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“Just Chill Out”

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Borneo Divers Mabul Island Resort
Ranked #4 of 5 Hotels in Pulau Sipadan
Certificate of Excellence
Sydney
Level 3 Contributor
10 reviews
7 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 17 helpful votes
“Just Chill Out”
Reviewed August 25, 2009

Turn up with a chilled expectation to what you're going to get and you'll have a great time. I was there at the same time as the reviewer complaining about the preferential treatment of the Australian Group. They didn't dive Sipadan everyday as was suggested.

Yes, it's quite expensive, but it was basically the same as the other resorts. If you want something cheaper, stay in Semporna, but you WILL regret it.

We only got to dive Sip on one day, which was disappointing, but we did do 4 dives on that day. Diving around Mabul itself was surprisingly good. [I say this a diving instructor, myself, with 700+ dives logged]

The best advice is to make sure that Borneo Divers have your dive qualifications and passport details well in advance. They can't allocate anthing without these.

The accommodation was clean, the food OK. I don't recall leftovers being re-served. There was always something to eat and drink. Beer was expensive, but no more or less than anywhere else in the major towns.

There aren't many resorts or places that you will see turtles during a check dive, virtually on the shore.

Go for it, but plan and book as far ahead as you can to improve your chances of Sip diving.

  • Stayed August 2009, traveled as a couple
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2 Thank Speedos70
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Singapore
Level 3 Contributor
10 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 17 helpful votes
Reviewed August 23, 2009

My wife and I stayed there for 5D4N recently.

We regretted choosing Borneo Divers from the moment we checked in and the experience got worse as the stay progressed. BDMR is supposedly one of the more established operators in Mabul/Sipadan but it was clear to us that owner Clement Lee has not ploughed any of the profits he has made from raping dive-tourists over the years (c'mon! the RM1,200-1,800 per night would get u luxury options in other Malaysian beach resorts eg Penang, Langkawi etc. EVEN after adjusting for the food+diving costs) into improving the experience for his guests. A good example of the owners' stinginess are the sofas in the reception area that probably date from 10+ yrs ago.

Effectively the Sipdan/Mabul accommodation market is an oligopoly amongst the 4-5 major resorts operating the area. As a Malaysian, I am honestly ashamed at how these companies have chosen to exploit it with their exorbitant pricing (relative to quality/service) and BDMR is my guess the worst of the lot, judging from our experience there.

General comments / complaints - only skimming the surface here....

- Accommodation was 1-2* quality (despite 5* price) - basic and unclean. Beds were old, mattresses soft and toilets moldy. Housekeeping was kept to bare minimum
- Food quality ranged from poor to mediocre. The kitchen used lousy grade ingredients and often served leftovers over multiple meals. FYI, seafood and fresh produce is actually very cheap in Tawau/Sampoerna and we were shocked at the lengths BDMR went to cut corners on the menu...dessert was a laugh and they offer only the cheapest fruit like watermelons/pineapple
- Sipadan permit system was clearly subject to influence (we managed to get 1 day but other guests got more trips or none with no clear rhyme or reason). We spoke to several of the staff about this and no one gave us a straight answer
- On the last day we were there, there was a group of 11 *VIP* guests (supposedly dive shop operators from Aust on a survey trip) and the preferential treatment was blatantly obvious - they got to dive Sipadan every day and our dinner spread improved a notch that particular evening :)
- Bar did not have a working fridge - Coke and beers were lukewarm when served..most times even ice was not available(!)
- Service quality overall was terrible but staff were generally polite when approached
- Dive rental equipment was dated esp the wetsuits

On a separate note, the diving was generally good, but that had nothing to do with the resort. They had great Divemasters though, which at least helped to save the day as far as our diving experience was concerned.

in summary - BDMR SUCKS BIG TIME - I would say consider all other options before you go with them.

  • Stayed August 2009, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
11 Thank jin_cin
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Brisbane
Level 4 Contributor
47 reviews
24 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 27 helpful votes
Reviewed August 15, 2009

Diving was brilliant on Sipadan, but be sure to check out the best time of year to go, visibility was not fantastic in August. One divemaster said Feb-May is the best bet for stunning vis, and that sometimes the drop in vis comes in June, sometimes later (like this year, in August). It can also vary day to day.

The number and diversity of marine species was astounding, i felt like i must be in an aquarium at times there were so many fish, turtles and reef sharks. Mabul is also good, and there is plenty to see there too.

