Mabul Island

Mabul (Malay: Pulau Mabul) is a small island off the south-eastern coast of Sabah in Malaysia. The island has been a fishing village since the 1970s. In the 1990s, it first became popular to divers due to its proximity to Sipadan island.

Mabul Island
Sabah-Islands-DarvelBay PulauMabul-Pushpin.png
Location of Mabul Island in Darvel Bay
Mabul Island is located in Borneo
Mabul Island
Mabul Island
Coordinates4°14′45″N 118°37′52″E / 4.24583°N 118.63111°E / 4.24583; 118.63111Coordinates: 4°14′45″N 118°37′52″E / 4.24583°N 118.63111°E / 4.24583; 118.63111
State Sabah

Located 15 km from Sipadan, this 20-hectare piece of land surfaces 2–3 metres above sea level, consists mostly flat grounds and aerial view is oval-shaped. Surrounding it are sandy beaches, perched on the northwest corner of a larger two-square-kilometre reef.

Mabul island is administered as a part of Semporna, Tawau district.

Native settlementsEdit

There are two main villages on the island, "Kampung Mabul" and "Kampung Musu". The 1999 census recorded approximately 2,000 villagers living in Mabul, half of them children under 14 years old. The majority are immigrants from relatively nearby clusters of islands in the southern Philippines. These residents are mainly Bajau Laut and Suluk Muslims who live a nomadic lifestyle.

Basic amenities include a mosque, schools, community and fishermen's hall. The main transportation mode between places is via boat.

As most residents mainly work as fishermen, the village source of income depends on ocean-based products such as squid and fish. Traditional fishing methods are called "Payau" and "Sangkaliya". Mabul fishermen prefer catches close to the Malaysia–Philippine borders, perhaps due to the abundance of fish stocks. An average fishing trip will take 3 to 5 days out at sea. When the men return, their catches are sold at Semporna on the mainland.

It was said that Mabul was owned by a man from Menampilik island. Back in the 1970s, he and the villagers planted coconuts on the island, in addition to fishing. In 1992, Sipadan Mabul Resort (SMART) purchased a part of land on the east of Mabul intended for tourism.

Diving MabulEdit

Mabul Island

Mabul's reef is on the edge of the continental shelf and the seabed surrounding the reef slopes out to a depth of 25 to 30 m. There are several dive resorts operating on Mabul island.

Mabul is arguably one of the richest single destinations for exotic small marine life anywhere in the world.[citation needed] 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. 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 regularly seen along with most of the scorpion fish family.[1]

There are six resorts here providing accommodation for scuba divers—most located on the island or on stilts over the water, while one is on a converted oil platform about 500 metres from the beach. There are also several homestay & backpacker accommodations which can arrange diving. All of the resorts/homestays can arrange a day trip to the nearby island of Pulau Sipadan. There is a permit system for Sipadan and all permits may be booked months in advance.


Flights to Tawau Airport, the nearest airport to Mabul, from Kota Kinabalu take 55 minutes. From Kuala Lumpur a 2½-hour flight is required to get to Tawau. From there a bus, taxi or minivan can be arranged from Tawau's airport to Semporna, where boats ferry passengers from the jetty there to the island itself.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Sipadan, Mabul Kapali, - Sabah's underwater treasure, published by Natural History Publications.