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“A slice of paradise on earth...”

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Sipadan Water Village
Ranked #5 of 5 Hotels in Pulau Sipadan
Ipoh, Malaysia
Level 4 Contributor
20 reviews
10 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 13 helpful votes
“A slice of paradise on earth...”
Reviewed 25 February 2012

This place is amazing - totally blew me away. My piece of paradise...

The staff were attentive from the moment we were picked up by a pre-arranged transport with the resort from our inn in Semporna to the jetty and all the way to the wonderful reception given by the friendly and attentive staff when we arrive at the resort. They really did go all out to make us feel warm and welcome and this is from the word go till the time we step off the island - they waved us off till quite a distance!

The rooms have wide open decks with lounge chairs and opened off on two sides plus windows. This made it constantly airy with sea breeze and gives an amazing view to wake up to. The waters are so clear that you just want to step off your deck and into it.

The only downsides to my stay: The water pressure in the shower was lacking, pillows too soft thus 3 stars for sleep and no laundry service available. Overall amenities in the room are the standard fare, nothing any more spectacular than what it says, but the view compensates the shortcomings.

As a place for my first foray into snorkelling, I'm told by my more snorkelling-experienced travelling companions that I was very lucky to have done it here as the number of corals and sea life I saw totally outnumbered what they have seen in their many other snorkelling trips in other locations around Malaysia added up.

We were never given less attention as non-divers by the staff at the dive center. They were absolutely experienced, and friendly at all times. You get free-flow coffee and snacks at the dive center for whenever you are taking a break from when you get back from your dives or snorkelling. We loved hanging/lazing around on the deck at the dive center, talking with the dive staff or just among ourselves, till evening - you get an amazing sunset while watching the tide comes in. Absolute serenity, total bliss! As our stay were rather short, our chance of getting a permit to snorkel at sipadan was more than halved. Each day only 120 permits are issued out and this is shared amongst the dive centers in resorts from Mabul, Kapalai, Mataking, as well as independent dive centers from the mainland in Semporna. So it's akin to winning a jackpot. In the end we didn't get the permit but were told our chances increase if we were staying a little longer (we stayed 3D/2N). We went there aware of this fact as the resort told us beforehand but we chose to take a gamble. Still we were not disappointed as we were taken to Kapalai and it was still amazing. We also did some snorkelling around the resort reefs on our own and another trip to one part off Mabul with a guide.

Food was good at all meals. In fact, we were unusually surprised at how good they were! The mini-mart even have a small mail-box by the counter and they will sell you the stamps right there if you choose to send a postcard. We sent a postcard to a friend in Australia...

There are lots of places to just hang around and watch the reefs around the place even in the evenings and nights. We saw 2 large turtles swam into the area next to the open-air restaurant on both nights. Were told they were almost semi-residents of the resort :) You see different sea vreatures coming out around the reefs at the resort during the night.

There are not many places I've travelled to that I'd say I'd go back to but this is one I will want to go back to over and over again - even just to laze on the deck at the dive center after a great dive/snorkelling or just laze in your own room with that amazing view...Well worth the long travelling from Kuala Lumpur, very well worth it!

Price wise, we got a great deal from the resort during one of those travel fairs. Even without the package, I think it's still a steal for what I can get there. Great people, amazing view, fantastic food - a real holiday where I can leave my world behind.

  • Stayed February 2012, travelled with friends
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Thank AnneFWL
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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English first
Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan, Malaysia
Level 3 Contributor
16 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
Reviewed 15 February 2012

It's a 3 hour fly from KL, 1 hour car ride and 30 minute boat ride to reach SWV but when you do, your jaw drops. Have stayed at more than a dozen resorts and hotels of all varieties in Malaysia and Southeast Asia as an expat but this one floored me. Rarely have I visited anywhere so beautiful, pristine or authentic.

A must for dive enthusiasts. It's expensive but if you can afford it it is great value for money. The hotels website is outdated and does a poor job at capture the magnificence of this unique spot.

