Mabul Island, Kapalai + Other Great Semporna Scuba Diving Spots (Besides Sipadan)

In Semporna scuba diving is the #1 pastime. There are dozens of nearby islands to dive and snorkel and hike. Sure, Sipadan Island is one of the most famous, however it is also the most expensive. That’s okay! If you want to get under the sea around Semporna without having to empty your wallet, consider these nearby islands instead:

  But first a quick gift for all the Pinners out there   ๐Ÿ˜‰

More than a dozen islands just off the coast of Semporna, Sabah are great places for scuba diving -- including #Sipadan Island, one of the top three dive spots in the entire world! #travel #sabah #malaysia #scuba #worldsbest #scubadiving
Mabul Island off the coast of Semporna, Sabah -- a great place for scuba diving
Mabul Island off the coast of Semporna, Sabah — a great place for scuba diving

Mabul Island

Pulau Mabul is the most popular island off the coast of Semporna — even more than Sipadan! (Because Sipadan is restricted, there are additional fees to dive there.) A variety of different resorts and dive companies can be found here on Mabul, both above the water and on solid ground. Many divers prefer to use Mabul as their base, rather than staying in Semporna and having to take a long boat ride to their dive destinations every morning.

Mabul Island has many different scuba diving locations -- this map shows all the dive spots map via Mabul.com

There are more than a dozen different dive sites around Mabul Island that are home to a vast variety of species of fish and other marine life. There are also several ships and even a small motorcycle-truck that were purposely sunk here a few years back — my dive master was working for another dive resort when they did it. Already they are turning into an lively artificial reef. Massive schools of fish and giant sea turtles can be found hanging around all day.

Semporna scuba diving spot #19 -- the wrecks off the coast of Mabul Island, which are always full of fish and sea turtles
Semporna scuba diving spot #19 — the wrecks off the coast of Mabul Island, which are always full of fish and sea turtles ๐Ÿ˜‰

Kapalai Island

Aerial view of Sipadan-Kapalai Dive Resort off the coast of Semporna, Sabah -- a great place to scuba dive
Aerial view of Sipadan-Kapalai Dive Resort off the coast of Sabah, Malaysia

Pulau Kapalai is spectacular! For starters, it is not even much of an island anymore. 200 years ago it was but erosion has washed the island away. All that remains is a small sand bar and underwater reef. There is however a single gorgeous luxury resort here that is arguably the swankiest resort in all of Sabah.

Aerial view of Sipadan-Kapalai Dive Resort off the coast of Semporna, Sabah -- a great place to scuba dive
Classy above water and breathtaking underneath

The owner who built Kapalai Resort also built a series of wooden houses underwater to form an artificial reef and attract more marine life. Guess it? It worked! Diving here is amazing! Plus the best part is that you do not have to be a part of the resort to dive here — just come on over by boat and jump on in ๐Ÿ™‚

The aerial photos were taken from the northeast and the map below has north pointed directly overheard, so please note the difference in perspective. The long line of consecutive dive spots on the top-right of the map is where the resort is located.

Kapalai Island has many different scuba diving locations, all shown on the dive spot map -- just not the resort map via Mabul.com

Mataking Island

The island with the long sandy bridge! Mataking Island is most known not for its diving but for the huge sand bar that connects the northern tip of the island with the main southern portion. It is a stunningly beautiful sight to see! (Bad day to forget my drone.) ๐Ÿ™

Scuba diving the coral reef at Mataking Island off the coast of Semporna, Sabah
Scuba diving the coral reef at Mataking Island in Sabah

Located nearly an hour boat ride from Semporna, Pulau Mataking is one of the furthest islands out that is still great for scuba diving. This island is also home to one resort, however just as with Kapalai Island, you don’t have to be staying at the resort to come out here and go diving or even snorkeling.

Underwater post office at Mataking Island off the coast of Semporna, Sabah
Underwater post office at Mataking Island in Sabah

Mataking is also home to Malaysia‘s first and only underwater post office. More than a decade ago an old ship was purposely sunk in front of the resort to create and artificial reef. Attached to the front of that shipwreck is post box. Seal your postcards in a waterproof bag and drop them in here. (Mail is collected twice per week.)

Mataking Island has many different scuba diving locations -- this map shows all the dive spots map via Mabul.com

  There are also several other nearby islands with great dive spots:

Mataking Island has many different scuba diving locations -- this map shows all the dive spots
Spotted a shark near Semporna scuba diving the other day in Sabah
Spotted a shark near Semporna scuba diving the other day in Sabah

The islands and beaches make for great lounging in between dives. However Timba Timba Island is private property and not open to the public. Long and skinny with giant sand bars at the northern and southern ends witha few trees in the middle, there is not much here. Just one family lives here. Luckily we were diving with a friend of the owner of the island so we docked and spent an hour hanging out and taking photos:

The road to paradise is paved with wood, not gold. Welcome to Timba Timba Island off the coast of Semporna, Sabah.
Turns out the road to paradise is paved with wood, not gold
Exploring Timba Timba Island while scuba diving off the coast of Semporna, Sabah
There is not much on Timba Timba Island except for a few trees in the center
Exploring Timba Timba Island while scuba diving off the coast of Semporna, Sabah
My friend Charlene came out to be the actress for my Sabah Tourism videos and then didn’t want to leave — check her out on Instagram @charlene22
Exploring Timba Timba Island while scuba diving off the coast of Semporna, Sabah
Huge empty sand bars stretch along both the northern and southern tips of the island…
Exploring Timba Timba Island while scuba diving off the coast of Semporna, Sabah
…but when the tide comes in, it washes away the sandy tips. Briefly, however, I did have my own island to myself ๐Ÿ˜Ž

More Semporna Scuba Diving Options:

Tun Sakaran Marine Park

Mataking Island, Pulau Bohayan, Bohey Dulang, Pom Pom Island and others are all part of the massive Tun Sakaran Marine Park, also known as Semporna Islands Park (not to be confused with Sipadan Island Park).

In Semporna scuba diving in Tun Sakaran Marine Park is a popular pastime thanks to the abundant marine life and crystal clear water

In Tun Sakaran Marine Park you can not only scuba dive and snorkel in dozens of different locations but you can also hike up the top of Bohey Dulang for an unforgettable view ๐Ÿ˜€

The view from Bohey Dulang in Sabah, Malaysia
The view from Bohey Dulang
Scuba diving in Tun Sakaran Marine Park off the coast of Semporna, Sabah, Malaysia
Up close with a giant sea turtle at Tun Sakaran Marine Park

Map of scuba diving spots in Tun Sakaran Marine Park off the coast of Semporna, Sabah, Malaysia
Tun Sakaran Marine Park has many different islands and scuba diving locations -- this map shows all the dive spots map via Mabul.com

See More       Scuba Diving Sipadan Island Photos + Video

  Christian Holland

Ever been To Semporna? How About Sabah?

What are your favorite Sabah scuba diving spots?

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About Derek Freal

"Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel." ย  Cultural enthusiast. Adrenaline junkie. Eater of strange foods. Chasing unique and offbeat adventures around the world since 2008. Derek loves going to new destinations where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, or places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo -- supposedly its healthier and more efficient. For more information (about Derek, not squat pooing) including popular posts and videos, check out his bio.

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