My base for diving in the Semporna Archipelago was Mabul Island, a tiny little island. I really loved my time there. Like any island in a beautiful region they have pricey luxury resorts, but they also had SCUBA diving backpacker hostels and bungalows with a great community, and the rest is the local village that’s built on stilts.
You could spend $300 USD per night at the luxury resort and get a beautiful place with privacy, or you can spend $30 with meals included in a great community. I chose the latter. I stayed with “SCUBA-Junkie” and really loved the community of divers. Pictured below are some of my friends from Denmark, Sweden, and Canada. I kept meeting such great people.
I also spent a night in the village amongst the local community in a “longhouse” hostel – a basic room on stilts for 45 ringgit (~$15) per night.
The diving was impressive and certainly the best I’ve done, but even besides that, the people are what made it a highlight of my trip, and some of my favorite days so far.