Tawau is a city on the southern coast of Sabah, very close to the border to Indonesia. It dates back to the 1890s, when the area was first settled, and quickly developed into a centre for the export of agricultural products of the region. Nowadays Tawau is the world’s third largest producer of cocoa after the Ivory Coast and Ghana. While Tawau is a pleasant town and has a large number of hotels and restaurants, it does not offer much in term of tourist attractions. Most notable is the Al-Kauthar mosque, completed in 2004. The airport of Tawau, which has direct connections to KL, is the closest airport to Semporna and the Malaysian Celebes sea islands.
Mabul is a small island off the south-eastern coast of Sabah in Malaysia. The island has been a fishing village since 1970s. Then in 1990s, it first became popular to divers due to its proximity to Sipadan island.
Mabul is arguably one of the richest single destinations for exotic small marine life anywhere in the world. Flamboyant cuttlefish, blue-ringed octopus, mimic octopus and bobtail squids are just a few of the numerous types of cephalopods to be found on Mabul’s reef. The sight of harlequin shrimp feeding on sea stars and boxer crabs waving their tiny anemone pom-poms are just a small example of the endless species of crustaceans. Many types of gobies can be found including the spike-fin goby, black sail-fin goby and metallic shrimp goby. Frogfish are everywhere. Giant, painted and clown frogfish are all regularly seen. Moray eels and snake eels of many types can be seen along with almost the whole scorpionfish family. It would be quicker to to list the species not found at Mabul-crazy critters are in abundance at this magical macro site!
Sipadan is a legend in diving circles and with good reason. It is located at the heart of the Indo-Pacific basin, one of the richest marine habitats in the world; where over 3,000 species of fish and hundreds of coral species have been identified. Apart from its supreme location, the island and the dive sites that surround it are filled with spectacular natural formations such as a 600m reef wall and a labyrinth of underwater limestone caves, where many turtles have met their doom.
The tiny island can be circled on foot in less than half an hour, but offers at least nine established dive sites with enchanting names like Hanging Garden, Turtle patch, White-tip Avenue, Coral Garden and Barracuda point.
Although diving is the main attraction of Sipadan, non-divers are welcome to join the diving boats to go snorkelling in Sipadan. Those that want to start exploring the depths can even complete a four day PADI diving course or a one day Discover Scuba Diving course, offered by all the dive centres on the island.