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All reviews mataking island beautiful island small island great diving beach chalet low tide pom pom island celebes sea boat ride food variety true paradise clear water buffet style meal times armed guards worth the effort remote island
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Reviewed April 11, 2017 via mobile

This resort is located on the beautiful mataking island with beautiful blue waters and great views but unfortunately that's one of the only good things about this resort. Brace yourselves....

Before even getting to the island, we were greeted by a VERY rude man who to be fair, I'm not sure if he's associated with the resort or just owns the boat that took us to the resort. The first thing he yelled to me and my family (in Cantonese) as we were exiting the tour van was "hurry up! We've been waiting for you forever!" For him to also assume the language we spoke was extremely offensive! Keep in mind we all had US passports. VERY VERY bad first impression by the rude man in the Hawaiian shirt !

Now for the room........I stayed in the beach chalet along the back of the resort and the views are beautiful during both high and low tide. The room was overall nice with its own jacuzzi (which I didn't use because it was dirty & the water didn't get hot). There's a nightly turn down service which is a nice gesture but the candy they put on your bed ends up attracting ants which is NOT good when you're trying to sleep. The air conditioner worked really well but the fan swivel option didn't work on mine so I ended up sleeping with the AC blowing directly in my face which made me sick. The room is spacious but the fixtures and door were old and rusty. The back porch is nice for relaxing and drying clothes (there was a clothes rack for you to do so) but keep in mind that it gets REALLY windy at night so your clothes fly away. strap them down! My toilet didn't flush even the basics down but luckily there was a hose next to the toilet which I used every time. I only used the room to sleep, shower, and change for the next activity and it served its purpose.

Food time! The gentleman assigned to our table literally made the dining experience better for me and my family. I looked forward to seeing his bright smile and kind hearted nature every time I went to the dining room. If it weren't for him, this food review would have been a massacre! We had a corner table reserved for us which was great and on clear nights, our server friend moved our table out to the porch under the stars. The bad thing about having the corner table was the smoking. I'm not a smoker and I found out that smoking is allowed "outside" on the resort so while I was eating at my corner table with open sides and a breeze, someone would be right next to me smoking on the porch! The food was mediocre if you could even get to it. I understand that the resort does not control their guests but there was absolutely NO order to the buffet. If dinner started at 7pm and you weren't already grabbing food at 640pm, you weren't eating that item. I had everyone from old ladies to children pushing me and going over/under my shoulders in order to get to the food and I'm not exaggerating. At first, I stood in line patiently waiting my turn, trying to be civilized but the joke was on me because I only ate white rice that night. They had a "made to order" station which once again I would expect some civilized order so I stood in line awaiting my turn. The guy cooking saw me, asked what I wanted, and when the time came to give me my food, he gave it to a woman who pushed in front of me and grabbed my plate. Naturally, I spoke up in every language I knew but was answered with a shrug by the guy cooking. Like I said,I understand the resort can't control the guests but at least enforce some order to the dining room! I thought we were a civilized species but there was nothing civilized about that dining experience.... Except of course my server friend.

Activities! I just went snorkeling all day. The dive staff is friendly and helpful. I purchased snorkel equipment from the gift store and rented the vest and flippers but the rental place has everything you need if you just want to rent. A lot of the coral has died off due to whatever reason so the colors were not as vibrant as I had hoped but nonetheless, there were a lot of different varieties of fish and wildlife to see. I mainly wanted to see the sea turtles which I did in fact see so that was VERY exciting BUT once again it was ruined by a guest who swam down and shoved his GoPro into the turtle's face causing it to swim away. The lack of staff involvement in the preservation of the wildlife on the resort was disgraceful. There were signs saying "do not touch the wildlife" but nobody cared to enforce it so the savages went wild picking up shells and touching the wildlife. Be warned that along with a sea turtle, I also saw a large barracuda!! swim fast away from it! it's open water so you have to prepare yourself for everything!

Overall, the resort is in a great location with stunning views and has a friendly staff. It looks rundown due to the lack of overall interior and exterior resort maintenance. I understand this is a review for the resort and not the guests but unfortunately they come hand in hand. Thanks for reading and hopefully your experience will be much better than mine.

Stayed: February 2017, travelled with family
5  Thank UndiscoveredWorld
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed March 22, 2017

I dived at the house reef last year when I was staying at nearby Pom Pom island, and Mataking looked grand, so I decided to try it out.

Check in was a little confusing when we arrived at lunch time, proceeded to eat, went to the reception and were then sent to the bar to fill up forms. After checking in and the first dive a general briefing was given on what to do, safety, options, meal times, etc.

Let me start with the positives. The island, and its smaller sister island, are beautiful with white sandy beaches and fantastic clear blue waters. The basic Garden View unit I stayed in, was renovated and possibly the best dive resort room I have lived in. Later on I was upgraded to a King Villa, which while bigger and beach fronting, was a little tired and dark.

No problems with mosquitoes.

Overall the maintenance was good, rooms and gardens were clean and I felt safe all the way with a security base providing ample protection.

The dive center was well laid out and clean. Equipment was newer than average and kept clean. They even gave a briefing and a tour of the center before the 1st dive. Shore dives were unlimited with boat pickups (unusually generous), and all equipment was prepared and waiting on the boat every day.

The downside? Food was bad. Although they changed the menu daily, generally it was tasteless, boring and lukewarm. That was really disappointing given the prestige of the place. I didn't know if it was to cater for the majority of their foreign customers but in no way did it represent the diversity and quality of Malaysian food.

