“Nice short stay but not worth the
3 of 5 bubblesReviewed 20 April 2016
I have just returned from a 5D/4N stay here as was aware that this
is a world class dive location (Sipadan) and overall had a nice
stay. Each stay you do 3 dives per day either to Mabul/Kapalai or
Sipadan if you get permit (which I did and easily available at
cost). I stayed in the land bungalows due to cost and they allowed
me to waive the single supplement as I was happy to share a room.
The rooms are clean but basic and noisy AC. You get 3 buffet meals
per day and the food is similar but I found it ok. The diving team (Rahman,
Sam etc) were all very professional and friendly and well organised
and great for all levels. The resort itself has a spa, nice quiet
beach at the front to relax on and a bar, but bring your own
entertainment as there is not much to do apart from diving and land
bungalows do not have a TV.
However, given the high cost of staying here and the high price of
extra food and drinks (£12 for a shot of whiskey!), I really don’t
think it is worth it for what you get, given you can stay in
Semporna and do day dives which imo is much better value. I got a
Sipadan permit as the resort was quiet, but you do pay an extra
390RM, we saw lots of turtles, baby sharks, manta rays etc, but i
was not blown away having dived in Thailand/Philippines this is not
much better. WIFI was good in the dining area, but not the rooms.
While I had a good time due to the costs and value for money I would
not return or recommend, you can get your beach time in Sabah/Langkawi
then dive near staying in Semporna. However the organisation of
SMART was excellent prior and I found Zamnah very good and making
Stayed March 2016, travelled solo
“Not worth the money”
2 of 5 bubblesReviewed 25 April 2016
We had a 7D/6N stay for diving and snorkeling. There is nothing else
to say about the diving than it´s among the best in Malaysia.
Everybody in the Dive-team are great and they work really hard to
try make your stay great and make you see and experience the
greatness of Sipadan and the other dive sights. If you stay more
than 5 nights you are almost guarantied a diving permit at Sipadan
but if you stay shorter you must sign up and pay for a one day
The rooms are basic and clean, we had our share of the mandatory
cockroaches in the bathroom. Staying here you get 3 buffet meal a
day and the food was really boring and did not taste much. I would
have preferred real Malaysian food. The staff in the restaurant are
not the most service minded and they looked like they wanted all the
guests to disappear. The cost for drinks and snacks are ridiculously
high. One beer is over 35 RM (almost 9 US$)
The arrangements on the island are OK, but not more.
The House reef is located on the other side of the island, at the
Water Bungalows, and it´s a teen minutes walk from the resort.
Be aware that there is a lot of kids staying on the island. They are
kids of the staff working at the resorts. Everyday we were harassed
by the kids begging for money and that we should give them our smart
phones and other stuff. Annoying!!!
If you are looking for a great beach to relax at, this is not the
place. The management of the resort have placed big boards that say
Don´t swim in the water due to the risk of getting bitten by
different fish and the beach was really badly littered with plastic
and other garbage washed ashore.
It´s good to know that this place is also becoming more and more
popular among Chines travelers and they have a tendency to not
follow the basic rules when it comes to diving and snorkeling. Not
once, not twice but 6 times we saw how Chines "divers" picked and
brought up sea-stars, coral, sea shells on land to bring home.
So in short: Great diving and diving team. The resort is far from
value for the money with tasteless food and expensive drinks. . The
"land based" staff are tired. Look out for the kids and if you don´t
like hanging out with Chinese this is not the best place to go to.
Room Tip: The free standing bungalows are the best to stay in. If
you have money, stay at the Water bungalows
See more room tips
“Mixed feelings - note this is the land based resort not the water
3 of 5 bubblesReviewed 3 June 2016
First the pluses -
Good diving, especially at Sipidan which was excellent but Mabul and
Kapalai were not bad either. Great dive master called Yusir who was
friendly and informed and the dive operation generally went very
well and was extremely organised. Nice rooms with a relaxing balcony
and lots of space. Bathrooms a bit dated but good freshwater shower
and very clean which is the most important thing. Super cute cats
who are v friendly, especially in return for a bit of chicken!
