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The coral reef fringing the thin stretch of sand linking the islands of Mataking and Mataking Kecil offers some of the best snorkeling you may 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. If Mataking Kecil has world-class snorkeling, this location can be extremely dangerous on high tide and/or when there is current.
Mataking and Mataking Kecil Islands are located in the Celebes Sea, just a 40 minutes boat ride from Semporna, Borneo.
There are two main ways to access this spot:
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. Therefore this spot shall be only 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 start your snorkeling.
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 very often so shallow that you will not be able to cross, hence you will have to find your way. The best area to enter the water would be approximately 50 meters before you reach the small island.
Consider also that exit points are limited and in case of emergency you will have to find a way out towards Makating Reef Resort, where an exit point is located about 100 mt past the northern tip of Mataking Island. Watch out for stingrays and stonefish as the visibility is not exceptional.
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.
Mataking Kecil is a paradise for snorkelers, the reef dropping suddenly to 300 feet/90 meters while the upper part of it is shallow and enlightened by the sun. The reef starts about 10 meters away from the shore and extends for about five more with an average depth between 2 to 6 feet/0.5 to 2 meters before reaching the drop-off.
Some areas with scattered corals are deeper at around 4 to 5 meters below you and these are usually populated by large schools of dozens of fish.
The reef here is superb, turtles are occasionally seen but the variety of corals and fish makes the best part of your session. Common sightings in Mataking Kecil include angelfish, threadfin butterflyfish, brown chromis, sergeants, and black triggerfish. Pay close attention to the bottom to spot lionfish and starfish and let the schools of snappers and sweetlips swim around you.
This spot is within walking distance from Mataking Reef Resort.
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.
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Snorkeling spots are part of a wild environment and their aspect can be significantly altered by weather, seasons, sea conditions, human impact and climate events (storms, hurricanes, seawater-warming episodes…). The consequences can be an alteration of the seabed (coral bleaching, coral destruction, and invasive seagrass), a poor underwater visibility, or a decrease of the sea life present in the area. Snorkeling Report makes every effort to ensure that all the information displayed on this website is accurate and up-to-date, but no guarantee is given that the underwater visibility and seabed aspect will be exactly as described on this page the day you will snorkel the spot. If you recently snorkeled this area and noticed some changes compared to the information contained on this page, please contact us.
The data contained in this website is for general information purposes only, and is not legal advice. It is intended to provide snorkelers with the information that will enable them to engage in safe and enjoyable snorkeling, and it is not meant as a substitute for swim level, physical condition, experience, or local knowledge. Remember that all marine activities, including snorkeling, are potentially dangerous, and that you enter the water at your own risk. You must take an individual weather, sea conditions and hazards assessment before entering the water. If snorkeling conditions are degraded, postpone your snorkeling or select an alternate site. Know and obey local laws and regulations, including regulated areas, protected species, wildlife interaction and dive flag laws.
Vibrant coral reef with an abundance of fish
Reef drop off with fish and turtles
Steep drop off with corals, turtles and reef fish
Coral reef with turtles and fish
Small island fringed by a shallow coral reef
Small island fringed by coral reefs with colorful fish