All staff were super friendly and helpful, and divemasters were great. Food was fresh and healthy and in plentiful stock whenever you needed it.

Make sure you arrive on BDMR suggested flights or you will spend hours waiting at Tawau airport where options for entertainment are severely limited.

BYO dive computer.

When I was there, BDMR had 14 spaces on Sipadan each day, more than any other resort's daily allocation. I got the impression that getting to Sipadan depended on # days stay (3 seemed minimum to get to Sipadan), and depending on how far in advance you book (for BDMR to clear the permits with authorities). We went for 5 days and dived Sipadan 2 of these. There was also speculation amongst divers that if you had more contact you had with the booking office this increased chances of getting to Sipadan.

  • Stayed August 2009, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
Thank DiverHan
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Melbourne
Level 5 Contributor
55 reviews
14 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 24 helpful votes
Reviewed August 4, 2009

I went to BDMR with minimal expectations after reading some of the reviews. I was advised by travel agent and dive tour group operator that diving on Sipadan was not guarenteed. HOWEVER, I had one of the best trips possible. As a single traveller, I felt comfortable and meet lot's of lovely people. All the staff at BDMR were friendly and very helpful. Accomodation and food were more than adequate (did not expect fine dining or plush surrounds), was not hungry and had some very enjoyable meals. I dived EVERYDAY on Sipadan (total 18 dives) it was incredible and could not of asked for better. The dive masters were fun and lot's of laughs, maybe young and lacking experience, I felt very safe and enjoyed every moment. I would of loved to have stayed longer. Definately would go back. Thank you BDMR.

  • Stayed July 2009, traveled solo
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Helpful?
3 Thank DeebeeMelbourne
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Colorado Springs, CO
Level 1 Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
Reviewed June 20, 2009

I took a group of 9 divers (1 snorkeler) to Borneo Divers on a two week trip that also included transfers to Sepilok Nature Preserve and Kuala Lumpur. I have been organizing group dive trips for 15 years, and our expectations for this trip were very, very high. We were not disappointed. One medical doctor who had not previously traveled with us sent out an email to a huge mailing list saying that the trip far exceeded his wildest expectations! Our first dive at Sipadan included a close encounter with a whale shark. Of course, the main reason divers go to Sipadan is to sea green and hawksbill turtles. We saw a lifetime's worth--many photogenic turtles on every Sipadan dive, and some even at the house reef at Borneo Divers. We saw many squid, cuttlefish, eels, mandarin fish right on the BDMR house reef. I had the best night dive in over 1200 worldwide dives right there. Borneo Divers has really excellent divemasters and boatmen. They provided wonderful service to each diver on the trip, and took special care to put snorkelers in just the right spot . The permit issuing system at Sipadan was just outrageous, but we did all manage to get 3 trips and 12 dives at Sipadan during the week. BDMR did the best they could with a lousy permit system. Manager Clement Lee was on the mainland during our stay and I was assured that a much more flexible permit system is now in place. The resort was very clean and comfortable. When our airconditioner failed, we were promptly moved to another room while the repaired it. The staff was very friendly, food was delicious, with a wide variety of choices, and the desserts caused me to put on five unneeded pounds during the trip. Free wireless internet was a very pleasant surprise, and you didn't even need your own computer. The resort provides two for guest use. The day we departed, one couple asked me to make a comment about a couple of Nitrox fills that were less than 32% and less than 3000PSI. I mentioned it to Rolando, the acting manager, and within 20 minutes they were called to the cashier counter and given a total refund of all the money they had paid for Nitrox on the trip. Who could ask for better service than that?! We had divers from Ottawa, Boston and Colorado Springs on this trip, and I am confident they will travel with us again. Dive briefings were thorough, dive masters conscientious, and we were allowed to dive our own profiles. Photographers were given the freedom that we all love. Borneo Divers Mabul Resort was great!

  • Stayed April 2009
    • Value
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Helpful?
Thank Pulpoloco
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Kuala Lumpur
Level 6 Contributor
62 reviews
18 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 191 helpful votes
Reviewed June 18, 2009

Hi, I am Johnny from Malaysia and a member of the Malaysian Diving Community, the largest online diving community in Southeast Asia.

I took a group of 22 Malaysian divers to Borneo Divers Mabul Resort (BDMR) on 13-17 June 2009. This was my third trip to BDMR in 15 months, the first with my family (4 pax) in March 2008, and then the second in August 2009 with a group of 16 divers and four children.

