Sipadan and Mabul – Borneo’s Most Popular Dive Destinations

Pulau Sipadan

Some of the world’s most famous islands among scuba divers in the know are Sipadan, Mabul and Kapalai in Malaysian Borneo. Sipadan, in particular, features numerous dive sites consistently listed in the top five dive destinations in the world. Divers flock here from all corners of the world to witness the spectacular underwater scenery with its amazing sea life and unusual topography.

Planning your trip to Sipadan Island ahead of time is key. As part of a necessary conservation effort to protect Sipadan, the Malaysian government decided in 2005 to close all resorts on the island and put a strict permit system in place allowing only 120 divers per day. Unfortunately, arranging your permit can be quite confusing. Not all dive shops and resorts can organize permits. Check out to see how many permits are allocated to which dive shops and resorts in the area. They also provide detailed information on the Sipadan permit system, including how to increase your chances of getting a permit in the first place.

Remember that choosing your accommodation is closely linked to getting your dive permit. Mabul, the closest island to Sipadan, is a great diving destination in its own right (especially if you love frogfish) and offers many accommodation options to suit every budget. You can chose from glamorous water villages and beach resorts to simple lodges and basic homestays. And you can even stay at a diving hotel on a converted oil rig. Most include meals and offer diving/snorkeling packages with a permit to Sipadan.

Mabul Water Bungalows

Mabul Water Bungalows

A gorgeous and luxurious water village, Mabul Water Bungalows is built over the crystal-clear waters of Mabul Island with traditional Malay-style bungalows and lots of amenities. The resort connects to the beach on Mabul by a long jetty, and its ideal location offers convenient access to the popular dive sites of the surrounding islands, including Sipadan.


Seaventures Dive Resort

Looking for something a bit different? Five hundred meters offshore from Mabul and ten meters above the water, this conveniently located converted oil rig with a 5* PADI dive center arranges trips to the surrounding dive sites of Mabul, Kapalai and Sipadan Islands. Guests can also enjoy unlimited day and night diving around the spectacular reef under the platform. The resort has budget quad dorm rooms and twin/double cabins.

Sipadan Mabul Resort

Sipadan Mabul Resort

Located on the southern shore of Mabul and amidst a lush coconut plantation, this tropical mid-range resort on the beachfront provides modern amenities and a top-class dive center offering easy access to some of the world’s best dive sites.

Mabul Island Diving

The 12 dive sites around the island of Mabul with its nutrient-rich waters and flourishing reefs are best known for muck diving, a term referring to the area’s sedimentary bottom habitats which are home to hard-to-spot creatures. Divers can find countless species of bizarre-looking and often rare macro critters like pygmy seahorses, flamboyant cuttlefish, well-camouflaged frogfish, colorful nudibranchs, harlequin shrimp, scorpion leaf fish, blue-ringed octopus, and many more.

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