Friday, April 21, 2017

Things To Do In Bario

Bario Things To Do

If you are planning to travel to one of the best natural places in Sarawak, here is a list of things to do in Bario for those heading here. Located in the Kelabit Highlands, in the north of Sarawak, Bario is home to the Kelabit people who have been living here for centuries. The absolute beauty about this highland town is that it is located 14 hours by road and 45 minutes by flight from Miri city. 

Bario is well known for their highland rice, salt and pineapples, but due to the remoteness of this amazing place, there is much to do here. What you won't find here are shopping malls, hotels, restaurants or any other modern day city or town facility. This place is one of the most original villages in Sarawak and Malaysia. 

To get to Bario, the best possible way is to take a flight from Miri city and  there are only three flights a day here. The type of aircraft used is a turbo prop 19 seat Twin Otter plane, operated by MAS Wings. The journey here is another adventure as the plane flies up to around 8500 meters, so you have a beautiful view of the rainforest, hills and mountains along the way. So, what are the things to do in this unspoiled place? Read on.
One of the scenic landscapes in Bario
Things To Do In Bario
Below is a list of things to do in Bario, catered to just about anyone who plans to visit this amazing highlands. You should also check with the homestay operator about the activities that you want to do as they can arrange for it.

Most of the things can be done on your own, but some of them require a local guide, especially trekking or hiking around the highlands. Please note that most of these activities are paid separately when you are there as the main packages cover the food and accommodations. Unless you pre-arrange the Bario package with the activities.
Bario Trekking
Trekking in Bario takes you through an amazing experience
1. Trekking in Bario
The best thing one can do is trekking in Bario as there are so many beautiful treks available here. There are simple and basic treks to advance treks depending on the level you require. The beauty about trekking in Bario is that the weather is so cooling, you most likely won't break a sweat while trekking. Some treks are short and simply but the rewards at the end of the trek is pretty nice. Below are a list of popular trekking places in Bario;
  • Korea Hill Trek - Easy (10-15 minutes)
  • Prayer Mountain Trek - Medium to Hard (45-60 minutes)
  • Pineapple Farm Trek - Easy (10-15 minutes)
  • Penan Village Trek - Easy (20-30 minutes)
  • Bario Salt Factory Trek - Easy (15-20 minutes)
  • Pa Ukat Village Trek - Easy (15-30 minutes)
  • Pa Lungan Village Trek - Medium to Hard (4-5 hours)
  • Pulong Tau National Park Trek - Medium to Hard (3-5 Hours)
  • Bario to Bakelalan Trek - Hard (1-2 days)
2. Visit a Kelabit Longhouse in Bario
There are a few traditional longhouses found in the Bario areas and some of them are still in the original statuses. Since 2016, some of the traditional Kelabit longhouses have started charging a small fee, around RM 3.00 to RM 5.00 per person to visit the longhouse. One of the most popular long houses is no other than Bario Asal Long House.
Longhouse in Bario
Inside Bario Asal Longhouse, the first longhouse here
3. Bario Salt Factory
Actually, this is more of a local homegrown center where local families take turns to process and produce the famous Bario Salt. You need to trek in for about 10 to 15 minutes before you arrive at a shed where the salt is processed and made. A guide is required to bring you here and you can see how the Bario Salt is made and you can also purchase it directly from those making it there. If it rains, the trek can be quite muddy, so take note on this.
Bario Cycling Mountain Biking
Cycling in Bario, one of the many things to do here
4. Cycling in Bario
Personally, I enjoy doing this the best. Most homestays in Bario offer mountain bike rentals, therefore you can use them to explore this highland village. The roads are very safe here and there is little to no traffic. Cycling can be done individually or in families and there is no available map, so it is pure exploration. See highland paddy fields, traditional Kelabit longhouses, churches and many other natural landscapes while you cycle around Bario.

5. Bird Watching in Bario
One of the lesser known bird watching places in Malaysia is no other than Bario. But for those who plan to do some bird watching in Bario, you are in luck as there are quite a number of montane birds to be spotted all over this place. A simple walk around Bario would easily net you 10 to 20 birds and when you go for bird watching treks, you will see much more.

