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“Magnificent experience!”

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Borneo Divers Mabul Island Resort
Ranked #4 of 5 Hotels in Pulau Sipadan
Certificate of Excellence
London, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
6 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
“Magnificent experience!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed December 3, 2013

Amazing facilities, great staff & service, great diving experience (also for a discovery dive), the food was great and varied, accommodation are very large rooms which are basic and clean.
Resort facilities include: Dining room with Turtle Bar - Swimming pool with sunken bar, Sunset beach bar, beach loungers and parasols - 2 beachside gazebos for massage, professional underwater video centre - snorkeling - TV room with satellite TV - Free Wi-Fi broadband internet service in communal areas (not in rooms) - Beach volleyball - Mini-soccer field - Board games - Tour desk.

Room Tip: All rooms are well centred around a beautifully maintained garden, all ion walking distance to all t...
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  • Stayed November 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank Michael B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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225 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Sleep Quality
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    3.5 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 (27)
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English first
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed November 16, 2013

This was my first dive trip to Mabul/Sipadan after listening n reading so much spectacular experience in Mabul and especially Sipadan.
We stayed a night in Semporna before transferred via chartered boat to Mabul Island Resort.
The 30mins was pleasant.
When we reach the jetty of Borneo Divers Island Resort, I was impressed especially with the crystal clear seafront....and given the fact that there is a simply bar at the jetty was awesome.

Before we are check in, we are given a briefing on the dive schedule, rental n facilities available. I m grateful for this as for that, I don't have check out myself when I need something later.

We are lucky get permit to dive at Sipadan island for 2consecutives Days.....awesome awesome dive site.And Borneo Divers prepare lunch n snack for each surface interval at Sipadan island .

Towels were prepared on the boat after dive which I m happy with.

The dive master Steven and crews was committed and makes our dives fun and amazing.

As for the room,it's basic and had bed bugs bites ...not too happy about it. Ants is a normal thing in the room. Bathroom is smelly somehow even though they have daily room service.

Food variety was ok .

Overall, I did have a great dive trip with Borneo Divers.

Stayed November 2013, traveled with friends
Helpful?
1 Thank Chewpeiyun
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
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed November 8, 2013

We stayed here as a couple for a week after having stayed with Scuba Junkie (their next door neighbour and probably biggest competitor) the week before. As most people who look here will also look at Scuba Junkie, I will compare the two a bit throughout this review.

We'd tried to add another week to our stay at Scuba Junkie while we were there, but were told they were full which meant we had to look at other options. Fortunately, Borneo Divers still had rooms available which meant we were able to book a full week of diving with them only a couple of days in advance and even got to do 2 days at Sipadan with them! So that was great. They have one type of accommodation (a bungalow), which is simple but great. The only downside is the bathroom, which is very small and could REALLY do with a shower curtain to prevent the whole room from being a waterbath after each shower. We also had a lot of ants in the bathroom but we didn't really mind. The staff clean your room every day and provide you with fresh towels, etc. which is wonderful - especially compared with Scuba Junkie where you have to ask for it specifically. In general, Borneo Divers really minds the details: they provide towels on the boat after each dive, they make sure you always have a couple of small bottles of water in your room, etc. This was very nice.

The restaurant/bar/reception area is nice, although we were bitten to bits there by mosquitoes. Reception is always open, which was great compared to Scuba Junkie where they have limited opening hours. The food is better and more and they have extra's such as BBQ night and a cook who prepares eggs during breakfast. They actually have three bars: at reception, at the beach and at the jetty. We enjoyed the beach bar and watched a game of local football there every night which was great. The only impracticality we encountered is that they believe that four small bottles of water a day should be enough for 2 adults and that it's incredibly difficult to get another bottle. You can't buy them at the bar at reception and if you ask for one they want to send the cleaner to your room to fill up your stash in the room. I just want to have a big bottle of water with me without people deciding where and when and I don't mind paying for it, but they didn't seem to really understand that. A tiny thing, but annoying.

