|Billabong Homestay is just next to Arung Hayat
“Great place for
snorkelling & diving”
3 of 5 bubblesReviewed 19 August 2016
+ Not so cheap but among the cheapest accommodation u can find on
+ Friendly staffs especially Mr. Kenon.
+ Delicious cooking.
+ A place to experience Bajau's life.
+ Amazing sunset view.
Stayed September 2015, travelled with friends
South East Asian are fun loving people. Experience the
fun why staying in any of the homestay on Mabul Island.
Night come and after dinner, stuff and crew
usually start entertain themselves then the fun gradually extended
to the visitors guests.
Singing songs and playing guitar. Join them
and have memorable islander's night by the sea.
The homestay in Mabul Island are managed by family household member
at a local standard. The local price you pay for is for a local
standard homestay. Such as facilities, hygiene standard, water
So for those international visitors expecting an international
services are naturally often disappointed.
Mabul Island is a tropical island with warm weather where rats
and cockroaches thrive.
Mabul Island is a small island. All resorts and homestay lodges
are within walking distances to each other.
Tour Authority made great efforts in promoting islands of Sabah
such as Mabul Island. But those accommodation in those TV series and
publications are those of the 5 stars resorts. This give
illusion to unsuspecting tourist that Mabul is a luxurious 5 star
hotel. So many immature tourists thought they got from internet
booking a good bargain for a luxurious stay on Mabul Island. Only to
learn after coming that there are also accommodation such as Lodges
and Homestay, and these are what they actually paid for.
LOCAL CULTURE vs. DAILY LIFE
More and more visitors are disappointed abut the local "CULTURE".
But that was only a wrong interpretation of "CULTURE" from tourist
promotion materials and TV series. What the tourists seeing are
actually the Daily Life of poor fishermen islanders living in a very
primitive style on Mabul Island.
International tourists are interested in such tourist products as
"CULTURE". Tourists to Malaysia expected to see some "LOCAL
CULTURES". Knowing the demand of the tour market, Malaysian
tour authority began to manufacture tour products laboured with "CULTURAL"
value in it to increase tourists attractions.
This is so with Mabul Island with a market label such as : "an
island with interesting LOCAL CULTURE of ...... people".
But "CULTURE" and "DAILY LIFE" are different
So many naive immature low educated visitors who do not
differentiate "CULTURAL" and DAILY LIFE are just happy to boost they
have been to such place as Mabul Island and enjoy seeing
the Malaysian culture - their dresses, they houses, heir foods,
their children etc etc.
They enjoy seeing small girls and boys not wearing anything; they
live in small huts on the seas, eating raw seas foods etc etc etc.
But these are not the "Malaysian culture" but only the every day
fisherman community life of the poor and stateless islanders.
“Dirty and overpriced”
1 of 5 bubblesReviewed 9 April 2016
There are better places for half the price on the island. They don't
clean the (already shabby) room every day. Food service REALLY slow.
snorkelling run by kids who have no idea, diving run by a guy who
fatally lost a diver at another resort!
Hotel walkway surrounded by rubbish, you shouldn't swim because all
the sewage from all the surrounding huts and the guest house goes
straight into the water below.
Room Tip: Choose somewhere else, it couldn't be worse
See more room tips
Stayed March 2016, travelled solo
Budget accomodation for diving or snorkeling”
3 of 5 bubblesReviewed 1 April 2016
This is a budget hotel on Mabul Island. Therefore don't expect
luxury here - actually the rooms are more than basic.
If you are looking for a cheap place to sleep and spend your money
for diving or snorkeling, it can be a good place. Otherwise try do
book a luxury resort, but they are VERY expensive.
It is possible to book an AC room at Arung, still, considering the
fact that the electric power is switched on at night only it is
debatabe if this extra expense makes a sense.
Take into consideration that there is a lot of rats in Mabul island,
we were priviledged not to find any in our room, but other guests
were less fortunate. Yet, I think the rats inhabit luxury and budget
hotel alike; simply there are plenty of them and after all they are
Pros: Underwater world is amazing. It is not possible (or very
difficult) to go to the reef from the hotel - the reef is very far
away from the shore and the lagoon is too shallow to swim to the
reef (I managed it once, very difficult). A better option to to walk
across the island (10 min. walk) and to jump into the see from one
of the platforms adjacent to the resorts (you should ask for
permission, since not all resorts allow people who don't stay at
theirs). Currents can be very strong, so be carefull !
The other option is to book a diving trip - Kapalai is just amazing.
On the contrary - a snorkeling trip to Mabul seems to be a wasting
of money, since they take you to the very place were you can go by
foot for free.
Another pro: The food at Arung is VERY GOOD - and it is included in
the price of the room.