Even the famous Dulit Frogmouth was once spotted just out of Bario. There are a couple of bird watching guides in Bario and one of them is Scott Apoi from Nigmat Ayu Homestay. Personally, I have visited Bario five times in the last three years and I can say that I have spotted over 50 species of birds around here.
Bario Birding
Bird Watching in Bario is highly popular among the birders
6. Experiencing the Kelabit Culture in Bario
Nothing beats learning and understanding the Kelabit culture in Bario and one of the best times to do this is during the Pesta Nukenan or Bario Food Festival , held usually in August every year. However, the locals can arrange a traditional Kelabit dinner complete with a traditional Kelabit cultural dance at one of the long houses.

7. Walking around Bario 
One of the best things you can do is take a walk around Bario, which is relatively easy and there is little or no traffic around here. The best time to do this is also in the mornings, where you see the locals going about their daily chores. In the evenings, it is equally beautiful as children would be seen playing and locals heading home for dinner. The beauty about walking around Bario is that everything is natural and the picturesque landscapes are incredibly beautiful.

8. Visiting a Penan Village in Bario
For those who are into hiking, there are actually two authentic Penan villages found around Bario. While the Penan people are not very hospitable, you can actually engage one of the local Bario guides and trek to their villages. This is purely to visit and observe, that is all. In most cases, it would be hard to communicate as the Penan tribe here are quite reserve and shy. Again, this is purely by luck and you should consult in your guide about this.
Bario Art Gallery
Jungle Blues Dream Art Gallery in Bario
9. Visit an Art Gallery in Bario
Yes, there is an art gallery in Bario run by artist Stephen and his wife. The beauty about this art gallery in Bario is that it is located in a traditional Kelabit longhouse here. The gallery is also shared with a unique homestay and combined, it is called the Jungle Blues Dream Gallery and Homestay. Artworks are all created and painted by Stephen and put on display around the homestay and gallery.

10. Visit the Bario Plane Wreckage of World War II
An almost well preserved plane wreckage is found in Bario where the RAF plane crashed here in 1964. The plane is in three pieces minus the wings and interior, so you will see a full bodied structure and you can actually go inside the plane. This plane is also a Scottish Aviation Twin Pioneer CC.1 aircraft, Registration XP294. You should be careful of the sharp metal edges when doing so.

The Bario plane wreckage is located by a local homestay called Nancy Hariss Homestay. The story of the plane crash in Bario is that the Twin Pioneer skidded while trying to land on a wet runway. It ran into a ditch, causing the undercarriage leg to collapse. For aviation fans, this would be quite interesting, otherwise, a great photo opportunity.
Plane Crash Bario
Bario Plane Wreckage
11. Visit the War Memorial of Bario
A small war memorial was erected in Bario to commemorate the soldiers and parachuters during the war. Names of the soldiers include Australians, British and local Kelabit people. The Bario War Memorial is located five minutes walk from the main town area and is hard to miss. It is enclosed in a fenced area with a wooden gate and anyone can go in there.

12. Visit the mini Bario Museum
A new structure was erected in the main town area for the Bario Food Festival in 2015 and now serves as a mini museum of Bario. However, there are no items on display but more information on the Kelabit people and also important information about the highlands and its unique megaliths found here.

13. Catch a Bario Sunset
The best place to see a sunset in Bario is no other that Bukit Korea, a hill located behind the main town center. In between the two row of shops, lies a walk way near the old Bario community center. There is a path that leads up a small hill where you pass a mini pineapple farm and only a 10 minute easy walk up. Once up there, you will see a wooden hut and this is the spot to catch the sunset. Timing wise, best to go up at around 5.00 PM to catch the stunning scenery from up the hill. The sun sets at around 6.30 PM too.
Batu Ritung Bario
The unique Bario Megalith or Batu Ritung in Pa Lungan Village
14. Visit the Bario Megalithic Structures
One of the mysteries of Bario are the many megalithic structures found around Bario. The most famous being Batu Ritong which is found at Pa Umor village, 3-5 hours trek from Bario. Batu Ritong stands at about 7 feet high and the two ton slab is supported by two other vertical slabs. No one seems to know how it was erected or why it was. However, there are many folktales that the guides will share with you. When I was in Bario in 2014, I met some university students who were in Bario to study the megalithic structures, and on asking them how many were there, it was estimated at 300, but only a handful were known.
Kelabit Food
Kelabit Food in Bario, very unique and different.
15. Try the Kelabit Food
This is hands down the most unique experience where you will be guaranteed to try the Kelabit food when you stay in Bario. One of the most organice food experience I have had during my travels, the local Bario food is all farmed, rared, caught or hunter. Vegetables are farmed or taken from the wild, fish is caught from the local ponds and game meat is hunted by the locals.

