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Sipadan Water Village

Thursday, November 13, 2008
Sabah is Malaysia's northernmost state and together with Sarawak makes up Malaysian Borneo. It's made for holidays and is perfect for adventure, eco-tourism, nature, wildlife and scuba diving.

Sabah's population is heterogeneous and culturally diverse, with more than 30 ethnic groups speaking 80 local dialects. Groups live harmoniously, while at the same time preserving individual cultures, traditions, festivals and customs to make Sabah an exotic multicultural experience.

Sabah's capital, Kota Kinabalu, sprawls for kilometres along the coast and is a major industrial and commercial centre in East Malaysia. It is one of the fastest growing cities in the country.

Semporna on the east coast of Sabah and its many islands are a dream come true. White sandy beaches, coconut palms and tranquil waters lapping colourful reefs in the Sulawesi Sea with its richness of fish, shells, pearls and seaweed, an important local industry. It is also the main post for the Sabah Royal Malaysian Navy, and state-of-the-art patrol craft ply the surrounding waters.

Mabul is a 21-hectare island in the Celebes Sea, a 30-minute speedboat ride from Semporna. The small oval shaped island is surrounded by beach and is a treasure above and below the water. Its 200-hectare reef is home to colourful sea horses, exotic starfish, fire gobies, crocodile fish, pipefish and snake eels.

Its prime attraction is year-round diving and is one of the best muck diving locations in the world with eight spots. The reef is on the edge of the continental shelf and the surrounding seabed slopes up to 40m.

Mabul is home to the Bajau Laut tribe, the world's only group of nomadic sea gypsies and one of many of Sabah's tribal ethnic groups. They happily share their island with tourists and divers.

There are three resorts on Mabul, all geared to diving, including one on a converted oil rig platform 500m offshore.

While the tribe mostly lives in custom-built lepa boats on the water, they also live on land in a colony of traditional palm-thatched houses.

The Bajau style Sipadan Water Village was built on stilts over water. Floors are less than a metre above the high water mark.

The resort is located on a part of the island where it is sheltered from storms. Building procedures with minimal damage to the reef were carefully adhered to.

There are six levels of water cottage accommodation dotted along flowered paths. Cottages are spacious with wide sliding doors opening onto a private deck.

The dining hall is open for all meals served buffet style. Cuisine is Asian and continental. The bar and lounge is open from 9am to midnight.

A mini market sells souvenirs, T-shirts, postcards, caps and towels with local logos.

The island dive centre runs all in-water activities and scuba training and education. Its custom-built fibreglass dive boats each carry 12 passengers, and they go out three times a day accompanied by a boatman and dive master. The international dive master staff are specially trained in the marine ecology of Mabul Island.

Sipadan is an oceanic island formed by living corals growing on top of an extinct undersea volcano rising 600m from the seabed.

It is a breeding ground for endangered green and hawksbill turtles and they are everywhere, swimming at a leisurely pace, snoozing in recesses or getting picked clean by fish at "cleaning stations" on the reef. Like the rest of the marine life, they are entirely unbothered by the nosy humans gathering around them.


Mabul Island in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo.


Dive Adventures has four-day packages from Tawau. Accommodation, return transfers, meals and snorkelling are included and they cost $974 per person twin share.

Royal Brunei Airlines has flights to Kota Kinabalu.

Fares from:

  • Perth $900
  • Brisbane $1040

Connections to Tawau are available.

Prices correct at November 13, 2008.

For further information

Dive Adventures
9/32 York Street
Sydney 2000
Ph: (02) 9299 4633
Fax: (02) 9299 4644

Sipadan Water Village Resort Sdn Bhd
TB226, Lot 3, 1st Floor, Wisma MAA
Town Extension 2, 91000 Tawau
Ph: +60 89 752 996
Fax: +60 89 752 997

Sabah Tourism
51 Gaya Street,
88000 Kota Kinabalu
Sabah Malaysia
Ph: +60 88 212 121
Fax: +60 88 212 075

Royal Brunei Airlines
Ph: 1300 721 271

Malaysia (Sabah)
It is recommended travellers to Sabah see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there are specific vaccinations recommended. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended and best discussed with your doctor. For further information visit Check out our celebrity Getaway blog or our photo gallery for more Getaway adventure pics.

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