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“Better than expected”

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Billabong Scuba Homestay
Shrewsbury, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
22 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 17 helpful votes
“Better than expected”
Reviewed August 27, 2013

We had read some bad reviews before booking with Billabong but we wanted to dive Sipadan so chose them as they had the cheapest deal. We were pleasantly suprised when we arrived- the rooms are basic but nice, and the staff were very friendly. Some staff don´t speak English but there are always enough that can so its not a problem. We had a lot of fun, felt very safe and when we told them we were relatively inexperienced divers (just 2 dives since OWD) they helped us with the tank and were very patient with us for our first couple of dives. Billabong is definately a lot better than the reviews suggest for the average backpacker / traveller.

  • Stayed August 2013, traveled with friends
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Helpful?
2 Thank Jackwill100
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (29)
Date | Rating
  • Chinese (Simplified) first
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Indonesian first
  • Italian first
  • Polish first
  • Russian first
  • Spanish first
  • Swedish first
  • Thai first
  • Any
English first
Level Contributor
4 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviewed August 22, 2013 via mobile

We stayed in August in the 'basic' room (shared bathroom, no air con).

Not the best first impressions, staff and dive crew were not the most friendly, food initially was not great. However as the days went on the food improved and staff warmed up a little.

We would not recommended billabong scuba to inexperienced divers, you are required to set up all equipment yourself and the safety standard was not what we were used to.

If you stay here go for the chalet style room, there were mice/rats in our basic room.

All in all - diving Sipdan was amazing and worth 'roughing it' a little at billabong homestay.

*for a reality check, take a walk through the village of Mabul and you'll realise that billabong homestay is luxury in comparison.

  • Stayed August 2013
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Helpful?
Thank CJBY
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed August 21, 2013

Billbong is a good place to stay when you are planning to go to scuba diving to Sipadan.
The staff are really friendly and you can enjoy your dives even if you are not very experienced.
The atmosphere in the cafe is really good, and coffee and tea is always available.
It is very good value for money and is one of the cheapest companies but is safe and enjoyable to dive with.

  • Stayed August 2013, traveled with friends
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Helpful?
1 Thank Meritxell S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
10 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
Reviewed July 6, 2013

The procedure for booking Billabong is laid back and no deposit is required. The emails I received were brief and not always the most coherent. On arrival at their office in Semporna, it was useful to have email print outs as English was an issue. Billabong office is around the back of the SeaVentures shop and up some stairs. They may have popped out, so be patient and wait! There is a 3% charge for credit cards, but the only cash point in Semporna looked a little dodgy! One thing to note is that it is difficult to get cheap spirits on the island - stock up at the Supermarket before leaving the mainland! Whilst waiting for our boat to arrive to travel to Mabul, Scuba Junkies bar was a good option for some lasts minute Internet connection!

On arrival at Billabong, Mabul, we were handed our room key. This is the most service we received all week! If you are pro-active and ask the questions, the ladies running the home stay are helpful. The rooms and facilities are basic, but here it was important to remember that we were on a desert island and after all, the purpose of the trip was to dive Sipadan!! Toilet and shower facilities are variable (but manageable) throughout the day! Meals are a little repetitive, but filled the holes in the stomach!

On the Scuba front, dive gear is good, but be pro active again in getting your equipment fitted etc. A lot of the dive masters seemed to be passing through the area. However, Wong was an excellent local instructor who knows where to find the good stuff! One to Two days diving in Mabul is enough - great for muck diving. Would particularly recommend the night dive at Paradise 1 site. Billabong only tends to use three of the dive sites around Mabul (for whatever reason!) Sipadan is WELL worth the money. It makes up for the expensive room and lack of facilities at the home stay.

Be prepared not to know what is going on! Leave plenty of time between leaving Mabul and your next destination!

I think the main thing is to bear in mind the purpose of your trip!



