If you ask a scuba diver where the best place to dive in the world is, the majority of them will mention Sipadan, Malaysia, which is a tiny island off Borneo. A national park with pristine un-fished waters, Sipadan offers only 86 diver permits per day; a limited opportunity to play in nature’s best underground playground! It is an hour off of the coast of the tiny port city of Semporna, which makes it secluded.
There are limited options available to divers who want to stay near the island and/or actually score one of the highly sought after Sipadan permits. Diving in Sipadan allows divers to see record size school of jack fish, so many barracudas the form a large ball, hammerhead sharks, hundreds of turtles, bump head parrot fish, and an unbelievable amount of micro life. Words alone could not do justice to this underwater paradise! Despite the remote location, there is one place you must stay if you’re heading to Sipadan, Seaventures Dive Rig Hotel.
Seaventures Dive Rig Hotel is one of the oldest hotels in the Sipadan area, catering to divers for over 14 years. The hotel itself is actually an old oilrig-housing barge built in Panama but sold in Singapore to the current owner’s father in Singapore 14+ years ago. Suzette Harris’, the current owner, father had the barge towed to Sipadan and placed in its current location, now 1km off the coast of the remote Mabul Island. The rig sits elevated approximately 30 feet above the sea overlooking the nearby island and other resorts.
After spending 4 days and 3 nights at the Seaventuress, I must say this is a one of a kind hotel offering just about anybody the opportunity to stay in the only rig hotel in the world with scenery so beautiful it’s almost unreal! The hotel is not 5 star accommodations, however for anyone looking for a truly unique experience, then I would HIGHLY recommend this place.
The hotel in itself is on a slightly dated rig but the rustic look adds to the unique feel of the place. The staff is extremely professional and everything about the place is amazing. I honestly have been to very few places where I can say I was extremely satisfied, and Seaventuress is definitely one of them!
Everything about Seaventuress is nearly perfect! Upon arriving at Tawau from Kota Kinabalu, our driver was waiting for us. Although he did not have a sign, the minute we entered the pick-up area, he spotted us and walked our group towards our large minibus that would take us to Semporna.
The drive to Semporna took approximately one hour and drove us through some beautiful countryside and pristine rainforest. Sadly though, despite the excellent ride, superb views, and safe driving skills, our ride drove us past a number of palm oil plantations, which has destroyed the natural rainforest leaving much to be desired and hillsides full of palm trees instead of natural thriving rainforest.
Upon arrival in the small port city of Semporna, we were first taken to the Seaventures office where final bills were arranged to be paid and everything was double-checked. After working with the very professional and helpful staff we were taken to the jetty and were transferred to the rig by private boat.
The boat ride to the rig is absolutely breathtaking! If you’ve never been to South East Asia, the ride provides some truly unreal views. For those who are frequent travelers, the view of the houses built above the water on stilts could still be breathtaking nonetheless. Furthermore, the ride takes you past a number of large and small islands that are uninhabited; they are so beautiful it is hard to believe it even exists! Upon arrival at the rig, passengers are greeted and taken from the boat up to the rig via a hydraulic elevator. The elevator itself is more like a lift platform on the back of a large semi-truck, but adds to the distinctiveness of the resort! Welcome drinks are provided followed by a brief introduction to the rig before room keys are distributed.
Like I said before, and I’ll say again, the rig itself is unreal. Spending 4 days at the rig, not once did I feel contained due to the vast size! The main deck provides a large deck, which is used for scuba supplies, eating, drinking, dancing, and relaxing. There are stairs on both sides of the decks, one set leads to the oversize sun deck, perfect for catching rays or star gazing at night, and the other that leads to the rooms.
Up the stairs that leads to the rooms, the hotel offers a fully established game room with plenty of table and board games to keep you occupied. Pass the game room is basic and VIP rooms to keep you well rested and comfortable between dives. The rooms are very simple, but 100% sufficient for a unique, one of a kind, dive barge. The rooms consist of either queens or two twins beds and the VIP rooms offer a king bed with a seating area, primping area, and more than enough room to function and relax. Although all rooms are truly basic, one must remember they are there to dive, not to be a resortist! All rooms also have private wetbath attached, with hot water showers.
