Last Updated on : Sunday, 13 November, 2016 09:12:37 PM

There are six diver's lodge on Mabul Island

Mabul Paradise Lodge



Uncle Chang's  Lodge
Spheredivers Scuba


Mabul Backpackers (


 Managed by Big John Scuba



Big John
John Lim

Seriously WOW! Best choice for diving and/or PADI Open Water Course”
5 of 5 bubblesReviewed 2 days ago NEW
We were planning our 3 weeks trip to Malaysia about a year in advance and also wanted to do our PADI Open Water Course (OWC). I searched the internet and various companies offer the same packages, but this one really stands out!

From the first moment, Mark was really helpful and clear in communication which is great, because you often also have people working there that don't speak proper English. Big John Scuba was not the cheapest option if you wish to do your OWC on Pulau Mabul, but they are way better in quality and service then their competition on the island. The staff is super friendly and the equipment is well looked after. The food (3 meals + snacks) are delicious and there is unlimited availability of coffee/tea/water all day.

The accommodation is brand new and of good quality with amazing views over the waterfront and island. They have not just installed a simple bungalow with a cheap mattress, but you find good quality mattresses and good showers. There is CCTV everywhere, so you also feel very safe around there with your personal belongings if you go diving.

Mark was also our instructor for our OWC and main point of contact if there was anything we needed. He makes you feel very comfortable and takes time to teach you all the basics of your OWC. He showed us around on the small island and told us also about the participation of Big John Scuba in the local community. They clean up the beaches, build a school for the kids and lot's of other things.

The dive spots are amazing ,despite the fact we had a couple of days with not the best weather. "Turtle car park" as Mark named it was our first stop where we lots of huge turtles and various other cool marine life!

Seriously.... if you are looking for an amazing dive company.... look no further, just contact them and you will not regret!

Visited October 2016


“Mark Booth for PM 😆”
5 of 5 bubblesReviewed 2 weeks ago via mobile
After 2 years , returned to my diving home town for my AOW course, Big John Scuba is getting more awesome with it's recent new home on Mabul Island, great job guys, the bed is so good to sleep on after a day of diving. Keep up the good job. I'll be back!


“one of the best!!!”
5 of 5 bubblesReviewed 2 weeks ago
Back to the place I missed most since my first visit on 2009 for my OW and immediately its felt home to me.
Then it was six years after my last visit to Big John Scuba, did my AOW with a LEGIT & COOL instructor named Mark Booth, gratefully.
Surprisingly Mark is still with Big John Scuba when I began to equiry the trip details early of this year and without second thought he would again be my instructor again for Rescue course.

I met Mark for dinner and drinks on the first night at Semporna, very accommodating and now he can speak local malay fluently, WOW!
Then I went into Mabul island on the next day to start the course.
My course was great, I did it, no doubt well taught by Mark, I like the hell dive he gave me hahaha, good one!
He is very a patient and effective instructor. Highly recommended, one of the best instructor in the world!

Big John now has its own homestay, nice, bigger room, comfy and clean.
Several times he came to talk me to show appreciation for my continuious patronage towards his centre.
On the last day before I depart to mainland, he even personally walk me to visit a few under renovating new room and share his plans.
Can see he is grateful of what he achieved today.

The staffs are friendly, and the food as usual good!

Credits to Tina for all the arrangement and made my trip smooth after a lengthy emails forth and back. Thanks Tina!
Also, to LAN, a young staff was being a "victim" with me along the course. My duty is to save him every day!
He would mumble 1 1000, 2 1000 or penat penat from time to time during the dry time.
Obviously he is passionate and enthuthiasm Thanks LAn!

Now I'm back to dry land , back to the reality, and start missing Mabul and the time at Big John Scuba. Hope to go back again!!!

See you again, Big John, Mark, Tina and LAn !!!