  • Stayed February 2012, travelled with family
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Helpful?
2 Thank GibsonBrown
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
London, United Kingdom
Level 3 Contributor
10 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
Reviewed 15 February 2012

I don’t want to say anything bad about the nature, because Sipadan is one of the mist beautiful places I’ve seen and definitely one of the best places for diving.
However, the hotel is appalling. It is one of the most horrible places I’ve stayed at and I am comparing it to 2 star hotels in third world countries countries. To start with, this is probably THE most overpriced place I have ever stayed at in my life. It charges you as a top rated five star hotel if not more and the service, rooms and food are terrible. I was there in January and as we arrived in the late afternoon, we were given a room which hasn’t gone refurbishment for the past 20 years (this I heard from the receptionist herself!). Not only that, but it didn’t even have windows, just holes in the walls with wooden shatters being eaten away by humidity and time. I probably don’t need to mention that the walls, bathroom and furniture were either falling apart or have fallen apart already. Anyway, a long and heated discussion with reception followed as we wanted our room changed. They were not only insisting that everything is fully booked and they have no available rooms, which of course turned out to be a lie, but they were also rude and at some point even suggested we go to a different hotel but refused to give us our money back. By the end of our discussion miraculously there was another room available. It had windows almost everywhere and it has also been freshly painted. Furniture and bathroom were still old and discussing, but at least the ceiling wasn’t falling on our heads while we were sleeping. I am attaching pictures, in case somebody has doubts. The only good thing I can say about the accommodation is that it was clean.
The quality food in the restaurant is by European standards and in my opinion by all standards really bad. I’m not saying it will give you food poisoning, because it wouldn’t, but it is just not nice and varied food. After the first meal there, where I did try from literally everything, I was eating only fruits. Luckily we only stayed for two nights.
Another thing is that the hotel does not have a beach. There is a beach just opposite the hotel, but it belongs to a local fisherman’s village and is dirty and hotel staff do not recommend going there.
The staff in the dive centre is very nice and helpful and the fresh juices at the bar are excellent. Unfortunately everything else is pretty bad.
They are inflexible in arranging transfers, so do make sure to prearrange it with them for a time that suits you BEFORE you have paid for your stay.

Basically, don’t think you are going to a five star holiday (which you are paying for), but a survival conditions place. My advice is, IF you manage to make a booking elsewhere, do so, use SWV as a last resort option for visiting Sipadan…

  • Stayed January 2012, travelled with friends
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Helpful?
3 Thank Kri D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
New York City, New York
Level 6 Contributor
51 reviews
51 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 193 helpful votes
Reviewed 22 January 2012

My husband and I stayed at Sipadan Water Village for 4 nights (from December 29th to January 2nd) and enjoyed it very much. The diving was great and the overwater resort is lovely, but the rooms and food are quite basic, and there are few "resort amenities", hence only 3 stars.

The the resort is a cluster of overwater bungalows and open air common buildings (the lobby lounge, restaurant, event/meeting hall, dive center, and gift shop) connected by overwater walkways. Everything is wood with shingled roofs and there are lots of potted plants. Set over the aqua water, it is very pretty.

We had a standard chalet, which is all that was left at the time of our booking. It was simple and rather dated (bedskirt, wicker furniture) but clean and comfortable. The bed was large and comfortable enough, but the pillows were big hard bricks, so you might want to bring your own. There was plenty of hot water for our showers. We did not have air conditioning, but this wasn't a problem since there are few bugs (really none that we saw), so you can sleep with all of the doors and windows wide open to the sea and catch the breeze.

We were at the end of the walkway that has the lookout – our chalet was directly behind the lookout. We didn't mind the "long" walk to the lobby and dive center; we loved how quiet it was and our open views of the sea. The deck area was nice and we liked being able to look down into the clear water and see the fish. Also appreciated the clothes drying rack on the side of the deck.