Not so good -
The clientele was 99% mainland Chinese so if you are an English
speaker don't expect to be able to come and have conversations with
others. Luckily there were a couple of English speakers there when I
was there so I had some friends to chat to! Due to the clientele the
food was also very Chinese which was extremely dull and tasteless
day after day. Unfortunately also Chinese have very little respect
for the environment and there where numerous occasions where I
witnessed people picking things up, touching coral, stepping on
coral and generally not giving a hoot about ruining the very
environment that they were here to see - e.g. using a selfie stick
as a walking stick on the coral. Dive centre should absolutely talk
about not touching anything as part of the dive briefing (as they do
in most dive locations now, national park or not) and enforce a rule
whereby anyone seen touching misses a dive (unless its obviously
accidental). There will be nothing to see here in 10 years if the
volume of Chinese continues unchecked with no guidance on this.
However, the above will not happen because there is a feeling that
this is all about making money irrelevant of everything else.....The
biggest problem for me was the system for Sipidan permits. I had to
stay for 4 nights only due to work commitments so I filled in the
form before going as I wanted to make sure that I got 2 days diving
Sipidan. This was very expensive for me at 390 ringgits a day.
However, other people who stayed 5 days or more paid 390 once and
then got to dive Sipidan every day only paying 40 ringgits (national
park fee). I had no problem with paying once as I was on the non-Sipidan
package because of less than 5 nights, but I think I should have
only paid 40 the second time as they said they had lots of extra
permits because the resort was quiet. I don't think it is fair to
make me pay both times when other people went 4 days in a row and
only paid once. I spoke to the manager about this and he had no
interest and just kept saying "sorry, you have to pay." For me it
felt like it was all about just making as much money as possible.
Hence why they will never upset the Chinese by telling them not to
walk on the coral.
I generally found the staff to be quite unfriendly too. Other than
the smiley ladies cleaning the room and Yusir and the lady dive
guide (can't remember name) the rest of the instructors/staff in the
restaurant did not speak to you once unless they had to. One of our
instructors on a day in Sipidan literally only spoke to say "get
ready" and ignored the clients the rest of the time. There was also
not much interest in pointing things out under water so it was more
like just having someone there to tell you which direction to go in,
make sure you were safe. The restaurant staff were the same, with
lots of them not speaking English and just moving around you without
a single smile.
House reef is on the other side of the island at the Mabul Water
bungalows which generally looks much better than SMART although
again apparently its all Chinese. However it has a nicer bar and
restaurant including an outside area and you can actually swim as
the water is deep enough (on the SMART side its too shallow and
there are signs telling you not to go in due to stingray etc).
Personally if I go again I will stay at Kapalai (where I stayed
before) just because of the managements attitude towards the
Surreal surroundings...less than surreal hotel”
3 of 5 bubblesReviewed 5 June 2016
Make no mistake - the outlook from this hotel is STUNNING! The
location is remote, beautiful and the stuff dreams are made o.f.
Unfortunately, the resort itself doesn't quite match.
Certianly the staff are friendly and helpful staff and can't do
enough for you - in my book this redeems most things
There are a lot of ittle things help you enjoy this hotel - water is
available everywhere and is safe to drink (take care, though you
will be charged for water in your room), fresh towels at night while
you are at dinner, bicyles to ride along the planks, beautiful
plantings to green up the timber.
The rooms, however, are fairly dated and look as if they have been
decorated from a second hand stall - nothing matches or complements
the surroundings. All the rooms we saw could do with a major
There is fish life at the door - large eagle rays, flute fish, lion
fish, blue spotted rays and turtles are part of the daily parade
There is a spectacular house reef for muck diving. Diving at dusk
brings the big fish out to play.
Pick your room carefully - some have gorgeous water views and others
look straight into another resort and at the ugly 'oil rig'. The
rooms on the jetty shake and rubble every time a golf cart or
bicycle goes by
Our group of 19 guests suffered from a range of maintenance issues -
no hot water, no electricity, extremely noisy air conditioning,
broken taps, mice and rats in the rooms, no internet connection.