Now to the diving. We rented everything (except for the masks) and were very happy with the gear. If you're a broad but fit man and want to wear a shorty I would recommend bringing your own, because their sizes tend to accommodate smaller "Asian type" men which means you get a full body wetsuit (depending on your body heat not really necessary in these warm waters). All the dive masters/crew are local, which is purposefully done by Borneo Divers and should really be applauded. Scuba Junkie works with a lot of backpackers who stay there for a couple of months to a year. Both have their advantages. Although I highly praise the fact that Borneo Divers tries to create jobs and opportunities for the locals - and they are great divers - I slightly missed that extra layer of fun communication we had with the foreign divemasters at Scuba Junkie between dives. In addition, at Scuba Junkie they make a point of discussing each and every dive and the marine life (of you want of course) with you every night. They didn't do this at Borneo Divers but I feel this would have added to the experience.

Right, the diving itself. We did 2 days at Sipadan and 4 days at Mabul/Kapelai/Siamil and loved all the dives. However, and this is a major point: if you are serious about diving and want to make the most of your time there and are willing to compromise on those small extras that Borneo Divers offer, I recommend going to Scuba Junkie. Although the diving is amazing, whatever company you dive with, we were annoyed with a couple of things at Borneo Divers. Mainly, it's the size of the dive groups and the mix of experience. At Borneo Divers, you dive at Sipadan with groups of up to 7 people plus your divemaster. At Scuba Junkie, it's 4 max. At Borneo Divers, you can get a group of people ranging from Open Water to Rescue Diver with 10 to 300 dives. Although these things aren't necessarily a problem, they did impact heavily on our diving experience. Because we had the luxury of comparing Scuba Junkie and Borneo Divers we noticed first hand how incredibly important it is to have small dive groups of likeminded divers. At Borneo Divers, we spent large parts of the dives at Sipadan minding less-experienced divers in the group. Examples are divers who had forgotten how to deflate their BCD, divers who were completely not minding their depth or air consumption, divers who had so little control over their buoyancy that they kept kicking and hitting the coral and finally, divers who we so inexperienced with currents that we actually lost them and had to abort the dive.

I am very aware that level of certificate, number of dives and experience do not always relate to comfortable and qualified divers and that there are always people who are just oblivious of themselves and their surroundings. However, I feel that - especially at Sipadan, which is pretty extreme diving - the dive company should ensure the safety and comfort of all the divers by diving in smaller groups and with either more divemasters or more equally experienced divers. I know that people who haven't dived for some time have to do a refresher dive at Borneo Divers, but the people we talked to that had done that told me it was very basic and didn't cover things like currents. How a dive company can take divers to Sipadan and not brief them extensively about currents is beyond me.

If you experience strong currents and want to stay roughly at the same place, the only thing to do is to stick low to the coral or, with a wall dive, next to the wall. Fighting frantically 3 meters above the coral will just ensure you get out of breath and experience that wonderful moment of panic when you realise how terrifying it is to be breathless while relying on an artificial air source at 20 meters depth and not being able to keep up with the rest of the group - not to mention the rate at which you're going through your air. Not briefing divers about this just creates chaotic and dangerous situations and this is exactly what happened during some of the dives we did with inexperienced divers.

However, putting this aside, the diving is great. Even the above can't take away the fact that Sipadan and Mabul and the other islands are just beautiful underwater. There is so much life, unbelievable.

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).

If you ask, they also occasionally go to Siamil, which 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 outfit to go there to find the devil rays, but apart from that it's completely empty of divers. Although Borneo Divers doesn't go into the blue to find devil rays, the wall dives there are amazing in itself and the corals so beautiful and unspoilt.

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. 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 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.

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 with Scuba Junkie and 1 at Lobster Wall with Borneo Divers) 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!

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.

In other words, we very much enjoyed our stay at Borneo Divers and would definitely recommend it to others. However, if you go there only for the diving and are willing to compromise those little details that make the accommodation bit at Borneo Divers better, go to Scuba Junkie. Their approach to diving is simply better and we felt safer there and enjoyed it more. If you are travelling with kids or others who don't dive and want that pool, go to Borneo Divers.

