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Scuba diving day trips in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia | Borneo Dream

Sabah Diving Day Trips in Kota Kinabalu

Visitors to Sabah often have one thing in mind – the ocean! Whether your thing is diving, snorkelling or boat trips, the coastline of the region of Sabah is undeniably spectacular. Because of this, it can be hard to fit everything in. This is why Sabah diving day trips in Kota Kinabalu are such a popular option. We take a look at some of the best and varied dive locations that are easily accessed from Kota Kinabalu.

Why take a day trip? | Sabah diving day trips

Single-day trips are a great way of including spectacular dive excursions in your vacation. During the dry season, from April to October, access to Sabah dive locations from Kota Kinabalu is straightforward. Out of season these can be affected by plankton blooms or dropping sea temperatures. But this doesn’t make it impossible – remember that Sabah is a year-round diving destination!

Where to go

From your base in Kota Kinabalu, there’s a huge choice of dive destinations. At Borneo Dream, we offer a day leisure dive tour which takes in some of these idyllic spots, and can be a different combination every time!

Sabah diving day trips | Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park

This is a broad diving location which takes in five islands within the Marine Park, occupying just under 5,000 hectares. Because of the size of the park, the diving day trips you can take here can be planned to suit any ability or schedule. Dive sites take in a huge variety of sea life within shallow coral reefs which are both spectacular to view and suitable for beginners. Why not include a lunch stop at Gaya island for a super relaxed day?

Usukan Bay

If history is your thing, a day trip wreck diving at Usukan Bay is ideal. Explore the three wrecks of Japanese warships which were sunk in 1944 by two American submarines. Now home to corals and fish life aplenty, a day trip to this dive location is a wonderful combination of world history and the natural world.

Pulau Tiga

Southwest of Kota Kinabalu, this collection of three relatively undeveloped islands offers fantastic shallow reef diving. Visibility tends to be extremely clear, on average about 20 metres, so you’ll get an impressive window on the sea life. Look out for nudibranchs, bamboo sharks, and banded sea snakes.

Mayne Rock

Off the coast to the north of Kota Kinabalu sits this spectacular rock formation. Gigantic boulders are blanketed with soft pink coral. Within all this, there is a teaming ecosystem to explore and photograph. Indeed this is one of the top day trip dive locations for keen underwater photographers.


If you fancy something a bit different to the many reef dive tours on offer, muck diving at Mabul is just the ticket. The idea behind muck diving is to carefully explore volcanic sandy seabeds to uncover the hidden biodiversity. So be careful to avoid kicking up the sand! At Mabul, your explorations in the bed will reveal abundant macro life, including exotic nudibranchs. Also keep a lookout for pygmy seahorse, anglerfish and blue-ringed octopus.

Getting certified

To have the freedom of joining a diving day trip, you’ll need to be a certified diver and present your diver certification card. Maybe you’re not already certified and are just beginning your diving journey, but the locations above are enticing you? As part of your vacation to Sabah, you can undertake your PADI Open Water Diver Course over 3.5 days. This involves a half-day study session and three days of practical skills, diving and a float test. If your holiday schedule is pressing, the PADI Open Water Referral course is a good fast track option. Undertake confined water training at your home PADI location and complete your four open water training dives over 2 days with us here at Kota Kinabalu. Alternatively, learn the academic side online with the PADI eLearning Open Water course and put in just 3 days on your vacation to complete your open water certification with us.

Destination Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu (or KK) is named after Mount Kinabalu, which sits around 50 kilometres from the city. Facing the South China Sea, KK enjoys all the benefits of being on the northwest coast of Borneo. As a coastal location, it’s an ideal base to reach the fantastic variety of dive locations we’ve mentioned without hours of travel. For days when you’re not diving, loads are going on in and around the city, too.

When a day isn’t enough…

For some dive tours, a day trip from Kota Kinabalu is simply not sufficient. So plan a few nights’ sojourns at one of Sabah’s surrounding island resorts for even more great diving.


For adventurous wildlife spotting, Sipadan is ideal. Stay at Mataking Island Resort for a minimum of 3 nights and enjoy diving day trips to Sipadan from here. The island of Pulau Sipadan is a nesting site for both Green turtles and Hawksbill turtles, so you’re guaranteed some turtle action when diving here. You may also come across Manta Rays and some shark species, including White Tip and Black Tip sharks.

Lankayan Island

This is a luxurious island resort where you can plan daily dive trips in total relaxation! The island itself is part of a marine protected area, while close by you can access Turtle Island. So for divers wanting to learn more about conservation efforts, this spot is ideal.


Around 300km northwest of Kota Kinabalu, this resort is only accessible by flight. From here you can dive some of the best-preserved sites in the world with drops of over 2,000 metres.

Gaya Island Resort

While you can take diving day trips from Kota Kinabalu to many locations within the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, you may choose to embark on your daily dives from a 5* resort! Basing yourself on Gaya Island is a great option for those who want to complete the PADI Open Water Certification whilst enjoying the luxuries of a 5* vacation!

The waters off the coast of Sabah, and specifically around Kota Kinabalu are extremely rich in diving opportunity. So just contact us for help in planning the day trips that will make your vacation an unforgettable experience!

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