Issues were attended to but for some guests a range of issues just
went on all week.
The check out system is ridiculous - make sure you leave plenty of
time for the one book keeper to do everything in triplicate with a
small calculator and then triple check it. There is no point of sale
system or running tally kept during your stay.
The food is terrific - it was different every night with a whole
range to choose from and always fresh salad and fruit. The Asian
desserts were yummy.
By the hotel's own admission the wifi is woeful so buy Maxis SIM
Cards in Tawau Airport before coming.
In all just be aware of what you are getting into it. This is an
amazinh place to go but it's not as five star as the price tag might
have you believe!
Room Tip: Avoid rooms on the jetty to Mabul Island
See more room tips
Beautiful water bungalows”
5 of 5 bubblesReviewed 20 June 2016
Great base for Sipadan diving. True about the high prices and minor
hiccups here and there; if you're looking for a luxurious beach
holiday, don't come here. You can have the luxury to have your
vacation elsewhere at this price. Don't come and compare this to any
other top-notch resorts you've been, because it's different. This is
an isolated island and every single thing has to be shipped here.
But, if you're here for the underwater world, as a port of entry for
Sipadan, then you've come to the perfect place. Views from the water
bungalows are perfect picture-like. Abundant sea life right in front
of your terrace. Sea turtles come ashore in the shallow waters to
rest through the night, so try to be as quiet as possible.
Room-keeping may not be up to standards if you're used to large,
decent hotel brands, but it's good enough. Just keep in mind you're
here for the diving, not to get pampered.
For the diving, it's been awesome. DMs are friendly and
knowledgeable. We got 3 days of Sipadan out of 4 diving days. Photos
and videos cannot do justice for this place, you just have to come
and experience it yourself. The schools of jackfish are amazing.
Nudi is abundant here too if you're into photography. Sea turtles
Night diving at the house reef is also a must-do! So much to see
when the nocturnal creatures are awake. We even observed two
lionfish attacking a hermit crab, who's trying its best to hide LOL.
No night life, no entertainment, slow wifi and few TV channels will
ensure tranquility and more than enough rest for your diving
vacation. We'll be back for sure for Sipadan!
Room Tip: go for water bungalows for sure
See more room tips
Stayed June 2016, travelled as a couple
maybe not worth money anymore...”
3 of 5 bubblesReviewed 4 July 2016
Summary of our feelings after 9N/10D:
- we loved the accommodation and the location!
- two truly professional and enthusiastic dive guides: Ronny & Jusri.
Regret to say that the others have lost they motivation and
enthusiasm for diving/nature.
- 95 % of clients were Chinese -> good thing is that most of them
are just snorklers but those few who dove during our stay in SMART,
did not have the same kind of respect towards the nature and
unfortunately were eg kicking the corals while pumping up and down
10-15 meters. Most probably due to the lack of experience but
considering that Mabul/Sipadan is ranked as TOP dive destination of
the world - the nature will not be the same after destroyed corals.
- most of dive guides did not react at all. Those who did, had a
- we were also disappointed to the level of the food. Drinking water
during the dives was offered only by request and recommended to take
it from the restaurant. The restaurant food (incl breakfast, lunch,
dinner) was "too Chinese" to us even tough we love Asian food.
- we are most probably too spoiled with the Asian hospitality and
used to the pre-booked dive plans which SMART did not meet = we had
everyday a different guide and the same dive sites. Were eg 5 times
at Mandarin Valley & Rays Point. Got 3 days in Sipadan (thanks for
that!) but also 5x Barracuda Point (there are no more barracudas! -
too many divers or climate change?) and 5x Drop Off....
Room Tip: Accommodation overall good but no working wifi in the
rooms and even lobby was down often.
