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Scuba Diving in Malaysia

Welcome to one of the best places to start diving and explore the worlds best places to dive. Malaysia is blessed with it’s location at the Coral Triangle, which houses over 9000 species of fishes & 500 types of corals. Being one of the major low-cost flying hubs in Asia, Malaysia is the best place with the access to other countries within and near the Coral Triangle, e.g. Indonesia, Phillipines & Thailand, is all a short flight away.

Diving here is easy with it’s (mostly) sunny weather and generally warm waters hovering at 28c, proving a comfortable diving experience. For training, there are plenty of dive schools providing all your scuba education needs from Open Water up to Instructor

Let’s start with the best of what Malaysia has to offer, The sites right off Sabah, a state in East Malaysia. This is where World Famous Islands such as Sipadan, Mabul, Lankayan, Layang-Layang & Mataking is located. Getting to Sabah is just a 2.5 hour flight from Kuala Lumpur. Don’t worry about the prices of flights, if booked early or during sale, it will only cost you less than USD100 for a return ticket!

Sipadan frequently rated as one of the top 10 dive spots in the world, is a must for all new to diving in Malaysia. So what can you expect to see? Schools of  bumphead parrot fish, swimming tornados of jacks & barracudas, turtles a plenty, and if you are very lucky, large schools of hammerhead sharks. With this much large large life to see, sometimes you may miss the wonderful world of macro life(tiny creatures such as crabs, shrimps and nudis) which are also a plenty in Sipadan’s reefs. As Sipadan is now limited to only 120 divers per day, you won’t be able to dive everyday in Sipadan, but don’t worry as the islands of Mabul & Kapalai also provides lots of life for your viewing pleasures. Don’t miss out the Pgymy Seahorses, colorful nudibranchs and of course the Mandarin fishes at your dusk dive. Click here to check the season/ideal date

Another world famous Island is Layang-Layang, an atoll 300km of Kota Kinabalu. In it’s 20m deep lagoon reef macro creatures are a plenty with creatures such as seahorses, cuttlefish and pipefish. The MAIN reason Layang-Layang is famous are it’s outer walls. Schools of scalloped hammerhead sharks, grey reef sharks, leopard sharks and the occasional threshers and silvertip sharks visits the reef. not forgetting rays, such as manta rays, pygmy devil rays, marbled rays and eagle rays. To get to Layang-Layang, it’s a flight to Kota Kinabalu, and another quick flight to the island itself. Being at least an Advanced divers is recommended for this location, due to the currents and depth of the outer ring dives. Click here to check the season/ideal date

In case you visit Kota Kinabalu, there few islands to explore within the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, which is just 10 – 20 minute speedboat ride from the city. They are Pulau Gaya, Pulau Sapi, Pulau Manukan, Pulau Mamutik and Pulau Sulug. They can be done via day-trips from Kota Kinabalu. The reefs here lie in shallow waters with little currents making it an ideal for novice divers.

Next are islands within the Peninsular Malaysia, which I will split into the east coast states and west coast states.

The few more well-known islands in the east coast of Malaysia are Pulau Perhentian, Pulau Redang, Pulau Tioman & Pulau Tenggol. There are a few more islands but the list are the more famous ones. Pulau Perhentian, Redang & Tenggol is off Terengganu & Pulau Tioman is off Pahang.

All islands are pretty similar in terms of their dive sites, with a good mix of creatures to look out for and decent healthy reefs. What can we expect to see? Turtles, all kinds of eels, tiny colorful fishes, sharks, all kinds of shrimps and crabs, etc. Rarer creatures like pipe fishes, squat lobsters, octopuses, etc, just ask your friendly  divemaster for the area’s specialities. If you are very lucky, you may be able to see whale sharks, dolphins, etc etc.

Most sites on these islands are quite easy with depths averaging 15-20 meters. These islands may not be Sipadan, but are still worth the trip for a short weekend break from work.
To get to Pulau Tioman, you can either drive or take a bus (4.5 hours) to Mersing, and get a ferry to the island or fly directly via Berjaya Air. For Perhentian  If driving to Pulau Perhentian you will head to Kuala Besut(taking up to 7-8 hours), if flying, fly to Kota Bahru then get a taxi to Kuala Besut(. For Pulau Redang, you will need to head to Merang(7-8 hours), and if you are flying, head to Kuala Terrenganu, and get a taxi to the jetty. Most resorts provide pick-up, just make a note of it before hand if it’s included in the package.

Pulau Tenggol is generally agreed to have has slightly better sites compared to the other islands as there is only 2 resorts in the small island, and thus less traffic. The accommodations are also a little “tired”. The sites does available does make up for the accommodation. Some of the sites in Tenggol may require more experience due to their currents, as some dive site names clearly shows, such as the “the highway” & “fishbowl” To get to Pulau Tenggol, the best way is a easy drive to Kuala Dungun which is about 5 hours from KL, then a short boat ride to the island.

To simplify the categorization of the island’s accommodation are as below. Click here to check the season/ideal date

Pulau Perhentian – backpacker paradise
Pulau Redang – resort and scuba paradise
Pulau Tioman – slightly more commercialized paradise (Duty Free Island, so alcohols are cheap)
Pulau Tenggol – scuba paradise

Finally, we have the islands on the east coast of Malaysia, along the Straits of Malacca and the Andaman Sea.

Let’s start from up north, Pulau Payar, just off Pulau Langkawi, another beach island paradise. Pulau Payar can be accessed from Penang Island or Langkawi. It’s a small island with a floating pontoon right off the beach, as there are no facilities or accommodation on the island. All trips will be day trips starting with a pick-up from your hotel. Click here to check the season/ideal date

Another favourite off season diving is Pulau Jarak & Pulau Sembilan which is all accessible. Pulau Jarak is visited by a live-on-board during the east coast off-season (Nov – March). While Pulau Sembilan can be accessed year-round via Lumut, Perak. These site offer something different, as the waters are normally green instead of the normal blueish water, which makes for an interesting place to photograph! Visibility maybe bad, but they also have good days. The life are just as good as most malaysian dive sites, with sightings of frogfishes, seahorses and rare nudibranchs recently (2011 season)

Once you have exhausted the dive destinations in Malaysia, we are also blessed with a great budget airline hub, providing us with a great interconnect into many diving locations. Listed below are a couple of destinations we have direct flights to, or with a short connection

– Bali, Indonesia
– Komodo National Park, Indonesia (Via Bali)
– Derawan, Indonesia
– Pulau Weh, Indonesia
– Cebu, Phillipines
– Anilao, Phillipines
– Similan Islands, Phuket, Thailand
– Koh Samui, Thailand

Sipadan & Surrounding Islands – Year round, but normally best from April to December
Layang- Layang – Open from March till August
Pulau Perhentian – Open March till October
Pulau Redang – Open March till October
Pulau Tioman – Open March till October (some resorts stay open in Nov)
Pulau Tenggol – Open March till early October
Pulau Payar – Open year round, best months April-Aug
Pulau Sembilan – Open year round
Pulau Payar – LOB operates November till February

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