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Billabong Scuba Homestay
Reviewed 18 December 2013

I came to Mabul to get PADI Open Water Certified and found that Billabong was the cheapest option. However, I definitely think it was a great deal! With food included and a gorgeous location, you can't go wrong if you're on a budget.

  • Stayed: August 2013, travelled with friends
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1  Thank mcb22
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 15 December 2013

The Billabong homestay, as it's called, though not really a homestay anymore, was a nice place. At least to the outside it was one of the nicer looking budget places. Nothing comparable to the fancy big resorts, but more our kind of place anyway. More than anything we were happy to have scored a good deal. Soon it was time for the dives. And what diving it was! We were almost speechless.
I recommend this place if you need a cheap, clean and safe place to stay!

  • Stayed: May 2013, travelled with friends
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1  Thank Lisa n
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 11 December 2013

At billabong scuba we found that you really do get what you pay for. The staff was "ok"- not overly attentive or friendly but not especially rude either. Most of the instructors we liked were the foreign instructors that will be in and out within a matter of months. The local dive instructors were much less concerned about safety and pointing things out to us. We had no idea if they were certified and the attitude of the local dive guides was one of "oh this again..." Almost as if they were bored of working in one of the most gorgeous dive spots in the world. From an environmental perspective I was DISGUSTED by the lack of respect for the environment as they pumped in pink dishwashing soap straight into the ocean below the hotel. Not one thing was mentioned as being able to bring or buy environmentally friendly products (So i barely washed my hair). If this matters to you be sure to bring your own eco-friendly products with you. The amount of trash on the islands almost ruins the tropical atmosphere and is very difficult to ignore. Considering you get what you pay for the rooms aren't horrible, but you have to be extremely friendly and approach the staff as opposed to the other way around. I would also NEVER recommend this place to divers that are new and do not have experience as the safety checks and dive instructors did not seem to adequately prepare us for our dives. (they also let another diver go too deep and he ruptured his eardrums).

Room Tip: BRING your own eco friendly products if you care about environmental issues.
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  • Stayed: April 2013, travelled with friends
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5  Thank Kari B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 24 November 2013

We stayed here 2 nights as part of a dive package. The day we arrived it was raining, which did not help with first impressions, but even with sunnny skies the place looks tired and well in need of a redo. Painting was in progress, and it had probably be done in our room shortly before our arrival as the smell was so strong it was unbearable to spend too long in there the first day. The room was grottty (eg. used ear buds on the floor, not ours obviously) as were the toilets which were the most digusting toilets we'd encountered on our South East Asia trip. No pressure in the showers and no lock either. The first night our friend had a huge rat in her room , we also saw at least one in the kitchen. After the rat incident we got ready for bed and turned off the lights only to be woken up by insects crawling on us! They appeared to be coming from the headboard which we attacked with bug spray.

The food was very average, slight variations of the same format for every meal - rice, chicken, fish and vegetables that have been so over cooked they were turning to mush. The only fruit we were given was watermelon at lunchtime and that ran out very quickly.

Postives were the free tea, cofffee, bread and sugar biscuits and the layout of the dining area, which made it very easy to meet other travellers. The coconuts available for purchase were extremely fresh and you could scoop the flesh out with a spoon.

Mabul itself was a real disappointment. We had images of a tropical paradise and while there were plenty of palm trees and white sand the island was full of rubbish and smelt terrible. The locals on the island were all very frriendly and smiley and it was heartbreaking to watch them (especially the kids) living in such squalored conditions. The sea around the island was also full of rubbish and sewage.

Divingwise (that's the ONLY reason you would go there), we didn't have problems with the boats and they weren't overcrowded, gear was alright (even though part of my partner's BCD was broken), and didn't feel too worned out. Billabong doesn't seem (currently) to have issues getting permits for Sipandan, however the other sites you will go to around Mabul are average to good.

Divemasters/instructors we encountered were friendly and knowledgeable about the marine life. On the matter of safety beware, even though each dive started with the usual briefing, once in the water some people (staff) were enjoying themselves too much and seemed to forget that they were actually working and that they had people under their responsability.

