Why did you move to Malaysia

Diving and snorkeling in Malaysia

Are you looking for exciting underwater experiences? How about Malaysia then? There are some of the best dive sites in the world there. Find out where here!

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In the report about the most beautiful destinations in Malaysia, I already mentioned the underwater world a little. Today I am going to deepen the topic again. Because the country belongs to the top 3 for divers in Southeast Asia together with Indonesia and the Philippines.

Malaysia consists of two parts. These are the Malaysian peninsula with the area between Thailand and Singapore and a piece of the island of Borneo located 300 kilometers to the east. You can dive and snorkel in all parts of the country, but the quality is very different.

On the west coast of the peninsula, visibility is often not that good, so there are only a few places worth mentioning. Much more awaits you in the marine national parks on the east coast.

However, the best diving areas in Malaysia are located off the coasts of the state of Sabah on the island of Borneo. Part of it is part of the Coral Triangle. This is an area belonging to six states, the biodiversity of which is one of the highest in the world. The WWF promotes research on the islands and reefs.

Scuba & Snorkeling in West Malaysia

West Coast

The waters off the west coast are not that popular with underwater enthusiasts. This is due to the fact that in this busy strait, the Strait of Melaka, there is usually not a good view.

Diving and snorkeling around the famous holiday island of Langkawi is hardly worth it. For this purpose, tours are offered to the Payar Marine Park, which is about an hour away. There is a very beautiful coral reef here. There you have the chance to see sharks. An artificial reef was created off the island of Pulau Kaca with sunken boats. By the way, the dive sites can also be reached by ship from Penang.

From Langkawi there are also diving boats going to Thailand every now and then. In the Tarutao Marine National Park around Koh Lipe and Koh Tarutao, the view is very good.

Further south of Penang are Pulau Pangkor, Pulau Pangkor Laut and the small group of Sembilan Islands. Here you have visibility of 5 to 15 meters. Along with Pulau Payar, this area is one of the best diving spots on the west coast. This stretch of coast can be reached in a short time from the capital Kuala Lumpur.

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East coast

The east coast is much more attractive for divers and snorkel fans. The Terengganu Marine Park is known and loved. There are more than 20 diving spots around the Perhentian Islands. Many young people travel to the islands and get their diving license in one of the local diving schools. Some bays have a house reef, so you can snorkel straight from the beach. An interesting tour goes to the neighboring island of Rawa Island.

The most famous dive sites are the Tokong Laut (Temple of the Sea) coral reef and the shipwreck of the MV Union Star 17, which is also known as the Sugar Wreck because it ran onto a sandbank and sank on the way from Indonesia to Bangkok, laden with tons of sugar. Pulau Tiger (Tiger Rocks) is also driven by the Perhentians.

Even when snorkelling around the Perhantians, you almost have a guarantee for sharks, turtles and the big buffalo head parrot fish. With a lot of luck you will see dolphins and whale sharks here (July / August).

A few kilometers south is the island of Redang, which also attracts with great beaches and a wonderful underwater world. For example, the places around the tiny neighboring island of Pulau Lima (Big Mount), where whale sharks and manta rays have been seen, are popular. Many Asian tourists come to Redang as part of package tours.

The small island of Lang Tengah is less well known. There are only four resorts here, but also a beautiful underwater world.

Around the island of Pulau Tenggol, off the coast of Kuala Dungun, around 20 dive sites are waiting for you, including a wreck.

Tioman is located in the Pahang Marine Park. Many diving schools are waiting for customers on the island. Tours to the surrounding islands are offered. The Tiger Reef is popular. Snorkeling around Tioman is also worthwhile. For example, you have a view of rays and moray eels. I also saw my first buffalo head parrotfish here a few years ago. In some places you can already go into the water from the beach with your diving goggles.

South of Tioman is the Johor Marine Park. Diving and snorkeling are already worthwhile on the islands near the coast such as Rawa Island. But it should be much better on the islands further out, such as Pulau Aur, Pulau Dayang and Pulau Pinang. There are also two wrecks here.

Diving and snorkeling in Borneo

Sarawak

The coastal town of Miri is the starting point for diving excursions to some offshore reefs with visibility of up to 40 meters.

Sabah

Sabah is the absolute number 1 for diving in the country. However, be sure to read the safety instructions for Malaysia before you set off. There is a travel warning for some areas in the northeast.

The island of Labuan off the Bay of Brunei is very popular with wreck divers. Because four ships lie here at the bottom of the sea (Bule Water Wreck, Cement Wreck, American Wreck and Australian Wreck).

In the northwest of Labuan is the Pulau Tiga National Park with some beautiful diving spots.

The Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park with its five islands extends off the coast of Kota Kinabalu. In the first half of the year you will be lucky enough to see whale sharks there. Good diving and snorkeling spots are in front of Pulau Sapi and Pulau Manukan (“Mid reef”).

Almost 40 kilometers before Kota Belud you reach Pulau Mantanani. There are some wrecks diving around the island.

Layang Layang Island is a real experience. The island about 300 kilometers off the coast consists only of an airstrip and a resort. Visibility of up to 50 meters awaits you in the immediate vicinity. The place is ideal for current and wall diving. Here, in the middle of the ocean, you can see large sharks and groups of bow-forehead hammerheads. Plus tuna, manta rays, barracudas, napoleons etc.

On the east coast north of Sandakan is the Turtle Islands National Park with many turtles that lay their eggs there. A long way out is Lankayan Island. In addition to two wrecks (a fishing boat and a Japanese warship) you can expect fantastic beaches, a number of good dive sites and, with luck, whale sharks and dugongs.

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Sipadan

The diving spots around the island of Sipadan are already legendary (great video). Above all the demanding Barracuda Point. It gets almost dark there when the huge schools of barracudas, mackerel or schools of buffalo head parrotfish pass over you.

Since you are no longer allowed to stay overnight on Sipadan, you have the shortest journey from Pulau Mabul or Pulau Kapalai. Both also have imposing reefs nearby. Other spectacular dive sites in the area include Turtle Cavern, Mid-Reef, The Dropp-off, and Lobster Wall.

Important: The number of people who are allowed into the water per day is limited in some places, so take care of it early on. You may not be given permission for every day. Better plan a longer stay on site. Also note that many diving spots are unsuitable for beginners.

Prices diving course / diving license

Of course you can get your diving license in Malaysia. There are PADI diving schools in almost all places with attractive reefs. These have an international standard. The price for the Open Water is usually between 200 and 300 euros.

Many of the terrific dive sites off Borneo are considered a bit more challenging and require a certain amount of experience. Therefore, as a beginner, you might be better off on the east coast of the peninsula.

Diving trips to Malaysia

Numerous tour operators specialize in diving trips to Malaysia. There are also some diving ships like the Celebes Explorer, with which you can be out at sea for several days.

Travel time

The different parts of the country are exposed to different climatic influences. Thus, the best travel time in Malaysia differs from place to place. Also note that some popular coastal hotspots can get quite crowded around the public holidays and school break in Malaysia.

Basically you can dive on Borneo all year round, on the peninsula the period from March to October is recommended because of the better areas on the east coast.

Further information

What are your tips and experiences?

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About the author

Stefan has been traveling to the countries of Southeast Asia since 2006 and often spends several months there. In 2013 he founded Fascination Southeast Asia and has since written several eBooks and books on the subject (including the insider travel guide “555 Tips for Bangkok”). Between his travels he lives and works in Düsseldorf.

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