Borneo Divers really made our diving experience in Sipadan and other islands enjoyable and safe. To me, the greatest adventure was the exploration trips because there was of the element of adventure. In short, the exploration dives to Mantabuan, SiAmil and Danawan was such a magnet that during our stay in Mabul, three of the five divers actually wanted to abandon their Sipadan extra dives on Day 2, 14 June 2009, and follow the main group to do the exploration dives. They wanted to pay the Sipadan fee and yet join the Mantabuan exploration group. It took some convincing for them to continue with the original plan as Sipadan permits are so difficult to secure whereas the Mantabuan exploration can be done anytime without need for permit.

I must say Borneo Divers hospitality improved more than 100% over our last trip.

1. Facilities. Rooms were all ready to receive guests on our arrival and those with facilities problems were personally noted by Ramesh, Borneo Divers' diligent assistant manager, and attended to immediately. The comfort level was one key elements that pleased all the guests in my group, many of whom were experiencing 5-star diving holiday for the first time.

The new jetty. One of the best thing to have been built by BDMR. Literally, divers can do buddy dives all day from the jetty given the macro stuff around Paradise II, especially, the mandarin fish. The coffee bar offers a spectacular view of the Celebes Sea and Seaventures. One can enjoy the sea breeze bringing back the nostalgia of the old Drop off bar at Sipadan.

Swimming pool. It was spotlessly clean this time compared to the last trip in August 2008. Very inviting for an evening dip after dinner and as a poolside hangout area for large groups.

2. F&B was 200% improved. The variety was there, there was sufficient quantity and no one was bored eating unlike the previous trip. There was a steady top up of food each time the trays went nearly empty. Plates were cleared just as soon as the guests have completed eating. The outdoor BBQ was an excellent idea by Ramesh. My hope is that this level of F&B is maintained and refined as well as continually improved to deliver the 5-star dining experience at BDMR. One really appreciative fact about Borneo Divers F&B is that you can request special meals on advance notice, ie vegetarian and kosher.

3. Diving. Dive supervisor Steven assigned the most experienced DMs/instructors to lead our group of divers. Borneo Divers DMs/instructors were most attentive to my briefing on the diver expectations, what they wanted to see in the trip, the differing expectations among divers: ie the photographers who wanted macro stuff, the special attention needed by less experience divers such as Christopher, my son - an AOW but with just 10 dives - and other divers needing special attention for their bouyancy issues.

Due to the attentive care from the DMs, everyone felt safe and had an enjoyable dive holiday.

DM Maadil was an expert in macro environment and truly a delight for the photographers. DMs Melvin, Amanda and Emily, as well as Chris and Tony were also equally good underwater guides for the rest. They were also good spotters for macro marine life and were keenly aware of their surroundings.

Service:

1. Top marks to Ramesh. He is proactive in making BDMR guests happy, an invaluable asset to the resort. He is a model employee for all at BDMR.

2.. Good F&B but with room for improvement still especially for the BBQ. If the level of F&B and service is improve to the level as the best in Mabul, it will enhance the experience of the guests' stay and hence help Borneo Divers to deliver premium service as a 5-star resort.

3. Very good dive-station supervisor. Appreciate the fact that he checks the water basins for left behind equipment after each diving group had completed their washing up. No equipment was lost even though there were some inexperienced divers who inadvertently misplaced their gear. BDMR's new dive centre supervisor is certainly a major improvement over the one last year when I was twice at BDMR.

Overall, I congratulate Borneo Divers for delivering a memorable dive holiday.

I honestly recommend BDMR as the first choice for Sipadan dive holiday. Better yet, when we return, we plan to explore the excellent diving at SiAmil and Danawan as well as Ligitan. Sibuan would be good to checkout as well.

Future trips:

1. I will be emphasising less on Sipadan going forward. I think of the four days diving itinerary, one day for Sipadan with four dives would suffice.

2. I will focus more in exploration as the key activity for my dive planning. More of SiAmil and Danawan, and further exploration of Mantabuan, Sibuan as well as Ligitan. In fact, I have already suggested to experienced divers that we do Ligitan exploration as a next project.

3. Tentatively, I am thinking of about one or two trips next year, mostly for exploration. Perhaps one in end March 2010 and another in September 2010.

