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Dive Review of Scuba Junkie/Mabul Beach Resort in

Scuba Junkie/Mabul Beach Resort: "Overall good diving operation", Jun, 2019,

by Angela Richards Dona, HI, US (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 10 reports with 8 Helpful votes). Report 11028.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 3 stars Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving 4 stars
Snorkeling 4 stars
Value for $$ 4 stars
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments RESORT
As far as resorts go, this one is pretty well-run while also having the quality of feeling at times overrun. Way too many people for my taste, but despite the large number of divers running about, the staff seems to have things under control.

The dining hall is large with long wooden picnic-style tables and benches to sit. It serves as both a gathering place and dining location. Additional seating on couches is provided up a very steep set of steps with a bar and items you can order outside of meal time. Food is prepared and served buffet-style every meal. The place is positively bustling from the moment dinner is served. I would estimate hundreds of people pass through for each meal and I honestly don’t know where they all sleep. Of course, we stayed in the individual huts and I know there is a dorm, so I am guessing that is where they all come from. The food was ok, I would say. Not great, not bad. The chef always made a vegetarian dish for lunches and dinners, which tended to always be the same thing, but tofu was available pretty much every night. And side vegetables were often pretty good. Fried bits of tempeh were almost always available and on some nights, a nice spicy, tart vegetarian soup was on offer. Breakfasts were pretty standard with eggs, pancakes, toast, etc.

On one occasion, after a night dive, we arrived at dinner to find most of it picked over and moved to a couple of smaller plates on the buffet table. Unfortunately, I am fairly sure this was when/where I picked up the virus that would plague me for the next two weeks of my vacation. The following morning I was sick. But I was determined not to miss diving and so with a sick tummy and a trip to the bathroom after every dive (thank goodness for those bathrooms on Sipadan) I made it through the next days of diving. I would have been so upset to miss out on our scheduled day on Sipadan, so I powered through. I believe by letting the food sit out for so long uncovered, the flies likely contaminated the food. There is a sea gypsy village just adjacent to the resort and it is likely that the local flies are vectors for some pretty nasty illnesses.

One really nice thing about the resort is their outreach to the villagers on Mabul and the successes they have had. To discourage tourists from purchasing shells and things extracted from the reef, the management has engaged in teaching the local people to crochet sea creatures and they allow the items to be sold in the dining hall during the day. Very clever and sustainable. I was very happy to purchase some gifts to take home from the young enterprising girls who sat there all day long, chatting and making wee shrimps, colorful nudis, sharks, etc. No single-use plastic is sold or allowed at the resort, so that is another big plus. Drinking water is dispensed from large multi-gallon jugs and guests are encouraged to fill their own water bottles.

The room and en suite bathroom were basic, comfortable, and adequately-sized. We had a king-sized and a twin bed in our room but no armoire or dresser to put our clothing in or a place to store our luggage. We stacked our clothes on the small bed since we really had no other use for it, and stacked our luggage in a corner as out-of-the-way as possible. There was a desk to place some items on and this was often in use as a camera table. The bathroom was large and basic with space to leave toiletries about.

If you wanted your room to be tidied you had to request this each morning before heading out for your dives. You could choose between having linens changed or just having the bed made. We opted to have our room tidied every day without changing linens. On our final day, the cleaners came to tidy the room and I asked them to wait a few minutes while we finished getting ready. I told the girl we needed about 10 minutes. Amazingly, she gave me a look of irritation, rolled her eyes, and her neck toward her partner and presumably explained the situation to him. We must have been inconveniencing her. For the next 10 minutes, as we were trying to relax before the dive (and because I had a sick belly) we heard her speaking to her partner with a raised, annoyed voice. She had remained on our porch, just feet from where we were trying to relax. Needless to say, we were not pleased by her behavior.

The dive operation is complex, employs a ridiculous amount of people, is chaotic yet well-done, and runs amazingly well, all things considered. There are tons of people moving about on the dive platform but somehow, it really never felt too crowded. I have to give the staff a tremendous amount of credit for managing everything so seamlessly. Some of the staff was super happy and positive and some were not that happy…and you could tell. This is pretty standard at most dive resorts/liveaboards. They work hard and for very long hours.

The best thing about the dive ops is the diving platform. It is huge, has multiple levels, and is an excellent place to learn to dive. I wish I had learned here. The house reef is interesting enough.

We were given lockers inside the dive hut to store our gear but it was crazy dark in there and easy to lose items in the mess. With little space to move about near our lockers (due to all of the rental gear), we found it was best to arrive early and get our gear out and onto the deck as quickly as possible. Scuba Junkie seems to prefer to rent gear to guests as we found the service was very hands-on for those who had rented while we were somewhat left to fend for ourselves. Of course, we did want to attach our own gear to our tanks but unlike the rental folks, we had to lug our own gear onto and off of the boats. And this aspect of the dive ops was at times unclear. We assumed they would do this for us and on the first day of diving we found ourselves rushing to attach our gear while all others on the boat had it done for them ahead of time. We were stressed because of this misunderstanding and no one likes getting stressed before a first dive in a new place.

The boats are large and sturdy and we were never crowded. We were required to wear life jackets to and from the dive sites, which is law but seemed so strange. The boat crew was very good as were most of the DMs. Of course we had our favorites and a couple we thought could have been a bit better. Pretty normal.

The quality of the reefs ran from excellent (Sipadan) to poor (Mabul, Kaimana). We witnessed a tremendous amount of dead reef due to dynamite fishing, which is apparently still happening. Sure, you will see coral and fish, but not like you should. Corals are small, new growth, whereas the super large colonies have been blown to bits. Rubble is everywhere and while this is good for muck diving, it is hard not to feel the loss of the beautiful coral that used to be there. They need to get this in check.
Of note, we saw some really nice hammerheads in the blue, extra-large schools of jacks, divercidal titan triggerfish, and a tornado of barracuda at Sipadan. Close to the resort we did a really entertaining dive with man-made underwater structures and our night dive was top notch! If you do not like long-spined urchins, however, this night dive may not be for you. They were EVERYWHERE. Which is of course, a sign that the ecosystem is off-balance. There was very little garbage to be found on the reefs, a result of the many reef cleanups the resort does (weekly, I believe). This is much appreciated and I can almost forget the full diaper I saw on a sandy slope at about 10 meters.

Overall, Scuba Junkie is a good diving operation with a lot to like, particularly their approach to conservation, stewardship of the reefs, and outreach to the community.

Websites Scuba Junkie   Mabul Beach Resort

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 501-1000 dives
Where else diving Indonesia: Raja Ampat, Banda Sea, Lembeh, Bunaken; Philippines: Tubbataha, Southern Visayas and Honda Bay; Micronesia: Yap, Pohnpei, Kapingamarangi, Nakuoro, Olimarao, Kosrae; Fiji; Egyptian Red Sea: St. Johns, Fury Shoals, Sharm, Marsa Nakari; Hawaii; Bonaire; Turks & Caicos; Bahamas; Cozumel
Closest Airport Tawau Getting There We had layovers in Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur but Singapore is also an option to get to Tawau. Flights to Tawau via Air Asia or Malaysian Airlines

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, rainy Seas calm, currents
Water Temp 26-30°C / 79-86°F Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 10-25 M / 33-82 Ft

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions 60 minute dive time
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

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

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

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 2 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 2 stars Shore Facilities 2 stars
UW Photo Comments Most people rent gear and many are day-trippers. This place is not exactly set up for major camera gear. Leave it home or simply be aware.
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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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