One thing I didn't realize until we arrived is that SWV resort is completely an overwater experience – no part of the resort is on land; you arrive by boat to a overwater dock and stay out on the wooden walkways the entire time. (The beach is crowded with a poor fishing village, nothing but shacks. I had to wonder…couldn't the Mabul island resorts do more to improve the local conditions? Would have loved to have seen programs set up to involve the local community with island tourism/ecology and to provide them with a better standard of living). Except for our day out at Sipadan island, we didn't step on actual ground for the entire length of our stay.

Meals are served in an open air restaurant or as a special barbeque in the event space just across the way. Cuisine is largely Asian – rice and soup broth with seafood, meat, and some vegetables. There was always fresh fruit and a few desserts set out. I have a huge sweet tooth but found the desserts to be unappealing. As a vegetarian I did OK, but supplemented with nuts and protein bars that I had brought with me. There is an option to special order specific seafood entrees a day in advance at an additional cost. They also very thoughtfully brought my husband a cake on his birthday, with singing and the works.

There is a bar in the lobby lounge where we (and many guests) spent most evenings. Although there had been no advance notification, they ended up having a fun party there on New Year's Eve. First there was some entertainment: local children dancing, local women dancing, and then a group of the diver masters dancing in drag. Next came the games: the guests were divided up into three teams, each led by a dive master. There were four team challenges and it was very fun and high spirited. In the end each team was presented with a snack hamper (1st, 2nd, and 3rd place were all almost the same size) and these goodies were shared by everyone at the dive shop the next day. Following the team competition came an impromptu game of "papers scissors rock" and the SWV owner gave the 3 winners (one from US/Europe/Australia/NZ, one from Japan, and one from other Asia) free airfares for a return trip. Finally came the New Year countdown and a dance party, complete with lots of streamers, hats, and noisemakers. It was all very sweetly done and really a lot of fun.

The diving is what really made this trip worthwhile. We'd just come from the Maldives, and Sipadan/Mabul was much better. Our first checkout dive was at the house reef and we immediately saw 4 cuttlefish, a frogfish and leaf scorpionfish, a very large barracuda, and more turtles than we could count. Fantastic! We enjoyed all 6 of our Mabul/kapalai dives – the visibility wasn't great, but the reefs were pretty and we saw lots of good stuff. We also did 4 dives on our dive at Sipadan and these were amazing. First dive had a huge school of bumphead parrotfish, second dive had a huge school of jacks, and the third and fourth dives had a huge school of barracuda. Plus the lovely reefs with tons of great fish. Visibility was better on Sipadan, even though there had been a heavy rain that morning.

The dive shop is well-run, orderly and pretty tightly organized. The two dive guides we had were both knowledgeable and well-qualified. Every evening in the dive shop they post on a whiteboard the group of divers assigned to each boat the next day, where the boat/group will dive, what time the dives will be at, who the guide will be. The boats were either English or Japanese speaking. There is always water, coffee, and sweets to be had at the dive shop, and there is also a sundeck for lounging about if you don't want to go back to your room between dives. (As was generally the case between the two morning dives for the Mabul/Kapalai groups). On the day we went to Sipadan they gave us a snack between the first and second dives and lunch between the second and third dives – there is a big "picnic shelter" on Sipadan island for this purpose. The fourth dive was extra (we paid additional for it) and we went back to SWV in-between the third and fourth dives.

I definitely recommend Sipadan Water Villas for a dive trip of ~4 days. Don't expect luxury, but do expect a warm, friendly atmosphere and some really good diving. It's a place we'd love to return to!

