Kampung Mabul: Bajau Laut at Pulau Mabul in Sabah, Malaysia

In Malaysia, Sabah is known as ‘the land below the wind' due to its location just below the typhoon belt that keeps it safe from typhoons. The state consists of 30 different ethnic groups, which make up approximately 60% of its population. It is also a popular travel destination that's loved for its pristine rainforests, idyllic beaches, and world-class diving spots.

    Kampung Mabul: Bajau Laut at Pulau Mabul in Sabah, Malaysia

    Where is Mabul Island

    There are 394 islands in Sabah and one of them is Pulau Mabul or Mabul Island - a small island located near the south-eastern coastline. It started off as a humble fishing village in 1970, but quickly gained popularity in the 1990s because of its proximity to Sipadan Island which is 15 kilometres away. Despite being a new addition to the tourism industry, Mabul Island has its fair share of stunning beaches, excellent muck diving spots, and a reputation of being a destination blessed with exotic marine life.

    mabul water bungalows
    Kampung Mabul has become a settlement for the Bajau People in Sabah
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    Pulau Mabul started as a humble fishing village in 1970, but gained popularity in the 1990s
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    Have extra time on hands? Challenge the children of Kampung Mabul to a game of MBA on their home turf!

    Population and Local Villages

    There are two main villages at Mabul Island which are Kampung Mabul and Kampung Musu. Kampung Mabul is a simple fishing village boasting a pristine reef. The waters of the sea are inviting, the rustling leaves from the coconut trees are soothing to the ears, and the beautiful and scenic place brings some much needed peace. On top of that, the friendly smiles from the villagers instantly warm the hearts and make any visitor feel right at home.

    The population of Kampung Mabul is estimated to be around 2,000 people, and very interestingly, half of them are below the age of 14 years old. The population is mainly made up of the Bajau Laut and Suluk Muslim tribes. Kampung Mabul is among the few places allotted for the settlement of nomadic tribes from surrounding islands. It bears many traces of the Bajau people’s seafaring nature. Stationary boats are a common sight in this village, just as cars and motorbikes make parts of a city’s landscape. One is greeted by the sight of wooden houses built on stilts, connected by wooden decks that serve as a pathway between the houses.

    On a good day, one is greeted by the precious sight of young Bajau children immersing in fun pastimes such as flying kites on the sandy beaches, while the smell of grilled seafood wafting through the air entices one’s appetite. Small stalls selling bread and snacks make up the idyllic experience of being in this place. Walking through the village is reminiscent of another time - a much simpler one free from worries and mental discomforts.

    Home to the Bajau Laut at Pulau Mabul, Sabah
    Sabah consists of 30 different ethnic groups that make up approximately 60% of its population
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    Half of the population of Kampung Mabul are children below the age of 14 years old
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    Bajau Laut children flying kites on a beach at Kampung Mabul
    boat schedule to mabul island
    The Sama Dilaut or often known as the Bajau Laut are a migratory maritime people who are indigenous to the islands around Semporna
    tempat menarik di pulau sipadan"
    Kampung Mabul is inhabited mainly by ethnic Bajau Laut, known also as Sea Gypsies
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    An elderly Bajau woman at Kampung Mabul
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    Wondering what to do in Mabul Island? Spend half a day walking around Kampung Mabul and get to know its people and unique way of life
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    A barbershop at Kampung Mabul, Pulau Mabul
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    Many Bajau Laut people have decided to live permanently on land, and those who have made this shift are known as the Bajau Darat.
    where is mabul island located
    The Bajau of Kampung Mabul are stateless, but are allowed to reside on the islands of Sabah
    ethnic Bajau Laut people
    Half of the population of Kampung Mabul are children below the age of 14 years old

    Bajau Laut Tribe of Pulau Mabul

    The Bajau people, made up of Bajau Laut and Bajau Darat, are the second largest indigenous groups in Sabah. The Bajau Laut people are known as sea gypsies due to their nomadic lives on the seas. So much of their lives are spent out on the ocean that some of them experience a symptom called ‘land sickness’ when they spend a night or two away from the ocean. However, there are a large number of Bajau Laut people who have decided to live permanently on land, and those who have made this shift are known as the Bajau Darat.

    Read also: Bajau Laut: The Sea Gypsies of Sabah

    Skilled Fishermen & Creative Artisans

    The Bajau people are skilled fishermen and divers. They are also good at constructing traditional single-mast sailing boats known as ‘lepa’. Their colorful work of art on these boats are gloriously displayed during the Regatta Lepa festival. The Regatta Lepa is an annual water festival that celebrates the many traditions and lifestyles of the Bajau Laut people. It is held every April in Semporna, Sabah.

    best time to visit mabul island
    The Bajau Laut people are skilled fishermen, and the island's rich resources provide a bountiful harvest for them
    Bajau Laut community sabah
    A small stall set up by the Bajau Laut for tourists and visitors at Kampung Mabul
    how to get to mabul island
    Feeling hungry during your Kampung Mabul walking tour? Drop by any of the food stalls to support the villagers.
    sama Dilaut children in Sabah
    Grilled seafood sold at Kampung Mabul of Pulau Mabul, Sabah

    How to Get to Mabul Island, Sabah

    From the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, take a flight to Tawau Airport that is approximately two and a half hours away. Alternatively, take a flight from the Kota Kinabalu airport in Sabah to cut the commuting time to less than an hour. Upon reaching Tawau Airport, take a bus, minivan or taxi to the Semporna jetty that takes approximately 90 minutes. Hop on a boat to Mabul Island from the jetty that will take an additional 45 minutes.

