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Dive Review of Sipadan Water Village Resort in
Malaysia/Mabul Island, Borneo

September, 2008, an Instant Reader Report by Jonathan Blake, CA, United States (2 reports)
Report Number 4526
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
Over 1000 dives
Where else diving
Palau, Micronesia, Cairns/Townesville, Australia, Zanzibar, Tanzania,
Cayman Islands, Bahamas, Curacao, Bonaire, Belize, Fiji, Tahiti, all the
Hawaiian islands, Cozumel, Southern California, Florida Keys.
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

Water Temp
80   to 84    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
50   to 100    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
One DiveMaster per group of 6 divers. Generally asked not to exceed 50
minutes per dive, but controlling underwater photographers is like trying
to herd cats.  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  3 stars
Tropical Fish
5 stars  
Small Critters
  5 stars
Large Fish
2 stars  
Large Pelagics
  2 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
5 stars  
Boat Facilities
2 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
3 stars  
Shore Facilities  
3 stars  
The Dive operation did have fresh water tanks for cameras and tables, but
no air hoses to blow off excess water before opening housings. However,
there were so many divers with cameras I did not feel comfortable leaving
my brand new video camera in the tanks for long because of other divers not
being careful of dropping their gear on my camera. There was no special
place for cameras on the dive boats. But since we were diving as a group of
people who knew each other we tended to look out for each others' gear.
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
4 stars
3 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
4 stars
Dive Operation
4 stars  
Shore Diving  
4 stars  
4 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
5 stars    
5 stars   
4 stars    
The Sipidan Water Village Resort is built on stilts in the middle of the
Celebes Sea. It is connected to Mabul island by a wooden pier. see What ever you need, you better bring it with you! The
gift shop had a few trinkets, T-shirts, sandals, etc. but not much in the
way of toiletries, first-aide, adult beverages, etc. They had some soft
drinks, ice cream cones and a few types of crackers. Not much else.

The rooms were a bit worn but basically in good shape. No A/C but you
didn't need it. Rooms fans the size of an airplane propeller. Housekeeping
was attentive. They would bring you something but only if you asked for it.
Adapter plugs for 220>110 were available but not the converter.

Meals were served at specific times. If you weren't there you didn't get to
eat. Food was satisfactory, but tended to lean toward asian tastes, Deserts
were bland. Beverages consisted of juices, coffee or tea in the morning.
Lunch and dinner you got water unless a group insisted on iced tea. I
didn't see anybody drinking hard alcohol in the restaurant, but cheap wine
was available for purchase at very expensive rates (think "$2-buck
Chuck" [$1.99 a bottle in California)] for USD$50.

The staff, including the dive operation was friendly. They spoke English
but there seemed to be a communication gap as if they would agree with you
just to agree with you. If you wanted something you had to be very
specific, like could I have (whatever) NOW!

No phones, TV or any form of entertainment in rooms. They supposedly
offered wireless internet access (in the lounge area) but those of us with
the newest wireless devices had difficulty logging on. It took 15-20
minutes at times and was very slow. even their own hard wired computer
(supposedly DSL speed) had trouble ($15 bucks and hour). I think the
problem was the satellite feed also served two other resorts in the area.
Hence, "small pipe" too much traffic.

I could have used my AT&T cell phone @ $5 a minute but the phone in the
lobby was only $2 bucks a minute.

The dive operation was fairly good. Because we were a group of 16 divers
traveling together we had two boats all to ourselves. They had assigned
storage bins and hanging racks for BC's, wetsuits, etc. and freshwater
tanks specified for specific items. There were picnic style benches in a
covered area so you could work on gear or chat with other divers. They
offered bland pastry/cookies with water or coffee between dives.

The Dive Masters were knowledgeable and accommodating. After a couple days
they would ask us where we wanted to go: Mabul Island, Sipidan Island or
Kapalai Island. Most of them were very good at finding little critters.
Although the one British Dive Master got lost from the group (of 6 divers)
and had to surface by himself! We kidded him for days!

I enjoyed Sipidan the most because of the wall dives and shallow reefs.
There were more turtles then you could count. After a couple days of diving
we just ignored them. Surprisingly, there were only a few sharks. If we saw
1 or 2 on any dive it was a lot! Lots of interesting critters and familiar
fish that had totally different colors and patterns. Frog fish, miniature
sea horses, alligator fish, cuttle fish, blue spotted sting rays, Mandarin

To visit Sipidan and Kapalai we needed to get permission from the military
guards stationed on the island. It was a joke. The DiveMaster would have a
list of guest names from the resort on his sign up sheet. Each diver would
be assigned a name and we had to sign it! It was hilarious to see
caucasians signing Japanese names or sometimes using Russian names.

Weather was sunny all 10 days we were there. On Kapalai Island it rained
briefly for a few minutes. This area is within 5 degrees of the equator so
bring your sunscreen. At night it would get windy which was good for drying
whatever garments you washed in the sink. On several nights it got really
windy and rainy to the point we had to "batten down the hatches",
close the shutters (there are no glass windows) and make sure your garments
hanging on the drying rack were securely tied down or it would be blown out
to sea.

Dinner was over by 9:00 PM. I don't know what time the bar closed but it
couldn't have been much later. It's pretty much an
"Eat-Dive-Sleep" operation. If you are a nondiver there is
NOTHING else to do but read a book. You can take the wooden pier to Mabul
island proper, and walk around it in about 20-25 minutes. There are a few
natives that live on the island that sell sea shells (Nautilus shells were
plentiful). They live in wooden shacks under what we would consider poverty
conditions but you could still see the occasional  satellite dish.

Mabul Island is not an easy place to get to. From Los Angeles we flew to
Norita, Japan then connected to Singapore where we had a transit hotel in
the airport then flew to Kota Kinabalu where we had an overnight hotel at
the Hyatt Regency then back to the airport early morning for a flight to
Tawau. Then we took a bus for 2-1/2 hours to the dock then took a small
speed boat (25ft) for an hour to the water Village. All in hour about 29
hours of travel time not counting overnight transit hotels in the Singapore
airport and at Kota Kinabalu. Basically we left on Friday at noon and got
to the water village on Monday afternoon (make allowance for time
difference of 9-10 hours ahead of U.S).

I'm a jaded diver. I've been a lot of places and been on many spectacular
dives. It's hard to impress me. While I saw a lot of new and interesting
creatures I would not return. Too far!
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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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