On the pontoon of Mabul, the little gypsies of the sea welcome divers. (Borneo, Malaysia. July 2006)
On the pontoon of Mabul, the little gypsies of the sea welcome divers. (Borneo, Malaysia. July 2006)

Gypsies of the sea and soldiers in arms

#Sipadan #Mabul # Borneo #Malaysia

  Malaysia: Peninsula and Borneo - July 2006

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text: 

The islands around Sipadan are unknown and yet they are worth seeing. I dive there almost every day until the end of the week, waiting for my turn to go to Sipadan.

In the “appetizer” genre, these small islands (Mabul, Sibuan, Mantabuan) are fantastic spots.

Mabul Island

The main one, Mabul, is inhabited. Whole families of fishermen, more or less sedentary "sea gypsies", live there in wooden huts on stilts, next to a luxurious resort for playful divers and longhouses rustic for low-budget divers.

The pontoon of Mabul. (Borneo, Malaysia. July 2006)
The pontoon of Mabul. (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2006)
On the pontoon of Mabul, the little gypsies of the sea welcome divers. (Borneo, Malaysia. July 2006)
On the pontoon of Mabul, the little gypsies of the sea welcome divers. (Borneo, Malaysia. July 2006)

The island is pretty, seen from the sea, but for this first time in the waters of Sipadan, I preferred to reside in Semporna, even if it means making the boat trip every morning.

Update : during my future trips to Borneo, in 2009 and in 2013, to dive in Sipadan, I will make a different choice, I will reside in Mabul to avoid this journey.

The port of Semporna is ugly, not very pleasant, I would not advise tourists looking for an exotic postcard to stay there. But there is a semblance of modernity that I appreciate: internet access (although not super fast), electrical outlets to recharge the batteries of the camera, restaurants, hot water, market, etc.

Small annoyance in my quest for modernity: I receive SMS, but I can not send. It's annoying, all the same ... Hum. I feel like a backpacker who gets bored!

Small animals

During my many dives in Mabul, Sibuan and Mantabuan, I am not disappointed. The dive-masters are competent and know the funds as their pocket. I discover every day animals that I have never seen before.

Highly sought after frog-fishes aka frogfish (antennae), indolent and shapeless fish, disguise themselves as a sponge and wedge incognito between two stones, leaning on their fins which have become quasi-paws.

Crocodile fish, kings of camouflage too, merge with the sand. And, again, there is a truly incredible variety of nudibranchs ...

Crocodile fish. (Mabul, Malaysia, July 2006)
Crocodile fish. (Mabul, Malaysia, July 2006)
This frogfish photographed in Mabul does not really look like anything ... (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2006)
This frogfish photographed in Mabul really looks like nothing… (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2006)
An imposing white nudibranch (sea slug) with yellow border, photographed in Mabul. (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2006)
An imposing white nudibranch (sea slug) with yellow border, photographed in Mabul. (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2006)
Look who is hiding in the sand ... (Sibuan, Borneo, Malaysia, July 2006)
Look who is hiding in the sand… (Sibuan, Borneo, Malaysia, July 2006)
A school of jacks, in Mabul. (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2006)
A school of jacks, in Mabul. (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2006)
A pretty spotted moray eel in Mabul. (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2006)
A pretty spotted moray eel in Mabul. (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2006)
Another moray eel in Mabul. (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2006)
Another moray eel in Mabul. (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2006)
A small cuttlefish in Mantabuan. (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2006)
A small cuttlefish in Mantabuan. (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2006)
A small school of catfish on the sand near Sibuan. (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2006)
A small school of catfish on the sand near Sibuan. (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2006)

A treat for amateur photographers of which I am a part. We also meet the tropical underwater tropical fauna: batfish, moray eels, angelfish fish, clowns, parrots, etc. etc.

Between two dives, we decompress on the sand, time to eliminate the nitrogen accumulated in the body and regain some strength.

Military welcome on white sand

On each island, there are soldiers, who control the waybills of the boats, the names and the number of the divers. Security measures put in place by the Malaysian government since the hostage taking in 2000 by the Philippine terrorist group Abu Sayyaf (the divers detained on the island of Jolo had been kidnapped in Sipadan).

A lattice Malaysian soldier stands guard on the sand of Sibuan. (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2006)
A lattice Malaysian soldier stands guard on the sand of Sibuan. (Borneo, Malaysia, July 2006)
Mantabuan Island is also guarded by soldiers. Borneo, Malaysia, July 2006.
On the island of Mantabuan the faction soldiers are in tong ... Borneo, Malaysia, July 2006.

It’s a little funny, all the same, when we land on these cute white postcard beaches with their coconut palms, to see guys in lattice arriving, some armed with an impressive machine gun, as a welcoming committee .

