Mataking IslandsCelebes Sea near Semporna, Malaysia
The name Pulau Mataking is literally translated to "Eye of the King". What makes Mataking so unique is the sheer fact that it is actually 2 islands, separated by a short 1km long sandbar, exposed at low tide, twice daily.
The first of these 2 islands, Mataking Besar (Large Mataking) is home to a small dive resort, whilst much of it remains an uninterrupted jungle paradise. This incredibly picturesque tear-drop shaped atoll, which is actually almost as close to the Philippines as it is back to Semporna, is as active with nature in the jungle as it is underwater. This is a very special place where in the early evenings as dusk falls, you can experience the beauty of fireflies dancing amongst the backdrop of the star-filled skies. If you are lucky you may also get to encounter the endangered and protected coconut crabs climbing the multiple coconut trees that adorn the jungle fringes.
Notable Dive Sites
The Mataking Islands offer a few of the most unique dives to be found in an area already known for its unique and colourful creatures. The Mataking dive sites are truly matchless in novelty and beauty.
The Underwater Post Office: In 2006 an old wooden cargo ship was sunk off of the Mataking Islands as part of a conservation project. The ship was to become an artificial reef for tropical reef fish and a post office for adventurous divers. Yes this site is an actual post office where divers can deposit their postcards to be picked up and mailed around the world. Mail is wrapped in a waterproof bag and left in a mailbox at the ship’s helm. The mail is picked up twice a week to be sent off to its destination.
The Garden of Eden: Just south of Mataking Besar is the aptly named Garden of Eden covered in beautiful soft corals, anemones, and featherstars. Plenty of Angelfish and Moorish Idols can be found swimming about. Also keep an eye out for leaf fish, frogfish, and colourful ribbon eels as you swim through this richly colourful site. The dive drops to a depth of 25 meters with a mild current.
Other dive sites include the suitably named Nudibranch Garden, Lobsters Lair, Turtle Playground, and Hump Head Point home to plenty of their namesake creatures.
Mataking Kecil Island
The baby brother of Mataking Besar is Mataking Kecil (Small Mataking), which may be visited by the “Moses Walk” sandbar at the lowest point of tide or by boat at other times.
This incredibly unique island really is reminisce of Robinson Crusoe style adventures, as the entire island remains unoccupied and where the only sounds come from coconuts washing up onto the sands or the clicking of insects and gecko’s from within the bush. Stand at the waters edge and marvel at the myriad of blue from the shallows to the reef edges and be taken to places that those dreams are made of.
Below the water, the twin brothers of Mataking offer some of the richest underwater playgrounds outside of the world-renowned Sipadan Island. In fact, numerous visitors to the islands claim the gentle slopes of House Reef of Mataking Besar to be one of the highlights of the diving tour of these islands.
A virtual sensory overload of coral abundance just below the surface is a delight for both snorkellers and qualified scuba divers alike with schooling Yellow Snappers gliding across the Staghorn corals and Clownfish galore dancing through the anemone of the reef, (yes we can guarantee that you will find Nemo!)
For the more adventurous of divers, the D’Wall dive site of Mataking Kecil offers some truly exhilarating drift dives.
As the name suggests, this is a wall dive that you won’t forget in a hurry. With a usual gentle drift from the South Easterly point, pay close attention to the huge coral “bommies” that adorn the upper wall of this site for some of the islands most colourful fish life, but don’t forget to keep an eye out in the blue also. Small shoals of Eagle Ray, Cownose Ray and very recently, a juvenile whale shark regularly visit this jaw-dropping site.
Best Times to Visit
The diving on Mataking is open all year round, but visibility will be best during the dry season. Visit March through October for the very best dive experience.
See photos of Mataking Island.