Diving in Malaysia
"Diving in Malaysia is like diving in a tropical aquarium!"
Diving in Malaysia one of the most popular reasons why visitors flock to the country from all over the world. Blessed with the tropical weather and warm seas all around, healthy coral formations and a myriad of marine life thrive.
The Malaysian government also realizes the importance of conservation by designating several Marine Parks, some of them are world class.
The west coast is lesser known for diving in Malaysia. The Andaman Sea and the Strait of Malacca borders with the west coast of Malaysian Peninsula.
That is about 1000 km of coastline from the tip of Perlis (which is the far north west of Malaysia at the Thai border) to southern Johor and Singapore, dotted with many small islands.
It makes leisure dives and training possible. You may marvel at the abundance of marine life at Pulau Payar Marine Park.
You can live on board boats that run dive excursions around Sembilan Island off Pulau Pangkor for hard core divers. Other obscure islands like Pulau Kaca and Pulau Segantang also offers surprisingly good diving on certain days.
In fact the only island which is easy accessible (though not the only place!) for diving is Pulau Payar, just south of Langkawi.
Diving at Pulau Payar is for experienced and beginners alike. Plenty to see, plenty to learn. Dive organizations work from either Penang or Langkawi.
If you book your dive trip with us, we will pick you up at the hotel, a service not all dive operators offer.
The fact Pulau Payar is the only island on the west coast easy assessable for diving doesn't mean it's not interesting. Contrary! It's a great spot, you will enjoy it. Read here more about diving at Pulau Payar
Diving in Malaysia's east coast
On the East coast, The South China Sea sandwiches the Peninsula, another 1000km of coastline. Perhentian and Redang Islands need no further introduction for diving enthusiasts. Tioman island was also once recognized as having spectacular diving, on par with other dive hotspots elsewhere in the world.
Other worth mentioning are smaller islands like Lang Tengah, Tenggol and also Bidong. Bidong island was once a refuge camp for the Vietnamese who fled their country in the 1980's.
Their scattered wooden boat wrecks interestingly made diving in Pulau Bidong unforgettable.
Other than the beautiful underwater scenery, there are also boat wrecks to discover. There are several old merchant wrecks like the Vietnamese boat people wrecks off Bidong island and also some allegedly vessels which carried sunken treasure.
Sunken artificial reefs are also plenty. First, they were created to provide shelter for the fish to breed.
However, these reefs, over the years, become the base for corals, sponges and anemone to grow and the results are stunning.
The reefs were made of especially designed concrete or old rubber tyres lumped together.
The main dive islands on the east coast are Perhentian, Redang and Tioman. Read more about Perhentian as a dive holiday destination.
What about the diving course and leisure dives? Few places are better then Perhentian to start your diving adventures. Here is lot more about diving in Perhentian
On East Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak), there are many small islands just waiting to be enjoyed underwater.
For example, there is Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. The crown of the jewel is of course Sipadan Island, which was personally endorsed by the legendary Jacques Cousteou, the pioneer father of SCUBA diving, as the best dive site, with a variety of sea creatures unique to the area.
Most divers save and scrimp so that they can afford to experience diving in Sipadan. Sipadan has steep sea walls that go beyond 130 feet in depth where you can "dive in the blue". Whoa.. an awesome experience.
Besides the famous island, Mabul and Layang-Layang are two more destinations that are fixed in most dive clubs calendar as the place to be.
Local dive operators also organize trips to other location outside Malaysia such as Thailand, Indonesia, the Maldives, the Philippines, Australia and also Fiji.
Mataking ( Macro heaven & Secluded beach getaway)
The Reef Dive Resort at Mataking Island, Malaysia, is the newest and hottest dive spot in the Celebes Sea, located just 40 minutes from Semporna, a fishing town at east coast of the state of Sabah, Malaysia.
Blessed with some of the best macro sites and secluded beach setting. Come explore it's inhabitants and surroundings.
Where to start your scuba diving adventures?
Now, where do you start to begin the pleasure of diving in Malaysia?