Stayed October 2015, travelled as a couple
“Cheapest resort in Mabul”
4 of 5 bubblesReviewed 15 March 2016 via mobile
This resort find itself facing west of Mabul and its he cheapest we
could find. The place was cool but we dived with a more professional
diving resort (scuba junkie).
- Friendly Staff
- good location, great sunset views.
- cheap for a private room.
- very chilled atmosphere.
- AC in the rooms
- restaurant & snack shop
- Electricity only from 6pm to 6am.
- Water from shower and tap slightly salty.
- super basic bathrooms.
- Although funny, fighting and screaming cats all over the place.
“Nice food, friendly staff, uncomfortable bed”
3 of 5 bubblesReviewed 13 March 2016
Mix feeling staying in Arung Hayat. First of all, I know it's really
budgeted stay compared to all the other stays on Mabul.
The staff is friendly and the sunset view really spectacular (see my
photos). There is a high wooden bridge which is our best spot to see
the stars during night, playing guitar and sing with the locals.
I booked a fan room. Couldn't really sleep well for the night due to
the bed quality. Ican feel the spring of the bed. We saw rat on the
ceiling. Our food in room (which wrapped in plastic) are consumed by
the rats. The room has only 1 plug. Therefore, if you are going to
on the fan, you cant charge your phones.
If you are looking for good sleeping quality, I wouldn't recommend
fan room (probably their AC room has newer bed which I don't knw).
“Really beautiful and chill place!”
5 of 5 bubblesReviewed 29 December 2015 via mobile
I stayed there for a couple of days, actually longer than I wanted,
because I loved the atmosphere and the people there! Beautiful
scenery and authentic at the same time (people living on their boats
in the sea next to the place, kids coming around in their boats,
The room itself was simple but good value for money
considering the prices of the island. Will definitely come back one
Stayed December 2015, travelled solo
I travelled to Arung Hayat on 23rd December 2015, solo.
Arung Hayat is a homestay, they sell basic rooms, island village
HOMESTAY style. This type of room style is suitable for backpackers,
experience traveler/divers who are OK with basic rooms, dorm rooms.
Or suitable to those who don't mind to return to basic to experience
living village lifestyle. This is what they are offering. Most of
the time, we spent our time outdoor especially for advance scuba
The best thing about the basic room, it has attached bathroom. So
backpackers don't need to share toilet. Electricity is from 6pm to
6am. Please bring a powerbank or extra batteries for your cameras,
and store your hand-phone away.
The Staff, is very friendly and welcoming, some are the villagers
living in the island itself. They speak basic English. They are
local people , local homestay, local lifestyle. Local food !
The food is local delicacies, in the morning it will be basic Fried
noodle, fried rice with fried egg, bread and simple strawberry jam
and serves with coffee. Sometimes we have simple scramble egg and
beans with bread. For lunch and dinner will be RICE !! Asian
favorite food !! Serves with few dishes including vegetables, fish
steamed or fry, chicken and fruits. Drinking water is available.
Coffee and Tea.
If you want more foreigners, like from your country hanging out
together, you can go to scuba junkie and they have bar. and SWV or
Borneo Divers if you Ok to pay extra. There is no bar, no live band
The diving: OK I think it is one of the best fun and entertaining
instructors and very experience dive masters . They are very
passionate about their job, they know their dive sites, Hanif is
very good experience instructors, Toni is also instructor very good
underwater photographer, eagle eye can see stuff easily, Chris and
Kenon is very friendly and helpful Dive Master. They will do
everything including getting your gear ready, carry tanks etc.
Most important as an experience diver usually want to see
stuff/creatures , special stuff, they will work hard to find you as
many things as possible. They don't cheat your time, meaning they
will finish the dive within 45 mins to 60 mins depending on you air
consumption but with you having to see animals/creatures as many as
possible. The things you see is mind blowing..
Flamboyant Cuttlefish, pygmy seahorse, huge turtles, nudibranches of
all colors, plenty anemone fishes, squat lobsters, scorpion fish,
If you go snorkeling, you see huge turtles everywhere. Morray Eels,
beautiful fishes everywhere.
The dive team is very entertaining. At night Hanif, Toni and Kenon
will play guitar, sing , during eat/drink BBQ time. We sat on the
wooden bridge and sing together while watching the hundreds of
For the RATS problem, the rats comes from the village area. So
please do not bring food into the room or have your food properly
close, especially if you have very strong type of food smell. I
don't bring any food with me. Just water. I eat outside all the
time. My room have no problem with rats.
I will be back again and again . I love the place and the people and
the diving very much. Its one of the best dive travel experience I
ever had and I made friends !
They welcome us at the deck, as we arrived with a warm smile.
Room is basic, with 2 twin bed and shower but it was comfortable and
Food served was generously in huge portion and tasty fresh. Fresh
We even had crab soup with corn that is unbelievably delicious.
