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“Big John Scuba is fantastic. We were SO well looked after!”
5 of 5 bubbles Review of Big John Scuba

Big John Scuba
Ranked #2 of 15 things to do in Semporna
Certificate of Excellence
More attraction details
Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Owner description: A small company with a BIG heart.. and passion for customer safety and satisfaction.
2 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
“Big John Scuba is fantastic. We were SO well looked after!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed April 9, 2014

My girlfriend and I spent a long time researching for our trip to Mabul and Sipadan. We wanted a cheap package that would allow us to have a few days on Mabul with dives, plus a day of diving at Sipadan Island along with generally being well looked after. Big John leapt out through the research with great reviews.

We were very fussy and needed a flexible package to meet our preferences, and found Mark at Big John to be incredibly helpful. With emails going back and forward over a period of weeks he was always accommodating and helped sort out exactly what we wanted.

On arrival to Semporna we bumped into Big John himself who offered us a pick-up the next morning to get us to the wharf. Not only did he pick us up, but he came to our hotel room to get us and carried our bags! When we reached Mabul he organised breakfast for us (which wasn't supposed to be included). Nothing was too much trouble, and he was incredibly kind and friendly throughout our stay.

The Mabul Island accommodation is very basic but if you're used to backpacking it's ok. It's not in the prettiest or cleanest part of the island, but it's easy to walk to one of the resorts with a clean beach if you wish. The food at Big John's is plentiful and delicious - it would be impossible to go hungry!

Importantly, the diving was also fantastic. The equipment was in excellent condition and everyone involved was professional. All our dives were with Radich who was an excellent dive master - spotting everything and taking it easy and slow. For the majority of our dives we were our own little group of two (plus Radich) which makes it so much more enjoyable. Big John don't take divers to Sipadan Island, but can arrange it with other companies. We went with Billabong, and the organisation between the two companies worked fine and we were well looked after by Billabong too.

Overall, we were in awe of what Big John has set up, and is running. Our stay was the highlight of an 8 month trip around SE Asia. Everyone involved is so welcoming, friendly, helpful and willing to do anything to make your stay even better. Highly recommended

Visited March 2014
1 Thank Finn R
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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English first
Level Contributor
53 reviews
12 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 23 helpful votes
“Great diving experience!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed March 28, 2014

If you are looking for professional and fun diving instructor, cheap acommodation, delicious food and smiley welcoming faces, big john scuba is THE choice. Main reason for my visit to Mabul was diving at Sipadan, which I did the first day and I had 2 more days and three nights. So after I arrived at Big john's and talked to Mark, I decided to do my Advanced Open Water course. It was totally worth it and mark made this experience very special. He is professional, fun, attentive and tries to make sure that all your needs are met, while there. I exchanged coupe emails before arriving in Semporna and I got very helpful advice from Mark and good tips, so I felt welcome from the very first interaction.

The accommodation is very basic, but for the price you pay, it is ok and very convenient, as your diving, meals, bed are all in the same place. Food is delicious! And abundant, with great choice, I was actually pleasantly surprised, as I did not expect such great quality given the price.

Equipment ia in good condition, and dive sites are many and beautiful.

Big John himself is very nice, attentive and welcoming.

Overall I had a very memorable and wonderful experience.

Visited March 2014
1 Thank T M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Wellington, New Zealand
Level Contributor
29 reviews
6 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 25 helpful votes
“a memorable experience”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed March 18, 2014 via mobile

We arrived in Semporna and decided to try to learn to dive, so we trawled around for prices to do the PADI open water. The accommodation and course package at Big John's was by far the best value for money, especially for those on a budget. Our instructor Dendy was fantastic - especially as I was a really bad learner, but his patience, mixed with the occasional stern words, got me through the course. The accommodation isn't luxury (don't expect room service or mints on the pillow!), but the rooms have all the basics - four walls, a roof and a bed. We affectionately referred to it as the shack! The people are fatastic and look after you really well, though there isn't a set diving schedule so you are never sure when you are going to be jumping on the boat. After the diving we had some fun times with the guys, singing along to their guitar playing. We enjoyed the place so much we stayed an extra 3 days. The only negative I'd say (and thus is not tied to Big Johns) is in relation to the litter on land and in the sea around Mabul. It is absolutely horrendous. The first thing I saw when I put my head under water was a used nappy! Litter is a serious and unnecessary problem throughout the region and is particularly bad at Mabul. Something needs to be done to reduce litter and clean up the place as it really dimishes the beauty of the island and the experience of being there.