Visited October 2016


“Excellent for PADI open water”
5 of 5 bubblesReviewed 3 weeks ago
My daughter and I did our PADI open water with Big John Scuba a year ago (Sept 15) and this summer we put what we learnt in to practice (diving in Australia and Cuba). This reinforced how good PADI open water was with the team at Big John. Although a bit anxious on our first dive after qualifying we soon felt at ease in the water remembering all we had been taught and the skills we had practiced! Having our skills 'tested' at Big John was an excellent approach - thank you. The whole of the team at Big John are great - the guys that support Mark Booth as dive master are second to none! The meals were also great - the team do a fantastic job in making sure everyone is well fed. I would highly recommend Big John for gaining the PADI open water certificate.
Janet and Gabriella, England


“Where are the 6th and 7th star?”
5 of 5 bubblesReviewed 4 weeks ago
Was not sure what to expect, but whatever I did expect, was exceeded hands down! There is absolutely no single thing needing improvement I could think of in Big John Scuba, our 5D4N package was strictly fantastic from the start until very last moment!

+Diving, oh yeeeees it's good and all BJ scuba divemasters were very knowledgeable about dive sites, fun to dive with and cool guys in general
+Accommodation - "Shared" accommodation turned out to be very nice room with twin beds including basically private seaside terrace and even shared bathrooms were in good condition!
+Mark Booth - Yes, he should be elected to president, what a great guy with awesome stories and so much fun stories. He also went so many extra miles to give us tours in the village, showing local karaoke place etc.
+Food, wheew don't expect to lose any weight here, the buffet is so damn delicious with so ridiculously plenty of options that you are lucky if you can keep your weight in control :D
+Atmosphere - There is so much heart in this place that after one day it felt like family. All the staff are like friends, everyone making sure their guests are looked after, this is diving community as it's very best!
+Taking care of the local community

-I needed to leave Mabul :(

Thank you Mark & BJ Scuba staff for one of the best weeks in my life, you really made it unique and memorable!


“Return again n again”
5 of 5 bubblesReviewed 28 September 2016
Big John is really big guy, strong & really friendly guy, this is my 4 times going to his home stay. The new home stay is better in size, clean, but sad to say No wifi, but if you re using a celcom there are lines. Food is very good, 4 meals to eat till you drop, on & off BJ will surprise you with additional food. Boat transfer is big & fast to N return back to Semporna. My own wished is the price to go easier. TQ John, my friends also enjoy there very much. TQ.

Visited September 2016


“Mark Booth for president :-)”
5 of 5 bubblesReviewed 26 August 2016
Lonely planet, Trotter,... read them all and also the advice to book in advance if you want to go scuba diving on Mabul Island. Well, we didn't! Leaving Tawau airport we shared a minivan with 2 spanish scuba divers (who could'nt believe we had nothing booked...) and a quiet European guy. After discussing our options with the spanish, the friendly "Englishman" interrupted and offered us to help. Three days later we received our PADI permit out of his hands! Mark Booth, dive instructor at Big John Scuba, experienced with 4000+ dives, thank you for guiding, teaching and being our friend during this exceptional experience at Semporna and Mabul Island. Stijn/Davinda


“Awesome trip”
4 of 5 bubblesReviewed 24 August 2016 via mobile
Did three days of diving and we had an awesome time. The place seems well organised and serves as an integral part of the local community. Big John seems to take good care of his customers and Mark proved to be very understanding when adressing personal situations. I would definitely recommend them for all the questions you may have. Some of the dive masters could have been more assertive in their guidance/instructions (we are both beginning divers, but note that we did do only fun dives). We will most certainly join them again when coming back to dive at Sipadan a few years from now!

Visited August 2016


Good trip, bad start”
2 of 5 bubblesReviewed 21 August 2016 via mobile
Today we went on a snorkling tour with big john scuba and visited four of the islands in the semporna archipello.

We had a very good time, apart from the stop at the first island.
Here we went to a local village, the views were nice as we came into the bay. But then the boat stopped and a lot of kids and women approached in their little boats.

