Wednesday, July 25, 2012

De-stressing in Mataking Island, Semporna

Day 3 of Semporna Trip

From Mabul Island we went back to semporna and spent our third and fourth day there. On the third day, we went for a daytrip to Mataking island. It caused us RM 142 for the return boat transfer, snorkeling equipment, tax to enter the island (RM2 for local) and yes it was inclusive of lunch =). We were lucky that the dive agent had provided a guide for snorkeling as we found that other dive agency do not do that. Mataking was breathtakingly pristine and beautiful. it was a secluded island with only a resort occupying a small corner of it. Therefore, it was so quiet and tranquil. We had fun learning to snorkel for the first time.  
Waiting to collect our snorkeling equipment
We joined a boat heading to Mataking island together with 12 other tourists/snorkeling/diving enthusiasts. On the way to Mataking we passed by other equally majestic islands, Bodgaya and Timba Timba. Semporna is truly blessed with some of the most beautiful islands in Malaysia. Mataking loomed ahead in twin splendor, Mataking Besar and Mataking Kecil separated only by a thin strip of sandy bar. Amazing indeed!!. 
Far left- Mataking kecil, on the right- Mataking besar
Mataking resort, the sole hotel  and accommodation here
Gorgeous blue-green waters of the island with smooth sandy beach framed with  lush tropical forest
Lone snorkeler
secluded paradise
Thus, we ended our third day basking under the sun, swimming and snorkeling and came back to our hotel in Semporna feeling a little seasick. The next morning we were up at about 5.30am and were out of the hotel by 6.30 to take snapshots of the small fisherman town that is Semporna.
the jetty was already a hive of activity
The  town mosque  in the background- Semporna's population is of Muslim  majority
vege and fruits, owwh so colourful
the ever friendly people of Semporna-at the market
Then its time to say goodbye to Semporna. It was such a fulfilling trip, lovely islands, a boon for photography lovers, snorkelers as well as divers. It was made even more memorable by the people of Semporna. 

What to buy as souveniers and where to buy?
  • There's a lot of pearl jewelry being sold, its reasonably priced.
  • Shells are cheaper in Semporna compared to Mabul but the variety is less.
  • The only souvenier shop that had everything and allowed bargain was at Dragon inn (T-shirts RM 25-35, keychains RM 2 each, cheaper if you take more, pearl bracelets ~ RM 20).
  • T-shirts are also being sold in Tawau airport and there is more variety here too (price is not bad, RM 30-35).

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


After 6 months of planning and anticipation, me and my friend arrived at Tawau airport from LCCT KL, at 10am under a slightly rainy sky. We were pleasantly surprised to see our hotel rep was waiting for us and we did not waste time waiting at all. I had booked the accommodation at Mabul Island with Billabong Scuba and had arranged for airport transfer. Our journey started from Tawau airport to Semporna and it took an hour's drive through stretches of oil palm trees and village houses.

Tawau airport
Journey by cab from airport to Semporna- narrow roads, green all the way
We arrived at Billabong Scuba's office in Semporna and waited for transfer to jetty. The jetty was rickety and was missing a few planks here and there. For one moment, me and my friend thought we were about to be kidnapped as the guys who came to fetch us were two scrawny kids and we were the only passengers in a remote jetty.=) They were awfully nice and  we had a really nice boat trip to Mabul. The island from afar seemed unassumingly quiet with lots of wooden thatched houses cloistered close. 

Our lodge at Mabul, lovely wooden houses perched atop amazing green waters of Mabul
Our lodge was simple and clean but it was nothing fancy. It was fairly a good price to pay for a 2 day 1 night stay in Mabul when compared to other expensive accommodation in Mabul (Sipadan Water Village and Sipadan-Mabul Resort@SMART) and caused us RM 240 accomodation plus one way airport transfer, two way boat trip and food. The first day at Mabul, we walked around the island and explored the sandy beach. Snorkeling in Mabul is free and you only need to pay for the equipment. However we neither bathed nor snorkeled as most travellers who come here use Mabul as a place to put up for their diving trip to sister islands of Kapalai and Sipadan. We found the island to be a bit crowded as fishermen and their family were living there. Nevertheless, I found Mabul lovely and a must go. The water of Mabul is so crystel clear and you can see fishes swimming beneath the lodge and starfish lounging underwater in a carefree manner.

cloudy sky 

starfish spotted
Some parts of Mabul were so picture perfect that it left us astounded. The sky, the water, and the village environment was just out of this world. There were another part where we found poverty was so striking, the village of Bajau laut people, it was heartbreaking to see. While walking on the beach near the village some children approached us asking for money. We had to turn them down and they just looked so forlorn and sad. Otherwise, everybody in the island, be it old man, young child had a smile for us and a greeting. It was just so heartwarming. 

children of Mabul
Sunset at Mabul
Fishermen coming in with their catch
Lone boat treading the shallow waters during low tide
Paradise- Mabul island
Tips to enjoy your holiday:

  • Bring a book along, there's nothing to do but to relax and enjoy walking around the island
  • You can ask for a guide to go for a walk around the island
  • Book in advance
  • Bring extra money to get those beautiful shells being sold in Mabul
  • There's no electricity from early morning till 5pm (but its cool in the island)