We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

“If you are looking for a friendly, laid back place from which to base all of your undersea adventures, this is it!!”

We can't find prices for this accommodation
Our online travel partners don't provide prices for this accommodation, but we can search other options in Pulau Mabul
Check In mm/dd/yyyy Check Out mm/dd/yyyy
Uncle Chang's Sipadan Mabul Dive Lodge
Toronto
Level Contributor
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
“If you are looking for a friendly, laid back place from which to base all of your undersea adventures, this is it!!”
Reviewed January 23, 2011

First off, let me say that from reading the other reviews that this seems to be a very polarizing place. You either love it or hate it. It sure is different!  It is the people that make this place what it is. 

Through some poor planning on our part (which is half the fun of travel), my wife and I ended up basically marooned on Mabul Island. So we turned up at Uncle Chang's, looking for a place to stay, after having found the east side of the island too expensive, and frankly pretentious.  The lovely young lady who works there was very kind to us, and set us up with a room out over the water. WOW!  It becomes easy to overlook the rather basic bathroom when you have the Celebes sea on your doorstep!  Ocean view on 3 sides, and the sunset through our front door!  These rooms lack AC, but the sea breeze allows it to be very comfortable. 
I do recommend reserving one of these rooms rather than the yellow longhouse containing the dorm rooms. They seem a bit better. Alternately, Uncle Chang has just finished some new bungalows which look great! Overall, I loved sleeping out over the water amongst the Bajau village. I began to feel the pulse of the island and it's people. The sounds of local music, children laughing, and the smell of roasting fish left a strong impression with me. If you wish to be wrapped in a cocoon of western luxury and sneer at the locals that's your prerogative I suppose. And you can find that elsewhere on Mabul, but not here. 

Uncle Chang also seems to have the best piece of real estate on Mabul. Let me tell you hanging out in the common area after a day of diving Sipadan, eating delicious fresh seafood and drinking a Tiger as the sun goes down right in front of you and turtles swim right up to the deck is just heaven for me.  
That right there was the highlight of my entire trip to Asia.
The food is, as I mentioned great. Primarily seafood, but chicken wings are another favorite. Bajau fishermen in canoes come up through the day and sell their catch to Uncle Chang, which in turn becomes our lunch. Yellowtail sashimi on our last day was delicious! That day we were out late on a night dive and when we came back the band was already started. It looked like the food was all gone, but Uncle Chang had reserved a plate for us, and it was just the icing on the cake. 

On to the man himself.  He is a wonderful, kind and charitable man. He might not come off that way at first. I think perhaps some of the other reviewers may have crossed him somehow.  It's basically a question of Malaysian culture. Show the man a little respect, and within a day or two, you will be family. 

He is rightly proud of his charity efforts, and I got to know some of the people he has helped over the years, and they say they are still floored by his capacity for generosity. 
He was also very kind to us. I really believe his guests are not just dollar signs and we feel we became genuine friends of his. 

This may be why the Malaysian authorities seem very willing to grant him Sipadan diving permits in addition to the regular ones he has. The western run resorts seem to have an excellent system for stringing would be divers along promising everything, delivering wait lists.  I spoke to someone who had been on standby for weeks at another one of the resorts. 
Uncle Chang is on the phone every morning, trying to get more permits arranged. In fact, both my wife and I dove Sipadan the day after we checked in, with no prior arrangement. I then did my Advanced OW course 1 on 1 with a fantastic instructor, and dove Sipadan again. 
I won't review the dive sites themselves here, but I will say that Uncle Chang's dive staff are excellent, knowledgable and highly skilled. They seem to consist of people who came for a few days but then never left. I almost became one of them! The boat crew were numerous, punctual and knowledgable as well. 
Yes, the dive equipment was heavily worn. But I had no problem with it, and nor did anyone else on any of my dives. I did observe the staff properly cleaning and maintaining the equipment after use so that's a good sign. It is of course your own responsibility to examine your equipment thoroughly on receipt. Just because it looks new/old doesn't mean it works! I always bring my own computer which i ask to be attached to the first stage reg. 
I'd better wrap this up so let me just conclude by saying that i really miss the place, and all my new friends there. We will see you there soon I hope!

  • Stayed January 2011
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
4 Thank DarylNova
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Write a Review

265 reviews from our community

Traveler rating
    58
    67
    40
    40
    60
See reviews for
17
75
35
1
Rating summary
  • Location
  • Sleep Quality
  • Rooms
  • Service
  • Value
  • Cleanliness
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (36)
Date | Rating
  • Chinese (Traditional) first
  • Chinese (Simplified) first
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Indonesian first
  • Italian first
  • Japanese first
  • Russian first
  • Spanish first
  • Swedish first
  • Any
English first
Toronto, Canada
Level Contributor
15 reviews
7 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 20 helpful votes
Reviewed January 22, 2011

My husband and I stumbled upon Uncle Chang's purely by accident, having been referred to it by a disgruntled guest with another hotel on Mabul. This guest was annoyed that she wasn't able to dive Sipadan despite having been on the waitlist for weeks. She had only found out the morning she was leaving that Uncle Chang had the much coveted Sipadan permits she wanted. Too late for her, but just in time for my husband and I :)

Originally, we intended to stay at Uncle Chang's for two nights - so we could dive Sipadan. However, we had such a great time there that we kept extending our stay, spending the remaining time of our three week trip there. During our 7 day stay, Uncle Chang seemed to have no problems obtaining dive permits for Sipadan, which is an incredible place for divers. Diving Sipadan is well worth it. Reef sharks, turtles, chevron barracuda, nudibranches etc. were bountiful there!