If there is one food type that anyone visiting Sarawak should try, it is the Kelabit Food. The way it is prepared is handed down from generation to generation and is cooked traditionally. If you have the opportunity, do ask for the local porridge or 'Kikid'. For Muslim travelers, it could be a challenge for you, but there is one shop in Bario town that serves Halal food.
Map of Bario Villages
Map of Bario, showing the various villages around here
In general, the best time to visit Bario is from December to February or in August for the Pesta Nukenan Bario or Bario Food Festival. The food festival will see the entire Bario come alive with visitors from all the surrounding villages, who participate here for this weekend event.

You can see local traditional games being played while for foodies, this is the ultimate food experience where you can taste many different types of highland cuisine. Very unique and highly recommended for any food traveller.
Nigmat Ayu Homestay
Nigmat Ayu Homestay in Bario seen from the paddy field
Bario is not your regular tourist destination, but it is a very unique cultural experience that is located high in the highlands of Sarawak Borneo. Me, as the writer, have been here five times in the last three years and my last trip in March 2017. I never get tired of this place as once I arrive here, I am disconnected from the modern world and go back to how things were, without modernization. You can also read about my journey to the Bario Highlands in Sarawak, which I wrote in 2015.

For anyone wanting something different when you visit Sarawak or Malaysia, I would easily recommend you explore this unique highlands. Perhaps, the list of Things To Do In Bario will also make it easier for your visit here and if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me anytime. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Horizon Village Outlets (HVO)

Horizon Village Outlets Sepang

Another factory outlet in Malaysia called Horizon Village Outlets (HVO) Sepang, will be opening in mid 2018 at Sepang in Selangor. This adds the number of factory outlets in Malaysia to six where the latest Genting Premium Outlets or GPO is scheduled to open in mid to late 2017. 

Horizon Village Outlets Malaysia will feature 150 retail lots in a luxurious European architecture open styled area of 400,00 square feet and is located about 10 kilometers north of KLIA and KLIA 2 in Sepang. The massive factory outlet in Sepang is also being built in the Serenia City township by Sime Darby Group. 

The closest factory outlet in Sepang to Horizon Village Outlets is also Mitsui Outlet Park which is located along the way to the international airports. This will be quite interesting as there will be two outlets in a 10 kilometer radius and will offer a good variety of choices to travelers and also local shoppers.
Horizon Village Outlets Malaysia
Artist Impression of Horizon Village Outlets (HVO) (Photo by HVO)
Horizon Village Outlets Sepang

The tenants will include well known international brands where a quota of 30% is expected for this. The balance will be catered towards other local brands, food, beverage and entertainment outlets. Currently, there are no super luxury brands mentioned but the international brands include;
  • Kate Spade
  • Michael Kors
  • La Martina
  • Victoria’s Secret
  • Giuseppe Zanotti
  • Tory Burch, Tumi
  • Swiss Watch Gallery
Artisan Village HVO

An Artisan Village will also be the highlight of HVO where they plan to showcase a variety of art, culture and design from all over Malaysia. There will be Malaysian handicraft products and also Malaysian culinary delights that will be something different from the other factory outlets in Malaysia. This unique Artisan Village project is steered to create a unique Malaysian experience, especially for foreigners or travelers visiting HVO.
Sepang Horizon Village Outlets
Horizon Village Outlets Malaysia (Photo by HVO)
Festival Village HVO

A food and beverage section called Festival Village will also be showcasing the unique culinary tastes of Malaysia. Restaurants and cafes serving Malaysian or fusioned-Malaysian foods will be the highlights here. The Festival Village target is to provide a unique customer experience for shoppers who visit HVO, and most importantly, the Malaysian experience.
Malaysia Horizon Village Outlets HVO
Artist impression of Horizon Village Outlets Sepang (Photo by HVO)
Architectural Design of Horizon Village Outlet

