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Mabul Behind Closed Doors

Figure 1 Early morning awakening at Mabul

What is Mabul's biggest draw? I asked a friend who had been to the island a few years ago.

"Oh it's simply one of the most beautiful islands in Sabah, perfect for snorkeling and diving", she exclaimed.

It was a rather stereotypical answer one would get when asked about any island around the world, so what exactly sets it apart from the rest?

The sun was up at 5.30am and as planned, we headed to the terminal jetty in Semporna in search of our boat to Mabul island. Finding the perfect lodge at the 11th hour was not an easy task considering the popularity of the island especially amongst Chinese tourists, so we were considered lucky to have found Big John Scuba by recommendation of a friend.

Figure 2 After 45 minutes on a rocky boat, a blue roofed wooden stilt house began to loom as the boat moored to the pier side.

We hopped off the boat and climbed up the wooden staircase towards the main verandah. Although the room facilities are rather basic, it was built with the comfort of the visitors in mind. Since water supply to the island is scarce, another rule of thumb is that fresh water is only operable from 6 to 7pm with sea water running through the pipes the rest of the day, which is luxury enough as other budget lodges don't even provide fresh water.

Figure 3 When it comes to water activities, Big John provides 3 snorkeling/dives per day with other water sports such as kayaking as well as diving courses certified by PADI. This is the open deck where the equipments are kept.

We began our first leg of snorkeling at Kapalai which is roughly about 15 minutes away from the lodge. I looked below and there it was, the bountiful corals that had kept the waters alive with discernible color, shape and character, balancing each other to achieve that tender balance in the marine world. We finally caught sight of a sea turtle and it swam towards the sea bed and rested for a few minutes before disappearing again into the deep waters out of sight.

Figure 4 The one and only Mabul sea turtle.

Figure 5 Sea turtle seen resting at the sea bed.