    Mabul Island Hotels & Accommodation

    There are several hotels on Pulau Mabul to choose for your stay. For a comfortable and luxurious stay, consider the Mabul Water Bungalows. Mid-range hotels include Sipadan-Mabul Resort (SMART), Mabul Beach Resort, Borneo Divers Mabul Dive Resort, Seaventures Dive Rig Resorts, or the MV Celebes Explorer.

    Read also: Seaventures Dive Rig: PADI 5-Star Resort in Sabah

    Budget accommodations on Mabul are also available, such as Scuba Jeff Sipadan, Mabul Paradise Lodge, Sipadan Dive Centre (SDC) Mabul Lodge, Spheredivers Lodge, Sipadan Micro Dive, Seahorse Sipadan Scuba Lodge, or the Mabul Backpackers Longhouse.

    Mabul Island Map

    Pulau Mabul is located off the south-eastern coast of Sabah, with a land size of approximately 20-hectare surfacing 3 meters above sea level. It is made up of mostly flat grounds and sandy beaches, and is under the administration of Tawau. The distance between Mabul Island and Tawau is about 84-kilometer. Nearby islands include Pulau Sipadan, Pulau Bohey Dulang, Pulau Bum Bum, Pulau Mataking and Pulau Kapalai.

    mabul island map
    Mabul Island Map

    There is a quote by M.K Soni that says, ‘A house is made of brick and mortar, but a home is made by the people who live there.’ As one walks the sandy beaches of Kampung Mabul with the sound of laughter from children filling the air and friendly smiles from the Bajau people warming the heart, one will truly grasp the true meaning of these words for indeed, it is the Bajau Darat people that makes Kampung Mabul a home, not just for them, but for all who are fortunate enough to step foot here.

    Land Pollution at Kampung Mabul

    Due to the migration from sea to land of the Bajau people, Kampung Mabul has become a permanent settlement for many of them, despite not being afforded a Malaysian citizenship. Lack of attention by the relevant authorities coupled with the absence of sanitation and hygiene awareness resulted in unsightly land pollutions across the settlement and the reef surrounding it. We hope that the Sabah state government will give this matter serious consideration and act urgently to address these growing problems that will not only benefit the occupants of the island, but also our ocean, wildlife and coastline.

    Kampung Mabul, sabah
    Pollution is a growing concern in not just Pulau Mabul, but many islands in the area due to tourism.
    Home to the Bajau Laut, Pulau Mabul, Sabah
    Actions need to be taken urgently to save the wildlife and ocean of Sabah.

    Have an opinion about Kampung Mabul? Leave a comment below and let's discuss!


    1. tak pernah lagi sampai ke sabah ni. teringin jugak nak berjalan di kawasan macam ni. rindu suasana kampung

    2. Belum sampai lagi Mabul tapi ramai geng yang dah pernaj jejak sana kata best sangat !! Terpesona tengok suasana dan teringin betul nak rasa aktiviti dan kehidupan di sana

    3. dulu pernah pergi ke perkampungan Bajau ni tapi bukan dekat sini lah. Best tengok lifestyle diorang dekat dengan nature

    4. Kita tak pernah sampai lagi kesana. Kalau kat sana mesti murah kan makan seafood.... Kalau fafa kat sana lah, memang makan ketam udang sotong banyak2 hahha

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    6. Selalu sampai ke KK je..menarik jugak Mabul ni 😍 Really hope it's not polluted..sayang betul

    7. akak pernah ke pulau di Sabah dan melalui Pulau Mabul. Penduduk di sini friendly terutama kanak-kanak. Mereka akan melambai dari jauh apabila nampak bot lalu.

    8. Nice view and nice people at Mabul I love to visit Sabah lagi tak tahu bila boleh sampai sana hehehehe cantik lah gambar-gambar dalam ni...

    9. macam syok je kawasan perkampungan kat mabul tu sebab nampak tenang je view situ. budak2 pun nampak happy. I wish I could go there one day

    10. I pernah pergi perkampungan nelayan di Sabah juga di area Semporna. Mmg simple cara hidup mereka tapi seronok esp tgk wajah anak2 kecil yang riang bermain. Rasa damai je ditambah dengan pemandangan laut..

    11. Love this. Packed with information. Didn't know Sabah had so many islands. I've never been to Mabul yet, but would love to go when it's safe to travel. Lovely photos, btw.

    12. Tengok anak-anak tu tengok tv, terus teringat anak-anak kita zaman dulu kan ngadap tv...
      Lagi satu, mereka yang niaga tu, yang beli penduduk situ aje ke, atau memang akan ada orang luar datang membeli ya?..

    13. I have not been to Sabah yet! Wait for the lock down lifted then I plan to visit with whole family

    14. I never been to Sabah. I wish one day I can visit Mabul Island too. The island look pretty amazing in your photo. But it is sad to see the pollution happen there.

    15. Yaya tak pernah pergi Sabah lagi tapi dah masuk wishlist tapi dah Covid ni pula lagi tak jalan kemana-mana. One fine day hopefully dapat pergi kesana dan terokai budaya mereka

    16. Pernah smp ke Mabul masa pergi honeymoon. Memang cantik tempatnya tapi tak sempat nak berjumpa dengan penduduk setempat. Hope dpt kesana lagi dengan anak²

    17. Tak pernah lagi jejak kaki ke sabah tapi teringin nak pergi sabah... Lagi2 pulau mabul ni... Cantik tempatnya

    18. Bestnya dapat explore dan kenali budaya masyarakat bajau. I suka datang tempat mcm ni.. byk yg kita boleh belajar


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