In terms of accomodations, the place is not for people who are looking for the five-star, Hilton experience. Rooms are basic, but clean and comfortable. Each room had its own bathroom, which was very nice. As someone who dives and spends most of their time in the water anyway, the room is where I go to sleep. And sleep I did! My room was spacious and well ventilated (if I left the windows open for the ocean breeze to circulate through), even without air conditioning. I slept very well!

The resort is situated in the middle of a Bajau village - this gives guests the opportunity to wander around and meet and learn more about the Bajau people. One night, guests at Uncle Chang's were even invited to observe a traditional Bajau wedding! This was quite a memorable experience.

The food at Uncle Chang's is tasty, with a a veggie, chicken, and fish dish served at lunch and dinner. Breakfast typically consisted of a rice dish, a noodle dish, and an egg dish. Fresh fruit was served with every meal. Tea, coffee, and water were plentiful. And soft white bread, butter, and jam were always available for snacks.

The staff at Uncle Chang's, including the dive masters, were always friendly and courteous. When diving, I found the dive briefings to be thorough, and the DMs very knowledgeable about the underwater flora and fauna, and aquatic life. What I found impressive was the passion they had for their jobs, and for the dive sites! It was infectious! In my many dives during the week, I didn't observe any unsafe diving practices. On land, the DMs were laid-back, approachable, and fun to be around. Parties at Uncle Chang's were always exciting. There were three parties held during my stay - with a live band, and Uncle Chang himself doled out cans of Coke and bottles of local rum.

In my experience, the equipment looked a little worn, but no one on the dives I went on, including myself, had any problems. Everything worked well, which in my opinion, is what really matters.

Finally, I found Uncle Chang was a very likeable person. He was very generous with his guests. I found him to go the extra mile to ensure that his visitors were having a good time; for example, spending his mornings on the phone to make sure that guests who wanted to dive Sipadan would get the permits. He also spent time with the guests, getting to know everyone. Uncle Chang also knows how to throw a great party!

All in all, I would return to Uncle Chang's, and hope to do so in the near future. I had an excellent time there, and would have no qualms about recommending this place to adventure seekers who can do without all the accountrements of a five-star hotel, and are just looking for a relaxing place, with nice people and a beautiful view.

  • Stayed January 2011, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
4 Thank Ms_Chickita
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Innsbruck, Austria
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
Reviewed January 13, 2011

This is a pure diving review - we did not stay at uncle chang but a nearby homestay. we only got in touch with uncle chan due to our trip to sipadan; all other diving we were luckily doing with some other company with great people at top material. diving with uncle chan is dangerous, and my personal opinion, after almost 100 dives: it is just a matter of time till there will be some severe accidents resulting from uncle chang's overly old and terrible maintained equipment! it allowed us to dive sipadan, but other than that - dont risk your life diving!!!

Stayed January 2011, traveled as a couple
Helpful?
10 Thank re2k
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Frankfurt, Germany
Level Contributor
9 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 11 helpful votes
Reviewed January 12, 2011

uncle chang is an average place to stay. the staff is friendly and the atmosphere is quite nice. if you plan to dive there, it's nothing to recommend. we did 5 dives with uncle chang and several aweful things happened which were related to poor diving gear and careless instructors.
once a bottle leaked underwater and had to be fixed at 25 meters depth.
then some of the regulators don't work properly and the wetsuits are in a horrible condition.
my friend, a diving amateur ran out of oxygen due to his careless diving buddy, who also was an instructor.
i also ran out of air during my safety stop, but the meter still showed 30 bar. if this happened at 20 meters and not at 5 then this would've been deadly serious.
once, a bottle broke, while still on the boat.
also, the fins are in a poor condition and some sizes are simply missing.
overall, i have to say that this place is totally not recommendable for people that care about safe diving with proper gear and skilled instructors.
uncle chang himself seems like a grumpy chinese guy, who, like many chinese, doesn't care about quality that much. it's all about profit here.
if you wanna risk your health, go for uncle chang.

  • Stayed January 2011, traveled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
10 Thank timbotravel
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Level Contributor
15 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 15 helpful votes
Reviewed January 2, 2011

We just came back from 10 memorable days at Uncle Chang's - ringing in the Xmas festivities with a rocking band, a complete buffet table of food (fresh tuna - sushi!!!!!!), and free flowing firewater courtesy of Uncle Chang himself.

The facilities themselves (rooms) are basic, but functional. You won't spend much time in the rooms anyways. You'll be perched upon a sun chair or hanging in the common area with the staff/other guests sipping on tea/coffee or Tiger while breathing in fresh sea air & taking in the beautiful sunset each night. Common areas were always impeccably clean, welcoming and pretty laid back.

