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

Sipadan Water Village Resort, Sep, 2008,

by Jonathan Blake, CA, United States ( 2 reports). Report 4526.

No photos available at this time

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

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

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!

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

Weather sunny Seas calm
Water Temp 80-84°F / 27-29°C Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility 50-100 Ft/ 15-30 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
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.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 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
UW Photo Comments 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.
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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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