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Scuba Diving in Malaysia

PADI Scuba Diving in Malaysia

Located in the Indo-Pacific Basin, Malaysia is a truly blessed country. Imagine crystal clear waters surrounding beautiful islands with pure, white beaches. Picture coconut palms swaying in balmy, tropical breezes, all set against a backdrop of lush, green rainforest. And, especially important to divers, Malaysia's biodiversity is nothing short of stunning.Dive Thailand

Malaysia is a modern Asian country where English is widely spoken. Separated by the waters of the South China Sea, the country is divided into two regions. Positioned immediately north of the equator between Thailand and Singapore is Peninsular Malaysia and the country’s capital of Kuala Lumpur. Malaysian Borneo (or East Malaysia), which consists of the states of Sabah and Sarawak, is on the northern edges of Borneo, the world’s third largest island.

Around the hundreds of tropical islands, you’ll find an incredible choice of dive sites and undiscovered beaches. It’s not surprising that Malaysia is regarded one of the world's top dive destinations. Pick from an variety of underwater landscapes - including sloping reefs, pinnacles and coral gardens - for your deep, drift, wreck, cave and wall dives. Get ready to meet an amazing array of brilliant, exotic marine life beneath these pristine waters - some of which are rarely experienced anywhere else on earth. Some world renowned dive sites await you off of Borneo's Sipadan and Mabul Islands. Off of the Malay Peninsula, Perhentian, Redang and Tioman Islands all offer their own unique charm.

Malaysian Borneo

Famous for its wall diving and coral overhangs, Sipadan Island is Malaysia's only oceanic island. Rising 600 metres/2000 feet from the bottom of the Celebes Sea, this small island was formed by living corals growing on top of an extinct volcanic cone. Although small in size, it is big in biodiversity, with more than 3000 species of marine life.

Great Sipadan dive sites include Barracuda Point, Coral Garden, Hanging Gardens, Mid Reef, South Point, Turtle Patch and White Tip Avenue. Experienced cave divers can also pay a visit to the famous Turtle Tomb, a 200 metre/650 foot cave system. With many PADI Dive Resorts on the neighboring islands, you'll find all of your dive needs catered to.Sipidan Malaysia

In contrast to Sipadan's large pelagics, Mabul Island - which is just 15 minutes away by boat - is known for the peculiar, minute and exotic. Its reputation as one of the best macro diving sites in the world is built on its fairly regular sightings of critters like mandarinfish, Devil scorpionfish, ghost pipefish, stonefish, frogfish, crocodilefish, mantis shrimp, snake eels, seahorses and vivid nudibranchs.

About 20 minutes from Sipadan, Kapalai Island boasts a shallow reef that is easy to dive and quite spectacular. The more than 20 dives sites are home to the weird and wonderful cuttlefish, invisible frogfish and an incredible number of rare and strikingly colorful creatures that reside on the sandy bottom.

 

Peninsular Malaysia

An ideal location for both novice divers and anyone continuing their dive education, the balmy and tropical Perhentian Islands are 21 kilometres/13 miles northeast of the Malaysian peninsula. Here you will find powdery, white sand beaches, crystal clear water and, of course, superb diving and snorkelling. Take your pick of towering pinnacles, unique shipwrecks and more than 20 fringing reefs. There are at least 20 different dive sites, including the giant pinnacle of Tokong Laut, aptly named Temple of the Sea, which buzzes with aquatic life and is home to a significant sea turtle nesting population.cuttlefish Malaysia

The Redang Archipelago is a spread of nine islands in the South China Sea. Off Redang Island, are numerous dive sites - including beach, shallow and deep dives - to suit all skill levels. There are beautiful hard and soft corals in what some consider the world’s most developed coral gardens, as well as sandy bottom sites offering quality muck dives. Redang has vast stretches of white beaches where sea turtles, along with thousands of tropical fish species, play in the shallow shoreline waters. Protected by the Palau Redang Marine Parks, the marine environment here is rich and healthy. 

Tioman Island, 67 kilometres/41 miles off of the peninsula's east coast, is a relatively undiscovered, world class dive destination. With seemingly endless white sand beaches and waving palm trees, it’s a great place to learn to dive. Plus, the nearby deep water and many wrecks mean that technical divers won't be disappointed.Malaysia coral

Tioman and the surrounding smaller islands were formed by large granite boulders, which means many of the dive sites interesting underwater formations. The boulders are covered with a dense growth of both hard and soft corals, which provide the perfect habitat for an abundance of marine life. One highlight of Tioman is Tiger Reef, which is a submersed pinnacle with an average depth of 16 metres/52 feet. Here, you’ll marvel at the coral formations, crinoids, sea whips and sea fans. Due to the stronger currents, however, it is recommended only for advanced divers.

