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Diving Mabul on Borneo's Litigan Reefs
Diver and frogfish - Mabul

Mabul Island is a scuba diving gem. Located on the Litigan Reefs and close to both Kapalai and Sipadan, the island has a reputation for all things macro – critter life is prolific around the gently sloping shores.

There are several resorts on the island, including, just off-shore, one housed in a not-so-pretty oil derrick that was relocated from Borneo's west coast. It’s not the sort of place most people want to stay in, but the marine life beneath the platform is impressive. There are swarms of jacks, snappers and rabbitfish; stonefish that lurk on the sand and huge morays ensconced at the base of a pylon. There are crocodilefish, scorpionfish, nudibranchs and masses of crustaceans.

Away from the derrick a little, the corals are prettier and hidden in amongst the cracks and tentacles there are loads more frogfish, unusual shrimp and ornate ghost pipefish. The sandy beach areas have more good muck diving with seahorses, flying gurnards, fingered dragonets, long snout pipefish, snake eels and several sorts of file fish.

Mabul dive photo gallery Scuba diving features

Marine Life seahorses




Top dive site The oil rig
Seasons All year
Visibility 5 – 25 metres
Water temperature 25 – 29º C
Deco chambers Labuan, Singapore
Flights to Kota Kinabalu then Tawau, followed by 1.5 hours by road and speed boat

Sipadan-Kapalai Resort


For underwater photographers or those interested in unusual creatures, this resort ranks highly amongst critter diving destinations in Asia. It's a big island compared to neighbouring Kapalai and many people prefer that as you can walk about but it also means there are more divers on the dive sites. You can also dive at Sipadan from Mabul.


There can be some strong currents when the tides change but the divemasters know what sites to avoid and when. Most dives are fairly shallow and visibility is never gin-clear due to the tides moving over the sandy seabed. The top dive is under the incredibly ugly oil rig that has been parked offshore. Don't be put off, there is some amazing life.


We have never stayed on Mabul as we loved Kapalai and when we went back to the area for a second trip, it felt natural to stay there again. We have dived around Mabul extensively and the sites were fabulous. Wherever you stay in this area, you will be able to dive around all the islands as travelling between them rarely takes more than 15-20 minutes.
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Unidentified juvenile octopus - Mabul

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Complete reports on this area are in
Diving Southeast Asia.

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