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Reviewed 24 October 2019

From the moment the boat arrives at Mabul Water Bungalows, you know you are at a special place. Attention has been given to plants, planters, lighting, and architecture itself. This is obvious from the number of people taking photos and selfies at every turn. Teh view from the rooms is of sea stars, rays, birds, fish, and boats. The dive personnel and other staff stop at nothing to make your stay fabulous and always have a smile. I’d go back in a minute!

Date of stay: October 2019
Trip type: Travelled with friends
1  Thank Colleen M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 14 October 2019

Stayed here with my family in early September. I had booked online with Asia Dive Holidays found via internet searches. The process was straightforward but took some organising as regards flight timings and details of dive certifications etc.

The resort transfer by road from Tawau airport to Semporna was efficient. From Semporna it was about an hour's boat ride to the resort. The sea was a bit choppy but not too bad. With a higher wind, it would have been a bit uncomfortable.

The resort really is pretty nice, on stilts just off Mabul island. Bougainvilla flowers along the walkways and by the cottages - rather special. Our cottage was clean and had all we needed. Not 5* but as long as you are clear about that, it's fine.

Food was buffet style for breakfast and dinner (not sure about lunch as we were diving during the day) and adequate but not great. Tuna sashimi they put out every other evening was good.

Of course, you only come here for the diving and we were lucky to get to Sipadan three days out of four. We saw turtles and white-tip reef sharks on every dive. Also schools of jacks and trevally, bumphead wrasses and barracuda. Other highlights: grey reef sharks and a thresher shark. The other day we dived closer to Mabul and visibility was poor. Boat ride to Sipadan is not 15 minutes, more like 45 to 60.

The resort provides "elevenses" and lunch on the island (along with the other resorts visiting the island).

All in all, this was a great stay and I would definitely return.

Date of stay: September 2019
1  Thank side11
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 5 October 2019

Booked the land Chalet and was quite pleased. Perfect location, close to restaurant, dive shop, bar. Alcohol is very expensive on the island, bring your own or give it up for a week. The staff were all tops. Food was good. They cooked a BBQ several nights, it was the best food for the week. Bar on the water opens at 3pm....no staff actually show up until 3:30 or 4p. Dive staff were all great. AC in room will freeze you out....perfect for me!! Wifi and cell service is intermittent at best, disconnecting for a week was actually nice.

Date of stay: September 2019
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Service
Thank mikewowens
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 2 October 2018

Views beautiful. Staff amazing and go extra to please. Not quite 5 star Maldives but good 4 star luxury for where it is. Only down side is alcohol sooo expensive (maybe because of religion... frowned upon?) then again the normal treats were very expensive ( think airport or motorway services monopoly... hmmmm

Date of stay: September 2018
Thank Sonya L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 22 September 2018

Just to be clear - this is not a review of Sipadan diving - which is great - but of the Mabul Water Bungalows accommodation.

First the good points:
- excellent dive operation combined with the SMART on island resort. Good dive leaders and efficient and helpful service. We did not appreciate though having to take a buggy to the other side of the island (especially getting back as we had to wait 15 minutes in a thunderstorm when we were very cold). But then there were only 4 divers in our resort out of 46 guests (the rest were bizarrely non-diving Chinese - weird for a dive resort)
- beautiful bougainvilleas everywhere
- good security - CCTV cameras everywhere
- effective transport from Tawau airport - under 2.5 hours each way

But this place could be so much better, and isn't cheap:
- food, although edible, was monotonous. Rice plus stir fry buffet - very sick now of pok choi which used to be one of my favourite vegetables. And yet the freshest seafood is available to the kitchen. And every night of our 5 night stay there was identical desert - a kind of bread and butter pudding and not great chocolate sponge. Also most nights there was only a choice of one red wine - of course the most expensive on the otherwise rather limited list. But then hardly any of the other guests drank alcohol at dinner - let alone wine
- the staff was out of control - eating the guests food in front of the guests and sleeping on the sofas in the lounge (supposedly a library but the books and magazines were ancient). The staff should have their own separate area not in view of the guests and told to go there when not working. Even in the restaurant the otherwise very friendly gaggle of waitresses had their own table in the middle of the room where they would chat noisily (and eat) all day
- the bar area could have been great but was ruined by the rude bar man (who should be let go of immediately) playing his own rather unpleasant music at very high volumes and play acting with his mates who looked like they were staff from the other resort. They (all young men) seemed to be continually trying to eye up and chat up the young Chinese women guests who consequently stayed away from the bar area. And why not serve fresh whole coconuts rather than expect guests to buy them from the fishermen (see below). Mabul is after all a coconut producing island!
- even on your own balcony you could hear the loud music - and throughout the day are pestered by fishermen trying to sell you lobsters and crabs (which the kitchen will cook specially for you). While I have some sympathy for the guests' desire to alleviate the monotony of the food, this practice should stop immediately
- the shower in the room was pathetic - a through heating system that never produced warm enough water. Lots of hot water is a must for a dive resort
- they know exactly where you are all day (as a diver) and yet the house keepers are clearly not informed as on two occasions they were cleaning our room when we came back from diving desperate for at least a lukewarm shower

There is a generic problem as well for all hotels in south east Asia below 4 stars - what to do with Chinese tourists? Throughout our stay 90% of the hotel was occupied by mainland China Chinese who were predominately rude, loud and have unpleasant eating habits. So guests from the rest of the world often have a problem with them - but they do fill the beds. I am not at all sure what the solution to this is for the hoteliers. Personally I would prefer to move my hotel upmarket and so not have to rely so much on this market.

A last word on Sipadan - the permits cost RM 520 a day per person - that is about GBP 100 - and yet the part of the island where you get to stay between dives was a mess - both as regards rubbish and not being kept tidy from driftwood etc. And 2 out of 4 of the womens' toilets were unusable due to not being cleaned of number 2s.....Sabah Parks should take a fraction of the huge income they get daily (120 times 520) to employ one person to maintain the place.

So would we stay there again - yes, but not for more than 5 nights which is the minimum to guarantee one day on Sipadan. It is after all the best place to stay to dive Sipadan - but I truly hope the owner and management will get a grip on the above - these are management failings which will not cost much to address.

Date of stay: September 2018
  • Trip type: Travelled as a couple
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Service
11  Thank Maurer123
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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