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Dive Review of SMART/Mabul Water Bungalows in
Malaysia/Borneo

SMART/Mabul Water Bungalows, Aug, 2006,

by John Sommerer, MD, United States (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 10 reports with 1 Helpful vote). Report 3483.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Caribbean, Micronesia, Polynesia, Indonesia, PNG, Galapagos, Costa Rica
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, windy Seas calm, choppy
Water Temp 82 to 84 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 30 to 100 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
Enforced diving restrictions No deco. Dives limited to 45 minutes, including safety stop
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks Lots Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins 1 or 2 Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 5 stars Tropical Fish 4 stars
Small Critters 3 stars Large Fish 3 stars
Large Pelagics 3 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 3 stars Boat Facilities 4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 3 stars Shore Facilities 4 stars
UW Photo Comments If you want pictures of green turtles, or bumphead parrotfish, this is the place. Good coral also.

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 5 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving 1 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments Mabul Water Bungalows an up-scale partner of Sipadan-Mabul Resort (SMART). Great accomodations, good restaurant, great service, nice spa.

Dive operation same as SMART. Did not group divers according to experience -- we had several dives with recent certifications, which is not good for either the muck (Mabul) nor the blue diving (Sipadan). Boat crews very good, helpful, and careful with your gear. One divemaster was great (Deniah): enthusiastic, talented, and flexible. Unfortunately, we spent most of our time with another (Eddy), who was none of these. Most irritating was his impatience to get the dive over with; he'd start signaling "safety stop" at 39 minutes. After he'd made a major screw-up (and there were several, including taking a group out into the blue and then losing his direction - we were out there for 35 minutes, until I went to the surface and took a compass bearing) you might get a 50 minute dive by way of apology. Despite listings on dive board, frequently changed dive sites to places closer to the resort. Only did Kapalai once. Some major issues with Sipadan permits. One couple who stayed 12 days only got to Sipadan 5 times. We went over twice to be turned back. Second time, all divers pushed back really hard, and we ended up doing both dives there on the side of the island away from the Malaysian military post, with our surface interval on the boat. Would not recommend going here until this is sorted out. Don't know if it's a problem in general, with SMART, or with our particular dive master. Resort did not volunteer refunds of the Sipadan levy.

The muck is not remotely comparable to Lembeh, so Mabul is not a destination unto itself, in my opinion. Sipidan pretty much as advertised, with lots of turtles, big school of bumphead parrotfish (usually only seen on 6:00am dive at Barracuda Point), lots of whitetip sharks, fewer gray reef sharks, and an occasional hammerhead or leopard shark (South Point seemed best for the last three). Barracuda school there, but shy, and with new divers in our group both times we found them, we didn't see them for long.

We did a long trip to see Borneo wildlife, which was great, and we had very good luck in both the Kinabatangan River (3 days) area and Danum Valley (3 days). If I was just diving, I would not come here. Komodo/Manado, Indonesia, and Palau represent better diving for comparable distance from US.
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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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