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“Great place for Scuba and Snorkelling”

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Scuba Junkie Mabul Beach Resort
Certificate of Excellence
London, United Kingdom
1 review
“Great place for Scuba and Snorkelling”
Reviewed November 24, 2013 via mobile

My partner (scuba diver) and I (snorkeller) visited the island of Mabul. We were blown away by the island and what the sea offered us... As a snorkeller, I was up close to giant turtles & tropical fish and was somewhat jealous at what I missed out on not being able to scuba dive. My partner, on the other hand is now fully qualified and has already been hinting at going back soon. She was extremely impressed with the one to one instruction over her open water course. The resort itself was excellent and all the staff were down to earth and friendly. Food was perfect for fuelling a full days activity.

Stayed November 2013
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Thank Robert A
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Madrid
Level Contributor
79 reviews
41 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 84 helpful votes
Reviewed November 23, 2013

I had overall a nice stay at Mabul Beach Resort. The wooden bungalowe are nice.
Strange things though that you have to ask reception "if you want your room to be cleaned" (who wouldn't ?).
The main disappointment was food : when you make 3/4 dives a day, you expect better food that what is served there. Their policy is no fish/sea food (fish are friends, not food), but there is often no food either : first day, I got only omelette, rice and vegetables and watermelon. I have to say I was "starving" most of my stay there. And rice and same vegetables and fruit for each meal (so if you don't like watermelon like me, too bad).
They have a policy to only let you dive in Sipadan if you stay 3 days, which seems to be a bit abusive compared to other dive operators that seem to offer Sipadan to everyone who walks in. However, this place was good value compared to other Mabul Resorts.
Pricing of the packages is a bit strange, it is highly degressive (1 night is very expensive, the price for 2 or 3 is almost the same as for 1).

  • Stayed November 2013, traveled solo
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Thank cyril_madrid
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Graz, Austria
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed November 22, 2013

What impressed me most on Scuba Junkie was the excellent organisation, best I have found on any dive shop I have been to. Contact by email, pickup from the airport, getting to your room, gear rental, the diving itself: everything runs very smoothly.

The rooms are all quite new and clean, the dorms are 10 bed-dorms, but actually one of the nicest dorms I've been to, with 3 spacious bathrooms each.

Diving is world-class, Mabul and Kapalai provide excellent macro diving, with pygmy seahorses virtually guaranteed on one divesite, and flamboyant cuttlefish and ghostpipefish on another, while you can see bigger rays, sharks etc. on Siamil and Sipadan.The turtle population on Mabul is absolutely huge! There is a turtle hatchery next to the resort, so you might have the chance of releasing some baby turtles into the ocean! The dive staff were excellent and highly professional without exception. The staff-to-customer ratio is very low, with a maximum of 4 divers per guide, but I've actually even had a "private" guide on a couple of occasions.

I got the general impression that Scuba Junkie is very much into conservation work, from only using biodegradable detergents to not serving fish that is fished by dynamite fishing, doing beach cleanups as well as reef cleanup dives (a nice opportunity to get a free dive in, and you will always see some cool marine life there, even if you are just cleaning the reef!).There might also be a chance to listen in on a talk on shark or turtle conservation while you are there.

Overall, my experience at Scuba Junkie was excellent, and I would highly recommend it to anybody.

Stayed November 2013, traveled solo
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1 Thank WalterH82
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Rouen, France
Level Contributor
5 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
Reviewed November 14, 2013

World class diving that makes everyone happy with plenty of big stuff and macro. Rare creatures sighted on daily basis are countless: pygmy seahorse, ornate ghostpipefish, flamboyant cuttlefish, schools of hammerhead sharks or devil rays...
So, if you decide to cross the world to dive there. I would recommend these guys to anyone.
From the beginners, since they teach courses in small groups of principally 1-3 students...
To the experienced divers, as they group divers 4 max. considering their profile...
Till the DM or IDC who can learn and get a lot of experience in the best conditions.

I spent a month there (oct. 2013) for my dive master course. The service was outstanding.
The first contact through the phone and email was excellent. They really were efficient to find the organisation and budget that suit me the best.

