Mabul Village. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2009.

Mabul Village

  Borneo [Malaysia and Indonesia] - July 2009

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation of an article originally written in French. I apologise for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have resulted. If you read French, click on the French flag below to access the original, correct text: 

When I do not pose with sharks of SipadanI stay in Mabul, the neighboring island. I live in a "longhouse", a "long house" on stilts in the heart of the village.

A village full of life

The village of Mabul is a maze of huts on stilts made of badly trimmed sheets and planks of wood, a bit crado, with chickens and children running everywhere.

Mabul Village. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2009.

Mabul Village. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2009.

Mabul Village. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2009.

The place is rather miserable, but full of life.

The kids interrupt their games to cheerfully greet the passing tourists, "Hello! Hello!"they waved their hands, asked for photos, took the pose with their fingers extended.

And once again, I feel like the Queen of England visiting, waving to all these people I don't know. The adults greet you with a nod, a beaming smile.

The place is noisy, between the humming of the generators, the volume of the televisions pushed to the maximum, the cries of the kids, the roosters which cock-a-doodle-doo at full throat.

While the girls are washing or sweeping chores, the young guys meet at night at the volleyball court, where they play fierce games.

Mabul Village. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2009.

Some people are emboldened to ask me where I am going, when I cross the village to reach the resort of Borneo Diversbefore dinner time, to connect to the wifi. "Kalan, jalan...", I answer.

The magic formula still works. I go, I come, I walk, I walk.

Mabul Village. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2009.

Guesthouse on stilts

The comfort of my guesthouse, Arung Hayatt, is rustic, but it is nicer and less aseptic than the big chic resorts. And it is not only frequented by divers or western tourists.

A lot of Malaysians also come to spend a day or two in Mabul, and go down to these cheap longhouses.

I laugh with the children who jump into the water from the pontoon to impress the gallery, I sympathize with two young Malaysian women from Kuala Lumpur, who came to snorkel with their friends. Muslims and respectful of traditions, they swim without ever uncovering their legs or their heads!

But the atmosphere is tolerant and good-natured. And I gladly pose next to them, for their vacation photos, with my soaked hair, my wetsuit bottom and my bikini top. Funny contrast.

I am leaving Mabul tomorrow. I am a little sad to leave. It's that I begin to feel good here, after one week. Almost like home...

Billabong Scuba for dives

In Billabong ScubaThe atmosphere is very nice too.

The staff is lovely and all nationalities are mixed: Malaysians and Filipinos, South Africans, Americans, Thais ...

The Billabong Scuba pontoon in Mabul. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2009.
The Billabong Scuba pontoon in Mabul. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2009.

I have a good time here. In the evening, we have drinks in the middle of the drying wetsuits, sitting on the wooden pontoon.

There's always a guy to scratch Sipadan's song on his guitar... Look for "Sipadan Song"On YouTube, there are a lot of videos!


See all articles on this trip:

→ Borneo [Malaysia + Indonesia]: July 2009

  Borneo [Malaysia and Indonesia] - July 2009

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  1. a wooden pontoon, a blue sea and a sky....sombre, finally it's not so beautiful in your paradise 😉 or it's just not to make us regret not being on vacation too much ❓
    in any case, nice photos.
    But you announced extraordinary dives, so that's not the whole story, but we want proof, photos, photos ❗ ....

  2. @Laurence: Paradise" here is underwater. The island of Mabul doesn't quite resemble the exotic "tropical postcard" cliché we all have in mind. No real dream beach, lots of garbage lying around. As for the weather, it's tropical: three or four days of fine weather, followed by two or three days of grey, humidity-laden skies. We had a big storm one evening, at the beginning of my stay. Hence this dark, heavy sky, which I think contrasts beautifully with the azure waves. Much more interesting than a uniformly blue sky, don't you think?
    For new shipments of underwater photos, visit the following posts ...

  3. Hello Corinne,
    And bravo for your site, it's great! I'm leaving in 15 days for Sipadan with my husband and I'm wondering if it's better to stay in Semporna (Dragon Inn) or Mabul, as I saw that you did both. Which experience did you prefer?
    Do you think it's necessary to book accommodation in advance on Mabul? We don't like to plan too much in advance...
    Would you recommend Suba Junkie or Billabong Scuba to dive? Thank you!!

    1. @Carine: Hello Carine, and thank you!

      To dive in Sipadan, I find it preferable to stay in Mabul, as it's much closer to the Sipadan sites (only about 20-30 minutes away). From Semporna, I think it takes around 1? hours, depending on sea conditions, engine power, size of boat, age of captain, etc.

      Moreover, Semporna is without much interest. While life in Mabul is more fun, especially if you stay in a longhouse in the heart of the village.

      For diving, based on my experience (but it's been a while, so my information may not be very fresh), I preferred Billabong Scuba: the organization is "local" (with all the good and bad that implies), but I liked the fact that they always managed to get permits (there's a lot of traffic between the different centers) and managed to get you diving several times a week in Sipadan. I had worked things out with them by email before leaving. I was told how many times I could dive in Sipadan itself (a total of 3 days if I remember correctly during my one-week stay) and they kept their word.

      For sleeping, the Scuba Junkie beach resort is much more comfortable. But I've heard that over the past year or two, Billabong Scuba has had some more pleasant piaulas.

      After that, what will make the difference in the quality of the dives is the guide/divemaster who accompanies you. There's always been a lot of turnover at Scuba Junkie, with young Western DMs, some passionate, some less so, but not always very familiar with the sites. At Billabong Scuba, there were local guides who knew the area inside out, and a few Westerners in training, so I found the atmosphere much nicer.

      Finally, yes, it is preferable to book in advance on Mabul in general (but it also depends on the number of people in season, and on your standard of living), especially if you hope to be able to dive at Sipadan (limited number of permits per day).

      At worst, disembarking like that, you will find accommodation in longhouse in the village (rustic comfort, but friendly atmosphere), only you may not be able to dive as you wish in Sipadan. Many divers who land like this are disappointed, as they spend the week trying to beg for licenses left and right, without ever succeeding in obtaining, the famous permits being distributed between the different centers that keep them for their customers.

      Good bubbles !!!