Stayed December 2011, travelled as a couple
Helpful?
7 Thank frangipani7
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Level 1 Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
Reviewed 18 January 2012

Its not the easiest to get to: a flight from KL to Tawau, then over an hour in a shuttle, then another 30+ min by boat. The boat off of Borneo is majestic - a little noisy but scenery is fantastic. Soon enough the island is in sight with each bungalow situated above the water. The resort is very nice. Its not over the top luxury (we stayed in a similar bungalow in Maldives and this was no where near the same caliber). The resort staff are very friendly, and do make you feel that your business is valued. The resort is attached to the island, and what you don't appreciate from the pictures is the island is a local community, kids paddling in boats, and the occasional garbage in the water. The dining is average - again not high end - buffet style that sits out for the 1-2 hour service of the entire resort. There is a moderate variety with Malay and international fare, some fresh seafoods and local fruits.

However, the reason to come to SWV, and the reason that makes all of the above non-issues is the diving. It is fantastic, one of our best trips yet. Most trips are boat rides away, though there is unlimited shore diving of the local reef. On sipidan - many sharks (mainly reef), many turtles, schools of Jack fish and Barracuda. there was one cave, and a good drift dive too. Also most boats have 6-8 divers, not dozens of tourist divers with big cameras like some areas (e.g great barrier). Come for the diving, and you won't be disappointed.

  • Stayed November 2011, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank JohnB-in-MD
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
singapore
Level 3 Contributor
4 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
Reviewed 6 January 2012

A small group of us, 5 divers, stayed at SWV for 5D4N.

As our speedboat approached the water bungalow resort, I felt like I was in paradise. All worries and stresses were lifted and my REAL holiday began. At arrival, a line of staff await to welcome you. Checking in took a while, but all went well. We booked through an agent, so it was all pre-arranged, and we were brought to our rooms.

The rooms were very spacious with fan and aircon, and which opens out (via pocket screen doors) into a big open-sided balcony with deck chairs and excellent sea view. Looking down from the bungalow timber flooring, you can find spots of coral, sea stars, fish, and if you're lucky- turtles swimming around and beneath your bungalow! Beds were large and comfy, I slept well every night. Bathroom had hot shower (remember to turn on the heater switch in advance!) Drinking water was also provided in the rooms. Overall decoration and furnishings were mostly in timber and "laid back" charming resort style rather than pish posh and high end. Some of the bungalows are located far away from the dive centre, so unless you enjoy a nice long stroll between dives, I suggest you request for a room nearer the reception. There were few power sockets in the room, so if you have a lot of camera /video / strobe batteries to charge, I suggest you bring an extension socket. It got pretty windy at night while we were there, so be careful to peg down what you hang out for drying!

The restaurant is also built on stilts above the clear waters, so you can dine semi alfresco along the balcony sides for good views. Food was alright, not much to rave about, but we were always hungry after dives, so it was all good. Buffet style, plenty to choose from, but if you go late.. there might not be much left. Kitchen staff were nice and very accommodating... so I'm sure you can request for more food if there's none left. A gong goes off to announce meal times.

There is a stocked bar next to the reception. Lounge chairs with lots of Fish ID books to browse and reminise over. There is free (but not very fast) wi-fi signal found around the reception / bar area, password protected, so request for one at the reception counter. I also noticed 1-2 computer terminals available for "pay as you surf" if you ever have a need. There's also a stocked gift shop with the usual souveniers and the last-minute dive gear accessories might come in useful for some.

The dive centre is very well organised and orderly with lockers and a place for everything. Boat trips out were run smoothly with no hiccups. There's water and coffee / tea making facilities there as well. Snacks were often well-stocked in the food cabinet for hungry divers. One extra blue (for dives) towel per person per day was also very useful to keep dry and warm after each dive. There was also a sun deck (and plenty of bench seating) at the dive centre for chatting and lazing around during surface intervals if you can't be bothered to walk back to the room.