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Dive Summary of Malaysia Diving

Depth: 3 - 40 metres/10- 130 feet

Visibility: 10 - 40 metres/33 - 130 feet

Currents: Borneo Eastern – Mild to strong. Peninsular Malaysia – Mild to moderate.

Water Temperature: 27 - 29° C/81 - 84° F

Dive Season: Borneo Eastern – All year.
Swirling fish Malaysia
Peninsular Malaysia – February to November is the best for diving.
The wet season runs from November to March and it is best to confirm ahead if booking during this time.

Weather: Tropical. Air temperatures range from 21 - 32 ºC/ 70 - 90º F.        

Access: Shore or house reefs and customized dive boats.

Skill level:
Borneo Eastern – Beginning to advanced divers.         
Peninsular Malaysia – Beginning to technical divers.

Recommended Courses:clownfish diver

Featured Creatures

You'll encounter a wide variety of aquatic life at all the dive sites. You'll see turtles, turtles and even more turtles just about everywhere. You’ll also see various reef sharks, schooling barracuda and trevallies by the thousands. But that's not all. Majestic bumphead parrotfish, Napoleon wrasse, rainbow runners, emperors, groupers, batfish, mackerel, stingrays, boxfish, lionfish, garden eels and moray eels are all likely. Common sightings also include angelfish, butterfly fish, snapper, triggerfish, pufferfish, shrimp, nudibranchs and much, much more. A special treat for photographers and macro lovers are the blue-ringed octopus, mimic octopus, mandarinfish and seahorses. Whale sharks also occasionally visit the islands off the Malaysian peninsula, although you will be very lucky if you see one.

 

Most Famous Dive Site

Barracuda Point, Sipadan Island

Average Depth: 15 – 24 metres/50 - 80 feet

Barracuda Point is off of Sipadan Island's far northern tip and where the currents meet, the large species gather. And, it's impressive - there are thousands. You’ll dive with barracuda and see giant schools of jacks swirl above the expansive coral gardens. The current at Barracuda Point can be strong, making this a fast moving, high-voltage dive that is recommended for intermediate to advanced divers. You’ll also have the chance to experience a spine-tingling barracuda tornado. They're frequently so large that they blot out the sun - and make a great opportunity for underwater photographers. Turtle lovers will also be in their element as the large congregations here are at ease with divers and make ideal photographic subjects.

 

As a result of food brought in by the currents, it’s also a favorite hunting ground for hammerhead sharks, reef sharks, wrasse, tuna, batfish, groupers, bumphead parrotfish and frogfish. Plus you can expect up to 30 metre/100 foot visibility between April and December.bumphead parrotfish Malaysia

 

Getting to the site:

Sipadan Island is approximately 45 minutes by speedboat from the town of Semporna on Sabah’s mainland. To protect the marine habitat, accommodation is no longer available on Sipadan, but you can reach the island in just 15 - 20 minutes via speedboat from the neighboring islands of Mabul and Kapalai. Many liveaboards also visit Sipadan.

 

Topside Treasures in Malaysia

 

Fast Facts about Malaysia

Language: Bahasa Malaysia is the national language but English is also widely spoken. Various Chinese dialects and Hindi are also common.

Currency: Malaysian Ringgit (MYR)

Tipping: It isn't common or a custom but can be used as a token of appreciation.

Transportation: The main gateway is the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, (KUL), which is at Sepang in the state of Selangor. There are also international airports at Penang (Penang International Airport - PEN), Johor Bahru (Senai International Airport - JHB), Kota Kinabalu (Kota Kinabalu International Airport - BKI), Kuching (Kuching International Airport - KCH) and Langkawi (Langkawi International Airport - LGK).

Malaysian’s national carrier is Malaysian Airlines is the national carrier. Travel to East Malaysia, (Sabah and Sarawak) from Kuala Lumpur is by air and other states in Malaysia are well serviced by 14 domestic airports and airstrips. You can find out more at the Tourism Malaysia website.

Time Zone: – GMT + 8 hours

Religions: Islam is the official religion, but Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity are also widely practiced.

Electricity: Supply is 240 volts at 50 hertz. A standard three pin square plug and socket (Type D) is used.

 

Related Resources

Links to other helpful sitesbatfish Malaysia

 

Links to visa requirements: Visitors to Malaysia must hold a valid passport or travel document with a minimum validity of six months.

Links to weather: Malaysian Meteorological Department

Links to reliable tour operators:

Want to know more? Visit www.scubaearth.com for further information on thousands of dive sites, marine species, destination essentials and more. 

Special thanks to Tourism Malaysia for support and information. 

Images courtesy of:

  • Universal Divers - Perhentian Island
  • Dive Station - Tioman Island
  • Steven Cheong
  • Fevzi Dikici
  • Paul Samways
  • Ali Othman
  • Leslie Chan
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