On the southeast coast of Sabah around Semporna there are a multitude of islands. Most of these islands have beautiful white sand beaches with crystal clear, turquoise sea waters. Most islands offer good to very good diving, and Sipadan is a world-class diving site. A few of these islands are inhabited by the Bajau, sea gipsies from the Sulu sea. Only a few of these islands offer accomodation: Mabul (the access point to Sipadan), Mataking, Pom Pom and a few others. Accomodation is usually of the high-end resort type, with only Mabul offering budget-level accomodation. To access these islands tourists either book packages through tour operators or take daytrips offered by diving operators in Semporna, which is the access gateway to these islands.
To go to Sipadan, regardless whether it's snorkelling or diving, a permit is needed. In practice, the only way to go there is with a package offered by one of the dive operators in Semporna and this won't be cheap. Places are limited and this drives up prices. Otherwise, dive shops usually arrange day trips to the islands and these cost RM 140 for snorkellers in 2012 (vs. RM 100 at the end of 2008, i.e. prices increased substantially in the past years). Such a daytrip used to include the meal and the snorkelling equipment.