Mention scuba diving in Malaysia and a few hot spots instantly spring to mind, from Malaysian Borneo which boasts some of the most picturesque islands to the tropical paradises off the peninsula’s east coast. There are locations to suit every level of diver and every style of dive whether it’s to explore a sunken wreck, investigate a cave or simply drift in the underwater currents while you take in the subaquatic surroundings.
Pearl of the East
The location that reigns supreme on the Malaysian scuba scene is the idyllic island of Sipadan, located in the southeastern region of Sabah. Along with Mabul and Kapalai, this cluster of islands is considered to have some of the finest diving in the world. These spots offer unmatched reef diving, populated by schools of whirling hammerheads, barracudas and giant manta rays that circle divers as they descend into the depths.
The Sipadan Barrier Reef drops to some 500m and contains over 200 recorded dive sites such as the famous Hanging Gardens, Turtle Patch, and White Tip Avenue. A permit is required to dive in Sipadan and only 120 of these are given out each day to minimise stress on the reef and marine life. As such, it’s highly advisable to book months in advance to get a chance at experiencing the undersea utopia in this world-renowned location.
The east coast of Malaysia offers stunning and easily accessible islands surrounded by crystal clear waters teeming with life. Redang Island is one of nine islands in the Redang archipelago within the protected Terengganu Marine Park which is filled with unique species found in the ‘coral triangle’, an area ultra-rich in marine life. Tengah Island, as well as Tioman and the Perhentian islands, feature stretches of sunbleached beaches and swathes of untouched tropical jungles.
These getaways have stayed away from heavy tourism and allcontain an exquisite selection of unique marine life and brilliant coral constellations. The shallow waters and high visibility around these islands make them ideal for underwater photography where macro subjects are easily uncovered. Avoid Redang and the east coast islands between October and March however as the monsoon hits here in full force and waters become too murky for diving.