Visited March 2014
2 Thank Steven L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Level Contributor
11 reviews
4 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
“Shocking customer service”
1 of 5 bubbles Reviewed March 17, 2014 via mobile

Unfortunately we never actually made it to BJC and so would like to make clear this review is about the communication I had with Mark regarding a possible stay with them.
After trying to find out information on the website and failing miserably (the pages wouldn't load properly which made it impossible to read), I sent BJC a message on Facebook. I was sent a unhelpful reply which told me to email my enquiry and redirected me to the website. I understand that some businesses prefer to email rather than use Facebook for communication and so emailed my enquiry.
I received yet another unhelpful reply, rediredcting me to the website, suggesting I try to gain access from a desktop (I had already done this) and was told they would try to respond to my email in a few days when they were back in the office.
After 16 days I still hadn't heard anything from Mark and so decided to contact BJC again. I had made a few more attempts at finding the information I wanted on the website but had no luck. I received a very condescending reply from Mark, instructing me that all the information I wanted was in fact on the website and made me feel that my enquiry had been a huge inconvenience to him.
Unfortunately I will not get chance to meet the rest of the people at BJC now as my partner and I have decided to stay with a dive school and guesthouse that doesn't make their guests feel like an inconvenience to them.
I resent being made to feel like an idiot - whether I could find the information on he website or not, I feel that Mark could have been more helpful towards my enquiry.

Visited February 2014
3 Thank katot2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
M13UGS, Manager at Big John Scuba, responded to this review, April 1, 2014
This was the response to Kate's Facebook message that was answered the same day.. and BEFORE the Trip Advisor review.

Thank you Kate for your mail...

I am sorry that we are/were unable to help you, however I would like to advise that I too am more often than not in areas where the internet access is remote and intermittent, or I am accessing from a smart phone and don't have access to our pricings or a reliable 'cut and paste' function, hence my/our instruction for enquirers to refer to our website for the information they are seeking.

We are a very small company and do not have heaps of office staff to answer back to all the eMails that we do receive which I know can be incredibly frustrating if no answer is received.

Your messages were not an inconvenience, though I did feel that the information is clear, but am aware that the website doesn't fare too well from hand phones...

Sipadan especially, we must have names, genders, nationalities and passport numbers.. we also need arrival dates, duration of stay so that we can widen the opportunity and increase chances of securring the space; that said if dates are not specific and information is not forthcoming it does make it a little more frustrating.

I personally, am sorry if my mail to you made you feel patronised, it was not my intent, I also apologies that my answers or redirection was not fruitful or useful for you.

All potential customers are of value, that said, we cannot always be in a position to respond fully and to each and every individual question.

We do miss out on customers as we do not respond soon enough, that is our problem, that also is a good sign given that we do some time have to turn away business as we are quite often full to the brim... some we win, some we lose.

Anyway, Kate, I realise that this has come too late and in the true light of things, should not have been necessary in the first place.

I do apologise again if my responses to you were received as condescending, patronising or that you felt as though you were inconveniencing me or us with your enquiries.

If it isn't too late, then of course we would love to help you, if it is too late, then I wish you well and hope that you have a great time diving in and around Mabul and that you do get to go to Sipadan.


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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Hong Kong, China
Level Contributor
2 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
“I can't forget all the memories you guys gave me!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed March 6, 2014

I stayed in Big John on 19-27/2. good accommodation & food, good instructors, nice people....
I finished the OW, AOW courses, have been to Mabul island, Kapalai Island, and last but not least, Sipadan island! 16 dives in 7 days, I feel more than satisfied and happy! I really enjoy diving... fabulous Sipadan...and make so many friends in big john....... thank you for the encouragement from all instructors and dive masters, I will keep on to be a good diver and diving in all different countries ......!!!!!! And I will be back!!!!

Visited February 2014
1 Thank pennychic
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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