Most of Malaysia’s diving takes places on the east coast islands of Peninsular Malaysia as well as Sabah and Sarawak, the two East Malaysia provinces on the island of Borneo.
- Peninsular Malaysia
In northeast Malaysia, the Perhentian Islands and Redang Island offer the best diving. Shallow wrecks, clear water, and the chance to see a wide range of marine life including reef sharks and whale sharks make these islands very popular among novice and advanced divers as well as dive groups from the mainland.
Following the eastern coast further south you’ll find other islands such as Tenggol Island and Tioman Island, known for healthy coral reefs and occasional strong currents which bring in pelagic creatures and big schools of jacks and snappers.
- East Malaysia
As nice as Peninsular Malaysia diving is, the clear winner for the best diving in Malaysia is in the Sabah province in East Malaysia. Off the town of Semporna in the northeastern corner of Borneo is Sipadan, a world-class dive site with vertical walls, swirling barracudas, resident turtles, and a plethora of reef sharks. Sipadan diving offers a good chance to see pelagics like whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, and schooling devil rays. The nearby Semporna Marine Park is also known for super macro and muck diving. Mabul Island, also in close proximity, is loved by underwater photographers as it’s a goldmine for weird and wonderful macro creatures. Kota Kinabalu (or KK) is 500 kilometers from Semporna, but has direct access to five gorgeous islands in the famous Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. More remote and only for the advanced is the island of Layang-Layang, roughly 300 kilometers off of KK. The water off this tiny island is suited mostly for deep dives with the chance to see schooling hammerheads, swirling barracudas and jack fish, and pygmy seahorses.
Another option for diving in Malaysian Borneo is in Sarawak province. Home to the city of Miri, this is the province’s best destination for diving because of its location in the Coral Reefs National Park. However, if you’re after the best diving in the country, experienced divers should definitely make their way to Sabah.