We visited Sipadan island one day for 3 dives. Vis was great, and schools of barracuda following us through the dive was pretty awesome. A couple of reef sharks and large turtles scattered here and there. I must say though, that I had higher expectations on the Sipadan dive sites. Anyway, this review is for the resort -- their house reef Paradise 1 and 2 were AMAZING with loads and loads of marine life. Vis was also not bad, considering it rained heavily on 2 days during our stay. Unlimited shore dives, so just sign up as you wish! We did a few dawn dives there and they were all splendid. The diving around Mabul dive sites were pretty good too, I enjoyed them very much -- more than the 3 dives at sipadan. :P

Apart from the reception staff being a little slow (and they seemed confused half the time), the staff at the bar, restaurant, housekeeping and dive centre were excellent.

The airport van transfer in was good. However, the trip out got a little confusing because there were about 10 - 12 of us who needed to board the vans, all of us were unsure if the vans were ALL going to the same destination. The drivers did not seem to speak or understand much English, and they were asking customers to board one can while loading their luggages onto another van. They just seemed really eager to load everyone with bags up and go. I got split up with my friends, but we all eventually reunited at the airport.

All in all, I would return for another visit. But the resort can also afford to improve in some ways, like replacing some of the dive centre lockers (timber and metal dont go well with sea-dipped stuff.) Better food, although it wasn't bad to start with. Perhaps a TV in the rooms with cable might be nice too.

Room Tip: Sea-view rooms have better views than island-view rooms because those look out to a nearby fishing v...
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  • Stayed June 2011, travelled with friends
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Helpful?
1 Thank spinner_g
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
austin
Level 6 Contributor
82 reviews
22 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 32 helpful votes
Reviewed 31 October 2011

I visited Sipadan Water Village with a large group of divers a couple of weeks ago.The lodging was nice and a relief after travelling so far to Malaysia. This part of the world has a unique approach to accomodations by building interconnected bungalows over shallow lagoons. Several resorts in the area are built this way. Everything is built over the water including the dive shop, boat docks, gift shop, and dining room. Make sure you hang onto your belongings walking to and from each area! The have a profusion of potted tropical plants all along these boardwalks, like bougainvillas, to enjoy. The staff worked hard to please, from greeting you as your boat taxi from Semporna arrived, to the resort staff fulfilling your needs, to the dive staff helping with your gear on/off the boats. A few of the bungalows even have a/c now, though it struggled somewhat as the bungalows weren't initially built airtight. Sandals are a must midday walking on the boards, and they even provide sun-brellas in each room to fend off the heat walking to and fro. And there is a lot of walking involved so a room closer to the dining/diving is to be considered! The food was varied and plentiful if sometimes "different", and if your boat got you back halfway thru lunch they could run out of some things. The dive shop had their assignment system down with many boats departing simultaneously yet smoothly. Everyone got to make the special trip to Sipadan island several times, as well as to another island that was just a bit further away. The macro diving close to the resort was splendid, tho the visibility could be challenging due to full moon, tides, etc. The dive masters went out of their way to take me out on three different evenings so I could finally snap pix of the elusive Mandarin fish doing their little dance. Priceless! They took into account your skill level and most pointed out many things to see, knowing where to find critters. All in all it was a great resort with great people and great diving.

Room Tip: Best sunrise view rooms are further out the board walk, tho there is a lovely lookout built along th...
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  • Stayed October 2011, travelled with friends
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Helpful?
5 Thank shawnabbtt
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Sipadan Water Village

Property: Sipadan Water Village
Address: Tawau, Pulau Sipadan 91031, Malaysia
Region: Malaysia > Sabah > Semporna District > Pulau Sipadan
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Restaurant
Hotel Style:
Ranked #5 of 5 Hotels in Pulau Sipadan
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): ££££
Number of rooms: 276
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Sipadan Water Village is a resort built entirely over the water on stilts. In its design, Sipadan Water Village has achieved near utopia in its layout, splendid water cottage accommodations with flowered sidewalks, wonderfully prepared Asian and Continental cuisine, and impeccable and personable service! The dive program is comparable to none as everyone at Sipadan Water Village has an attitude and passion for what the sea has to offer. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Sipadan Water Village Hotel Pulau Sipadan
Sipadan Water Village Pulau

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