From Tawau airport, a taxi was waiting and drove us to Semporna without any hassle.
Semporna – Mabul is a 50 mn boat ride: they have several transfers everyday. They deal with your luggage if you go diving on arrival. When you get there, the manager is waiting for you on the jetty to introduce yourself to your guide of the day.
You can rent good quality gear on the jetty. The 2 friendly local guys manage a big stock to provide a large number.

In Mabul, the stunning beach resort offers great value neat rooms or dorms. The buffet meals are very nice. At the end of the day, there is a bar above the restaurant to relax or mingle with the "divers community" to chat about the amazing dives all around the island and the extraordinary Sipadan, Siamil or Kapalai.

Room Tip: The option to stay in Semporna is the opportunity to dive around there. Sibuan, Mataking, Mantabuan...
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  • Stayed October 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
2 Thank Jonathan_HNN
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
16 reviews
13 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 49 helpful votes
Reviewed November 7, 2013

We stayed on Mabul as a couple for 2 weeks and got to stay and dive with both Scuba Junkie and Borneo Divers (their next door neighbour and probably their most serious competitor). As most people will probably look at both places while deciding where to stay I will offer a brief comparison of the two at the end of this review (and you can also check out my review of Borneo Divers on their page).

Staying and diving with Scuba Junkie is in one word: amazing. We'd booked everything approximately 2 months in advance and found the communication to be excellent. We were lucky and managed to book 2 days at Sipadan and 4 days at Mabul. Our airport pickup was fine and the trip from Semporna to Mabul (50 minutes) uneventful. After arriving at Mabul we were shown around and checked into our room. We had a Deluxe AC room for 4 nights and the VIP room for 2 nights. Both rooms were fine and to be honest, we shouldn't have bothered with the VIP room. The perks (a TV with lots of DVD's to watch, a small safe and a fridge) are very nice but we actually didn't use them. We spent our evenings in the bar and went to bed early, so we didn't even use the TV once. Apart from that the rooms are exactly the same. The downside of the room is the bathroom, which smells occasionally and just has a bit of an old/used feel to it. Not a lot of atmosphere, but nothing to worry about. Please note that staff don't clean your room everyday, you have to specifically ask them to do it. And if you want beach towels, you have to pay a 20 ringgit deposit per towel.

Reception has odd opening hours. They open at 8 and close for a couple of hours during midday, then open again during dinner. However, opening hours are flexible and we stood before a closed reception when they were supposed to be open multiple times. It wasn't a real problem, but it is annoying if you just want to get something done (changing a towel, booking extra diving, etc.) and spend most of the day on the water. They could really improve on this.

Another downside was the female manager, who I believe is called Chris. I have to point out I believe she was covering for the other female manager who was on holiday when we were there - so don't get them mixed up, but this Chris really got our blood boiling. She was rude, unapproachable and unhelpful. It came down to the point that everytime we needed to ask something (e.g. to get a new toilet roll) we'd wait until someone else was behind reception because we were just too annoyed with the way she treated the guests. All the other staff, however, were friendly and helpful - with a particular mention of Steve, who was so nice that it added another layer to our stay there. Thank you!

The food was fine. I was pleased with the 'vegetarians only' dish and was able to find something I liked every day. It's true that some dishes were finished very quickly, but we just didn't mind that much. With regard to the whole 'staff make sure they're the first to eat' thing: I believe the local staff get to eat half an hour or so before the guests and the foreign diving staff (which consist mostly of backpackers who spend a couple of months to a year there diving). I personally did not mind and believe that, because food and accommodation is part of the payment for these guys, they are just as entitled to the food as us guests. The only thing I can recommend is to be at the restaurant when dinner starts. If you do that, it's fine. If you arrive half an hour late, there is a chance that some of the dishes are gone or cold. (btw: if you do a night dive, they will set aside some food for you)

Finally, with regard to the non-diving stuff, we really enjoyed the bar. It's a great place to hang out after an exhausting day of diving and to meet new people. Even though we were travelling as a couple and very much appreciate "us"-time, the bar is designed so that you can sit alone without anyone bothering you or join a larger group to swap stories. We met up with some great people and even went back to the bar while were staying with Borneo Divers the 2nd week. Highly recommended.

