Scuba Junkie Backpackers is located right by the waterfront of Semporna. It sits on a section of a relatively new row of shophouses just a few metres away from the ocean. The building is easily recognisable with dark-blue painted wall.
If you are staying (and diving) with Scuba Junkie, you can pre-arrange for a transfer from Tawau Airport (TWU) to Semporna in a mini van. As the most recent taxi rate for the 100-kilometre transfer between Tawau and Semporna costs RM120 per way (I recalled paying between RM80 - RM100 throughout these past years), the RM70-per-van transfer does not seem like a bad option at all. In fact, the cost can split equally with other passengers heading to Scuba Junkie Backpacker, which makes it even better.
The waterfront section of Semporna has recently been transformed with a number of new shophouses that host a number of budget hotels and day-trip dive outfits. Scuba Junkie Backpacker is one of the business entities that has successfully stamped its mark in the tourism scene of Semporna, the gateway to world-class diving sites such as Pulau Sipadan, Pulau Mabul and Pulau Kapalai. It is also important to note that since the dive resorts on Pulau Sipadan were ordered to ship out in a controversial move to conserve the island's fragile ecosystem, dive centres, budget motels and hotels have sprouted along the waterfront of Semporna to cater for the increasing number of tourists.
Scuba Junkie Backpackers prides itself in offering clean, comfortable and affordable rooms for scuba divers. In fact, for those who have booked dive trips with Scuba Junkie, they will be privileged for a 50% discount of the various room rates at Scuba Junkie Backpackers. There are four categories of accommodation spanning across the two-storey shophouse building, namely Dormitory, Standard, En-Suite and VIP Suite. The Dormitory, as the name suggests, is a collection of rooms filled with a number of double-decked bunk beds. Other types of room are more personalised in nature and may include attached bath, TV set, individual air conditioner, clothing wardrobe, etc.
In term of guest facilities, Scuba Junkie Backpackers provides free internet access throughout the building. For those who bring along their laptop computers, you can even receive the internet WIFI signal from the comfort of your room. From my observation, the web browsing experience is very good even on the second floor. Otherwise, there are a few internet PCs provided in a computer room fronting the reception counter should you wish to check your emails or post a lengthy blog on an excellent diving day at Pulau Sipadan. There is also a cafť bar located next door where patrons can have a quick breakfast of sausages and hash browns before heading straight to the nearby boat jetty where dive boats are docked before heading to the many islands off Semporna. The cafť bar often comes alive at night especially among the divers who love to chill and talk about the fantastic dives or otherwise. A big screen TV is also provided at the bar counter and major sport telecasts are normally advertised beforehand to get the crowd coming.
Actually, there is almost no reason for anyone to come to the town of Semporna except for the world-famous diving spots in Pulau Sipadan, and to some extent, Pulau Mabul and Kapalai Reef. Daily dive trips can be arranged from Semporna to Pulau Sipadan and the boat journey takes about 1 1/2 hours. Considering one usually pays through the nose to stay at Pulau Mabul or Kapalai Dive Resort, staying in mainland Semporna isn't exactly a bad idea, especially for yours truly.
Other than that, the daily lifestyle of the local Bajau Laut tribe (or sea gypsy) is worth mentioning. I am always smitten by their exotic lepa boat design and how they associate themselves with the bountiful ocean surrounding them. A quick stroll to the nearby fishing harbour as well as the wet market is quite a spectacle, to say the least. Also, just right before sunset, you can witness the dozens of lepa boats parading themselves home, bringing back daily catch.
A short walk away brings you to Semporna town filled with cheap bargains but the town itself is not entirely clean and organized. In the evening, the waterfront section of the town comes abuzz with affordable food stalls selling local delicacies that are sometimes unique and scrumptious.
As mentioned previously, there are two-tiered pricing for the lodging at Scuba Junkie Backpacker. The so-called Diverís Discount is offered to get the patrons to sign up for dive trips with Scuba Junkie. The dormitory-style bed goes for RM30 per night or RM15 with Diverís Discount, Standard room (RM80 normal, RM40 Diverís Discount), En-Suite room (RM100 normal, RM50 Diverís Discount) and VIP Suite (RM120 normal, RM60 Diverís Discount).
Here are the diving rates for day-trip packages departing from Semporna to various islands like Pulau Sipadan, Pulau Mabul, Pulau Kapalai, Pulau Sibuan, Pulau Mataking, Pulau Mantabuan, and others. For 2 dives, the cost will be RM200 inclusive of packed lunch, weights, tanks and guides, while 3 dives will cost RM250. For dive equipment rental, the rate is fixed at RM50 per day. Please note that for divers heading to Pulau Sipadan, there will be a RM40 (US$12) levy imposed by local authority and the dive permit application can be arranged by the dive operator upon arrival at the jetty beach of Pulau Sipadan.
In recent days, Scuba Junkie has also introduced a longhouse accommodation in the village of Pulau Mabul. The room rate is RM50 per night per person inclusive of all meals. The longhouse offers a very basic type of accommodation, hence don't expect much from it.