We recently spent 9 wonderful days and nights on Mabul with SJ. This is not 5 star property and makes no claim to be so. It is however exactly what it says on the tin , clean , comfortable with lots of delicious simple food. Comparing it with the other resorts , it was clear that the atmosphere at SJ is far far better than the other resorts , which all seemed half or fully empty. The bar buzzed after supper and drinks , including huge glasses of red wine were very reasonably priced.
Because we stayed so long, we dived with many of the other guests and virtually all of the guides. This was a wonderful way to get to know people and made our trip.
The island itself is great , the resort is as reported next door to the sea gypsy village . Because the residents do not have access to services such as rubbish collection , it does look a bit grotty, but the people are extremely friendly and cheerful. However one row back there are lots of lovely little houses and shops. There are also other hamlets on the island that are very interesting to walk around. The beach belonging to the resort is however spotless and a lovely spot to spend an hour or so.
We are very much into our diving and have been lucky enough to have visited many wonderful places in the relatively short time since we got certified. For us the three days we had diving on SIpadan surpassed virtually all of them. My husband did his 200th dive on Barracuda Point and it was truly the stuff diving dreams are made of. It is however entirely possible to get a SIpadan permit from one of the other resorts , as they seem to have more permits and fewer guests than SJ. The diving around Mabul is Ok, the vis is not great and there is lots of dead coral. however the massive numbers of enormous turtles would have kept us happy for months ! They were totally unfazed by people , I saw more than one fall asleep while being photographed.