Not booking more time at Scuba Junkie’s Resort on Mabul, Borneo was one of the worst decisions I have ever made. Ok, maybe that is a little bit of an exaggeration… I have definitely made worse decisions, but this one is definitely in my top 20. So why did I only book one night? Because like to many other backpackers, I wanted to keep things fluid, not make too many plans…. but then suddenly when I next looked, everything was booked out and I could only get one night at Scuba Junkie. Therefore, I recommend you check out my 2 week Ultimate Itinerary for Sabah, Borneo post to avoid making the same mistake.
Mabul, is an island off the coast of the much larger island of Borneo. It is one of the gateways or launch pads to dive the famous Sipidan reef. The accommodation on this island is almost triple what you pay anywhere else in Borneo, and the number of options on the internet are very limited. Scuba Junkie was highly recommended by both Lonely Plant and TripAdvisor, but for some strange reason I ignored these great reviews and kept looking for something else. Something cheaper. I procrastinated against booking, and when I finally decided to book, I got the rude shock of a life time. They were almost completely booked out, I could only stay for one night.
Oh well, I am sure there are other places to stay on the island…. right?
Arriving on Mabul island was like arriving on a movie set for a tropical blockbuster. The sun was out, the sea was crystal clear, there was activity and people everywhere. It instantly felt like a place you didn’t want to leave. I had partly chosen Scuba Junkie due to their great reputation and cheap diving facilities, which I had booked as part of my accommodation. So before I had even checked into my accommodation, I was doing a couple of dives. Fantastic. They have the logistics of stay and dive down to a fine art.
When I finally did get to see my accommodation, my heart completely broke. I couldn’t believe I wouldn’t be staying at this amazing place for more than one night. It was beautiful, comfortable, homely and luxurious (a word I don’t normally get to use as a backpacker). Also in comparison to some of the other places on the island that I would stay at during the rest of the week – it was very reasonably priced. In fact, it wasn’t just reasonable, it is the best deal on the island.
Now before I go any further, I should also mention that there has been a travel warning on the area for years due to pirate activity coming across the Philippine boarder. If you travel to Mabul you may void your travel insurance so check the fine print to see if it is included. I also recommend doing your own research to see if you are comfortable to travelling to an area with a travel warning. I did a lot or research before I went, and I was very nervous, especially as I had met a number of people who said they wouldn’t go. However, my research had shown that there were very few incidents of piracy, and those incidents had primarily been towards locals and not tourists (which is still completely sucky). I am very glad that I did go, as I felt completely safe the whole time I was on the island and diving. At no point, did I feel as though a boat was going to come ashore and steal me. Whats more, there is a heavy Malaysian Navy presence around the island and dive areas which definitely made me feel like any pirate would be mad to come too close.
Note: all thoughts are my own and my accommodation reviews are not sponsored unless otherwise stated.
- Where: Scuba Junkie Dive Resort, Mabul Island, Borneo, Malaysia
- How Long: 1 night
- Number of persons: 4 friends
- Cost: 150 RM or $48 AUD (this was for a twin room, so it was $24 for 2 people)
- Link / Facebook / TripAdvisor
Location of Scuba Junkie
Mabul is a small island off the coast of the much larger island of Borneo. It is a launch pad to dive the famous reef of Sipidan. If you wish to dive Sipidan or around, then I recommend staying on Mabul. There is a lot of cheap accommodation in Semporna… and after spending one night there I could see why it was so cheap. It is definitely worth packing your bags and heading to Mabul. There is a Scuba Junkie dive shop in Semporna which runs boats between the main land and Mabul a couple of times a day. Just let them know when you will be arriving and then will make sure you are on the next boat.
On the island it’s self the resort is located next to a water gypsy village and some other (much more expensive) resorts. It has its own jetty which leads out to crystal clear water for snorkelling and diving. The beach it’s self isn’t the cleanest, in fact the whole island has a trash problem, it is something that the locals don’t seem to care about.
- Room Size: Large rooms with a double bed and a single in them.
- Comfort: My room had only a fan, as I was cheap and didn’t want to pay for the more expensive room. But I was more than comfortable as the evening air on the island is much cooler than it is on mainland Borneo.
- Cleanliness: Spotless, there are little foot baths before you walk into every room so that you make sure you don’t walk sand through your room.
- Noise: Although there is a bar onsite, because everyone is diving, it usually shuts down quite early. I was dead asleep by 10pm and didn’t hear a single peep from anyone else.
- Security: Personally I felt very safe. I felt like the resort was a haven, like I was caught in time. I didn’t feel threatened by pirates, thieves or worse. To be honest, it was one of the best places I have stayed.
- Size/amount: There is one bathroom per hut and it was huge.
- Water pressure/temperature: It’s a tropical island… so you don’t really need or want hot water. Which is good because the water was luke warm at best.
- Useability: There was a separated shower so none of my clothes got wet… always a must in a highly humid climates.
- Cleanliness: Once again, spotless!
There was no kitchen! However, included in the price was all of your meals. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were all served at specific times. By gosh, the food was amazing. They catered for everyone, from the super healthy to the vegetarians and meat lovers. They put out a number of dishes for you to mix and match between. So delicious!
Staff at Scuba Junkie
I can’t rave enough about how amazing the staff were. They were helpful and friendly, both the divers and those who worked on the resort. Although, I only stayed there one night, I came back to do my diving over the next couple of days, purely because I loved the staff so much. By the time I left the island, I had made some great friends.
- Internet: Only in the main house/restaurant area. Not the best, but it did the job.
- Tour Desk: This is more of a dive desk, as the main thing to do on Mabul is dive. They were fabulous, helping me choose which sites to do and being flexible with how many dives I would do. I was having an ear problem so didn’t want to commit to doing 3 dives a day, they let me make up my mind after lunch each day and pay them when I had decided. Removed the pressure and made sure I looked after my ear.
- Breakfast: Included in the rate and delicious.
- Extras: As a guest you get discounted rates on diving and snorkelling. Not to mention a boat ride between the resort and the mainland.
I recommend booking early and booking more than one or two nights if you are planning to dive Mabul and stay at Scuba Junkie. WHEN I go back, I will definitely be staying there again!