See more room tips
Stayed June 2016, travelled as a couple
“Two very happy divers who enjoyed every day at Sipadan-Mabul
4 of 5 bubblesReviewed 12 July 2016
Two of us stayed at the standalone SMART bungalow for 8 days, 7
nights in July 2016 under a diver's package and had a really good
time throughout our entire trip. Thank you Ben, Efren, Sam and all
the staff and boat crew for taking such good care of us the whole
time we were there.
For fellow travellers, here are some reviews that might hopefully
help you in planning your next trip.
1) WiFi - on the island it's spotty but we figured that would be the
case on many islands no matter which part of the world. Our tip: get
a local SIM with 1GB data (for 28 ringgit) at the airport and you
can rely on that even if the WiFi isn't available. We did that and
didn't have any problems.
2) accommodation - there are various types of accommodation at the
resort, which is huge. We stayed at the standalone bungalows which
secures us at least one pass to Sipadan for a min 4N5D stay (but
double check with the resort when you book as conditions may vary by
that time). There are also smaller chalets if you're on a budget and
- at the other end of the spectrum - water bungalows for those who
want to indulge. These sit right by the water's edge, which makes
for the perfect island holiday setting. The water bungalows are also
located where the spa (see point (7) below) and the resort's house
reef is and there you can snorkel or go for unlimited dives if you
Housekeeping is done every day, so the rooms are kept comfortably
clean and you have the option of changing your towels daily if you
wish. We went for once every three days. They provide toothbrushes
and small tubes of toothpaste, body lotion, soap bars, cotton buds
and a dispenser of soap (for bathing) but you might want to bring
your own toiletries like shampoo and body wash of you're particular
about what you use.
The shower in our bungalow was semi-open air with a net covering so
you get a good island vibe in the loo while keeping the mozzies out.
We had no problems with mozzies or cleanliness in the room. Very
A slight downside is that the bed is quite hard for those not used
to it but a solution to that is to line it with the couch cushions
which worked out for me. And the TV has fairly limited channels but
we were happy enough with discovery channel, BBC news and Fox Sports
which was showing the 2016 Wimbledon matches.
3) service - efficient, organised and very, very well-trained staff
from the buggy drivers to the kitchen staff. For a resort this size,
to run it like they do is no easy feat but they've got a really good
system going. You never have to wait long for a buggy to come pick
you up and there's always someone in the office to attend to
whatever you need. Meal times are properly scheduled and always on
time. The dive/snorkeling schedule is also very well-organised and
updated daily on a big board in the dining hall. The water bungalow
area has its own board which is updated daily as well. Everyone
knows their job and does it well, with a rhythm that makes you think
there's a lot of good planning and good training behind it.
4) food - there's a slight slant towards Chinese but that's balanced
out with an almost daily serving of curries, grilled meats/seafood
and local cakes (or kueh kueh) that we really enjoyed. Breakfast is
usually simpler with bread and jams, little buns, fruit, Asian rice
porridge and a fried noodle of some sort. There's also an egg
station where you can order an omelette or eggs any way you like.
Tea time between 3 and 5pm varies every day - some days it's
doughnuts, other days buns topped with butter and coconut jam or
fried banana fritters. Exactly the kind of comfort food you need on
5) diving - The operations for diving are well oiled. You know your
dive schedule a day ahead. The dive guides and boat crew are very
capable, very attentive and helpful. Every morning, the equipments
were brought to the right boat and they have a nice system to store
them after diving. The sites are awesome, something for everyone.
Lots of turtles, sharks, schools of jacks and barracuda. Plenty of
macro critters around the area to keep the photographers happy.
Special thanks to Efren and Sam for being such good company, good
guides and taking care of us.
Our tip to divers or snorkellers: if you have a special request for
sites, or don't want to dive the same site again, you only have to
ask and the dive guides are more than happy to accommodate.
Ultimately, it's your holiday and you're entitled to enjoy it but
you can't expect the operators to read your mind and know what's
bothering you if you don't speak up. Take that responsibility
instead of expecting others to service you exactly up to your
unspoken standards. We've communicated openly with the resort
whenever we had a particular request to dive at different sites
instead of going back to the same and our experience has always been
positive, never disappointed.