One of the staff members told us that we had food on board and that if we were willing we could give this to the locals. Don t get me wrong, I appreciate that they are supporting the local community, and I don t think they should stop that, but the way in which it was done was just so wrong!

We felt like we were in a zoo, all the kids and women came to our boat screaming for whatever we had on board. Resulting in the other tourists on board starting to throw cookies, banana s, candy etc. at them. We decided not to participate in this, because it felt so dehumanizing, it was as if they were feeding dogs.

So what I like to point out, continue supporting the local community, but do not make it a tourist attraction.

Otherwise, the rest of the trip was good! But the beginning was surreal, and not in a good way. If we would have known this in advance we would not have gone on the trip.

Visited August 2016


“Very gooda”
5 of 5 bubblesReviewed 8 August 2016 via mobile
I came to Big John to learn AOW course and had a wonderful time there with the instructor Tina and Mark. They are very nice, friendly,cute and patient, and the most important thing is they are very professional.Also the food is great,I enjoyed every meals,the view is just perfect.I hope I will come back at some point. 在Big John 学习的进阶潜水课程,教练Mark和Tina人都非常好,非常有耐心,也很可爱,但更重要的是够专业。在岛上吃得非常好,风景简直一级棒。如果可以,我一定会再来的。


BJS exceeded my expectations because......”
5 of 5 bubblesReviewed 29 June 2016
The moment I landed In Tawau everything was taken care of. I was picked up at the airport , taken to the office to finalise paperwork and then dropped to where I was staying in Semporna. A short while later Tina and Mark (two instructors) came and knocked on my door and invited me to join them for dinner. This was a great way to meet them on a personal level so when we went to depart for Mabul island the following day I already knew them and instantly felt more at ease.

I definitely was not that comfortable in the water, but diving is something ive always wanted to try so I thought id face my fear and do it. Originally just planning to do an Open water course so I could tick the box and say ive done it. However, little did I know then how great I would find the whole experience.

Mark is a really great instructor, very funny, professional and really knows his stuff. He is very patient and has a great calming presence which is just what you want when your a bit nervous like myself in and under the water.
Tina is another absolutely wonderful instructor, who again is very personable and professional. These two great characters really helped me overcome a pretty massive fear and for that alone I would give Big John Scuba 5 stars.

Its just a bonus that the rest of the staff were great. They seem to totally love what they do and all seemed very happy, and for me this is a great indicator of a great business. The boats and all the equipment were all in perfect working order.The accommodation and food was very good, for me, its far from basic and is everything you need. The food was really delicious good grub and a clean comfy bed after a long day of diving is what you want and its just what you get. You totally get your moneys worth as no corners are cut.

I couldnt recommend Big John Scuba enough, I had such a great time doing my Open Water I stayed on and did my AOW straight after. And I still felt that wasnt enough, so I have booked to do my rescue in a couple of weeks after I travel a bit. While I was there speaking with other guests doing day trips etc they also all seemed happy with their experience. Thank you all at Big John Scuba .. you guys are INSANELY AWESOME!!! X

Visited June 2016


We went as a group of 4 . 2 of us did OW and 2 of us did AOW over three days. We picked Bog John because of reviews from Trip Advisor, and I am so glad we did.

We did our course with Mark and he was phenomenal! Mark was very experienced and knowledgeable. I learned so much from him, and I feel a lot more confident underwater since this course. There was not a lot of classroom time, and the focus was on learning and practicing the skills while enjoying the underwater scenery. Mark made the entire course super fun. He was also very accommodating, and we were able to do a number of dives with the OW group while we meet our respective requirements to get the certification. I was also impressed by the staff to diver ratio. While we were doing our course, other staff came along to assist, and the ratio was almost 1:1!

All the staff is lovely. They love their jobs, and they are always ready to help! They would go above and beyond to take care of the guests and make sure that they are having a great time.

The accommodation was basic but comfortable. Everything is clean and the view was just unbeatable. There is no wifi, but I actually quite enjoy being offline.

