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“A good option for Sipadan”

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Borneo Divers Mabul Resort
Ranked #4 of 5 Hotels in Pulau Sipadan
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed 6 February 2010

For diving in sipadan, you have a choice of resorts on Mabul, the floating resort of Kapali, or Semporna if you really want a long boat ride out to the island. It seems late Jan early Feb is the quiet time. The resort gets 12 permits, and didn't even have 12 divers every day. Even when it is busy, capacity is only 50ish, so you have a good chance of getting a permit.
Rooms are basic, but OK. Bathrooms are well past their sell-by-date but clean (apart from the beach bar facilities!). Meals are hit and miss - often food is cold, and although it is varied comes nowwhere near the standard I've experienced on red sea livaboards. Check google maps for a view of the island, Borneo Divers resort is clearly visible with rows of chalets.
Biggest disappointment was the communication of dive schedules (with only one group diving it should be simple) and the running of dives at Sipadan. it's a 7:30 depart, 3x45 min dives and back by 1:30 in time for lunch. Very minimal surface intervals, set up for short visits, not several days diving in a row. Dive guides were also not interested in making the dives interesting. I don't care if they are bored, I'm paying them to guide me and enthuse me.
Free internet works some days, and is dog slow. Maybe it was only because it was quiet season, but the resort generator was only run in the early mornings and evening, so the late checkout time meant sat about with nothing to do.

  • Stayed: January 2010, travelled solo
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5  Thank tsh2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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171 - 177 of 254 reviews

Reviewed 20 January 2010

- Very friendly guy, Taufik :)

- Spaces and clean :)
- Small bathroom with very low water pressure and smelly soap :(

Food & Beverages
- Served 5 times a day :)
- Not tasty :(
- Terrible juice :(

Dive Sation
- Service is top :)
- Will look for Diver Master Emily and Alister again next visit :)
- Very helpful dive station supervisor, Amin :)
- Underwater scooter is a let down :(

Stayed 6D5N, done 4 days in Sipadan. It was the my best diving trip with a very friendly Dive Master Emily.

  • Stayed: January 2010, travelled with friends
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4  Thank tinjus
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 2 January 2010

Having been to the Mabul/Sipadan islands 8 times since Nov 2007, BDMR has been my base when diving Mabul, Sipadan and its surrounding islands...

i have stayed here 5 times with the last being in Dec of 2009... on the other 3 occasions
i stayed at Seaventures, SWV and a budget operator.

What made me keep going back to BDMR was the the exceptional staff there who ensured my stay from the very 1st trip was simply awesome...

their friendliness and simplicity was astounding and while they are serious about their
work scope, they go about doing it in a very laid back manner...

Kudos to Ramesh who has risen over the ranks to become acting resort manager... This young man goes out of his way to ensures guests demands are met thus setting an example for the rest of the staff...

The Dive Operations managed by Steven is smooth run with virtually no hiccups... If you guys want an extremely good dive master, this gentleman is the one you would want to seek out...

Having said that Lianah, Amanda , Tony, Emily, Alistar, Maadil, and the rest of DM's here are equally familiar with the islands and all you have to do is tell them what you want to see... Underwater of course!!!

Siti and the gang from F & B dept ensure thet guest have more than enough food throughout the day... Lum, the resident Chef has upgrade his culinary skills... new dishes have been introduced to the buffet line and the dessert cart has additions too..

The rooms are still as comfy as ever but on this trip the room that was given to me had problems with the air-conditioning and the shower....

i have many changes over the last 2 years in BDMR and its been all for the good...

i wouldn't hesitate to recommend BDMR to all of you... 5 visits there speaks for it's self!

Keep up the good work guys!!!

  • Stayed: November 2009, travelled as a couple
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3  Thank Beardivers
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 30 September 2009

This is the dive vacation for my husband and I 6 motnhs after our vacation in Palau in Feb.

Diving in Asia is fantastic. We have been to El Nido in Philippines, Manado in Indonesian and Palau in Micronesia. All were extraordinary without any complain. Though the price for these 3 places are very different, still all places are value for the moeny we paid.

We decided to go Sipadan in the very last minute, though is still talking about 2 weeks before departure. Our priority for the resort is Smart Resort or Kapalai Resort. Both were fully booked. Borneo was the only one they have room available. And now I know why they have room available.

Before departure my husband took a look of the reviews in tripadvisor, we are frequent user of tripadvisor. He found only 1 bad comment on Borneo so he thinks this reosrt should be alright. But I have to tell you, Thames Valley John is the only one who tells the truth! I cannot rate any start to this resort, because it is not a hotel at all! It is only a guest house!