Secondly, it may have been bad luck, but i only took probably 20 pictures while diving over 4 days. In comparison, I took double or triple of that in every dive off Pom Pom island. Was it the dive masters or just poor weather? I guess I won't know but I will probably go back to Mabul or Pom Pom for macro photography.

In summary, this is a great place for families and couples. For recreational divers who like lazy dives, corals and turtles, this is the place to be.

Room Tip: Ask for renovated rooms. Garden View Nos 1 - 8 are closest to the dive center.
  • Stayed: March 2017, travelled with friends
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Service
1  Thank Seow Loong F
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
MatakingIsland, Manager at The Reef Dive Resort, responded to this reviewResponded September 2, 2018

Dear Seow loong,

Noted on your feedback. We apolodize that you didn't enjoy our variety of food being served although we try to serve a mixture of international cuisines, some live cooking , bbq and in fact we do have many popular dishes like laksa, soto, beef rendang, lamb chops , roast and etc. We constantly try to add more variety to our menu to serve the different taste buds.

As for diving , we do receive many compliments on our house reefs from guests and there are many sites with plenty of corals, small creatures and turtles. but then again diving is also a matter of luck as well because we are exploring into the wild.

We shall continue to work on our weaknesses and thank you for our feedback.

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed March 14, 2017

My wife and I had our wonderful stay for 2 nights there.
Beautiful landscapes everywhere.
We stayed in the Villa, which is a few steps away from the beach.
The villa had a nice backyard jacuzzi, for you to relax in its warm water.
The villa is massive and very comfortable.
The view to the beach is somehow blocked by trees and shrubs so you have to walk in front and lounge on the deck chair to view the sunset.
There are four meal times; breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner.
No in-room dining though.

Snorkelling by the beach is awesome enough!
Spotted a turtle swimming while snorkelling along the shore reefs.
Walking to the smaller Mataking Kecil island via the sandbar is an interesting experience, and only available when the tide is low.

There is quite a handful of activities you can do there, and not all requires money.

1) In-room minibar is limited; bring your own snacks if you wish to munch in the room.
2) Resort's shop sells limited food supply; tapioca chips, some nuts and ice cream.

Room Tip: Villas are facing west and is near to reception, restaurant, jetty and dive centre
  • Stayed: March 2017, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Service
Thank Muhammad Khairu... A
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed March 11, 2017

Not exactly what we thought we were getting into... We expected a luxury resort and fine accommodations. The Reef Dive Resort is not exactly that... and after being there, I do appreciate it for what it is - it is on a sand bar, after all! It seems as though this location was established as a fabulous diver-focused destination, and I am sure 10 years ago all the people who flocked here were divers and marine biologists, like me. However, that is not the case now, as the vast majority (99.9%) of guests are non-divers and from China.

Half of the island is military based (there goes that romance/luxury...). Armed guards escort the dive operations to Sipidan. Armed guards are all over the island. The safety is appreciated, no doubt. But just something to keep in mind that there are gunned military all over the property and boats.

The staff are wonderful and went out of their way to accommodate us. They were able to accommodate our vegan diets with ease - such excellent vegan curries! We were so appreciate of their efforts to make delicious vegan meals for us. Food times, however, were quite stressful, as the other guests were rude, cut in line (as it is a buffet), emptied the community serving bowls, belched and were generally unfriendly. This atmosphere took away from our dining experience.

The diving operations are stellar. The staff are very knowledgeable and experienced. We felt very comfortable with the dive team. We were very shocked and disappointed to learn, once we arrived, that all snorkeling and swimming require a life jacket. That is right. A life jacket. It was very unfortunate to learn that in order to just swim or snorkel off the beautiful beaches, we had to wear a life jacket. Very upsetting.

We rented the beach villa. It had all the necessities. Our main complaint is that the bathroom/toilet area had a very unpleasant smell.

Do keep in mind it is a long journey to Mataking Island. Once we landed in Tawau (which is a 3 hour flight from Kuala Lumpur), we had an hour + bus ride to Semporna, and then and hour + boat ride to the island. It makes for a long day. Bring snacks!

The natural environment really is amazing. Sipadan is incredible. All the land-based complaints seem to diminish considering the amazing beaches, sunset and reef diving. Truly an incredible dive destination!

  • Stayed: March 2017, travelled as a couple
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Service
1  Thank Stacey K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed February 1, 2017 via mobile

isolated, peaceful, a true paradise with stunning views over and under the water, this is exactly that kind of place where you can leave behind the daily mess to relax and enjoy yourself, especially when the Internet connection is limited to the minimum level XD, both good and bad.
We booked a 5D4N and extended for another stay when we finished our ow training and headed to the famous Sipadan. As we spend most of the days around dive center and with the dive crew, I have to give them extra stars on top of already very friendly stuff. Yin is a very good instructor, detailed, responsible, funny and mentally unstabe, overall a joyful fellow, if you go take your diving class on the Island, this man, with a small extra dingding (you will know what I'm taking about when you see it, yes, you will see it), is your man.
Thumbs up for Jerry! Thanks for the Sipadan trip, and also toes up for his one of a kind personal PADI chop! May the belly not affect your buoyancy!
PS: It's a shame that we have to come in the raining season, missed great sunrise and sunset, and I'm told that the water would be more clear and amazing, maybe we should start to plan next trip...

Stayed: January 2017, travelled as a couple
1  Thank jason z
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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