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Reviewed 17 September 2017

Short recap: Sipadan is not a hype, it is absolutely stunning! Need to be a bit more lucky at Mabul / Kapalai but pretty okay. As a solo traveler I loved the resort, very easy to make contact with other people since there are loads ;)... Actually liked the village surrounding the island... Ow and bring Marlboro if you smoke them, didn't find any on the island...

To start with a bit of context: I did 65 dives at multiple locations in Asia and the Caribbean before I came here. Never dove with SJ before. I booked the Sipadan / Sangalaki combi pack and stayed on Mabul for 4 nights.

Trip: I came from Scuba Junkie Sangalaki and therefor was forced to stay a night in Semporna. If you have the chance to avoid this make sure you do so.... Disgusting town, it smells, hard to find a beer, overcrowded. Just no. Trip to Mabul by boat was very good organised.

Resort: I came from SJ Sangalaki which is really remote and relaxing so I was a bit shocked when I first arrived. SJ Mabul is like the complete opposite. Very crowded, big resort, loads of divers and loads of staff. After I got used to it I really liked it though... They run a very, very well organised operation. From the checkin to the food to the dinner, everything is just spot on. Impressive. Food was also really good, and more than enough.

Diving: You have to be a bit lucky with the equipment. Some is brand new but others are really (too) old. Once you find a good set, let the equipment guys assign it too you. The diving at Mabul and Kapalai is quite good actually. The diving at Sipadan is honestly world class and the best I ever had... Conditions can be challenging but all worth it.
What they do extremely well is planning the groups based on experience. At all my dives (in a group of max 4 +1) we came to the 70 bar point only minutes away from each other. Really good!

Dive guides: For me the only downside. Sipadan guides were really good and experienced. Some of the locals I dove with at the other islands were just not good and safe. Diving into NDL of < 5 minutes, constantly being the cool guy to other dive guides, banging melodiess on there tanks to other dive guides, that kind of things... Mainly just annoyed me but diving into NDL of <5 min I consider to be dangerous as well... Bring your own Computer.

Conclusion: I'll probably be back because of Sipadan! If you have the time it is worth doing a small tour while at the island and visit the other dive shops. Apparently they have some spare Sipadan permits from time to time...

  • Stayed: August 2017, travelled solo
    • Value
    • Sleep Quality
    • Service
3  Thank Bob R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 8 September 2017 via mobile

After having a great time with SJ KK, we decided to head for SJ Mabul this time arround. Ali Hochstteter has been instrumental in coordinating our land transport from Tawau Airport, lodging at MBR, our sons AOW, our daughters fun dives and snorkeling trip for me and my wife. Phil has been great in receiving us at Semporna office and the team at MBR are awesome. It was a wonderful 6D5N for all of us...
We would like to thanks DM Azmil for our sons AOW... he has been meticulous with his training and guidance...safety first .... much appreciated.
DM Peter, Azhim, Farith, Rachel, Nas thanks for making sure we had a great time during the dives /snorkeling around Mabul and Kapalai. Not forgetting all the boat captains for our safe journey everyday.....
We also observed the released of the sea turtle babies into the ocean on our last nite there.... great conservation effort by SJ....

Looking forward to making more memorable experience with Scuba Junkie ... :-)

Stayed: September 2017, travelled with family
Thank SuhaimiM45
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 8 September 2017

They have 7 Sipadan permits, have bunk rooms if you do not wish to pay single supplement for rooms. Diving was professional. You can walk around the island for souvenirs. One of the nights we have turtle hatchlings release programme, which was totally cool. Dive instructors are professional and friendly.

Bunk room has no aircond, so we normally open the doors and windows while sleeping. 3 washrooms inside a dorm of 8, adequate. Food was ok. If you prefer a lower bunk, do let them know early. If you prefer to dive Sipadan, do indicate in the booking as permit is limited. The nearby oil-rig turned dive centre opposite has 11 permits, so can afford to let more people go on the trips, but you are being confined to the oil rig itself.