If you do go for Billabong try not to stay there too long ! Overall if you can afford something upmarket we would highly recommend you take it, as this is certainly not an island paradise.

Room Tip: Pay a bit more and get a private bathroom ! You don't want to use the shared ones.
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  • Stayed: October 2013, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank MagnusJunior
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 26 October 2013

October 23, 2013 - If you are coming to see Sipidan - and you should as the diving is superb (50+ sharks, 50+ turtles in two days) - you have to make a decision if you are going to do it on the cheap with places like Billabong or spend the extra money and stay at a nice resort like Sipidan Water Village Resort or Borneo Divers. Remember the key is to get the difficult to obtain Sipidan permits as far in advance as you can because you will not likely get them on arrival. Diving Sipidan is unforgettable; diving in Mabul is good but a big drop-off.

If you are only doing it once in your life, don't go cheap at Billabong if you can avoid it because it is really cheap. They cut every corner they can. Two of their three dive boats broke down in my five days here. The last dive had 30 people on one boat! 80% of the guests we were told are now Chinese, which is not a problem, just info for you. The rooms are basic but the air con leaked and was noisy, the sink did not work and the power and water go out each day. We saw mice, we saw cockroaches. By far the two worst aspects, though, were the fact that raw sewage falls into the sea below your room, allowing you to see and smell solid waste, as well as the food which is terrible. There is NO variety to the menu - you get rice, some chicken elbows/knuckles/kneecaps and a boiled vegetable at every meal, every day. By day 5, I had diarrhea and wanted to vomit every time I smelled the food come out.

I get that the positive reviews here are from hearty backpackers who travel on the cheap and want to see Sipidan as economically as possible. If that is you, consider Billabong your hovel. My advice - spend the money and go to a nice resort if you can for just a few hundred dollars more. You can dive from the dock anytime you want which you cannot do at the low budget places. Mabul does NOT look like the pictures on the internet - there is trash all over the place and in the water, smells of burning plastic are everywhere and the only good beaches are at the major resorts. See Sipidan, but see it right, avoid this place and go to a nice resort - you will have a great time.

Room Tip: Good room? Ask for one with water and power and no bed bugs or cockroaches.
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  • Stayed: October 2013, travelled with friends
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7  Thank B A
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 15 September 2013

The diving in Mabul and Sipadan is mind blowing!! Most of the accommodation is basic - I guess they know divers will come no matter what - it really is that good :-)

At Billabong we found that the rooms were clean, there is always water for showers (unlike some other places on the island). The food is OK depends what you like. It's great there is always drinking water and tea & coffee on offer. It can be a bit tricky to sleep as there is some noise going on early and late from other guests and some current repair work (the latter wont last forever though)

The staff are friendly and helpful - if you need anything just ask. They're also very knowledgeable about the area and honest about what to expect from your dive.
Would advise you really check your equipment before you dive as some of it is in need of a little repair but just ask and they'll change it.

Overall this was a great choice and they were able to get permits at much shorter notice than other places. Very impressed with the fair prices and fun atmosphere.

  • Stayed: September 2013, travelled as a couple
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3  Thank hfbartistandDT
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 27 August 2013

We had read some bad reviews before booking with Billabong but we wanted to dive Sipadan so chose them as they had the cheapest deal. We were pleasantly suprised when we arrived- the rooms are basic but nice, and the staff were very friendly. Some staff don´t speak English but there are always enough that can so its not a problem. We had a lot of fun, felt very safe and when we told them we were relatively inexperienced divers (just 2 dives since OWD) they helped us with the tank and were very patient with us for our first couple of dives. Billabong is definately a lot better than the reviews suggest for the average backpacker / traveller.

  • Stayed: August 2013, travelled with friends
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2  Thank Jackwill100
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Billabong Scuba Homestay

Address: Lot 28, 1st floor, block E, Seafront, Pulau Mabul, Malaysia
Region: Malaysia > Sabah > Semporna District > Pulau Mabul
Amenities:
Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Kitchenette Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service Suites
Hotel Style:
Ranked #4 of 11 Speciality Lodging in Pulau Mabul
Number of rooms: 20
Also Known As:
Billabong Scuba Hotel Pulau Mabul

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