According to architects Adam & Associates, they are creating an unique experience for shoppers in the design of this factory outlet. They were quoted in a brochure stating; 
Horizon Village Outlets (HVO) is designed to exceed customers’ expectations and deliver an unrivalled outlet shopping experience. The racetrack circulation design was specifically developed by the architects, Adam & Associates, and has been proven to encourage intuitive wayfinding by the shoppers. It means that the visitor flow is maximised so that each and every shop will have excellent visibility and foot trac. HVO will have the benefit of seven entry points and a corridor width designed to optimize cross-corridor shopping. When combined with the multiple access points and crosscorridor optimization, the racetrack design will maximise the exposure and convenience to the shoppers for all store locations.
Layout of Horizon Village Outlets Malaysia
Layout plan of Horizon Village Outlets (Photo by HVO)
Horizon Village Outlets (HVO) Address:
Directions: Intersection of the Elite Highway and Putrajaya-Cyberjaya Expressway
Map of HVO: Google Maps
GPS Coordinates: 2.840383, 101.697934
Website: www.hvo.com.my

Adding to the list of Factory Outlets in Malaysia, this will surely put Malaysia back on the tourism map as one country with multiple factory outlets. Currently, Malaysia is aiming to hit a target of 31 million visitors for the year of 2017 and with the opening of these factory outlets, and also the right marketing strategy, it should not be a problem.
Directions to Horizon Village Outlets HVO
Map to Horizon Village Outlets (Photo by HVO)
Genting Premium Outlets and Johor Premium Outlets are one of the strongest factory outlet brands that have been seeing a balanced turnout over the years while the others have been seeing more locals visiting them.

With Horizon Village Outlets opening in 2018, this will definitely provide travelers and those who enjoy shopping who are visiting Malaysia. The shopping concept will also work well for those who are on their way to the airports after spending time visiting Malaysia. As a traveler myself, I look forward to the opening of Horizon Village Outlets (HVO) in Sepang.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Cabin Zero Travel Bag Review

Cabin Zero Travel Bag Review

Over the years, I have used quite a number of travel bags which came in small, medium and large units and from time to time, I would have a favourite bag, until I met Cabin Zero. Usually, I travel for short to medium trips as I am not one of those world nomads who travel from country to country forever. I have done that over 25 years ago when travel was pure and original compared to nowadays, so this Cabin Zero travel bag review is to share my happiness in finding the perfect bag for all my travels. 

Currently, my travels take me around Malaysia and Southeast Asia, occasionally to Japan, Korea or even the Middle East, but my style of travel is usually a to-and-from trip without jumping from country to country. This makes it easier for me to bring either a backpack or check-in bag and backpack, depending on the duration on my trip.
Review Cabin Zero Travel Bag
Perfectly fitting into any airplane overhead luggage compartment
Also having to consider, most of my trips take me into the wilderness, especially for nature, flora and fauna, culture, bird watching or the general sightseeing. So, depending on who my client is, I need to consider what type of travel bag to bring along on my trips. 

Having said that, I always have a preferred travel bag which I use and on the last few years, I was using a sleek waterproof backpack, but to be honest, it was just normal, but practical. You see, I belong to the 40's club and  traveling at this age group, you need a real comfortable bag. This means, something easy to carry around and store on buses, trains or flights. 

Cabin Zero Travel Bags

In 2016, a fellow traveler had introduced me to this new travel bag brand, which was considered new in my region, called Cabin Zero and I thought little of it. So, as I got tired of my waterproof back pack, I got one of those massive 44 liter backpacks from Cabin Zero in the military green color, and when it arrived, I had a shock as to how huge it was. 

With a total weight of 950 grams, it looked really large and the whole concept of it being a aircraft friendly cabin bag really impressed me. Yes, this means that the bag can be brought into any commercial flight as cabin luggage, hence the name.
Malaysia Cabin Zero Bag
Yes, that is me at Bangkok's Don Muang Airport with my Cabin Zero Bag
Since using it in 2017, this has been my all time favourite bag that I travel with now. In March of 2017, I visited Tokyo in Japan for three days for a quick work trip and Cabin Zero was the only bag that I brought along. This was really hassle free as I did not have to wait for any checked in luggage, speeding up my airport check in process.

Then in late March, I visited Bario in Sarawak for four days to do some bird watching and trekking, and I used only my Cabin Zero bag for the entire trip. Everything I needed was packed neatly into the bag and I still had extra space, so I even put in my trekking shoes.

My next trip would be taking one of those Taman Negara tour packages where I will explore Malaysia's largest and oldest national park in the state of Pahang. This will see me exploring the rainforest, rivers and also trekking around the national park. Again, the Cabin Zero travel bag will be the perfect choice for my adventure here.
Cabin Zero Bag Shop in Malaysia
Cabin Zero Military 44L bags
Where to buy a Cabin Zero Bag in Malaysia? 
This is the big question being asked to me whenever someone meets me during my travels. Well, they do not have an official retail store here in Malaysia, but you can buy a Cabin Zero online from the official website.