Now the reason for coming here in the first place: the diving. It's amazing, wonderful and just plain great. Diving around Mabul, which you'll do most of the time, is beautiful. We were a bit hesitant because we'd heard its a macro divers paradise and we tend to prefer the bigger animals but we couldn't have been more wrong. It's a wonderful combination of both, with beautiful nudi's, ghost pipe fish, pigmy seahorses, octopi and squid living together with the biggest green turtle's we'd ever seen and large schools of fish. No sharks here, you really have to go to Sipadan for that, but amazing nonetheless. Don't be disappointed if they decide to do the house reef, because it literally is just as gorgeous (or even more) than the other dive sites around.

They also go to Kapelai sometimes (which is the island nextdoor), but we didn't particularly enjoy that. There is one nice dive site (I believe it's called old house reef? with the sunk houses), but it's surrounded by litter from the resorts. According to some of the divemasters, the other dive sites around Kapelai have been destroyed or damaged so don't be fooled by the maps showing the island to have 20+ dive sites (the most of all the islands you'll visit).

Every other day or so they also go to either Siamil Island or Sipadan Barrier Reef. Siamil is a beautiful little island approximately 45 minutes away. You spend the surface interval between dives 1 and 2 on the island which just adds to that tropical holiday feeling. There is just nothing as nice as talking about a great dive while having a nice cup of tea and cake on a white beach. If you walk along the beach you can spot long-tail macaques. Scuba Junkie is usually the only dive outfit to dive there, because one of the dive masters (Khai, great guy!) found a group of devil rays there a couple of months ago. In order to try to find them, you have to swim into the blue for approximately 20 minutes but if you see them, it'll be totally worth it. We "only" saw five, but we loved every second of it. Of course, there are no guarantees but some people see dozens or even hundreds. The second (or third, depending on how many dives you do there) dive is usually a muck dive. Again, being more big fish divers, we were a bit hesitant but we loved it. It's a very shallow dive (10 meters max), which means you get to stay in the water for around 80/90 minutes. You get to see all sorts of cool stuff: banded sea snakes, morays, frog fish, nudibrancs, leaf fish, snake eels, cuttlefish and hundreds of other things. Highly recommended. I would say that, after Sipadan, diving at Siamil was probably our highlight during our stay there. The other place they occasionally go to is Sipadan Barrier Reef, which - contrary to the name - isn't really close to Sipadan. It's an enormous reef and you spend the surface interval on the boat. The diving is great, especially because you'll be the only boat there which means no running into annoying other groups under water. We saw lots of cool stuff and beautiful corals, also really recommended!

And then there was Sipadan.. What a great place. We spent in total 4 days at Sipadan (2 with SJ, 2 with BD) and loved every dive. Everyone tends to go to the same couple of dive sites, because they are really amazing, but SJ avoids the crowds by doing 4 dives and leaving really early (6:15) (only BD does 4 dives as well but leave later, the others do 3). They do this to coincide with the tides, which makes for even better diving and also ensures that the surface intervals on the island are spent in relative quiet. They are currently building/remodeling all kinds of buildings on the island so there was a lot of hammering and sawing going on but if you move away a bit and go and sit on the beach that won't bother you. I won't go into all the dive sites - that would make this already very long review way too long! - but you'll definitely go to Barracuda Point and South Point. The other 2 dives depend on the currents and other factors. We saw hundreds and hundreds of turtles (small, big, green, hawksbill), hundreds of sharks (nurse sharks, grey/white/black reef tips, no leopard or hammerheads unfortunately..), an enormous school of bumphead parrotfish and an even more enormous school of jackfish (trevally) and of course thousands of other types of fish. The most amazing aspect of diving at Sipadan is just the abundance of life. It's everywhere and most of the dive you are just looking around frantically trying to take it all in. I would say our highlight was maybe the school of jackfish, which usually stays at between 10 and 4 meters depth. If you see them and have the time, really do swim into the school (gently, and communicate with the rest of the group obviously) because there is just nothing in the world like being inside a massive ball of fish blocking out the sun, the coral, the other divers... and occasionally seeing sharks, giant trevally or turtles swimming through. It's out of this world.

