Scuba Diving and Snorkelling Holidays in Malaysia
Malaysia is geographically divided into West (or Peninsular) Malaysia, just south of Thailand on the Malay-Thai Peninsular and West Malaysia located on the huge island of Borneo which it shares with Indonesia and Brunei. The country is famous for its natural beauty, from the highlands of Cameron, rainforest of Taman Negara and stunning beaches and islands of the east coast of the peninsular to the dense jungles of Sarawak, caves at Miri and exquisite diving off the Sabah coast.
Diving in Peninsular Malaysia is mainly along the east coast, from the Perhentian Islands near the Thai border to Tioman in the south. Most of the reefs here are fringing and very convenient to snorkel with the odd pinnacle to vary the experience. Suitable for all levels of experience, you can expect to see Black Tip Reef Sharks, Southern Stingrays, Lionfish, Hawksbill Turtles, Spiny Devilfish and all the usual suspects for the South China Sea and if you are lucky an Octopus, African Pompano or even a passing Whale Shark.
Just three and a half hours' flight from Kuala Lumpur and you will find yourself in Sabah, well known as one of the premier dive destinations in the world. To the west, and close to bustling city of Kota Kinabalu, lie the islands of Layang Layang and Labuan. In the north east lies Lankayan Island. Last but not least, in the south east of the state, Sipadan, Mabul and Kapalai, all-off Semporna, hold some of the best diving in the area.
Famous for its epic wall diving, pelagic encounters, critter spotting and marine life, Sabah offers something for everyone. Coral that has come straight out of a documentary and reef life that will throw up the large and small, from Whale Sharks, Hammerheads, White Tip Reef and Grey Reef Sharks, Green and Hawksbill Turtles, Napoleon Wrasse, schools of Bumphead Parrotfish, Barracuda to Pygmy Seahorses and Pipefish, Frogfish, Shrimps and Crabs of all varieties and much more. Above water, Sabah is also a great place to see the rare and endangered Orang-utan, and a stay at the Sepilok Nature Reserve is highly recommended while in Borneo.
- Sipadan, Mabul and Kapalai Islands are located just a few miles from Semporna in east Sabah, and harbour some of the most mind-blowing and varied diving in the region. Sipadan has long been in the top ten of dive destinations, and for good reason. The currents swirling around this seamount drag up nutrients from the depths below, allowing an astonishing array of hard and soft corals to form, and with this come the reef life. It is not uncommon to give up counting White Tip Reef Sharks and Green Turtles when the numbers reach 30+ per dive, and the reef fish and large animal encounters are outstanding.
- There is plenty of macro to be found but this is only if you find the time after taking in all the colour and activity. Mabul and Kapalai are the closest islands to Sipadan and a great base to dive from, and have phenomenal fringing and house reefs. The diving off these coral fringed islands is a mixture of walls, sloping reefs and muck diving, with the possibility of seeing a staggering array of reef life and critters from the beautiful Mandarinfish, Flamboyant Cuttlefish and Blue Ring Octopus to a passing Eagle Ray, Manta Ray or Whale Shark.
- Located 300km northwest of Kota Kinabalu in the Spratly Islands, Layang Layang, also known as Swallow Reef, rises 2000m out of the South China Sea to offer some truly fantastic diving. Dramatic drop offs and nutrient rich currents have created stunning coral lined walls, with the ever present possibility of large pelagic encounters with Scalloped Hammerheads, Leopard Sharks, and even the odd Manta Ray or Whale Shark, alongside a huge variety of reef life and critters. During the monsoon months between November and January, the island is closed to tourists.
- Lankayan Island is just 15km from Sandakan off north-eastern Sabah in the Sulu Sea. This tropical coral island is within a Marine Protected Area and is a key nesting area for Green and Hawksbill Turtles. The marine life is stunning, with sightings of Black Tip Reef Sharks, Hawksbill and Green Turtles, Mandarinfish and even Whale Sharks, which are not uncommon in the waters surrounding Lankayan. Critter hunters won’t be disappointed, as the reefs and shallows are full of the weird and wonderful. There are also a few wrecks to explore.
- Perhentian Islands and the other islands that sit off the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia are a great choice for those looking for a beach holiday with good diving and snorkelling to boot. They have shallow fringing reefs, and deeper pinnacles and seamounts for the more experienced diver. A variety of marine life, including regular sightings of Black Tip Reef Sharks, Hawksbill Turtles and the occasional Whale Shark, Eagle Ray and Southern Stingray can be seen, while Triggerfish, Angelfish, Butterflyfish and Spiny Devilfish are often spotted around the reef.
- Time: GMT + 5-8hrs
- Flying Time: 14-18hrs (twin centre recommended)
- Language: Bahasa Malaysia
- Climate: Malaysia has a hot and humid, tropical climate. The dry season on the east coast of the peninsular runs from the end of March to November and this is the time to visit as some of the islands completely shut down to tourists during the off season. Malaysian Borneo has year round diving weather.
- Currency: Malaysian Ringgit £1 = MYR 5
- Visa Requirements: A 90-day holiday visa is granted on arrival for many EU passport holders