The staff helped us to buy the seafood sell by the sea gipsies, and
help us cook it too.
Everyone is friendly.
The diving was really really good.
Equipments in great condition and dive suits were new.
Our boatmen and divemaster help with almost everything.
Choosing equipments, setting up, carrying the tanks and briefing was
Divemaster Dendy and Tony Judaa helped us with our underwater
camera, cleaning and providing tips. Both are very knowledgable with
the dive sites and their tours are flexible.
I felt very safe. I saw many kind of species that I never seen
before. Plus I have to say, they are a very fun dive masters,
entertaining us with jokes, stories and make us laugh.
Overall, Arung Hayat provide a really good service, good dives and
A homestay with 5 star hospitality. I truly recommend !
Stayed January 2013, travelled with friends
night with rat and cockroaches ,Good food and superb view
2 of 5 bubblesReviewed 25 September 2015
we really shocked to see the condition of the room(AC standard room)
.A dirty toilet with hanging door( pls get a carpenter to fix those
doors) .At night we got a surprise visitors at our room "A RAT" and
some cockroaches . A sleepless night we had. At morning served with
decent breakfast and we had snorkeling session at near by marine
park .I would give 5 out of 5 marks for the snorkeling. after
snorkeling served with local lunch.After lunch we explored the mabul
islands by walking .Dinner was good.. the second night was super
tired after all the activities and we slept very well. We are really
disappointed with the ferry time back to Semporna town . Earlier in
their website the ferry time they written is at 9 am morning, But
they changed their return ferry time for their own convenience and
at last we have to take the ferry at 7 am morning and spend our
precious time at dirty semporna time and airport as our return
flight is at 3pm.
Conclusion :Avoid this overpriced place. You can get better places
in the island with the same value. Don't book ferry with them, it's
over priced compare to other resorts and they don't keep their word.
“Back to basic and Dive ~”
5 of 5 bubblesReviewed 8 September 2015
Basic accommodation, heartwarming service. Not to mention u can get
a Superb sunset view from AH. Great diving experiences, and
acoustics guitar jamming at night . Plus point , the instructor is
superb patient, I took my refresher course with AH back in
2014,November, because of them, they are bringing back my passion
about diving ! im definitely will be back to AH .
Room Tip: every room is the same, just make yourself out from the
room during sunset time.
See more room tips
Stayed April 2015, travelled with friends
“For Backpackers Stay”
3 of 5 bubblesReviewed 7 September 2015
Overall are basic. Just nice stay for backpackers style. Nice
location which near to villagers. The sunset view is awesome from
here. One thing that need to be improved, the local staff at this
resort have to more sensitive and alert with basic thing like well
prepared of the room when the time of guest arrival, on time of
dinner preparation, and yes the electricity here is so limited. If
you are more into comfortable vacation, please go to hotel or resort
which also available in this island. Overall i was okay with my
stay, even there were changes on my itinerary where my second night
at this homestay has been shortened by the owner due to certain
circumstances which were acceptable by us.
Stayed August 2015, travelled with friends
“Affordable Home Stay ”
5 of 5 bubblesReviewed 31 August 2015 via mobile
Beautiful place to enjoy our stay and join the life of the people
who live their lives here even for a short time. Our guide even told
us their story of how they make their living. They even cook us a
nice food for dinner and breakfast. Our friendly tour guide also
took us to many islands around the area, including the beautiful
Bohey Dulang, Sapi Island, Sipadan island, etc. We enjoyed
snorkelling, diving and barbecuing for lunch. The fish they provide
was very fresh. they also put much effort to make our stay memorable
by taking us to their trip to one of the beach where we were greeted
by the Bajau Laut children. Also went for a visit to one of the
Bajau Laut place where they dried up seaweeds to sell in Semporna
town. Overall it was truly a great experience. I don't think there
is a better Home stay than this.
Stayed September 2014, travelled with friends
“Don't go if you don't need to”
2 of 5 bubblesReviewed 15 August 2015
This home stay is on the other side of the island compared to the
resorts like Scuba Junkie. It's a 5 minutes walk through the village
where the locals live.
It's in no way as nice as the resorts, and I ended up going there to
use their bar and their diving/snorkeling offers. The day I didn't
join an activity, I used the beach on the resort side, as the
snorkeling there was great. Outside Arung Hayat it was only sand.
The positive side was the the food they served was quite tasteful.
Stayed August 2015, travelled solo
Don't go there ! N'y allez pas !”
1 of 5 bubblesReviewed 6 July 2015
My friend had been to this place and recommended it so we went
together. The experience she had with us was very different. From
the start the management was unreliable and didn't answer our
questions and wanted to over charge us on accommodation and
transport (don't book transport with them it's way more expensive).