6) safety - there are ESSCOM and navy boats stationed in the area,
patrolling the seas. On Mabul island itself, there's a Police team
stationed permanently at the resort (which is on the southeastern
part of the island) with their boat parked there. And going by the
information from other dive operations, there's also an ESSCOM
centre located on the northern part of the island, just set up. On
Sipadan Island itself, there's also a security outpost there on
3-month shifts. All in all, we felt a lot safer than we'd initially
imagined prior to our trip when we read about all the kidnapping and
killing incidents over the last three years.
7) relaxation - there's a spa at the resort where you can get a
variety of different massages starting from 85 ringgit for a
30-minute foot massage. Some of the rooms have an unobstructed view
of the ocean which is lovely.
We hope that you'd give these beautiful islands a chance and drop by
for a visit too. :)
Room Tip: Go for either the standalone bungalows or water bungalows.
See more room tips
Great trip with family ”
4 of 5 bubblesReviewed 24 July 2016 via mobile
It's older than Kapalai. The hotel is only ok, but of course clean
The good thing for it is, it has more lisence to Sipadan diving
resort , which only allow 100 people to visit. It is top ten diving
resort in the world. If you a diving lover maybe mabul would the
best choice .
The snorkeling area here has more fish while Kapalai has better
This one is cheaper than Kapalai. I stayed in both, I think if
couples Kapalai is better if families mabul is better
Stayed July 2016, travelled with family
“Perfect dive stay”
4 of 5 bubblesReviewed 26 July 2016 via mobile
Got certified scuba diver here - amazing place and the best to stay
at Mabul Island. Room, service and food was great but nothing
compared to the fantastic under water world and the experiences er
Stayed August 2015
“Almost in paradise!”
4 of 5 bubblesReviewed 24 August 2016
We got an 8 days 7 nights package in Mabul Sipadan Resort because we
wanted to dive in one of the best dive spots worldwide and we were
Our cottage was the n°129 seafront, and was really perfect: just in
front the beach, two steps from the diving center, near enough to
the restaurant but far enough to be safe from smell or noise.
The cottage was fully equipped and really comfortable (but the bed
was terribly hard).
The diving center was somewhat confusing. Normally the diving offers
some different locations and you are allowed to choose your
preferred spots, dayly.
Here they decide and simply "let you know" where you will be taken.
This wouldn't be a problem if all the spots were likely the same. At
opposite, there are some artificial reef spots that were truly
boring and too easy for us. We told this to the dive master (Ronny)
and he arranged for us some natural reef dives dipending on the
tides and current conditions. Ronny (as also Neneng) have been truly
good divemasters. Very professional, very kind.
All the staff on the boat has been truly helping and available, even
if the most of them don't speak English at all, it was easy to
understand each other.
The lodge is very nice and the beach and palms are beautiful.
On the other hand, we were somewhat disappointed because locals and
also some guests (mainly Chinese people) use to litter here and
there, so it is not infrequent that you see garbage on the beach or
in the sea. This is sincerely bad.
Last of the cons, the restaurant: the cousine is not bad but too
much repetitive and thus a little boring. The massive presence of
Chinese guests, moreover, makes the overall experience at the
restaurant not so pleasant.
So, in the end, I rate this place only 4 stars when it could easily
get a 5 if they improve some details. Of course, when you dive in
Sipadan (we could get there 3 days on 7!), you forget all those
small defects and simply have a great fun!
Stayed August 2016, travelled as a couple
“I liked here over the water bungalows”
4 of 5 bubblesReviewed 14 September 2016
i would go with a stand alone cottage - hopefully you get one in the
first row with view of water rather than a back one the view of
Sipadan----- they guarantee a (three tank) dive day at Spiadan if
you stay a min 5 nights...the chances of going an additional day are
VERY very GREAT. Most of the guests are Chinese tour groups that
many do not dive. you can do a 4th dive any of the days for another
140RM. Make friends with the dive masters.
Stayed September 2016, travelled as a couple