Last Updated on : Sunday, 13 November, 2016 08:58:02 PM

There are three Homestay on Mabul Island, Sabah

Arung Hayat Homestay


Summer Friends Homestay

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 Mabul Island.
+ 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 supply.

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.



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 things.

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 cute animals.
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. That's memorable.
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 day!

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 divers.

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 here.

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, Harlequin Shrimp.

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 stars.

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 clean.
Food served was generously in huge portion and tasty fresh. Fresh fish everyday.
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 done properly.
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 good people.
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 to sunrise”
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 the room.
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 place.
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 peace.

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 hayat.
I definately will be coming back! A home that's far from home

Stayed November 2014, travelled with friends

Arung Hayat Homestay
ScubaJeff Homestay, Arung Hayat Homestay, Billabong Scuba

ScubaJeff Homestay
Arung Hayat Homestay
Billabong Scuba

Arung Hayat Homestay

Arung Hayat Homestay

Popular with local holiday goers.

Arung Hayat Homestay

Arung Hayat Homestay

Arung Hayat Homestay




Bajau sea gypsy fisherman come each day with their freshly catch from the sea.

You are able to have plenty of fresh sea food caught by local fisherman for cooking.

All the chefs in all resorts and homestays are just happy to cook for their guests for a small fees.

The homestays staff also keen to help you to select fresh seafood off their canoes.

Chinese tourists are Buying freshly caught crabs sold by gypsy Bajau fishermen in Mabul Island near Sipadan.

Lobsters and crabs are super fresh and cheap on Mabul Island. You can get such on the mainland.


You can have your own sea food cooked by the chef for a small fees of Rm 10 to 20

Cheap and  fresh seafood like  crabs and lobsters are available from the local Bajaus fisherman who come with fresh catch with on sampans every morning.

Arung Hayat Homestay

Arung Hayat Ship at the seaside of Semporna Town.
Arung Hayat Ship at the seaside of Semporna Town.

2013-08-09 FRI 13:38

INDEX - Islands of Sabah  November 13, 2016 08:58:02 PM

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