What's So Special About Cabin Zero?
Each bag comes built in Global Luggage Tracker, powered by Okoban. That's pretty cool. And the shoulder straps are thick padded AirMesh which is really comfortable. The outer composite material is actually made from military spec nylon, the real hard stuff. So, I have been using the bag for a number of times and it still looks good.

Cabin Zero Warranty
Every Cabin Zero bag comes with a 10-year warranty, and to sweeten the deal, if you ‘like’ CabinZero on their official Facebook, they will increase the warranty to 25-years. Now, that's an awesome deal if you ask me.

At the end of the day, I am still using this bag for all my travels and so far, it has been a really good experience. As a seasoned traveler for the last 30 years, I have gone through many different travel bags, and this Cabin Zero travel bag review is one of the very rare articles I do for travel products. In other words, the bag is awesome and I am actually happy using it. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Disney Explorers Lodge

Disney Explorers Lodge Hong Kong

The all new Disney Explorers Lodge will be opened on 30th April 2017 and this will be the third resort hotel at Hong Kong Disneyland. This brand new hotel also comes complete with recreation, shopping, exquisite culinary adventures and Disney entertainment, making this the first adventure and leisure themed hotel in Hong Kong. 

The 750-room Disney Explorers Lodge gives the resort a grand total of 1,750 hotel rooms, which will greatly enhance the resort’s capability to accommodate more MICE business apart from the general holiday visitors heading to Hong Kong. This will also offer guests an ultimate vacation complete with their legendary service, amazing dining facilities and shopping amenities. 

Disney Explorers Lodge

So, what can one find at the new Disney Explorers Lodge in Hong Kong Disneyland? The following will highlight some of the unique features of the new resort which explores exotic cultures, destinations and more. 
Disney Explorers Lodge Lobby
The main lobby area of Disney Explorers Lodge
1. Disney Explorers
Guests can catch Mickey Mouse the explorer, Minnie Mouse the adventuress, Donald the bird-watcher and Goofy the pilot in the new hotel. There will also be more than 1,000 artifacts that explorers collected from around the world like Papua New Guinea, Costa Rica, Mali, Bali, Bolivia, the Ivory Coast and more are displayed throughout the hotel, in the lobby, guest rooms, dining venues, kids’ corner and various indoor and outdoor areas.

2. Exclusive Merchandise
Guests can collect their own memorabilia to remember their journey of “exploration and dreams” at The Trading Post. This is also a specially-designed merchandise store in the Disney Explorers Lodge, which stocks an extensive selection of merchandise with more than 20 exclusive items.
Disney Explorers Lodge Cafe
Inside the Chart Room Cafe
3. Epic Dining Adventures
In total, there are three new restaurants that offer epic dining adventures. In each of the restaurants, cuisine from different parts of the world is served, integrating various cultural elements with the Disney Explorers Lodge theme. These restaurants can cater to 500 guests in a single seating.
Disney Explorers Lodge Restaurant
World of Color Restaurant at Disney Explorers Lodge
Disney Explorers Lodge Restaurants
  • Dragon Wind - Decorated with a whimsical dragon kite, serves rural and classical provincial Chinese fare inspired by the five elements of traditional Chinese culture. Guests will be greeted by Disney friends in their brand-new explorer outfits daily during breakfast or lunch. 
  • World of Color Restaurant - Once an explorer’s art studio of botany and entomology, brings together the tastes of new and old worlds from far and wide.
  • Chart Room Cafe - This cafe features lighting fixtures that evoke constellations used in navigating voyages, is the place to kick back and enjoy specialty coffee, freshly made sandwiches, made-to-order pastas and homemade gelato.
Disney Explorers Lodge Dragon Wind
Dragon Wind Restaurant
4. Lush Themed Gardens
Four lush gardens frame the four wings of the seven-story Disney Explorers Lodge hotel, offering each hotel room either a refreshing view of the gardens or the open sea. The gardens, themed after the cultures of Asia, South America, Africa and Oceania, are named after beloved characters from Disney and Disney Pixar animated films who have drawn references from the regions. They are;
  • The South America-themed Kevin Garden is named after the giant bird in “Up”.
  • The Oceania-themed Little Squirt Garden celebrates the playful sea turtle from “Finding Nemo”. 
  • The Asia-themed Hathi Jr. Garden is named after the baby elephant from “The Jungle Book”. 
  • The African Savannah-themed Rafiki Garden features the wise mandrill from “The Lion King”.

