We made reservations at Borneo Divers Resort on Mabul, Borneo, Malaysia. Sipadan, another island in this cluster, is reputed to have the best diving in Malaysia.
*Aside* There is no lodging or resort on Sipadan. It is a preserved marine park with a permit program limiting the number of divers allowed each day. The only way to dive on Sipadan is to stay at a resort who participates in the permit program.
No “resort” is cheap but everything is included: our room, the transfers to and from the airport, the boat to and from Mabul Island, our food and the diving. So: we can squeeze it into the budget.
The transfer from the airport is smooth as silk with the Borneo Divers’ representative waiting for us in the airport to connect us to the boat that whisks us to Mabul.
*Aside* We are completely surprised when we are required go through immigration at the airport in Tawau, Subah, Borneo, Malaysia. We came from Malaysia and we already have a Malaysia-Sabah stamp in our passport but it seems there is a lingering immigration process leftover from when Sabah, Borneo was part of some other country. They just never bothered to take down the immigration cubicles, or something like that. We never got a really good explanation.
We arrive at a long dock that leads almost directly to the door of our room. The water on either side of the dock is clear we can see the coral bed through the water. The swimming pool is right across the walk from us. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are just a stroll down the sandy path.
Our room has a very comfortable king-sized bed with a choice of pillows. We both get some much needed deep sleep in this comfortable room. This will be our home for the next seven days.
Tom is scheduled to dive Sipadan on our first full day here. He hopes to get to dive the island again, although we’ve heard that the diving at all the islands in the area (Mabul, Kalapai and Sipadan) is very good.
There are a number of dive resorts on Mabul. One is a repurposed oil rig. We almost stayed there but there was no availability. I think we were lucky as I think getting up and down to the dive boats would be tough!
The food is good, not excellent, but good. We certainly will not go hungry but maybe won’t be tempted to overeat! The food is served buffet-style. There is usually a beef dish and a chicken dish with an occasional lamb or fish dish for variety. There are usually stir fired vegetables and some kind of pasta, that is spaghetti with sauce of some kind. However the sauces are thin and mostly not appealing. There is always rice. The first night we arrived there was a BBQ and the meats served off the grill were very good, but that wasn’t repeated. Most mornings you can have eggs cooked the way you want them, cooked fresh by a person with a small wok.
*Aside*Breakfast is served at 7:00 AM, lunch is served at 12:00 noon and dinner is served at 7:00 PM. My biggest complaint is that even if you get there as soon as the buffet is open, some of it is always cold or barely lukewarm. I really feel as though it should come out of the kitchen hot. I mean it’s served at the same time every day. Wouldn’t you figure it out? My next biggest complaint is that often things are not completely done. Still partially raw stir fried veggies are really not appealing to me. But don’t worry. I still find plenty to eat.
The first dive-day report is great! It’s the rainy season, so visibility is not perfect, but even so there is certainly plenty to see underwater. Tom comes back with pictures of White Tipped Sharks, his favorite Nudibranchs, Scorpion fish and Eels to mention a few. Tom’s first impression of Sipadan is great!
Tom jumps on a second opportunity to dive Sipadan, but declines further trips to Sipadan, opting instead for diving around Mabul and Kapalai where he finds lots of the Nudibranchs he loves to photograph.
*Aside*Kapalai is located on what looks like a great big sandbar. There is one resort on the island. They have created a reef by installing an artificial landscape in the water around the island using things like heavy WWII cargo netting, bamboo huts and piles of rocks with metal structures. Totally: if you build it, they will come. The marine life that is. The house reef is a wealth of Nudibranchs. If we ever make it back to this part of the world, I see us staying there!
One thing we enjoyed in was Mabul the friendly cats. Many of the cats (and dogs) we’ve met in Asia are less than friendly, often running away as fast as they can if you even walk toward them. However many of the cats of Mabul are happy to see a hand reach out to scratch their ears. Some of them even want to follow you home for more.
*Aside* We meet a little calico cat that we called Moo because she didn’t meow, but sort of mooed. Later I saw her with a pigeon she caught that was almost bigger than she was. Now I think she might have actually been cooing to attract and attack the pigeons.
On his fifth day of diving, Tom took a dive, but not in the water. He slipped getting off the boat at lunch and fell flat on his back, banging his head hard on the deck. He’s fine, but he declined his final dive of the day, just to be cautious. Nonetheless he has some amazing pictures from this leg of the journey!
On our last evening we walk out the long dock to the dive shop to enjoy our last sunset on Mabul. It was cool and breezy and the sunset was beautiful!
Next up we fly back to Kuala Lumpur for one night. Our hotel is near KL Sentral Train Station. The plan is take the fast train to Butterworth (no, it is not the syrup capital of Malaysia) then cross over for a bit of tourism in Penang, Malaysia.
Below are Tom’s favorite critters from Mabul:
They are in order from Left to Right: Frogfish; Mantis Shrimp; Fimbriated Moray Eel; Pederson’s Cleaner Shrimp; Giant Moray Eel; Bubble Coral; Crocodile Fish; the rest are Nudibranchs.