Best Diving in Malaysia | Top 10 Dive Sites
It’s not surprising Malaysia is the top choice for scuba divers when you see what’s on offer – from a wide variety of dive sites to choose from, warm tropical waters and an amazing diversity of marine life. To help you choose where to go diving in Malaysia, we’ve provided below our top 10 best dive sites in Malaysia.
The best diving in Malaysia is found in Sabah, Borneo with a great biodiversity of marine life, year-round diving options and two diving destinations that regularly feature in the top 10 dive sites in the World. There are also some good island diving options in Peninsular Malaysia accessible during the ‘Dry Season’ (typically March – October). They are closed during the Monsoon season, impacting Peninsular Malaysia dive sites. Which option is the best diving site in Malaysia? You will depend upon your diving experience level, what type of diving you like to do and what else you fancy doing during your holiday in Malaysia.
10 Best Dive Spots in Malaysia
Sipadan, ‘discovered’ by Jacques Cousteau, has to be the number one diving site in Malaysia. Go diving along drop-offs and see an amazing variety of marine life. As a Turtle nesting island, you are guaranteed to see Turtles as well as pelagic (White Tip and Black Tip Reef Sharks are regular visitors). Barracuda Point is a top-rated site at Sipadan, and you’ll often dive by schooling Barracuda, a large shoal of Jacks and may even get passed by the resident large shoal of Bumphead Parrotfish. Top tip: There are limited permits to dive at Sipadan each day. To increase your chances of getting a Sipadan permit book your diver package well in advance and visit during off-peak periods.
2. Layang Layang
Laying Layang is located in the South China Sea, 300 km north-west of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. The remote location is home to drop-offs down to 2000m and regular sightings of pelagics. Laying Layang is famous for having a ‘Hammerhead mating season’ from March-May when you could see Hammerheads passing by as you dive along with the drop-off. ‘The Point’ is one of the most popular dive sites. There is only one Resort located on Layang Layang, and this is open March-August.
3. Lankayan Island
Lankayan is located in the Sulu Sea and accessible from Sandakan on the east coast of Sabah via a ~1.5-hour boat transfer. Lankayan Island is home to one Resort (Lankayan Island Resort), white sandy beaches, fringing coral reefs and ideal for chilled out diving. The coral reefs are home to some interesting macro life, like Nudibranchs, and some (small) wreck sites nearby. It also offers nice snorkelling from the beach so perfect for divers and non-divers wanting a few days at an island resort during their holiday in Malaysia.
4. Mataking Island
Mataking Island is located an 80-minute boat ride from Sipadan. Located in the Alice Channel, Mataking is home to 100m drop-offs, a house reef which is a short walk down the beach from the dive centre and a wreck dive. You can often find resting Turtles on the reefs fringing Mataking as the rest on their way to/from Sipadan. There is one Resort located on Mataking Island, and it is a great location for divers and non-divers. The Resort also has permits for running day trips to Sipadan (subject to availability), allowing it to be reserved in advance.
Mabul is the usual location most divers stay who are wanting to go diving at Sipadan. Several Resorts / Lodges can be found on Mabul ranging from 5* water bungalow resorts to backpacker style lodges. The waters and reefs around Mabul are home to some very cool macro life with a wide range of nudibranch species to be found. If you’re lucky, you’ll see Frog Fish, Mandarin Fish, Flamboyant Cuttlefish, Ghost Pipefish and lots more. The reefs fringing the islands are not the best in Sabah, but the macro life makes up for this.
6. Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, Kota Kinabalu
Top 10 dive sites in Malaysia | Probably some are on the World’s list
Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park is located a short boat ride in front of Kota Kinabalu. The Marine Park is home to five islands – Sapi, Gaya, Mamutik, Manukan and Sulug – all fringed by coral reefs. Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park does not offer the world-class quality of diving to be found at Sipadan; there is a surprising variety of marine life found here, which often surprises visiting divers. From Turtles and passing Black Tip Reef Sharks through to macro life including Nudibranchs, Seahorses and the strange-looking Orangutan Crab. You’ll also find several Clown Fish species on every dive including the species made famous by ‘Nemo’. The Marine Park is perfect for learning to dive or try dives and offers chilled out dives for certified divers.
7. Redang Island
For our first dive site in Penisular Malaysia, we go to Redang Island. The waters around Redang are home to a wonderful diversity of marine life with 80% of species found in the ‘coral triangle’ found here. More than 20 dive sites to visit suit a range of diver experience levels – with deep dives, wall dives, coral reef dives, and macro diving across sandy areas. Several of the sites are great of snorkelers and combined with its white sandy beaches; this makes Redang a good choice for divers and non-divers.
8. Tioman Island
Tioman is the most popular diving location in Peninsular Malaysia. Located on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia most visitors travel to Mersing to catch the ferry transfer to Tioman. Several Dive Centres are found on Tioman all competing hard in price (tip – the cheapest does not generally mean the best when it comes to diving). Tioman is home to around 20 dive sites over the fringing coral reefs. Home to some good macro life and Turtles, Reef Sharks and an array of tropical fish life. Tioman is covered in dense forest and offers a range of lad based activities (like jungle trekking) alongside water-based sports.
9. Perhentian Island
In Terengganu Marine Park, Perhentian Island comprises Pulau Perhentian Besar (The Big Island) and Pulau Perhentian Kecil (The Small Island). Perhentian offers some good diving with coral reefs home to a nice variety of marine life, wreck dive sites and macro life to be found. You’ll often see Turtles, Black Tip Reef sharks, Rays and your usual tropical reef fish life. Visibility ranges between 5m – 20m with the best visibility for diving typically around summertime. The diving conditions are easy with little current and suitable for those learning to dive, newer to diving and the sites offer great snorkelling.
10. Tenggol Island
One of the lesser-known dive sites in Peninsular Malaysia, Tenggol is a small island accessible by ferry transfer from Kuala Dungun. It offers almost untouched coral reefs that are teeming with tropical marine life as a less travelled to dive site. There are shore dives and a selection of dive sites dotted around the island, including wreck dives. The diving conditions range from the relaxing to the more demanding sites (which are deeper, or with stronger currents) with something for divers of all experience levels. Unlike Tioman and Prevention, there is not much to do at Tenggol besides dive, snorkel and chill on the beach in the sun. To some, this will be bliss.
The top 10 of what offers the best diving in Malaysia – now all you need to do is choose where to go.