Final word: Conserve Sipadan for the future. You can do this by doing less Sipadan dives. One Sipadan dive less is one dive saved for the future generations. In this trip, we had divers doing two to 10 dives in Sipadan. My wife and I did two Sipadan dives each, which means we have now saved 8 dives for the future from this trip alone.

Join us in saving Sipadan.

  • Stayed June 2009
    • Value
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Helpful?
4 Thank Johnny Y
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Annapolis, Marland USA
Level 3 Contributor
10 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
Reviewed June 10, 2009

Well, I just got back from a week at Borneo divers and really enjoyed myself.. I have never written for TripAdvisor but truly felt compelled this time..

I read so many really bad reviews about this resort and almost canceled my trip because of all the negative reviews.. So I wanted to write about my entire experience to set the record straight.

I was interested in Sipadan and after visiting a dive show in New Jersey I got to talking with a firm called “Scuba Travel Ventures”. I was a little unsure but they truly gave m the best price I could find on both air and the resort.. I worked with a guy named Mike that gave top notch service.. Every issue I tossed at him he always had a solution. I was amazed.. I narrowed the resorts down to 3.. The most important thing to me was Sipadan diving, and Mike really pushed Borneo Divers.. I really pushed the question “Why Borneo divers??” Here is the reason, the top 3 big resorts all get 14 Sipadan slots a day. So the best chance of diving would be to have a small resort with the 14 slots.. That was Borneo divers.. They had a max occupancy of 54, so even if you the resort was at max capacity you would dive Sipadan every 4th day or so.. Other resorts had the 14 slots, but the max capacity was over 100 people, so the chance of diving was much much less at the other large resorts..

So Borneo it was, and Mike put in writing I would be diving Sipadan 8 times in the 8 days I was there (2 days – 4 dives per day). Mike also got some great air to Malaysia, that I couldn’t beat on other websites..

I had one extra day to kill and Mike suggested some nature tour in Sandakan.. I really enjoyed them! Went to the Orangutan Rescue, saw the proboscis monkeys, did a night walk.. The resort Mike put me up in there was fantastic.. For anyone doing this big trip it was totally worth the extra day to see a little of the beautiful Malaysia countryside..

I arrived in the Tawau Airport early Sunday and Borneo divers picked me up to goto the resort. It was about an hour buss ride to the boat, then it was about a 45 boat ride to the island resort.. Both rides were nice, The bus was air-conditioned and the boat ride was enjoyable.. I checked in and they put me in a ocean front room (117).. It had nice cold AC.. Now Malaysia is HOT, not like in the states hot.. But really hot.. So I was glad I chose a resort that had AC.. Some of the others didn’t have AC so be careful.. They had an orientation when you first get there about times/what do watch out for.. You know the drill.. They asked for your divers C-card and scheduled a check out dive at the house reef with a dive master.. So after a short dive, I was all set and was told the schedule would be posted that evening for Mondays dives.. I went on a night dive that night on the house reef and it was fantastic!!

Now I want to set the record straight here.. There was a lot of talk about the divemasters and their attitudes.. That was something I totally don’t understand.. I met each and every divemaster at the resort and every one of them are GREAT.. There was a lot of chatter about rude dive masters.. I don’t know what in the world they are talking about.. Mahaadil (sorry if I killed the spelling), Amanda (you are GREAT!!), Chris, LJ (One of the funniest guys there), just to name a couple were so helpful with pointing things out in the water, helping if you had an issue.. I just don’t get it..

So to make a long story short, I dove at Sipadan Monday, Wednesday and Saturday.. One more day then promised..

I also wanted to address the food issue.. There was a lot of talk about the BAD food.. If you are going there just for the food, the place maybe not for you, But I didn’t have any complaints. Every night was a little different, One night was Fresh Tuna on the grill, One night was Lamb on the BBQ, one night was chicken on the grill.. Not sure what people were looking for but I thought the food was fine.. People, it’s an island.. They have to boat everything in.. They don’t have a whole foods grocery store down the street.

I met and dove with the owner Clement a couple of the days.. What a great guy.. This is a guy that gave almost everything to save Sipadan. It’s nice to see someone so committed to saving one of the worlds best diving spots..

If anyone has any questions about this place or is concerned about staying there PM me.. I will give you the real story. This place has gotten a really bad rap recently and I wanted to set the record straight..

Stayed June 2009
Helpful?
1 Thank maioman
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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