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Dive Review of Mabul Water Bungalows in

November, 2008, an Instant Reader Report by Jon Hoffmann, GA, USA (1 report)
Report Number 4537
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
251-500 dives
Where else diving
Caribbean, Costa Rica, Thailand, Micronesia, Maldives, Indonesia, PNG
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

Water Temp
82   to 84    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
20   to 100    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Time & Depth  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  5 stars
Tropical Fish
5 stars  
Small Critters
  5 stars
Large Fish
5 stars  
Large Pelagics
  4 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
5 stars  
Boat Facilities
3 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
5 stars  
Shore Facilities  
3 stars  
Rinse tanks provided for cameras on the dive jetty, but none provided on
the boats. On boat rides, cameras were just laid out on a mat on the back
of the boats. 
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
5 stars
5 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
4 stars
Dive Operation
4 stars  
Shore Diving  
5 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
3 stars    
4 stars   
5 stars    
The Good.... The big fish action on Sipadan rivals that of Palau and the
coral has to be among the most diverse and healthiest on the planet. The
muck diving around Mabul and Kapalai rivals that of Raja Ampat. So kind of
like going to 2 great places in one. I could go into great detail about the
diving, but with the exception of schools of mantas, you can find anything
in this area that you will find at any other top dive destination on earth.
 If going to the Sipadan area, the Mabul Water Bungalows seems to be the
best accommodations. We stayed at the SMART resort last year (which is a
sister resort across the island) and the upgrade to the MWB is definitely
worth the price. Considering that there is nothing to do/see on the island
and there is absolutely no night life, having a large, comfortable room
over the water takes on added value. The food at MWB was much better and
more diverse than with SMART. The ease of diving couldn't have been any
more convenient as the boats and jetty to the house reef were no more than
20 steps from the equipment lockers. If you show courtesy and a smile to
the staff, you will not find any friendlier and more helpful anywhere. It
starts with the manager (Eva) all the way down to the old, chain smoking
guy watering the plants every morning.
The Bad. Starting sometime in late summer this year, the Malaysian
government began enforcing a new interpretation of the 120 divers/day max
limit- not for the resort, but total divers period. In perusing how the 120
permits were allocated, it appeared that the SMART/MWB were allocated about
14 of the 120 permits any give day and the 2 resorts can hold up to 100-150
divers. Last year, we generally did 2 dives a day at Sipadan and 1dive
around Mabul or Kapalai. The previous interpretation of the regulation on
the number of divers had been that there could be a max of 120 divers at a
time, thus enabling many more than 120 different people to dive there on a
single day. Now you are required to depart the boat to sign in on an
official register in both the morning and afternoon where a government
bureaucrat checks signatures, etc.  This year at SMART/MWB, there was some
kind of lottery and if you were lucky enough to get your name drawn,
you did 5 dives in a day at Sipadan beginning at 5:30AM. Given that your
package includes 3 boat dives a day, the day following a Sipadan excursion
is limited to a single boat dive to average out to 3/day over 2 days. We
heard a variety of theories from the locals about why the government has
begun enforcing new regulations, but most of those theories centered around
the corrupt governor of Saba trying to starve off the area resorts in an
attempt to take them over. In any case, we went to Sipadan to dive Sipadan
and were disappointed that we were not told in advance about the change in
permit utilization. The locals told us that already word has spread and
that their bookings for next year are already half of normal. The lottery
system at SMART/MWB appears to be a farce. We were the only group of
Americans at the 2 resorts and preferred to interact with the locals rather
than the predominantly Russian clientele (who were in general rude and
complained loudly and incessantly). Although we made it know up front that
we were disappointed we would not be able to dive Sipadan every day (but
yet remained polite and amiable) we were told that it was luck in the
lottery that our names were drawn to go to Sipadan 3 times in 6 days
while the Russian groups only got drawn once for 7 days. Of course that
only led to them complaining even more rudely and loudly- and even worse
luck in the "lottery". 
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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