Everything is minimal. Room is basically clean but the bathroom is a drama. When we have a look of the toilet we first came in, the water in the toilet is all dark! I didn't know what it is and I didn't want to guess, so I flushed the toilet immediately. Then we tried to take a shower, but the water came out from the shower was minimal! It was like rain drop from the sky! So usually it took us 30 minutes to finish a shower while normally we need 15 minutes.
The water heater was out of order during my whole stay. The first night I found out that it didn't work, I went to the reception to ask for help. The girl said to me there is a switch in the room may be I didn't turn it off. So I checked and confirmed to that the switch is on and tried on the second night. It worked for 3 second and then was out again! Diring I was having dinner, one of the staff was nice and came to me to ask if everything is alright. I didn't complain a lot and told him just the water heater and asked him if anyone could fix it for me. Of course, at the end of the day nobody cares and I washed with cold water for the whole trip!

Choice and quality, minimal. They have everything you need in a meal - meat, vegetable, carbohydrate (rice and bread) and soup.....and that is! This is not we expected for a vacation because we are not students anymore and we the money we paid is not for youth hostel! And I guess because of religious reason, we can only have chicken and lamb. No pork. And my husband does not eat lamb. For several nights they served only lamb, my husband has nothing to eat!!!

Compare to other resorts we have been, the organization is also minimal. After a 1.5 hours car ride and then 50 minutes of rough sea ride, we arrived the resort immediately. Then, we were not even allowed to go back to our room, we have to start the first dive immediately! I was shocked by this arrangement because I am a beginner I was not well prepared for diving after a long ride. The first dive turned out to be not enjoyable. I felt like I am a student in the school!

Sipadan has a policy to restrict the number of divers everyday. Basically you will have at least 1 day to dive there. I will say it is good. But in the days after , the dives were not good because of low visibility. Most of all is the problem of dive master. As John said, the briefing is very little. The DM didn't ask me where we want to go and what you want to see even he was with the same group of people for 3 days! From my experience, the DM will discuss with divers to go a place where everybody would like to go after several dives. He never communicated with us. The worst case is on the last day, we were lucky to have a sunny day and good visibility, we had good coral dives in the morning. But suddenly he brought us to artificial in the afternoon near Kapalai where there was nothing to see! There are thousands of kilometers of corals in this island we totall didn't understand why he brought us to this stuff and destroyed our last dive here.

Staff are basically friendly. But I feel that they are having vacation with us, not working there. There is a TV room in the resort. One afternoon after diving my husband tried to watch some sports programms in the TV room. When we stepped in, there were 2 staff there watching a movie channel. My husband was polite and asked them if there is any sports channel available here. The girl said yes but she didn't leave or change the channel. I think in this guest house, they don't know who is the guet and who has the priority to use the service.

All in all, Sipadan is a good place for diving. But you should find a right place to stay.

  • Stayed: September 2009, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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6  Thank Chanelno19
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 25 September 2009

This is going to be a bit of a mixed review so I will split it into sections

Accommodation: the bedrooms are simple and adequate for 2 persons. The beds are comfy and clean. The bathrooms are a disgrace. Small with dirty, cracked or missing tiles. Toilets are unstable with poorly fitted seats. No hot tap for the sink. The power shower is not and the water that comes out smells. The drain from the shower drops out under the floor and is not properly plumbed in. The air conditioning does not cover the bathroom and at midday cannot cope with cooling the bedroom. The doors don’t fit properly and this does not help with dealing with the insects that bite at night.

Food: not good. Poorly made and very limited. I lost weight whilst at the resort. The bread is so sweet that it is barely edible. The food improved dramatically once a party of Americans and representatives from National Geographic arrived suggesting that improvements were possible. Beer, on the expensive side and you need to shop around to get a cold one.

Staff: the staff on site really do their best with the limited recourses they have. Problems that can be solved are and those that need investment are not. Everybody is pleasant, happy and determined to look after the guests if they can. Amin who runs the dive centre is a diamond. Luggage and kit is moved around by the staff and they want to help you have a nice time.

Diving: very different from all other centres I have been to. The style is very laid back. The divemasters look after guests by assembling equipment and leading them on dives and they know their sites very well. Briefings are very short and less than cursory. If you are a competent diver who knows their stuff this laid back approach will suit you and if you need your hand holding you are going to be less happy. All dives have a current element to them and this increases the amount of large animals you see. Maldives divers will love it and those who don’t like current diving wont. Diving on Sipadan is outstanding and is one long firework display. Diving on Mabul is rubbish with poor vis and little to photograph. Sleep with who you have to but get to Sipadan but the system is a lottery and luck matters. I was lucky others were not.

  • Stayed: September 2009, travelled with friends
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3  Thank ThamesValleyJohn
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 25 August 2009

Turn up with a chilled expectation to what you're going to get and you'll have a great time. I was there at the same time as the reviewer complaining about the preferential treatment of the Australian Group. They didn't dive Sipadan everyday as was suggested.

Yes, it's quite expensive, but it was basically the same as the other resorts. If you want something cheaper, stay in Semporna, but you WILL regret it.

We only got to dive Sip on one day, which was disappointing, but we did do 4 dives on that day. Diving around Mabul itself was surprisingly good. [I say this a diving instructor, myself, with 700+ dives logged]

The best advice is to make sure that Borneo Divers have your dive qualifications and passport details well in advance. They can't allocate anthing without these.

The accommodation was clean, the food OK. I don't recall leftovers being re-served. There was always something to eat and drink. Beer was expensive, but no more or less than anywhere else in the major towns.

There aren't many resorts or places that you will see turtles during a check dive, virtually on the shore.

Go for it, but plan and book as far ahead as you can to improve your chances of Sip diving.

  • Stayed: August 2009, travelled as a couple
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2  Thank Speedos70
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 23 August 2009

My wife and I stayed there for 5D4N recently.

We regretted choosing Borneo Divers from the moment we checked in and the experience got worse as the stay progressed. BDMR is supposedly one of the more established operators in Mabul/Sipadan but it was clear to us that owner Clement Lee has not ploughed any of the profits he has made from raping dive-tourists over the years (c'mon! the RM1,200-1,800 per night would get u luxury options in other Malaysian beach resorts eg Penang, Langkawi etc. EVEN after adjusting for the food+diving costs) into improving the experience for his guests. A good example of the owners' stinginess are the sofas in the reception area that probably date from 10+ yrs ago.

Effectively the Sipdan/Mabul accommodation market is an oligopoly amongst the 4-5 major resorts operating the area. As a Malaysian, I am honestly ashamed at how these companies have chosen to exploit it with their exorbitant pricing (relative to quality/service) and BDMR is my guess the worst of the lot, judging from our experience there.

General comments / complaints - only skimming the surface here....

- Accommodation was 1-2* quality (despite 5* price) - basic and unclean. Beds were old, mattresses soft and toilets moldy. Housekeeping was kept to bare minimum
- Food quality ranged from poor to mediocre. The kitchen used lousy grade ingredients and often served leftovers over multiple meals. FYI, seafood and fresh produce is actually very cheap in Tawau/Sampoerna and we were shocked at the lengths BDMR went to cut corners on the menu...dessert was a laugh and they offer only the cheapest fruit like watermelons/pineapple
- Sipadan permit system was clearly subject to influence (we managed to get 1 day but other guests got more trips or none with no clear rhyme or reason). We spoke to several of the staff about this and no one gave us a straight answer
- On the last day we were there, there was a group of 11 *VIP* guests (supposedly dive shop operators from Aust on a survey trip) and the preferential treatment was blatantly obvious - they got to dive Sipadan every day and our dinner spread improved a notch that particular evening :)
- Bar did not have a working fridge - Coke and beers were lukewarm when served..most times even ice was not available(!)
- Service quality overall was terrible but staff were generally polite when approached
- Dive rental equipment was dated esp the wetsuits

On a separate note, the diving was generally good, but that had nothing to do with the resort. They had great Divemasters though, which at least helped to save the day as far as our diving experience was concerned.

in summary - BDMR SUCKS BIG TIME - I would say consider all other options before you go with them.

  • Stayed: August 2009, travelled as a couple
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12  Thank jin_cin
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Borneo Divers Mabul Resort

Address: Mabul Island, Pulau Sipadan, Malaysia
Region: Malaysia > Sabah > Semporna District > Pulau Sipadan
Bar / Lounge Beach Free Breakfast Restaurant Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #4 of 5 Hotels in Pulau Sipadan
Number of rooms: 30
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Located in the East Coast of Sabah, just off the coastline of Mabul Island, Borneo Divers Mabul Resort is passionate in showcasing the best of Borneo’s beautiful and lush marine life to the world. Mabul is arguably one of the richest single destinations for exotic small marine life anywhere in the world. The reef is on the edge of the continental shelf and the seabed surrounding the reef slopes out to a depth of 25 to 30m. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Borneo Divers Mabul Island Hotel Pulau Sipadan

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