Finally, really the very last thing I would like to mention, I want to say something about the permit system for Sipadan. As you'll know you need to book this in advance and they get sold out quickly. HOWEVER, if you really want to book as many days of Sipadan as possible, shop around. I can't stress this enough. Dive companies around the area are issues permits based on a dated system, which means that Borneo Divers gets 14 permits a days whereas Scuba Junkie gets only 7 even though they accommodate the same amount of people. Therefore it is more difficult to dive at Sipadan with Scuba Junkie - and they even use waiting lists, etc. - whereas we were able to book an extra day of Sipadan with Borneo Divers just a few days in advance. Don't be afraid to contact other companies, around Mabul or even in Semporna, to see whether they have permits. If you're staying for a week, just drop by and see if they have one in a couple of days. We were lucky enough to do 4 days at Sipadan but we met so many people who only got to do 1 day there even though they were staying for 8 days.. Take the initiative and try because that's the only way you will be able to get more days there..

  • Stayed October 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
19 Thank Sarah B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Elko, Nevada
Level Contributor
133 reviews
63 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 69 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 22, 2013

If you are thinking about this property the easiest airport is Tawau. I would stay at this resort again. The property is lovely and very clean. The diving is very good but not pristine. Getting the permits for Sipadan can be challenging but it is worth the extra money. The food was buffet style when I was there. Amazingly they even had ice cream for purchase in a cooler behind the main desk.

  • Stayed February 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
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Helpful?
1 Thank szatanek
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Perth, Australia
Level Contributor
21 reviews
17 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 9, 2013

We spent 5 nights at Borneo Divers Mabul Resort. The resort itself is a little basic but clean and comfortable. The staff were friendly and helpful. The food was not to my taste as I'm not a fan of asian food, but I could always find something to fill the gap. The communal dining area is great because it allows divers from all walks of life to sit down and discuss where they've been, what they've done, and share stories and advice.

The dive team were excellent, well organised and professional. The equipment likewise was in good functional order unlike may we have seen.

Day trips to Sipadan were a "day trip", The other resort we visited left at 6am and squeezed in 3 dives before a 12pm return. If we wanted to go back to Sipadan we had to pay extra, otherwise it was a boring afternoon with nothing to do.. Not so at Borneo Divers. We left at a very civilised 8am, 4 dives for the day, very tiring, but with surface intervals on the island with plenty of snacks and drinks provided. The local diving at Mabul and Kapalai was nothing exceptional but still good. Sipadan was amazing. We're self-confessed dive snobs and pretty hard to impress!!!

Overall I would happily recommend Borneo Divers to my friends and customers. Karon Afrikan Majik Safari & Dive Tours.

  • Stayed October 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
2 Thank Keastley
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Hong Kong
Level Contributor
3 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 8, 2013

We just stayed there for 4 nights and have 3 full day dive with their arrangement.

Everyday they got different food variety and all is delicious. Infinite drinks and cookies and bread are good for hungry divers too.

Diving equipments are in good condition for rental and they have good dive masters. We followed dive master Emily and Gene for total 11 dives. Underwater video taking service makes the diving trip memorable to us and the video is our best souvenir of the trip.

Overall all the staff are very friendly and feel touching when everybody say goodbye when we got on the boat leaving.

Room Tip: Book direct with them and get Sipadan License with them is much more valuable
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  • Stayed October 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank kotzekai
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Leeds, England, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
7 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 11 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed October 6, 2013

Great room, decent food, lovely beach and jetty.
diving around Mabul is pretty good, although not remarkable. Sipidan is amazing and Mabul offers a great base. it's a little pricey but it is a great location so probably understandable.

Room Tip: ask EVERYDAY for spare Sipidan passes.
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  • Stayed September 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank Matthew C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Borneo Divers Mabul Island Resort

Property: Borneo Divers Mabul Island Resort
Address: Pulau Sipadan, Malaysia
Location: Malaysia > Sabah > Semporna District > Pulau Sipadan
Hotel Style:
Ranked #4 of 5 Hotels in Pulau Sipadan
Number of rooms: 30
Also Known As:
Borneo Divers Mabul Island Hotel Pulau Sipadan

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