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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.

Fish near the surface at Mataking Kecil Island
Fish use to 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 Pulau Mataking Kecil snorkeling spot?

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:

  1. To 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 is the most recommended option, 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. To stay at Mataking Reef Resort on Mataking Island. With this option, the reef will be free for you to explore. However, the lifeguard that monitors Mataking Reef Resort house reef will not look out for you and 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. 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.

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 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.

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.

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

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.

Blue sea star in Mataking Kecil
Blue sea stars are pretty common at reef.

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.

School of bluefin trevally
Encounter with a school of bluefin trevally 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.