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Mabul Island & Sipidan Diving in Sabah (Borneo Adventure)

Looking for some great diving in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo?

Awesome! Mabul Island is one of the best places in all of Borneo for just that and I spent a few nights on the island exploring the area.



Mabul Island and Sipadan 

Full throttle ahead, the boat skims over the deep blue water to a distant island called Pulau Mabul, where warm tropical waters, and white sand beaches await.

This is the Island group of the far eastern part of Malaysian Borneo, with the world famous Sipidan Island nearby.

Divers flock to Mabul Island to stay at the various guesthouses built out onto the sea from the sea gypsy village, in order to get to the dive sites at the nearby islands.

It’s not just for divers however, as the waters are ideal for snorkelling, and the sea gypsy villages are charming in their own right.

Sea gypsy village
Sea gypsy village with guesthouses built onto the sea.

Many divers come here to dive on Sipidan Island, which is known for its big fishes.

I personally can’t say to go to Sipidan as i did not make the trip there, due to not diving and the trip being way to expensive just to snorkel.

However diving friends said they had some good dives.

Island near Mabul
Island near Pulau Mabul.

Mabul Island is not the place you go to laze around on the beach, as the beaches are dirty with the village around.

Surprisingly just offshore from the sea gypsy village the snorkelling is ok, with many turtles to be spotted and relatively clear waters, depending on the weather.

Hanging out around the sea gypsy village is good fun, getting lost between all the houses and seeing daily life played out by the locals.

Sea gypsy village on Pulau Mabul
Sea gypsy boy on the stilted village at sunset.

Some of the best snorkelling to do is on various islands scattered around Mabul Island.

You can take day trips to either dive or snorkel the nearby islands. Some being around an hour away. Here you can find the pristine islands you dream of.

White sand beaches. Crystal clear water. Live coral gardens. Paradise!

Island near sipidan

The waters are so clear you can see the corals from the boat easily.

Coral seen from boat.

Currents in the water can be strong around there, making it great to free dive down and flow with the water, gazing up from several metres down to the kaleidoscope of multi coloured fishes swimming above.

Paradise island
Another paradise island.

In the outer islands many more sea gypsy villages can be seen. Watching the people live out their way of life is fascinating to see.

Sea gypsy village
Sea gypsy village.

Making the trip out there is worth it if you are going to dive Sipidan. If you are looking for cheap paradise beaches to stay on, then this is not the place to come.

The islands around are paradise, but many are only for day tripping, unless you have the money to burn for an expensive resort.

But seeing the sea gypsies going about their lives, and the day trips for diving, snorkelling and beaches is worth it enough for a visit.

Looking for cheaper paradise beaches to actually stay on with pristine beaches, then look further south to Indonesia (future posts on that coming up).

Sea gypsy village at sunset
Sea gypsy village at sunset.


Mabul Island

Getting to Mabul Island is done by boat from the city of Semporna (find places to stay in Semporna here) in Sabah.

Interested in more things to do in Sabah? Take a look at my post on the best things to do in Sabah and Sarawak.

I recommend using SafetyWing Travel Insurance for your trip, just in case, it’s best to be prepared.

If you liked this article about Mabul Island a share would be cool! 🙂


10 thoughts on “Mabul Island & Sipidan Diving in Sabah (Borneo Adventure)”

  1. Jenna @ Green Global Reviews

    The sea gypsy villages would be fun to explore, and I like how they are hanging over the water. This looks like a fun spot to visit, especially with the beautiful, clear waters and reefs! I would love to venture out to Sipidan for some diving as well!

  2. That looks unreal. You should really try freediving with them, they have such unique skills. Awesome pics. I’m going to include your Papua post in my next travel experiences feature.

    Really great job, you have done some of the craziest things on the planet.

  3. I’ve been to many places to dive and snorkel but I’ve never been to Pulau Mabul. The way the sea gypsies live has always intrigued me since I heard about them so seeing this post gave me that much-needed push to venture out to this place and see them up close and personal, perhaps to learn a technique or two from them on how to be better at what I do.

  4. Yes the sea gypsies are amazing too be around. I used Pulau Mabul as a jump off too other islands nearby, which I found great. You will love the diving off Sipidan Island from what I have heard from friends. What have been your favourite places up until now to dive and snorkel?

  5. Hi Jonny,

    Thanks for the heads up on the Mabul Island guesthouses.

    The area really sounds like it is a personal paradise. Thanks for the supporting pictures.

  6. Pingback: Things To Do In Sarawak & Sabah (Best Choices For 2019)

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