Mabul IslandCelebes Sea near Semporna, Malaysia
Mabul Island, may be Sipadan’s lesser known neighbour, yet it offers some of the best muck diving in the world. Many divers think the challenge of finding a camouflaged frogfish, mimic octopi, and hidden harlequin shrimp is far more satisfying than bumping into a giant school of fish. Mabul Island is just 26 kilometres or a 45-minute boat ride from the nearest town of Semporna. However, divers can also stay at resorts on Mabul Island and make their way to Sipadan, which is just 15 kilometres or a 20-minute boat ride away.
Mabul Notable Dive Sites
Mabul offers approximately 2 square kilometres of reef with over 10 dive sites for Scuba divers to explore. Unlike Sipadan which is home to large pelagic species and huge schools of fish, Mabul is known for its unique and seldom seen critters. On a Mabul dive you will see snake eels, juvenile batfish, flamboyant cuttlefish and mimic octopi. Look again closely at the reef and you may see nudibranchs, ghost pipefish, and harlequin shrimp. Dive sites include the Eel Garden, Gurnard Point, Lobster Wall, Nudibranch Center, Panglima Reef, and Ray Point. However the most notable sites are the Coral Reef Garden, Paradise, and the Seaventure Platform.
Paradise 1 and 2: Just a short distance from the island these dive sites are popular among tour companies as they never fail to impress. Covered in a rich forest of corals, Paradise 1 is home to several species of ray including the Blue-spotted mask ray and the Whiptail ray. Paradise 2 is known for its distinctive Staghorn coral – look among the horns for the elusive but richly coloured mandarin fish.
Coral Reef Garden: This dive site lies east of Mabul and is an excellent place to start your muck diving adventures. An easy dive with depths of 5 to 15 meters the site is covered with corals that are home to crabs, shrimps, nudibranchs, and the occasional small seahorse.
Seaventure Platform: This old oil rig, just a five-minute boat ride from the island, is a muck diver’s dream. Frogfish in hues of yellow, red, and black are often seen among a pile of rods around 15 meters down. Lionfish, pygmy seahorses, ghost pipefish, and nudibranchs can also be found hidden amongst the wreck. However, a particular favourite among divers are the giant moray eels that can be up to 3 meters long. The site extends about 17 meters down and the rig provides plenty of cover from currents so divers have plenty of time to poke around and explore.
Best Time to Visit
Mabul Island is open to diving all year round. However, for the best visibility visit during the dry season from March through October.
About Mabul Island
Catch a glimpse of the local culture between dives at Mabul’s two villages. Mabul is home to the Bajau Laut tribe, one of over fifty ethnic groups to be found within Malaysia’s Sabah State. The Bajau Laut, also known as sea gypsies, often live in homes resting on stilts that rise from the ocean. Mabul Island’s Musu village is home to the Bajau Laut. The island’s second village, Suluk, is home to a group of the same name originally believed to have come from the southern Philippines. Children can be seen playing around Mabul’s only school – the Mabul Island National School or Sekolah Kebangsaan Pulau Mabul.
See photos of Mabul Island.