Vacations to Sabah Islands, Borneo

Head away from the town of Semporna in Borneo on a boat for around an hour and you’ll reach a collection of islands. It’s all about the diving in this region, and the Sipadan, Mabul and Kapalai Islands attract divers from around the world.

Sipadan Island itself is closed to visitors to protect turtle breeding. But the dive sites around the island are accessible for divers to marvel at the coral reefs, copious fish, and the underwater cave known as Turtle Cavern. Hidden in the coral shallows you can expect to see pygmy seahorses, flamboyant cuttle fish and mandarin fish.

Kapalai Island is larger and has wide stretches of white sand, good facilities, and a dive centre. So it’s a sensible place to base yourself for diving in the area, plus the odd afternoon when a break from diving and a spot of relaxing on the beach is in order. Plus you’ll get to appreciate that gorgeous blue sea from a different angle.

Mabul Island is known for muck diving where divers explore the silt and mudflat habitats. Blue-ringed octopus, scorpion fish and nudibranchs have also been spotted around Mabul. You may even be lucky enough to spot a whale shark. But while the diving is what attracts most people to this set of islands, non-divers can still enjoy snorkelling and sea kayaking. And all visitors should make the time to visit Mabul’s Bajau Laut Village. The Sea Gypsies live in houseboats or stilt houses over the sea and they welcome visitors to witness their way of life.

Highlights

  • World-class diving

  • Sea Gypsy communities

Eline
Travel Designer
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I have lived in Vietnam and travelled extensively in Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar and the Philippines.

When to go to the Sabah Islands

The climate of the Sabah Island is hot and sunny most of the year, with cool ocean breezes and great diving conditions in the dry season.

January

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In January, the winds can bring occasional stormy weather across Sabah, with high rainfall expected. If you fancy climbing Mount Kinabalu you should wait until later in the year when the paths will be drier.  

February

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February sees less rainfall, with the beaches enjoying the best weather.  

March

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The rain eases off throughout March with sunnier, drier days. It's a great time to visit forests and jungles without the crowds.  

April

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April is a great time of year to visit with warm, dry days and minimal rainfall.  

May

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May is another great month to visit, with ideal weather conditions for relaxing on the beaches or trekking in the jungle.  

June

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The great weather continues with hot and dry conditions.  

July

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July is typically one of the driest months with blue skies and sunshine, meaning hotels get booked up quickly so it's best to plan your trip well in advance.  

August

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Early booking is highly recommended in August as the favourable weather continues.  

September

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The dry season continues into September, although increased rainfall is expected towards the end of the month.  

October

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Rainfall increases but there are still plenty of dry days to enjoy.  

November

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Rainy season hits in November with a strong chance of thunderstorms and grey days. It's a great time to visit the lush jungles when the wildlife is thriving.  

December

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December is one of the wettest months with regular rainfall and thunderstorms, making trekking and wildlife spotting difficult.