Diving at Mantanani Island, Sabah

Mantanani Diving

Diving at Mantanani Island, Sabah is one of the must-dive places here if you love muck diving or seeing macro life underwater.

Pulau Mantanani is located just out of Kudat Town on the west coast and is about a three-hour journey there from Kota Kinabalu.

Known for the amazing visibility, this island only has three resorts which are all basic accommodation and on my trip there in April 2012, I stayed at the Bemberan Beach Resort which is located on Mantanani Besar (Big Island).

Getting to Mantanani Island is quite simple and easy and if you book through a dive operator, they will pick you up from the Kota Kinabalu Airport and send you directly to the main jetty.

At the Bembaran jetty, you will complete most of your diving gear like fins, BCD's and whatever else is needed for your dive trip. 

Diving at Mantanani Island

Photo of Mantanani Island
Mantanani Island Photo
The speed boat which usually seats about 10 to 12 people will leave and pass beautiful mangrove swamp before heading out into the open sea where the overall journey will take about an hour.

Once reaching Pulau Mantanani, the boat stops along Dugong Beach where you will have your lunch before heading to the resort which is another five-minute boat ride.

Beach at Mantanani Island
The beach at Mantanani Island
Mantanani Dive Lodge

Bemberan Beach Resort or Dive Lodge is a stand-alone resort with no other resort located along the private beach here called Dugong Beach.

The reason for this is because at one time before, many Dugongs or Sea Cows (Ubian in local language) used to frequent this beach but not anymore.

The last sighting for Dugongs at Mantanani was in 2010, so you will be very lucky if you chance upon them.

It is a simple place and very comfortable for most divers, and there are a number of basic facilities available here.

There is a huge 42" LCD TV hooked up to the local satellite TV in the main restaurant area. Games like darts and caroms are also available while there is a possible WiFi connection ready.

On my last visit here, the WiFi system was still being worked on. For emergencies, they have a satellite phone in the office.

Mantanani Bembaran Beach Resort
Bembaran Beach Resort lobby
The food here is presentable and served only buffet style for all meals. They usually have about four to five courses on the main meals with orange juice, water and coffee/tea and all of this is packaged into your trip.

For those who want something stronger in liquids, you are advised to bring your own here. Ice is readily available but let them know in advance if you need lots of it. For smokers, please bring enough supplies. 

Outdoor lunch at the resort

Rooms at Bembaran Beach Resort

They have two types of accommodation available here which are the chalet units and the longhouse units.

There are 5 stand-alone chalets with air conditioning, attached bathroom, and hot water while there is one longhouse unit with 6 rooms and the same facilities.

Electricity here is also on a generator system, therefore, it runs from 6.00 pm till 7.00 am. The chalets are also well spaced therefore giving you your needed privacy.

Each of the units here is also twin sharing and a triple can be arranged.

Bembaran Beach Resort
Stand-alone chalet unit

Tip: For the hungry diver, you should stock up on lots of extra food when you come here as after dinner, there is nothing to eat.

It is highly recommended to bring your own snacks, junk-food or even power bars, which you can buy from the mainland before coming here. 

Hotel Room at Mantanani Island
Longhouse units with air-conditioning and bathroom

Scuba Diving at Mantanani Island

As everyone comes here mainly for scuba diving, the resort has its own air compressor and mini dive center.

However, you are advised to bring spare equipment as they do not sell anything here. Rental equipment is available on request.

Overall there are about 14 dive sites at Mantanani Island but only 4-5 sites are well known for the muck diving here.

You should consult the local divemaster if you are planning on seeing certain nudis there.

Diving Photos Mantanani
Diving at Mantanani Island, 20 meters visibility

The underwater visibility at Mantanani is also spectacular as it can go up to about 30 or 40 meters during certain months of the year.

When I was there in April 2012, the visibility was easily up to 25 meters. You can tell from the few diving pictures posted here too.

You can generally scuba dive all year through but keep in mind for the rainy season which is generally from June to December on the entire west coast of Sabah.

But this does not mean it rains every day.

Mantanani Dive Pictures
Visibility at Mantanani Island, this was taken at a depth of 20 meters

Underwater photographers, note that you may have to bring extra batteries for your flash and that the electricity only goes on from evenings till mornings so don't forget to charge your stuff in the evenings.

You will also have a field day here doing underwater photography as there is not much disturbance at most of the dive sites here.

Some diving photography was taken by buddy Mohan

Finally, if you plan to come with a big group of 12 to 15 people, you would have fully booked Bembaran Beach Resort as they can cater up to that amount of guests.

Any more, you would have to pitch tents or quadruple share rooms. On the bright side, imagine having the resort all to your own group! Now that is awesome.

Dive Sites at Mantanani Island
Mantanani island dive sites map
As Mantanani is a selective place for diving, only those who are truly into this sport will find this island interesting.

As for general holidaymakers, I would highly stress that this beach resort is purely for scuba diving.

There are packages for day trips to Mantanani Island but those trips stop at the main Dugong Beach where the restaurant is so please book carefully on the type of trip you want to go on here. 

Diving at Mantanani Island - The Good:
  • Peaceful surroundings on the island
  • Beautiful sunsets
  • Lovely beach
  • Muck diving at its best, lots of nudis.
  • Clear visibility
  • Open Water-ready
Diving at Mantanani Island - The Bad:
  • Isolated, no shops or restaurants nearby
  • Very Poor Phone Connection, this means bad internet
  • Bring insect repellent 
  • Diving - Hard to see large marine fish

For any inquiries about diving here, you can contact me and I can hook you up with the right recommended people for this.

There are many operators out there, but some of them are passionate and professional when it comes to diving and safety. 

As I personally dive around Malaysia regularly, I have to say that this place was indeed one of the quietest dive sites that I have been to.

There is also very little tourist traffic, and divers so if you want that privacy while diving, then I highly recommend scuba diving at Mantanani Island in Sabah.

Malaysia Asia

Blogging since 2007, but writing online since 1997. I belong to the 1st generation of worldwide bloggers, which is of course old-school. Since 2008, I created Malaysia Asia and this travel, flood, gadget and lifestyle blog has won numerous physical awards from tourism boards around Malaysia. (Not those online awards). After 12 years of blogging, I have semi-retired and now blog about things I like, do product reviews and enjoy life. My work has been featured in Lonely Planet, CNN Travel, Yahoo Travel, Wall Street Journal, and many other international publications. Find out more about me and thank you.


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