Big John provides 3 meals a day plus snacks. Local food and they are good! There is usually fish, chicken, a couple dishes of veggies, rice or noodle, and fruits each meal. There is also water, coffee and tea available around the clock.

Visited May 2016


Summary: I did my open-water certification (OWC) at Big John Scuba (BJS), it was a 3D3N trip with Mark Booth as my instructor and had the most amazing time of my life. We did it in Semporna and more specifically on Mabul Island.

Planning and Preparation: BJS corresponded in English (but can correspond in various languages) promptly, informatively and reliably. The quotes were all clear, the itinerary was comprehensive and very enjoyable. They were so accommodating since we were traveling in a group of 4 with varying levels of water experience (ie, freshly certified OWC, refresher-needed OWC, never scuba'd, never even snorkelled). They were able to plan two OWC, one refresher and two advance-open-water certifications (AOW).

**do yourself a favor and book your flight first. they work better when they know concrete information. if you are wishy-washy about when you plan to go, or unsure of what you'll do... they can't help you with that.**

Accommodations: We stayed on a water bungalow with a beautiful sunset view on Mabul Island. There are many other resorts on the island but you won't find a better place for the price! The food was delicious but you can always purchase more seafood from boats that come by throughout the day! Warm showers and AC-rooms at night.

Certification and Training: Mark is a top-notch instructor, he challenges you and pushes you to not just "pass the requirements" but feel comfortable. He is upfront with his character and as he says "a bit daft", but he is a great guy and trust me, when you're feeling you're going to die under water, you'll want his calming presence there.

Mabul: The island is rich in culture, people and stories. BJS is amazing in wanting to set up a school for the locals and maintaining the environmental cleaning efforts here. The run-off due to the tourists have attracted a lot of exotic sealife which makes this place a hidden gem for snorkeling and diving. This is especially amazing since you get to do your certification with plenty of interesting things to see and do (unlike having to do it in an indoor-chlorinated pool).

Book now if you ever are planning a trip to Malaysia! You won't regret it!

Visited June 2016


“Wonderfull place for AOW and Nature”
5 of 5 bubblesReviewed 9 May 2016
We loved all !
good team with smile and efficient service, great instructor (he made our 10y/o daughter to love diving), charming place with great view, tailor made day tour around island, and the big heart of Big John (the boss).
Very good time for relax and passed our AOW certification.
And for sure - to be recommended if you like to see turtles all around :)

Visited May 2016


Big John is not the cheapest, but you get what you pay for. I did my AOW on a 2D1N trip with Mark as my instructor and had an amazing time and am so glad I spent the little bit extra to learn here.

Firstly all the communication was excellent leading up to the trip which was a big plus and when I got there it was really busy (in a good way!) and well organised. We headed over to Mabul in the morning, checked in to the room which was basic but super clean and nice with a private bathroom. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had one on one tuition with Mark which was great for me! He talked me through all the options and we picked the best speciality dives for me.

Whilst diving I felt really comfortable and at ease and I learnt a hell of a lot. Mark went over and above and made it a real experience I won't forget as well as getting certified - thank you Mark!

I met a lot of great people on Mabul and wish I could have stayed for longer. The food was absolutely incredible with a BBQ one night with loads of fish, crabs, prawns all included. Also worth noting that all the equipment I used was brand new and it looked like they really take care of it, with cleaning and storing areas for it all.

Overally, I would highly recommend Big John Scuba to anyone. I had a fantastic time!

Visited April 2016

“Did my OW&AOW and had amazing time! 😁”
5 of 5 bubblesReviewed 15 April 2016
Did my OW and AOW just in 4 days. Had a lot of fun and Mark was a great instructor. Want to come back again because the dive sites are stunning.

Perfect place to do your OW and AOW because there is usually only your group (4-8 people) at one spot.

Food and accomodation are pleasant (all types of veggies for vegetarians!)
Quite many Chinese people but they are just funny.


INDEX - Islands of Sabah  November 13, 2016 09:12:37 PM

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