Pulau Mabul Island is recognised as one of the best “Muck-diving” sites in The world. Pulau Mabul has a shallow reef profile with sandy bottom and patches of sea grass. The coral reefs at first glance do not look very picturesque and inviting.
Located about 30 minutes from mainland Semporna, Pulau Mabul has a shallow reef profile with sandy bottom and patches of sea grass. The coral reefs at first glance do not look very picturesque and inviting. However, it is the diversity of macro animals inhabiting the coral rubble and sea grass sites that put Pulau Mabul on diving map. Mabul Island is slightly larger than Sipadan, and even has its own village. However, the seascape in Mabul is starkly different, yet equally stunning. While pelagics are the main star in Sipadan, Mabul is a macro heaven for its diversity of tiny marine life.
Mabul is arguably one of the richest single destinations for exotic small marine life anywhere in the world. Flamboyant cuttlefish, blue-ringed octopus, mimic octopus and bobtail squids are just a few of the numerous types of cephalopods to be found on Mabul’s reef. Mabul Island is a small oval shaped island surrounded by sandy beaches and perched on the northwest corner of a larger 200-hectare reef. The reef is on the edge of the continental shelf and the seabed surrounding the reef slopes out to 25 – 30m dep. The sight of harlequin shrimp feeding on sea stars and boxer crabs waving their tiny anemone pom-poms are just a small example of the endless species of crustaceans. Many types of gobies can be found including the spike-fin goby, black sail-fin goby and metallic shrimp goby. Frogfish are everywhere – giant, painted and clown frogfish are all regularly seen. Moray eels and snake eels of many types can be seen along with almost the whole scorpion fish family. It would be quicker to list the species not found at Mabul – crazy critters are in abundance at this magical macro site!
Located just off the edge of the islands jetty. This dive site is typical of the many others here. The visibility is usually limited to just several metres. But vigilant divers will soon notice a teeming fish life on the sea bed and in the holes. They range from the well-camouflaged crocodile fish and frogfish, to more unique-looking creatures like pipefish, scorpion fish and the colourful mandarin fish. With an average depth of only 10m, you will be able to devote a longer time finding these fascinating fish along your journey here.
Crocodile Avenue should be approached with slow and deliberate movements. Clusters of weed and rubble often harbour seahorses and ghost pipe fishes, while other joys include the well-camouflaged crocodile fish resting just above the sandy bottom. A night dive yields nocturnal creatures such as cuttlefish, nudibranchs and crabs.
Another example of Mabul’s small wonders. This minor wall contains a cave famous for its lobster inhabitants. Bur don’t miss out an exploring the corals and ledges. Hiding from view are ghost pipefish, pufferfish, seahorses, rabbit fish and the striking lionfish.
Located toward the southern end of Pulau Mabul, Eel Garden is one of the deeper dives around the sea. Divers descend to a sandy flat between 20 – 25m sloping towards the open sea. Finning carefully and avoiding stirring up the silty bottom, divers can observe gobies seeking refuge in the tiny crevices and moray eels occupying larger holes. Looking towards the sandy patch, you will see what appears to be blades of long grass swaying with the current. These are the elusive garden eels (Heteroconger Hassi) living in colonies, that quickly dart back into their burrows on approaching shadows or excessive movement in the water.
For those wanting to get even closer, Nudibranch Centre and Panglima Reef offer a myriad of nudibranchs. Take a break to study these colourful sea slugs and their various patterns.
Also located on the southern tip of Pulau Mabul, this site slopes to about 30m at the sandy bottom. Currents sweeping through this point bring clear water and good visibility. Sea fans and soft corals that thrive in current areas are home to gobies, blennies, moray eels, butterfly fish and stone fish (Synanceia Verrucosa).
It can be reach by flight from the state capital, Kota Kinabalu, then a connecting flight to Tawau, followed by a 2? hour drive to Semporna and finally a 30 minutes fast catamaran boat transfer to the island.