Together with the Dreamer's Spring and the outdoor Rain Drop Pool, the hotel features incredible places to explore inside and out, making it ideal for resort guests to enjoy during a family visit, corporate event or a refreshing getaway from the city.
One of the themed rooms at Disney Explorers Lodge Resort
Staycation at Disney Explorers Lodge

With Disney Explorers Lodge launching, Hong Kong Disneyland Resort is the perfect “staycation” destination for guests. Guests can enjoy their stay in any of the three hotels with their family and friends. To mark the Disney Explorers Lodge grand opening, special offers will be available to guests, including park privileges with accommodations. Visit Disney Explorers Lodge for more information. 

Disney Explorers Lodge Promotions

Currently, there are some Disney Explorers Lodge promotions where guests may enjoy Play and Dine Ticket Combo including 1-Day tickets and a meal voucher, available from now until July 14, 2017. Travel trade partners booking for their guests for two consecutive nights or more at one of the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort hotels can enjoy the “2 Nights Plus Offer”, valid till December 20, 2017.

The above should be more than enough to entice anyone, including me to head back here for another visit. On my last trip to the Hong Kong Disneyland, it was in 2016 and we stayed at the Disney Hollywood Hotel which was a pretty amazing experience. One of the highlights during out stay was in fact the Disney Parade which is not to be missed. 
Disney Terruce Wang and Todd Richins
Adventure Mickey and Minnie flanked by Disney's Terruce Wang (Left) and Todd Richins (Right) 
Staying at any of the Hong Kong Disneyland hotels is probably the best thing any family should do as it is convenient to move around. If you stay in Hong Kong city area, it would take around one hour to get here with the MRT Train. You would also have to change trains to get here. We decided to stay at the resort as at that time in 2013, there were the new Hong Kong Disneyland rides and attractions opened. 

Anyone planning to visit the Hong Kong Disneyland this year should honestly consider staying at this new hotel as there will be lots to see and experience. Plus the Disney characters would also be in full swing, making appearances throughout the day at the new Disney Hollywood Hotel. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Diving at Mataking Island

Mataking Island Diving

Diving at Mataking Island is one of the best dive experiences I have had around Malaysia. While the dive sites here are pretty obscure and non-commercialized, it is truly one of the better dive sites in the entire Sabah. Well, when you put Sipadan Island aside of course. 

While Mataking Island is well known for being a honeymoon destination, diving at Mataking Island is totally out of this world. From the main photo, you can imagine how stunning the underwater landscape is. Wrecks, rich marine life, colourful coral landscapes, interesting wrecks, and the occasional large fish that come around here will complete any divers wishes and fancies.
Wreck Diving Mataking Island
The post office box on a wreck at Mataking Island
Diving at Mataking Island

Overall, the experience of visiting Mataking Island will allow you to relax as this place is quiet and away from the commercial areas of Semporna and Mabul Island. There is only one resort on the island which is the Mataking Reef Resort, a luxurious resort catering to middle and high end guests. 

When you book a package at the resort, diving can be included as one of the many activities offered here. Alternatively, you can also add on additional dives or even book a dive to Sipadan Island.  One of the unique diving experiences here is that they have an underwater post box. This means, you can write a postcard at the office, have it sealed in an underwater envelope and when you go diving, they will bring you to the underwater post box and you can post your letter to anyone in the world. How cool is that? 

For those who do not know how to dive and want to experience this, there is the Discover Scuba Diving or DSD available here. This amazing underwater experience lets you go to a maximum of five meters underwater under the supervision of a dive instructor.
Dive Photos of Mataking Island
Me diving at Mataking Island
Mataking Dive Sites

There are five common dive sites around Mataking Island and a total of 33 dive sites for the adventurous divers. Usually for first timers, you will be brought to the common dive sites, which are quite incredible. 