The whole of Mabul island is unfortunately very polluted and dirty.
The high end resorts have better waste management and water
treatment, but low end places like Arung Hayat and the local
"village" are just dumping everything on the island or in the sea.
Dumping plastic in an area with wildlife and turtles is going to
kill the fauna.
Each room is less than basic. The dirty water from the cold shower
and toilets is evacuated right below each barack directly in the sea
water, where they actually teach diving ! There is no filter, no
incitation to use eco detergents, soaps, ... no waste treatment. The
place is disgusting.
When you see how they prepare the meals it definitely puts you off
wanting to eat there although it's included.
We had a room just next to the reception and dining room. So we had
people spend the whole day sitting right in front of our room. No
intimacy, no possibility of opening the windows unless you want to
have every one staring at you and looking at what you're doing. The
kitchen staff turned on the radio at 6am, good bye morning rest.
Anyway the whole place is so hot and humid you don't want to stay in
There is no electricity in the day, only from 6pm.The electric
generators work all night for additional noise. One evening there
also was no water. They turned back the water in the night which
made the plastic pipes pop in the bathroom and terrible water fall
noise. We fixed it by ourselves and it happened again at 6 am...
The snorkelling equipment is not good.
My friend had booked a room for herself and payed extra for it, not
to share. But 30mn after we arrived they asked if she would share
with a man who just arrived at the resort and had a booking... They
did find another solution. But she also won't ever come back to this
To top it all, we took the boat back to semporna jetty with their
transport. But they actually left us somewhere else where a mini bus
was waiting for other people and then drove to semporna. So the trip
almost took double the time. Really need to plan a lot of time for
the transport and unreliable people like this.
Seriously avoid this place.
My stay at Arung Hayat was super nice. Booking through Agoda was
quite fast. Mr Suffian the executive officer was quite fast in
giving response to my inquiry. Confirmation on my stay was neat and
very flexible as long as we negotiate with good manner. I had read
some negative review from other guest but I found out that all the
staff were good natured, kind and very friendly. I ve been through
reading with all the others homestay and compared all the pro and
con and choose staying here due to the affordable price of budget
room with fan Rm100, aircon room rm150 full board (bf,lunch,dinner).
I thought the price is quite fair. Food served were very nice and
very delicious. I m so happy for the varieties of meals are up to my
expectation . (I don’t eat prawn, crab, cuttlefish).
My room (no 1) was spacious for two people. The bathroom/toilet was
okay. There was a time with shortage of water in the very early
morning maybe around 5.30am. Be sure to fill up the fail for
emergency purpose, but it was only for a short duration.
This was my first visit and i thought that it was quite safe even
though the Security of Ministry is imposing curfew. Its not dampened
my spirit to enjoy the beauty and nature of Mabul island. During my
stay at Arung Hayat Lodge, the security personal were around and
thus makes me felt safe.
My firs dive. I fell in love with scuba diving here. Never cross my
mind of doing scuba diving but then Mr MD Tony and Kenon were so
gergouos. I thought that they are indeed very dedicated and i felt
so lucky to have them doing my DSD. I was unaware of the risk for I
don’t swim at all. But all went well and am so happy. In conclusion
Arung Hayat is very high recommended for low budget or backpackers.I
will stay here when i come to visit Mabul island again.
Room Tip: room no 1 is spacious for two people.
See more room tips
“Definitely will come again.#throwback”
4 of 5 bubblesReviewed 12 January 2015
It almost 3 years ago The Mabul Island memories still remain the
same until now. How i wish to go back to mabul island and stay at
Arung Hayat Sipadan Adventures Dive Center. About the lodge it
enough for you to resting +sleep+bath+eat. The meal was great..
breakfast+lunch+dinner all include.
You also can buy lobster or crab and ask them to cooked alike your
request. Been here for 4d3n.. 4days going out for DSD from
kapalai+mataking+paradise 1 & 2 with 5times DSD and the price are
affordable and only can have it here. the electricity only available
at night till morning but its doesnt matter cause you will be out at
the SEA rather than staying at the room.
I really hope the safety at mabul island back to normal..because I
am dying for mabul island magic of theraphy... its releasing and
Stayed February 2014, travelled with friends
“Excellent place for divers & back packer”
4 of 5 bubblesReviewed 18 November 2014 via mobile
Excellent services for back packers like me who expect at least a
fair services. Room was a-ok (come on! U're in the island, u wont
stay in a room for the rest of the days right!) They have fan and
air cond room, meals was great. Mr. Hanif the
dive instructer and owner of arung hayat is a great guy! Very
passionate! I trust u're in a good hand whenever you're in arung
I definately will be coming back! A home that's far from home
Stayed November 2014, travelled with friends