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Dive Review of Mabul Water Bungalows in
Malaysia/Mabul/Sipadan

Mabul Water Bungalows, Nov, 2008,

by Jon Hoffmann, GA, USA ( 2 reports). Report 4537.

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

Weather sunny Seas calm
Water Temp 82 to 84 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility 20 to 100 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile ?
Enforced diving restrictions Time & Depth
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 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
UW Photo Comments 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):

Accommodations 5 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving 5 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 3 stars
Beginners 4 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments 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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