Basic queen room
Basic twin room
Stairs leading to rooms
The Rig has a number of other amenities other than the sun deck and game room. There is a bar in the middle of the main deck offering beer and wine at prices that are very reasonable and Televisions playing western Movies, the news, or Music videos to help keep you entertained. If you’re lucky enough, on weekends the rig crew breaks out their musical instruments and rock out as guests drink and dance the night away! Finally, there is Wi-Fi throughout the entire rig, offer a fairly reliable connection to check email and surf the net as needed, free of charge.
The dive resort is truly unique and is similar to a cruise boat where it’s all inclusive of diving, food, room, and transportation! The buffet breakfast, lunch, and dinner is more than substantial and offers top quality dinner as long as you’re a meat eater or pescatarian/vegetarian! Each meal was so delicious I went back to the buffet for seconds and I was always among the first to line up once the dinner bell was rang! Meals consisted of your choice of local fish, meat, tofu vegetables, fresh fruit, and everything was cooked Malaysian style, offering a chance to eat local despite being in a resort! In all actuality, in the 4 days I spent on the barge, ever meal was delightful, and my mouth waters thinking about the fresh seafood dishes that were offered at both lunch and dinner! Not to mention the fresh baked bread and homemade soup were always delicious!
The other great thing about the rig is the size and the location. Due to the size of the rig and being in the open ocean, the rig does sway slightly in the water. However not once did I ever feel dizzy or seasick, for the movement is very gentle and hardly noticeable. The sea gentle rock the barge from time to time, but again don’t worry, no one even seemed to notice it!
The reason to visit Seaventures Rig hotel is not only for the unique experience of stayig on the Rig, but it’s for the diving at Sipadan! Diving at Sipadan and the nearby islands is truly superior to ANY place I’ve ever dove and the staff at Seaventures takes great care of the divers and more importantly, they have extreme respect for the reef itself! Seaventures’ staff and crew is a one of kind; the best part is they insist that NO divers wear gloves while diving in Sipadan!
Not only does this ensure that divers aren’t touching living organisms that are protected, it ensures the reef life is extended and protected! Needless to say, each dive I had was top notch and the experience was unreal! But for those of you who have never dove, are divers, or are contemplating becoming certified. I am not going to lie, 4 days around Sipadan, and 2 days in the protected National Park was not enough! I’ve been diving for 6 years and each dive was so unreal that I had to literally use duct tape to keep my jaw held close! The number of sharks, turtles, pipe fish, lion fish, macro life and more had me giddy like a little kid on Christmas!
Here are just a few pictures we took while diving in Sipadan:
I must say that anyone on their way to Sipadan should really consider Seaventures! The resort is so great and small compared to nearby resorts that it’s the only resort in Sipadan that requires only a 3 night stay to guarantee at least 1 day at Sipadan! Competing area hotels require up to 6 nights before they guarantee 1 day of diving at Sipadan! If that’s not enough, on my 4 day/3 night stay myself and my 3 travel mates had the opportunity to dive 2 times at Sipdan during peak season, something unheard of at nearby resorts!
If you’re heading to Sipadan, Seaventures is honestly the best place you can stay! Diving is dreamlike and the rig is easily big enough that you will never feel contained or bored. Additionally, the barge offers nightly boat service to the nearby island, which allows one the opportunity to explore the nearby island and culture.
Be sure to relax on the white sand beaches, stretch your legs and explore everything the small island has to offer! If you’re not feeling adventurous, in your free time I would recommend visiting another resort, i would honestly say make the most of your time and immerse yourself with the locals by enjoying a game of basketball on one of the many courts on the island or taste the local cuisine at one of the small cafés. The locals are extremely friendly and helpful, and don’t be surprise if every child under the age of 10 waves at you and says hello as you explore Mabul!
Seaventures Rig Resort is honestly a must visit hotel for every Scuba Diver! Again I’ve never been so satisfied by a resort and have never had a better diving experience! During my short stay on the rig, I had the opportunity to meet and interact with a number of employees of Seaventures and even had the opportunity to meet and with the overly friendly and humble owner Suzette.
After my stay on the Rig and finding out that the small business has a staff of over 50 people working hard between the resort, Semporna, and Kota Kinabalu, I feel overly compensated for the price paid for my short stay on the Rig. Seaventures works hard every day to keep guests comfortable and everything including the food, drinking water, and fuel for the generators are transported by boat almost daily from far away Semporna! Uniquely, the barge also has its own wastewater treatment facility ensuring waste waster is not released into the ocean before being treated! Seaventures doesn’t only offer a once in a life time experience, it provides economical options to diving in the best dive location in the world!