tonics - OUTRAGEOUS! The beers are 24.5 RM for a 640ml + 6% tax.

The diving part was quite professional, with stringent checks on quals but not many sites you need to go much below 20 - 24m so open water is fine. I was swapped around Divemasters a few times, which was good and bad, as each have there own style, but I also tended to go to the same sites repetitively, but if you ask your divemaster they will often change locations. You have to pay extra for everything, apart from weights and tanks (my first dive resort experience, but different to packages on the Great Barrier Reef where a package includes all gear). If you havent dived for 6 months they may also request a refresher dive (costs extra - a bit rude) but if you stand your ground they will waive this requirement. The orientation can be a little confusing so keep asking questions.

The diving itself was great, although some rubbish is around the mabul sites. We rarely went to Kapalai to dive despite the board saying we had one dive there every day. Lots of Moray eels, heaps of turtles, heaps of nudibranchs, leaf fish, stone fish and lion fish around Mabul. The diving at Sipidan was good, but can be a little hit and miss depending on the day, so dont write it off after a single experience. My first day was a little disappointing compared to the hype, but still good. I was lucky enough to get another day and it was truly amazing (ask to go to 'The Drop off' site as it was awe inspiring). Some really strong currents at times. So many turtles and sharks, and huge schools of Jack fish and Barracuda. Make sure you book a Sipidan package otherwise you need to pay 550 RM for 3 dives at Sipidan (Ripoff!).

You can do extra night dives for 50RM per group (excellent value) plus 40 RM for torch rental (per person), and I would highly recommend it as we saw great stuff just at the house reef.

Overall a very relaxing place and good diving, a little expensive, esp the drinks but great accommodation and plenty of food.

Room Tip: Stand alone chalet 132 on the end was perfect, with a view to Sipidan and the beach.
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  • Stayed: January 2013, traveled as a couple
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6  Thank TimMPerth
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 28, 2012

their website was confusing and we couldnt speak with anyone directly at the resort. everything had to go through an agent. we asked to be at the water bungalows, but were told there was only a two bedroom suite left. we didnt need that much space, so they booked us at the land bungalows. after we arrived, we were quite disappointed to find out that most of the water bungalows were not booked. i dont appreciate that kind of selling techinque. pick up at the airport was easy and we arrived at the boat transfer about an hour later. we had to wait at a hotel lobby near the dock for about 45 minutes while they loaded the transfer boat with supplies. the boat ride was terrible as the captain was going extremely fast and we bounced for the entire 45 minutes. jen did a great job with arrival and orientation. you can only dive depths based on your certification (open water 20m, advanced 30m). we were happy to be diving sipadan our first day. its definitely not a deal if you don't get the sipadan package. you can still dive at sipadan if they have a pass for you but you have to pay $200 per person. everyone else with the package seemed to be going multiple times only paying the entrance fee. we did our first orientation dive at the house reef which was a great dive. my husband had a leak in his rented octopus and asked for a replacement. next day we went to sipadan and unfortunately his octopus was not replaced. i expected sipadan to be one of the greatest places on earth, but i was a bit disappointed. the schooling jacks and bump head parrot fish were quite awesome, but that was the extent of the wonder. nothing else we saw was truely amazing. i was upset when while on the boat we chased schoolinig barracuda, threw our dive gear on and jumped in the water. the divemaster did an underwater sprint for about 15 minutes to try and find them. they were so far away we couldnt even get their attention to tell them that we no longer wanted to pursue this endless chase. we had a different divemaster each day of diving which made it hard to develop a relationship. each dive either our tank was leaking or we were having issues with the equipment. after one dive, the dive master couldnt close the tank my husband was using. this is not something we have experienced withing our 150+ dives. the best sites were the ones that were muck diving. i got very tired of the artificial reefs at most of the other sites. most sites have lots of garbage floating in the water. each dive was a hard stop at 45 minutes no matter how much air the dive group had. food was below average and specifically catered towards the mostly asian guests. there was no water or fruit on board the boats. since all sites were close, surface intervels were back at the resort. you had to wait to get back there for your water and leftover cake from the night before. our bungalow had a nice view of the construction of the new resort being built in the water. outdoor showers were nice in the bungalow. we had two twin beds separated by a night table which isnt conducive for a newly married couple. the walk to the water bungalows was quite pleasant. seeing the sea snakes on the helipad was a unique experience. getting drinks at the sunset bar for 'happy hour' was definitely a highlight. we couldnt get that many though because the prices were steep. didnt like the other guests feeding the stray cats ON the dinner table at night during the service. really didnt like being at one of the dive sites and seeing a large group of guests posing on top of the sea turtles. i dont know if the groups got special rules, but i know we signed a paper saying that we would not touch the sea turtles. their divemaster turned a blind eye and the videographer recorded it! no respect for the sealife. there were no options to do any other activites besides going to the spa at the water bungalows. definitely will not be back.

  • Stayed: December 2012, traveled as a couple
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5  Thank dcr182
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 2, 2012

We went here at the beginning of our vacation and I wish I could have spent more time. We stayed in the Mabul water bungalows which are on the water. The rooms were very nice with air conditioning and a TV. There was a pool on the island as well. Dove and snorkeled Sipadan island which was the most amazing snorkeling ever. Things you only see diving you could see snorkeling here. Stay in rooms 212 or 213. They have the best views. I would just sit out on my back porch and watch the sunrise. It was like being in your own aquarium. The only downside is the food was not anything to write home about. These water bungalows are not to be missed!

Stayed: November 2012, traveled with friends
5  Thank Hilandl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 7, 2012

Visited the Sipadan_Mabul Resort on Mabul island in Feb 2012. This resort is true value for money. It has an excellent location on the island of Mabul, exclusive beaches which front the property, the rooms are well appointed and have an excellent décor and all of them have a deck/open sit-out and barely a 5 min walk away from the beach. The service is efficient and friendly. The food served is an international cuisine and yes - for vegetarians the kitchen staff made an extra effort to serve suitable dishes. The dining area is an excellent space for interacting with other guests and the staff, apart from the excellent view it affords of the beach and is well lit and airy too.
The resort offers a wide variety of courses for diving, snorkelling and other sea water related activities, apart from taking guests for dives to Sipadan island, a 15 min boat ride away. This area is considered the mecca for diving and other underwater activities and Mabul island and this resort is well positioned to cater to all the divers needs.
Excellent vistas for the photographer as well as an opportunity to travel around the islands of the Semporna Marine Park. Its about 45 mins away by a fast speed boat from Semporna town.

Room Tip: All the rooms are excellent in their location
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  • Stayed: February 2012, traveled solo
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1  Thank Ravindra846
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

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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