Dive among shallow reefs and coral gardens and stretch out under the shade of coconut palms at this Malaysian island paradise.
Mabul Island lies in the Celebes Sea, just off the southeastern coast of Sabah, Malaysia. Perched by a gently sloping reef, the small, oval-shaped, sun-kissed playground is a gateway to lots of diving and snorkeling adventures. While investigating the undersea world is the main activity here, there is also fun to be had above the surface. Go sea kayaking, hike through the lush green landscape and laze on a beach.
Diving is a year-round activity on Mabul, although for optimum conditions, come outside of the rainy season, which is typically from November to April. The waters around the island are known for their rich concentration of small, exotic marine creatures.
Organize diving and snorkeling trips with local operators. There are several popular dive spots, including Lobster Wall and Crocodile Avenue. Dive through coral gardens populated by cuttlefish, starfish, boxer crabs and harlequin shrimp. Look in crevices and ledges for seahorse, pufferfish and lionfish.
In between dives, enjoy some of Mabul’s other attractions and activities. Cut through the water in a sea kayak and explore the island on foot. This is easily done in a couple of hours because it only covers approximately 51 acres (21 hectares). Then relax on sandy beaches lined with coconut palms.
Charter a boat for a trip to nearby Sipadan Island, another popular diving destination. After your dive, see what else the island has to offer. Stroll along white-sand beaches and trek through the jungle to see a variety of tropical birds. The island was declared a bird sanctuary in 1933 and is a stopover point for many migratory birds. Look for such species as sea eagles, sunbirds and kingfishers.
To get to Mabul Island’s dive sites and beaches, make your way to Semporna, a city on the east coast of Sabah, Malaysia. From there, it's a 30- to 45-minute speedboat ride to your destination.