The Mataking Dive Sites are;
  • House Reef - The most popular site around the main jetty area of the island. The house reef is rich with corals and fishes, so this is one place worth diving. On occasion, you have the opportunity to see a large barracuda here. 
  • Bohayan - This site is located on one of the many nearby islands and, as with all sites here, your boat will be the only one around.
  • D'Wall - Five minutes by boat and you will be near Mataking Kecil Island. This wall dive is quite interesting with macro life. 
  • Gavin's Playground - A slightly further spot which is around 15 minutes boat ride and rich with fishes, macro and coral life. This is a boat dive spot too. 
  • Garden of Eden - The name sounds interesting and it is here that you can find lots of corals, macro and other fishes. The landscape is pretty as well with mild currents at a 25 meter depth.
  • Underwater Post Office - This is a wreck dive and with a maximum depth of 27 meters. But the post box is located at about 20 meters on a cargo ship wreck, which was sunk for conservation purposes in 2006.
Mataking Island Diving Pictures
Scuba diving at Mataking Island
Other diving information on Mataking Island

Overall, the depths for diving here range from 5 to 40 meters, but usually you will go to the maximum of 27 to 30 meters, if you are visiting the wreck. 

The waters are tropical temperature, therefore you can dive with or without a suit. If you insist on a dive suit, they have shorties and also standard ones with 3mm thickness. 

For visibility at Mataking, it ranges from 5 meters to 30 meters, depending on the time too. Averaging at around 20 meters is good enough for any diver. 

Dive certification is from beginner to advance divers. If you are an underwater photographer, you need to inform the dive master and they will bring you to the best locations for this. 
Underwater Post Box Mataking Island
Posting my postcard at the Mataking Island underwater post box
Best Time To Dive At Mataking Island

Just like any other island is Sabah's east coast, the best time to dive at Mataking Island is from March to November. December and January is the rainy season here, but you can still dive. Just that you need to double check with the resort about this. For the peak season, it will be August. 

The quiet time for Mataking Island is in February and July as this is the off peak period here, so if you want privacy, these are the two best months.
Dive Photos of Mataking Island
A turtle seen during my dive at Mataking Island
What Fish To See At Mataking Island

One of the most common questions asked by divers is what fish can I see at Mataking Island. Well, you will be in for a treat if you are an advanced diver as chances are you may be able to spot grey reef sharks, manta rays, eagle rays, hammerheads and the occasional whale shark in the north point cleaning station area. However, they are not there everyday and it is purely based on luck. Whale shark season here is from April to June, again depending on luck. 

Overall for the general divers, the common coral fishes are easily spotted, lots of nudibranches, schools of jack fish, morey eels, barracudas, frogfish, lion fish, squat lobsters, stonefish, cuttlefish, blue-ringed octopus, trevally, trumpetfish, batfish and large groupers.
Underwater Wreck Mataking Island
The wreck at Mataking Island, 20 to 27 meters deep
Where is Mataking Island?

Mataking Island is located about 40 minutes boat ride from the town of Semporna, which is the gateway jetty to Sipadan and Mabul Islands. The island comprises of Mataking Besar (Big Island) and Mataking Kecil (Small Island) which is connected by a wonderful sand bank that shows itself during the low tide. 

There is only one resort on the entire island and offers you ultimate privacy. Usually couples come here for their honeymoon or anniversary, but on average, you get the more serious travelers staying here. Packages are all in, meaning you pay one price for a full board package at Mataking Island. You can book your Mataking Dive Package from the resort operator. I have also done a Mataking Island review for those who want to see more photos of the island and resort.

Mataking Diving Photos
Diving at Mataking
Diving at Mataking Island
Wreck Diving Mataking Island
The Mataking Wreck seen from above
Sujnto Dive Com Malaysia
My Suunto Dive Computer shows 16 meters depth and the wreck at the bottom

Mataking Island Underwater Wreck
Remains of another wreck at one of the dive sites in Mataking Island
Sabah Wreck Diving
Back of the main wreck at Mataking Island (Apologies for the lens cover as it was in the way)

For divers or diving couples out there, Mataking Island is one of the best dive spots in Sabah and from the photos taken by me, you can see how amazing it is. There are no crowds of divers here which allows the marine life to be as natural as it can be. In a nutshell, this is a beautiful, peaceful and amazing place to have a holiday and dive. 

For more diving articles, you can read my scuba diving section as I have been actively diving all over the region, including The Red Sea. I have also done diving at Komodo Island in 2016 which is totally incredible. And if you plan to visit Sarawak, here is a list of dive sites in Sarawak to check out.  

If you have experienced diving at Mabul Island or Sipadan Island, then this is the next place you should explore as diving at Mataking Island will be one of those experiences you will remember for a long time. Remember to bring an underwater camera as it will be very worth it.