The bikini divers are for them the main attraction of the day ... And the French are of course entitled to a little ironic football commentary. Thanks Zidane!

????

  Malaysia: Peninsula and Borneo - July 2006

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Hello,
    First of all thank you for your blog it is very interesting.
    I'm leaving for Borneo next April and I'm counting on going diving in Sipadan (I'm AOW with 60 dive), I wanted to know the difficulty of diving on Sipadan because I have with me 2 level 1 who have only 15 or 20 diving? In addition, does the current allow you to take your time for the descent because my friend has pb ears and usually goes down very gently?
    Thank you in advance for your answer

    Pk,

    luc

  2. N1 with only 15-20 dives, it is possible, even if it seems a bit fair for a site like Sipadan. In my opinion, a little more experience can better enjoy (if only in terms of air conso: it's frustrating in a place so spectacular to have to go back after a too short time ... ). With your AOW + 60 ploufs, it's without worry I think.

    But everything depends also how you are supervised ... I saw beginners with excellent dive-masters, for which it went very well.

    As for the descent, it depends on the sites around Sipadan. I would have to re-populate the pages of my dive log at the time to see if I had noticed things about the conditions of launching or not. I do not remember any particular difficulty or current difficult to manage at the descent. But it is true that I am part of happy divers who swallow instinctively down and whose ears usually go by themselves, without even having to think about it ...

    I will reconsult my notebook and I will return to give you more precise indications.

    🙂

  3. I have just left my notebook ...

    Question level, so I was AOW and I had more than 130 dives at the time. Current question, I noted on some sites "strong current" or "a little current" but nothing that left me a particular memory in terms of difficulty.

    The average depth of the dives ranged from 35-30m to 20m at the Sipadan sites themselves, and around 18-12m at Mabul. When drifting at Sipadan, we tend to go down without realizing it, very quickly, in the 30m zone, as the show is amazing (sharks, barracuda, turtles everywhere). The currents can be a little traitor.

    But during outings, the clubs a little serious make sure to group people by level. Beginners will go shallow and will be supervised accordingly, on sites with less difficulty. Divers of a higher level will be able to benefit more while remaining within the framework of the "recreational diving".

    The best thing would be to ask these questions directly to the club you plan to dive with.

    Good bubbles !!!

    😉

  4. Hello

    Thank you for your great blog that makes me good service to organize my travels.
    Can you tell me if a diver name can enjoy semporna?
    Come snorkelling by boat on sites, beaches and others ???
    thank you

    1. @Laurent: Semporna itself is ugly, it's a city-port without charm. For a non-diver, there are snorkelling trips possible on the neighboring islands, very pretty, but frankly, Semporna-Mabul-Sipadan remains a destination "diving" ... I'm afraid that a non-diver is bored quick…

  5. Good evening Corinne,

    First, I wanted to congratulate you for your site, it's a dream and it forces us to already think about diving destinations for the next 10 years as there is to discover!
    We leave my boyfriend and me (All 2 AOW, him thirty dive and me 21) in Semporna in September for diving Sipadan of course but also on other sites given the exorbitant price of Sipadan. We decided to stay on Semporna because we do not want to take a package and stay on Mabul for 4 days.
    I found a dive shop Scubaholics that has very good comments but unfortunately they can not bring themselves divers to Sipadan, so they get the famous permits by other centers. The centers with licenses oblige everyone to take the famous packages and the service is the minimum union (given the comments of the divers!). That's why I'm leaning towards Scubaholics. I am writing to you because I find little experience of diver concerning the other islands near Semporna (Mantabuan, Sibuan Island, Mataking, Timba Timba Island, Tabawan Island)
    95% of the divers going on Mabul & Kapalai Island, it is really difficult to get an idea of what the other islands are worth. Could you help me and advise me? Regarding Mabul and Kapalai, are they really worth it? A big thank you in advance, France

    1. @La France : Mabul is the closest island to Sipadan, where it is convenient to stay for anyone wanting to dive in Sipadan. It offers accommodation and diving services at all prices, from the cheapest to the most chic.

      I would recommend on Mabul: Billabong Scuba and Scuba Junkie for the cheapest, Scubadventures platform or Borneo Divers for the mid-range. All have their quota of permits per day. The first two also have options from Semporna. Contact them for details of prices.

      To my knowledge, but it has evolved since my last visit, we can not stay on the islands you list.

      Kapalai is a chic and expensive resort-island, close to Mabul. We dive in, the site is nice, but the accommodation is expensive.

      Mabul is an island stuffed with people, all kinds of travelers-divers, chic and cheaps. There is a small village in the local fashion, house on stilts, a bit crado, but that corresponds to the "real" way of life of the locals, even if the influx of tourists has upset a little the deal. This is most convenient for diving on Sipadan.

Share
Tweet
Pine
Share