All the dive sites are amazing, but Barracuda Point tops everyone's list. It's the tip of the island, so two currents coincide there and create pretty strong currents. You go there, obviously, to see the Barracuda. If you're lucky, you see them and they hang in a long wall-shape formation pointing towards the current. If you're very lucky, and the current is mild, they change formation and form a tornado. This is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen underwater. Just stunning.

With regard to Barracuda Point, and diving at Sipadan in general, I do want to make a comment on the experience of divers. At the moment you can dive at Sipadan if you have your Open Water, and it's even possible to do it immediately following your course. This isn't a problem per se, but I do want to mention that the diving there can be pretty extreme. This is mostly because of the currents. As with all the amazing dive sites in the world, the biggest and most impressive things usually appear in areas where there are strong and unpredictable currents. This is definitely the case around Sipadan, and there are actually areas with very strong up- and down currents as well. Although the divemasters never go near there, I find that it is naive to go diving at Sipadan if you don't have experience with - or are uncomfortable with currents. There is nothing as frightening as fighting against a current, getting out of breath and realising how scary it is to depend on an artificial air source while you're at 20 meters depth and not keeping up with the rest of the group. The trick with currents is to stick low to the coral (or with a wall dive, keep close to the wall). You need good buoyancy skills for that, but it is essential and ensures that you don't have to fight hard at all and don't go through your air very quickly. If you don't have experience with this, mention it do the divemaster so they keep an extra eye out. On the plus side, currents can be the greatest thing in the world: controlling your depth with breathing and not moving your fins but being swept along the walls and corals by a strong current can be so incredibly relaxing and amazing. I enjoyed it immensely, but we also had dives where people were freaking out underwater and going through their air like it was nothing. So prepare for that!

Right, in addition to the dive sites themselves I would like to specifically mention night dives (only around Mabul). We did three night dives (2 at the house reef and 1 at Lobster Wall, but that was with BD) and they were all amazing. I don't understand why more people weren't doing them, because they are so different from day dives. We saw pigmy octopi and squid, cuttlefish, all sorts of crabs and lobsters and shrimp, hunting morays, lots of sleeping giant turtles and all sorts of other things. I know you have to sacrifice that wonderful having a beer in the sunset moment, but seriously: consider doing at least one night dive and then tell me it wasn't worth it!

Another great dive worth a special mention is Seaventures. This is the dive site right underneath the oil-rig-turned-dive-outfit 5 minutes from the jetty. It's an artificial reef, but filled with great things and highly recommended.

All the equipment we rented (everything except masks) was fine, although I am very picky about my regulators and had to swap to or three times to get a good one. If you're picky as well, bring your own. All the divemasters we dived with were great and I would like to mention specifically Dave and Cat (a couple, both marine biologists I believe and so incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about the marine life) and Nic, who was very relaxed and open but also kept a good eye out on everyone during the dives. I felt safe during every dive and particularly praise the fact that they take the time (if you want) to discuss every dive in detail with you in the bar during the evening. A very very good service and something I'd love to see in all dive outfits.

Finally, on a bit of a critical note, I would like to mention that diving around Mabul, Sipadan, etc. was a different experience for us compared to other places we have been (Thailand, the Carribean, Micronesia, the Red Sea, the Mediterranean, etc.) because of the way the area was treated. I mean we never encountered a place which was so littered in places (we started a couple of dives around Mabul and Kapelai swimming between tens of diapers and other filth). I know SJ does its best to keep the beaches and water clean, and it is a great effort, but they can't clean the whole island obviously. In addition, we heard around 10 sticks of dynamyte go off during our two weeks of diving and we saw the dynamyte fishing boats on our way from Mabul to Sipadan. It can be quite scary underwater if you don't expect it (it's a hard bang and a second later a physical vibration you feel in your chest) and even though it's always at least a kilometre away it is very sad to imagine what it does to the fish and coral around there.

