Monday, March 13, 2017

Dinks in Transit: Mabul – paradise but for how much longer?


It’s been a dream of mine to travel through Borneo, and I am finally ticking this off my bucket list.

My first proper stop was the small island of Mabul, located in the Celebes sea. There’s no doubt the waters in these parts are stunning, but for how much longer?

Getting to Mabul isn’t a fast process. One has to fly to Sabah (the Malaysian part of Borneo) and then endure a minibus ride for 100kms to a town called Semporna – effectively a s**thole.

What puts Semporna on the map is the port that shuttles you to Mabul. Apart from that, the 16 hours I spent there were 16 wasted hours of my life.

The town smells, it’s polluted to the gills and there’s a serious problem with homeless children hounding you for cash wherever you go.

I couldn’t wait to depart first thing the following morning.

Mabul is an interesting island. The important things to know are the following:

  • It’s tiny – you can walk around it in 30 minutes.
  • Its population is roughly 2,000 people, half of which are under the age of 14 (Durex should make an ad here).
  • The ‘economy’, so to speak, is entirely that relating to a fishing village and a snorkeling and diving hotspot.

Mabul is also the best example you’ll ever see of extreme poverty and extreme wealth coexisting.

The island itself, where the local population lives (mainly immigrants from the Philippines) is dirt poor.

You’d be forgiven for thinking you were walking through refugee camp. All the resorts and dive centres, however, are built on stilts out on the water and benefit from beautiful views and sea breezes.

The variety of accommodation will amaze you, ranging from R300 a night to R3,000 a night.

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