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Pulau Mataking Kecil is a small tropical island located in the Semporna Islands, which is part of the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo.

It is a renowned diving and snorkeling destination. The surrounding waters are home to diverse marine life, including colorful coral reefs, reef sharks, turtles, and a wide variety of fish species.

The coral reef fringing the thin stretch of sand linking the islands of Mataking and Mataking Kecil offers some of the best snorkeling you will find around the Semporna Islands.

The reef wall and the plateau host vibrant sea life including colorful reef fish, sea stars, pristine coral, as well as occasional sea turtles.

Mataking Kecil has world-class snorkeling, however, this location can be extremely dangerous at high tide and/or when there is current. Caution is advised when snorkeling here. 

Fish near the surface at Mataking Kecil Island
Fish gather near the surface of the sea. In this picture, you can count a dozen of species, including the sunburst butterflyfish and the pinktail triggerfish.

How to get to the Pulau Mataking Kecil snorkeling spot

Mataking and Mataking Kecil Islands are located in the Celebes Sea, just a 40 minute boat ride from Semporna, Borneo.

There are two main ways to access this spot:

  1. Participate in a snorkeling tour organized by the nearby resorts of Arcadia, Pom Pom, Mabul, or via the tour operators located in Semporna harbor. This option is highly recommended, as the location can be very dangerous because of strong currents. The Mataking Reef Resort facilities will not be available if you visit as part of a snorkeling trip, however, the island has a small bar that opens during low tide.
  2. Stay at Mataking Reef Resort on Mataking Island. With this option, the reef will be free for you to explore. There are lifeguards that monitor Mataking Reef Resort house reef. Don’t expect them to watch out for you. In this area you will venture at your own risk.

Mataking Kecil reef can be extremely dangerous on high tide, as the current pushes you east towards the passage that links the two small islands. This spot should only be snorkeled at low tide when the passage between the islands emerges. Enquire with the resort dive club or with your guide about tides and the best time to snorkel.

Mataking Kecil Island snorkeling map

Water entrance for snorkeling Pulau Mataking Kecil

If you are on a snorkeling tour, the water entrance will be from a boat.

If you stay at Mataking Reef Resort, you will enter the water from shore. At low tide, and if sea conditions are good, you can walk between Mataking and Mataking Kecil.

There is no specific point to reach the drop-off. The reef is often so shallow that you will not be able to cross, which means that you will have to find your way. The best area to enter the water would be approximately 50 yards before you reach the small island.

Exit points are also limited. In case of emergency you will have to find a way out towards Makating Reef Resort. There is an exit point is located about 100 yards past the northern tip of Mataking Island. Watch out for stingrays and stonefish as the visibility in this area is not good.

Pulau Mataking Kecil snorkeling exploration tips

Mataking Kecil is a drift snorkeling. You will enter the water near the island’s shore and let the current slowly drift you south toward Mataking Island.

Table coral at Mataking Kecil
A spectacular table coral at Mataking Kecil.

Mataking Kecil is a paradise for snorkelers, the reef dropping suddenly to 300 feet while the upper part of it is shallow and highlighted by the sun.

The reef starts about 10 yards away from the shore and extends for about five more with an average depth between 2 to 6 feet before reaching the drop-off.

Some areas with scattered corals are deeper at around 4 to 5 yards below you and these are usually populated by large schools of fish.

Green sea turtle at Mataking Kecil island
Green sea turtles are frequent visitors to the reef slopes.

The reef here is superb, turtles are occasionally seen but the variety of corals and fish makes the best part of viewing here. Common sightings in Mataking Kecil include angelfish, threadfin butterflyfish, brown chromis, sergeants, and black triggerfish.

Pay close attention to the bottom to you will be able to see lionfish and starfish and let the schools of snappers and sweetlips swim around you.

Coral reef at Mataking Kecil
A school of sergeant majors on the drop-off.

Restaurants and accommodation nearby

This spot is within walking distance from Mataking Reef Resort.


  • Level required Advanced
  • Maximum depth15ft/5m
  • Water entranceFrom a boat or, more tricky, from the shore
  • Potential DangersStonefish and rays if accessing from the beach, dangerous currents on high tide
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersMedium
  • Access costsCost of a boat tour or stay at Mataking Reef Resort

MAP Spot

These spots are only recommended to good swimmers, in good physical conditions, and with excellent snorkeling skills. These spots can experience currents, moderate waves, important depths, tight or narrow passages, or tricky water entrance, and can be located near hazardous areas (channels, boat traffic, strong currents…). The distance to swim to reach the most interesting snorkeling areas can be important - up to 500 meters. The “advanced” category includes drift snorkeling (transported by currents) and snorkeling off the coast.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell.You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.