Be prepared to not know what's happening. Leave time for next trip sto

  • Stayed June 2013
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Helpful?
3 Thank RachelSnell
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
22 reviews
8 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 47 helpful votes
Reviewed June 22, 2013

I booked late and Billabong was one of the few companies with availability for Sipidan. The office in Semporna looks like someone's front room and as I surmised from the email exchange the staff have very poor English. I paid RM1000 for 3D2N 6 dive package with three dives on Sipidan.

The transfer boat is comfortable and the dive centre on the island is Ok, basically a series of rooms over the water set around a central pool. The rooms are Ok, quite shabby, rough around around the edges, moderately clean but the mattresses are wafer thin.

The staff do not speak any English and are confused by the most basic of questions like "what time is dinner?" The dive masters/instructors are however friendly and professional, although as most only stay 3 months I would be very careful about who you get assigned if you're planning a OW/AD qualification here, there were a few OW Chinese tourists who clearly had no idea how to dive at the end of there course, worryingly so, there was also a German couple who were told by the main office that they could fly from Tawau a few hours after a morning dive, very poor knowledge and advice.

One thing to note is that this resort is a favourite of Chinese tourists so if you want a calm & quiet break on the island look elsewhere. (Said tourists happily walked on coral while snorkelling and amassed a big collection of shells & coral while I was there & the staff did nothing to stop either practice which annoyed me)

The food was repetitive but good & the drinks and laundry are cheap.

Overall a sketchy budget option, I'd recommend booking early with a more reputable company especially if you plan on learning to dive here. Some good divemasters while I was there but it's luck of the draw. One really felt like once you'd paid the bill the staff (not the divemasters) couldn't give a damn.

Diving wise Sipidan is wonderful with huge amounts of varied sea life and excellent coral coverage, I wish I'd done two days here. Mabul has some cool Macro stuff but the reef has been over exploited and is mostly dead with relatively sparse fish life, they are making an effort artifial reefs but id do the minimum number of dives here before going to Sipidan.

Semporna is not worth more than a night. If you're doing the Kindabatagen river safari you can get your lodge to drop you at the bus for Semporna so making the transfer in one day...

  • Stayed June 2013, traveled solo
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Helpful?
5 Thank William G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Melbourne, Australia
Level Contributor
12 reviews
11 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
Reviewed June 17, 2013

We stayed here in July 2012. Main reason to go diving at Sipadan. Was a great experience with some great dive instructors at Billabong.
Homestay was simple- long-houses on stilts over the water. Take note: at high tide water comes seeping through the floor and will wet your backpacks and gear. Simple beds, and toilet. Dont come here if you're expecting a resort!
When you drive into Mabul island on the boat, you see there are all similar places to stay along the waterfront in traditional stilt houses.
Mabul island is great- so definitely have a walk around and check it out and meet the locals.
Diving was good, all gear was safe and reliable. Guides knew their stuff and were safe. Mostly muck dives around locally. Sipadan was definitely the highlight- it really does live up to all the hype. And all crew at Billabong organized my Sipadan ticket. Would recommend to stay here if you are staying on Mabul Island.

  • Stayed July 2012, traveled with friends
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Helpful?
1 Thank meandmy_gypsyfeet
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Christchurch, New Zealand
Level Contributor
31 reviews
9 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 23 helpful votes
Reviewed June 8, 2013

A friendly, simple homestay built over the water. Food was tasty, but on the last day I suddenly got very bad nausea (it lasted 24hrs, and no-one else got sick). Just a few rooms, so the group got to know each other pretty well. The highlight is obviously the diving at Sipidan, which is among the best in the world. Mabul was interesting for muck/ night dives. Also snorkelling out to the drop-off was good for an afternoon.

  • Stayed July 2012, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
1 Thank TravellingTandem
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Billabong Scuba Homestay

Property: Billabong Scuba Homestay
Address: Lot 28, 1st floor, block E, Seafront, Pulau Mabul, Malaysia
Location: Malaysia > Sabah > Semporna District > Pulau Mabul
Amenities:
Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Kitchenette Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service Suites
Hotel Style:
Ranked #4 of 10 Specialty Lodging in Pulau Mabul
Number of rooms: 20
Also Known As:
Billabong Scuba Hotel Pulau Mabul

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