Right, it's an incredibly long review already but I would like to finish with a brief comparison with Borneo Divers as we stayed there as well. If you ask me directly I would recommend Scuba Junkie. We found the diving better with them and specifically felt that they took great pains to ensure that groups consisted of divers of the same level and that groups were never more than 3 or 4 people. This cannot be praised enough. Especially at Sipadan, which is pretty tough diving, the difference between diving with SJ (group of 4 simalar divers) and Borneo Divers (group of 7 very mixed divers) was enormous. We are pretty experienced, both having 200+ dives and doing a lot of strong drift dives, cave dives, wreck dives, etc. However, at Borneo Divers we were paired with people who had for example less than 30 dives and had gotten their Advanced over five years ago and hadn't dived since. I am the first to admit that the number of dives, etc. doesn't say everything but spending half the dive being in chaos because inexperienced divers forget how to deflate their BCD or get stuck in coral or fight for their lives because they don't know how to deal with currents is just a waste of a dive and more importantly, unsafe. It's terrible for the inexperienced divers because they don't get the support and attention they need and it's bad for more experienced divers because we have to spend a lot of time waiting on other people and not enjoying the dive.

In other words, if you go to Mabul only to dive and are serious about it, go to Scuba Junkie. The only reason I would recommend Borneo Divers is the accommodation, which is slightly better. The rooms are a bit nicer, the food a bit better, they have a small pool (good for kids) and a massage service.

Room Tip: Unless you really really want that TV of fridge, don't pick the VIP room. It's at the beach...
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  • Stayed October 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
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    • Cleanliness
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Helpful?
2 Thank Sarah B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Melbourne, Australia
Level Contributor
7 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
Reviewed October 31, 2013

Resort is perfect for young travelers -- affordable, clean & spacious dorms, good food (& plenty of it) included in price, and it's easy to meet fellow travelers out diving, at mealtime and in the bar. Everyone at the resort is very friendly.

Diving is great -- instructors, equipment and boats were all very good & there are lots of dive sites to keep you interested. And if you're able to afford Sipadan (& book in advance) it is absolutely worth -- the marine life there is breathtaking.

Resort is on island of Mabul so has a beach area to relax on (no cushions on sun loungers though), and island can be explored in under an hour if you have time to kill. Can also recommend the backpackers lodge in Semporna before/after Mabul visit.

Highly recommended.

Stayed October 2013, traveled solo
Helpful?
1 Thank Ben R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Melbourne, Australia
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed October 23, 2013

I decided a few month ago that I wanted to do my Divemaster course in Asia and checked a few places online to try and find the best one available out here.

I found Scuba Junkie, decided to go for it and there is not one second where I regretted my choice.

First of all, the communication was great when I contacted them, and said what I wanted to do, my number of dives and what I wanted from the course. Everything was clear and they gave me all the possible choices.

I decided to stay here on Mabul island, on their resort. They also have an office and accommodations in Semporna on the "main land"

When I arrived there, a taxi was waiting for me and I got the transport from Tawau to Semporna, I was welcomed in the office and had a boat transfert for Mabul a few hours later. Everything was smooth.

I had to do my efr+rescue course before I could start the Divemaster so it gave me some time to be nicely introduce to all the staff and the ways the dive centre works.

If you choose to be a Divemaster here, you will be considerate as part of the team (even though you're still a customer paying for a service) and everyone, from the management to the staff will take some time to every questions you have.

I chose the 6 weeks course and these 6 weeks gave me plenty of time to learn so many things. I could assist many open water courses, advanced, rescue, discover scuba diving, guiding customers. Many activities which will help you to have a chance to make you a better diver and a good Divemaster.

They take this course very seriously and they try their best to train you well as they might hire you if everything goes well.

You're not just paying for a service, you're getting trained to be a real professional.


I could talk about the dive sites which are all great, the food and accommodation which was surprisingly good (I was a bit scared to have to spend 8 weeks in a dorm, but the beds are really nice, and clean.)

Scuba Junkie is definitely an awesome place to learn, an amazing place to dive, and I will be more than happy to come back here and work.

  • Stayed October 2013
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
2 Thank PierreRouccou
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Scuba Junkie Mabul Beach Resort

Property: Scuba Junkie Mabul Beach Resort
Address: Mabul Island, Pulau Mabul, Malaysia
Location: Malaysia > Sabah > Semporna District > Pulau Mabul
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 10 Specialty Lodging in Pulau Mabul
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $
Number of rooms: 24

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