Malaysia is considered by many to be a tropical paradise, with stretches of the rich rainforest as far as the eye can see and tropical turquoise water that sparkles in the sunlight. It’s this crystal clear water that also makes it a haven for scuba divers and snorkelers, particularly in the Sabah region of Borneo. But if you’ve never been to Borneo, or Sabah before, where do you start? You want to get the best experience possible from your trip, so what are the best dive sites in the area? Today, we bring you our 4 favourites.
Tunku Abdul Rahman Park
It might sound like a nature park on land, but Tunku Abdul Rahman Park is a stunning series of islands that provides some exceptional diving options. Just a short speedboat ride from Kota Kinabalu, the shallow waters, coral reefs and gentle currents make this the perfect place for beginner divers to ‘find their fins’, so to speak. With 5 small islands to weave between and the open ocean to move on to, you couldn’t ask for a better stating ground. If you’ve got keen eyes, you could also spot some pretty rare wildlife in this area, including the harlequin ghost pipefish and the mandarin fish. Hawksbill turtles are also a common sight, as they regularly come to feed on the island’s wealth of sponges and molluscs, and whale sharks have also been known to put in appearances during the cooler months.
Layang-Layang | Must-dive places in Sabah
This one’s a little bit of a journey to get to, but it’s well worth it! 186 miles off the west coast of Sabah, the Layang-Layang atoll is one of the best-preserved dive sites in the entire world. This is mainly because it’s actually considered disputed land, with a small Malaysian naval base ensuring that the waters remain safe and unpolluted. You can only get there via flight, and you need to arrange your dive beforehand. Sound exclusive enough? Then grab your fins and drop into an untouched oasis teeming with wildlife. Layang-Layang famously features walls that drop over 2,000 meters deep and a wide variety of resident sharks – including hammerheads, greys, leopard sharks, Silvertips and even threshers. If you’re lucky, you might also spot the pygmy seahorses, Jacks, Barracudas and even rare manta rays swimming the waters alongside you. Vibrant corals, pristine large sea animals all make their homes here, and crystal-clear waters mean you can see for at least 60 meters in any direction, all year round.
World-class muck diving and closeness to Sipadan have made Mabul one of the most popular dive destinations for tourists in the whole of Asia. You don’t need a permit to dive here and there are plenty of places you can stay on the island if you want to make more of a trip of it. If you’ve got a keen eye for photography and a water camera, this is the site for you, as it’s widely considered one of the richest dive locations in the world, with a reputation for great macro photography opportunities. Once you get under the water, you’ll find yourself on an exotic reef, perched on a continental shelf with a 30-meter drop off. Divers have reported seeing a wide variety of macro life on every dive, as well as cuttlefish, octopi and squids that make their homes in the volcanic beds and reefs.
Si Amil Island
Si Amil is one of those rare treasures that’s only found ‘off the beaten track’ to some extent. An hours speedboat drive away from Semporna, Si Amil is an untouched island, filled with schools of Devil Rays in unprecedented numbers, bamboo sharks and rainbow runners flitting in-between dazzling coral reefs. Not only that, but here you will find a number of World War II wrecks littering the sea bed, along with big pelagics, a fantastic variety of sea fans, hard coral and colourful macro. It’s a truly stunning location, but is often missed by tourists because it’s slightly further afield.
At Borneo Dream, we provide a full range of diving trips and experiences in Sabah, Borneo. Whether you’re coming on holiday to Borneo with our family, for your honeymoon, with friends, a company event or travelling on your own, we can help you create the perfect dive experience for your Borneo trip. We provide the full experience, from diving training and courses, equipment purchase or hire and fully guided diving experiences, we promise to make your trip to Borneo unforgettable., To find out more, just get in touch, or click here to view a sample of our packages.