Before you can dive, you must become a certified diver first. Dive instructors in Malaysia are a small community. Nonetheless, they are well qualified and very knowledgeable about this profession.
The dive certificates are issued according to the standard of world class diving. The organizations involved include PADI, SSI, NAUI and BSAC.
To learn diving in Malaysia, there are several pre-requisites common to all the certifying organization: you can swim, you can tread water, you are reasonably fit and healthy.
People with disability can also dive but there are certain limits to be observed. Later on, there are several levels of education that you can partake in order to improve your skills.
To become proficient in diving, you accumulate experience by logging more dives and start with good, no-nonsense basic dive instructions and practices. This is a kind of sport where hands-on practice are really necessary.
For the laymen who do not dive, they cannot possibly understand the thrill to be underwater. Being weightless and free in a beautiful surrounding is such a therapeutic experience.
However, do not forget that diving is without its risks which most people tend to overlook. Each dive must be planned properly. The condition of the current, water and weather all have to be taken into account.
Listen carefully during the briefing period by your divemaster, what to do and not to do in the area you are diving.
Diving in Malaysia is generally safe and fun. The diving community is the friendliest you could find. It is true when your life safety could be in jeopardy and you know that your buddy is watching over you, you cement a bond that is hard to be broken.
Diving is a rewarding experience, from this hobby, it can evolve into other profitable fields. Videography, journalism, photography, awareness in the delicate eco-system or training to become a professional commercial diver are just a tip of the iceberg.
And one good thing to keep an eye on, PADI is the biggest, though not the only, official world wide diving organization. However, you will find many dive organizations having the PADI logo. Keep an eye on it.
It is also advisable to purchase extra insurance that covers risks associated with diving.
Established dive center normally include insurance as part of their dive trip fare. Dive safely according to your level of skills to avoid decompression sickness or fatal embolism. Observe surface interval (SIT) and safety stops.
Tourists who are flying home must remember to allow at least 24 hours to elapse after your last dive. This is to let nitrogen bubbles which formed in your bloodstream to outgass out of your body circulation.
Diving medicine is a very specialized topic, therefore each diver has to adhere strictly to basic rules for safe diving in Malaysia.
The naval base in Lumut and Kuantan have decompression chambers set up to help with divers who are sick. You may be surprised to know that the chambers are not only used to treat divers with the bends but research is being done to treat other common diseases as well. In Langkawi, there is also another decompression chamber at the hospital.
Therefore, be rest assured that the technology of the medical facilities for diving in Malaysia is up to the world standard should anything goes wrong with you.
Buying your own dive equipment
All dive centers in Malaysia have dive gear for rent. You can also buy your own gear. They are expensive but they are worth it. Properly maintained dive gear are a must in order to enjoy good diving in Malaysia.
Owning a basic snorkeling gear will guarantee you a better fit and comfort when you dive and snorkel. There are masks, snorkel and fins. Some divers prefer fins with booties while some prefer the full foot version. Whatever it is, try them on and make sure those that you buy fit you nicely.
Low quality masks may ruin your diving pleasure in the way that it leaks or fog up easily. The strap must be the type that would not tangle in your hair or become loose after several usage.
Get advise from the expert and shop around. Everyone has unique shape of face, some masks fit better on certain facial structure and some simply do not. Yes, shopping around is the best way to get the best fit mask for your face shape
Yes, divers use snorkel too. On the surface, when the air in the tank runs out, snorkel is used to swim to the dive boats.
The air tank at the back of a diver is very heavy. With the aid of a pair of fins to propel and using the snorkel to breathe while being horizontal face down in the water, a diver will be able to move more efficiently on the surface.
You must choose a snorkel that is not too big for you to expel the water from the tube. In some cases, cheaper snorkels work much better than the more expensive one.
Again, get some advice from the experts. Your instructor and the dive shop owner usually are the ones who can recommend the most suitable type for you.
Nitrox diving and trimix are not widely available in Malaysia. Almost all dive centers use compressed air tanks only.
Have a splashing time diving in Malaysia!