We dived 3X a day, EVERY day for the 10 days we were there. I suppose you could say we love diving, but the dive sites speak for themselves. Uncle Chang's always has Sipadan permits (Uncle Chang himself is some sort of community icon, so he has good relationships with the who's-who's in Semporna/Mabul/Sipadan) and we managed to go 5 days out of the 10 days we were there.

But, not to be missed are some great dive sites in Mabaul itself (muck diving, macro-lover's heaven), Kapalai, Sibuan & Mantabuan (I dreamed of places like these gorgeous, tiny deserted islands) ... the Dive Staff were enthusiastic every day, and knowledgeable about the sites. Admittedly, the breifings could have been more thorough, the equipment better (wet suits all had holes in them) but the organisation was impeccable. Everything was always punctual, the dives were well planned and nothing went amiss in at least the time that we were there.

Quality of food served every day was a treat. We ate like Kings & Queens - having fresh seafood almost every day. I expected the run of the mill, backpacker-type food (note: bland), but was pleasantly surprised when every day was a feast. Great cooking staff.

Overall, I would highly recommend Uncle Chang's. It's a hostel/backpacker place - so don't expect hotel-quality facilities but there lies it's charm. It's for the chilled out traveller & avid diver and if you go with a relaxed mindset, are open to meeting people from all over the world (including the friendly staff & locals) - then you'll have a blast.

Prices are worth it. We managed to negotiate a rate of 140RM (approx 35 euros) for a double room, inclusive of 3 meals of day. Rates for diving depend on location with Sipidan being the most $$$. But worth it - there's no words to describe being circled by a school of hundreds of Barracuda, musically swimming around you. Awe-inspiring. Not to mention the countless sharks, turtles, moray eels and the weird, wacky & often hard to find frog fish, mantis shrimp, beautiful nudibranch, ghost pipefish, scorpian leaf fish and sooooo much more.

Excellent work Uncle Chang!!! We are pretty laid back travellers who delight in meeting unique characters just as much as visiting different places in this world. We had a fabulous time.

  • Stayed December 2010, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank AngelaB_2011
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Inanam, Sabah
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
Reviewed November 27, 2010

This is my 4th trip to Mabul Island and with Uncle Chang. the worst management, if you checked in, at any time when the staff told you must pack your stuff and check out, you must do so! No life jacket on the Boat, if you not good swimmer, Uncle Chang Life jacket can drown you because it is not suitable and very very old. I recommend you others agency like Sipadan Mabul Resort, Arung Hayat, Billabong, Sipadan.Com, Scuba Junkie but if you choose Uncle Chang.. you make your holidays turn worst!!

  • Stayed November 2010
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
7 Thank fredoline_gal
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Semporna
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
Reviewed November 26, 2010

Are we locals not the tourist?...This was our first time to Mabul Island. Unlucky we picked the wrong operator.... our rate for Uncle Chang (is Terrible!) the site is very nice...i can see why sipadan mabul is one of the best diving site in the World...but lets me advise those big groups who wanted to come here...Don't use Uncle Chang His dream come true services and what so ever... they can't manage the big groups...one sigaporean and johorean guest said "best place but worst management!" it cause us unable to enjoy the beauty freely...what a bad experience! Any way the staff is very good and they work hard to recover our loss from the bad management! I'll come back but never to this operator anymore...

  • Stayed November 2010
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
6 Thank TG_Achemah
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Hotels you might also like...
Also consider these accommodations in or near Pulau Mabul
16.0 mi away
Seafest Hotel
Seafest Hotel
#1 of 7 in Semporna
265 reviews
14.1 mi away
City Inn Semporna
City Inn Semporna
#5 of 7 in Semporna
31 reviews
14.5 mi away
Sipadan Inn 2
Sipadan Inn 2
#2 of 7 in Semporna
75 reviews
Show Prices
Show Prices
Show Prices
0.3 mi away
Arung Hayat Sea Adventures
Arung Hayat Sea Adventures
#8 of 10 in Pulau Mabul
75 reviews
14.2 mi away
Scuba Tiger Semporna Holiday Resort
0.1 mi away
Spheredivers Scuba & Leisure
Spheredivers Scuba & Leisure
#10 of 10 in Pulau Mabul
3 reviews
Show Prices
Show Prices
Show Prices

Been to Uncle Chang's Sipadan Mabul Dive Lodge? Share your experiences!

Write a Review Add Photos & Videos

Additional Information about Uncle Chang's Sipadan Mabul Dive Lodge

Property: Uncle Chang's Sipadan Mabul Dive Lodge
Address: 91307 Causeway Road, Pulau Mabul, Malaysia
Location: Malaysia > Sabah > Semporna District > Pulau Mabul
Hotel Style:
Ranked #9 of 10 Specialty Lodging in Pulau Mabul
Number of rooms: 29
Also Known As:
Uncle Chang`s Sipadan Mabul Dive Hotel Pulau Mabul

Is This Your TripAdvisor Listing?

Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.

Claim Your Listing