Malaysia is a modern and progressive country in the heart of South East Asia where English is very widely spoken and travel is easy. It plays host to an amazingly diverse range of scuba destinations. You can enjoy the wonderfully rich waters that surround its eastern state of Sabah, Borneo, and those which lap the eastern coast of the Malaysian peninsula.
Most of the best diving is situated on the islands of Sabah which are fringed with white sand beaches and coconut trees - a beautiful setting to complement the excellent marine encounters.
Nothing beats scuba diving in Borneo. There are loads of premier destinations that offer spectacular underwater sights. If you can name it, then there's a destination in Borneo that has it. From macro life to pelagics, wrecks to wall dives, coral gardens teeming with a rich diversity of corals and fish, underwater caves where sleepy sharks go to chill out, and caverns where turtles go for eternal rest... Borneo diving has it all and then some.
Sipadan Island and Layang Layang are the most popular and well known destinations. Some 3,000 species were first found and classified while diving the fabulous sites in Malaysia such as Sipadan. If you're looking for something different, Lankayan is the latest hot destination that offers new frontiers and can be easily combined with a trip to the nearby Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sepilok. Mabul and Kapalai are world renowned destinations for macro dives.
If, for reasons of time or geography, you can't make it to Sabah then a liveaboard trip around the island of Tioman could be a good option. Tioman lies off peninsular Malaysia's east coast and is a very popular island for scuba divers based in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
The dive season runs all year round in Borneo, except for diving in Layang Layang which runs from March to August. The Tioman season runs from March to November with liveaboards operating there mostly between June and September.
For more detailed information of exactly when the best time is to visit at each of the destinations, check out the individual dive site descriptions below.
Malaysia is a very well connected country with Kuala Lumpur being one of the most significant hubs in the airline industry of Asia. It has direct connections with major cities throughout Europe, Asia, Australasia and the Middle East. Singapore, from where you depart for Malaysian liveaboards to Tioman and the South China Sea, is a similarly high profile airport.
Sabah in Malaysian Borneo is a well-connected destination with its city of Kota Kinabalu having Malaysia's number 2 airpor,t meaning it too has direct flights from various regional cities. Tawau, the airport closest to Sipadan, has direct flights from Kuala Lumpur.
Great for: Large animals, small animals, value-for-money, advanced divers and beginner divers
Not so great for: Non-diving activities
Depth: 5 - >40m
Visibility: 5 - 50m
Surface Conditions: Calm
Water Temperature: 25 - 30°C
Experience Level: Beginner - advanced
Number of dive sites: >125
Access: Malaysia dive resorts and liveaboards
Recommended length of stay: 1 - 3 weeks
More detailed information on the Borneo diving sites in Sabah: