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Sabah, Malaysia

Mabul Dives

The Celebes Sea offers an wonderful opportunity for curious divers to get close to turtles, colorful coral, whitetip sharks and even a shipwreck! If you are a licensed diver, bring your GoPro and enjoy the magic. If you are seeking to get certified, our providers offer PADI certification courses for you to get certified in the Celebes' colorful waters


The diving takes place on the islands around Semporna, which includes the idyllic Mabul Island. To get to Semporna you need to arrive overland either from the Tawau airport which is about an hour away (which can be reached by flight from a few major city airports in Malaysia) or overland from within Borneo by bus transfer. Dive sites are reached via boat transfer in less than an hour from the Semporna jetty. The providers will provide water transport from Semporna jetty.

Diving requires for safety reasons that either an instructor or dive master be present during all dives, whether leisure or course.

Most of the time diving is not a strenuous activity, and only requires low levels of fitness particularly in tropical waters. However, you should be a moderately strong swimmer and be of moderate fitness level in case the currents are strong on the day of your dive. If you are looking to obtain a PADI licence, you should be able to swim 200m. On a slightly separate note, please note that it is not advisable to fly for at least 18 hours after completing several dives as this may cause decompression sickness so please do plan your travel accordingly!

You can dive in Sabah all year round, however visibility can be slightly lower during monsoon season from November to March.

The activity usually starts at approximately 8am and ends between 4-5pm on the same day (depending on the option chosen).

The dive providers each have different types of PADI certification so do choose one that suits your requirements best. We find the different types of certification confusing too so we have included a brief explanation below which will hopefully be helpful to you.

PADI Five Star Dive Centers embrace the PADI System of diver education and offer regular continuing education programs to ensure divers have the opportunity to advance their skills and knowledge.

PADI Five Star Instructor Development Centers (IDCs) are dive centers that meet all PADI Five Star Dive Center standards, plus offer PADI instructor-level training. As well as educating recreational divers, Five Star IDCs offer PADI Instructor Development Courses and continuing education opportunities to dive professionals.

PADI 5 Star Career Development Center (CDC) classification is awarded to PADI Five Star IDCs that dedicate their businesses to professional development for dive instructors. These dive shops meet the highest requirements for training PADI Professionals.

This depends on which option you choose.
One day Leisure dives (for already certified divers): this will comprise of two to three boat dives of around 45 minutes each for certified divers, accompanied by a dive master.

2 day Advanced Open Water Certification (for already certified divers): this is a 2 day course for divers already holding an Open Water licence to advance their skills through 5 adventure dives (2 are mandatory - deep and underwater navigation dives) and descending to a depth of 30m.

3 day Open Water Certification (for beginners): this is a 3 day course for beginners looking to get certified in diving and gain basic familiarity with equipment and diving skills through confined and 4 open water dives of up to 18m deep. Please note that the first day will be a classroom theory session which will require you to pass a test on the equipment, safety measures and other information that divers are required to be aware of.

Swimwear
Towel
Ankle socks (as fins can rub on the back of your ankles)
Personal toiletries
Sunblock
Flip flops
(If you're diving for more than a day, you may like to bring two sets of swimwear, towels and ankle socks so that you will have a dry set at any time)

Stop by Fat Mom's Restaurant for great local Chinese food while staying in Semporna.

If you are looking for a place to stay, one of the best places we've found in Semporna is Aloha Hostel. It has cool Star Wars like pods, which are very cozy and make you feel like you are helming a space ship while you sleep.

Please note that all prices exclude Malaysian Tourism tax of RM10 per room per night. This only applies to non-homestay and non-dormitory accommodation.

Regarding diving and flying: Please make sure that you leave sufficient time after diving before you take a flight. After a single dive, you should make sure you have at least 18 hours before taking a flight and after a series of dives you should have at least 24 hours.