  • Stayed: September 2017, travelled solo
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Service
Thank Jollyshandy
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 13 August 2017 via mobile

If you are a diver, don't look further. This resort is made for diving: very close to their jetty, rooms are comfortable. We did book VIP room (worth it). No Wifi in the room, but full 4G when buying local SIM card.

Diving staff is very friendly. There is only one downside: food is waaay to boring and limited (ok, I agree, you won't come here for food, but chicken every single day twice?). When I try to take vegeterian food, I got the warning from the staff that it is only for vegeterians and I have already chicken. Like really??

But in general, we have been satisfied and may come back.

Stayed: August 2017, travelled with friends
2  Thank Mirooke
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 12 August 2017

From the initial email many moons ago inquiring about booking with SJ right through to leaving Mabul Beach Resort (MBR), the whole process was a breeze thanks to the brilliant staff there!

Thank you to Ash who dealt with our group of 3's booking process including answering my numerous and repetitive questions quickly and helpfully! We booked a 5D, 6N package (5 days of diving with an extra night stay before departing MBR the next morning)

Our group of 3 consisted of myself, a BSAC diver who hadn't actually dove for over 4 years and the 2 complete newbies who booked to do their Open Water Certificate at MBR.

We flew from KL to Tawau and had a transfer arranged through SJ to be taken to their hostel at Semporna. Our flight was late by over an hour and thankfully the transfer waited for us. Note, there was only one person at customs/immigration at Tawau airport dealing with an entire plane load of people.

We spent 1 night in Semporna at the SJ hostel before checking in at the dive centre over the road the next morning and being taken to MBR by 1hr boat transfer. We started diving that very first day with the other two going straight into their OW theory and myself doing a OW refresher course at the house reef. After the morning's refresher course I spent the next 1.5 days doing boat-based dives around Mabul and Kapalai Island. One day off and then 2 days at Mabul/Kapalai and then Sipidan on the final day.

Given I had never done tropical diving before, Mabul/Kapalai was still a great place to dive and regain my confidence although I can see how very experienced divers may not appreciate it as much as the vis can be poor. As mentioned in other reviews, there is ALOT of trash around Mabul Island. This is because of the sea gypsies who live on the island. They do not have a waste disposal centre or collection service, so unfortunately they use the sea. This results in pretty much everything you can think of floating around the water as you come up from a dive...I understand SJ is making small steps with educating the sea gypsies and they also organise weekly beach clean ups.

Sipidan Island was the highlight of the entire week! Book in advance if you want to have any chance of getting a permit to go here. We spoke to plenty of people at MBR who wanted to go but were too late in booking to get one. We booked about 4 months ahead to make sure we would be going. The morning of our departure, there had been thunderstorms all night and they were still going as we departed. This made for an interesting crossing to the island (fun for me as I love boating!) for some people. Barracuda Point is the most reknown site here. Unfortunately on our dive there the visibility was 0-5m due to the storm - ah well, nature! An hour later, after lunch, we went back again to give it another ago and it was a completely different scenario with vis 10-20m! It was pretty damn cool!! :)

Sipidan is an intense day with 4 dives (3 on the other days) so I would definitely recommend staying 1 extra night at MBR before heading back to the mainland. Otherwise you return to MBR at 4pm and the boat to Semporna leaves at 4.30pm so no chance to shower/get changed/relax.

SJ have their own conservation officers, Cat and David, as well as a turtle hatchery where they can rehab rescued turtles as well as ensure successful incubation of nests before release.

The only couple of negatives I have about MBR is that:
a) pretty much all of the food is spicy so for those that are sensitive to spice or can't handle even a slight amount of spice - prepare for that!
b) some of the staff lack customer service skills, as per another review below, speaking to some of the staff it felt like we were just hassling them.

Besides that, we had a great time at MBR! We were made to feel comfortable whilst diving and had a lot of fun and laughs. Huge thanks to Ash, Aslan, Jon, Helen, Cat Cassidy, Gregor and all the skippers!! :)

  • Stayed: July 2017, travelled with friends
    • Value
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
1  Thank cthrnjayne
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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