The Southeast Asian country of Malaysia, with over 200 exotic islands, is a fantastic destination for scuba diving. Its beaches are paved with soft golden sand, clear blue waters and gorgeous tropical sunsets. The diversity of the country’s ecosystem in and around the islands of Malaysia make them superb for underwater explorations and water sports.

Even if you’re not a master scuba diver or have never dived before, there are renowned diving centres and training schools that will equip you with the skills to explore the gorgeous underwater sites. Let’s dive in and take a look at all you need to know about scuba diving in Malaysia.

Where To Dive In Malaysia


1. Sipadan & Mabul: Diving Capital Of Malaysia

These two islands probably contain the best dive sites in the whole of Malaysia. Sipadan claims to be the world’s best dive site, and with oceans this beautiful, it certainly lives up to the hype. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy to visit the island because of the restricting rules that require visitors to get permits (a quota of 120 permits daily). Luckily for diving lovers, Mabul Island offers great opportunities for scuba diving. The island is known worldwide for its amazing muck diving conditions.

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Best Time To Dive: Scuba diving is available in Sipadan and Mabul all year round, but the best conditions are from April to August.
Ideal For: Scuba Diving beginners
How To Get There: Sipadan isn’t the easiest place to get to, but the journey is worth it. The closest airport is Tawau. From there, you can continue by minivan or taxi to the town of Semporna (about 1-2 hours). From Semporna you take a speed boat out to Sipadan island or Mabul.
Resorts & Training Schools: Sipadan Kapalai Dive Resort, Sipadan Water Village Resort, Sipadan-Mabul Resort, PADI certified Dive School, Sipadan Dive Centre

2. Lankayan Island: Swim With Majestic Whale Sharks

A small island located north of the city of Sandakan in eastern Sabah. Lankayan only has one (luxurious) resort and it’s all about diving and relaxing. The island is known for its wrecks, macro diving, and whale shark sightings from the months of March to May. After Sipadan, Lankayan probably offers the best dive spots and diving conditions in Malaysia.

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Best Time To Dive: Lankayan Island is an all-year diving destination, but between the months of March and May you have a chance to dive with the mythical whale sharks.
Ideal For: Experienced divers
How To Get There: There is only one resort on Lankayan Island that is accessible by boat. To get there, you need to arrive in Sandakan (which does have an airport) and take the boat across. This journey takes approximately two hours.
Resorts & Training Schools: Lankayan Island Dive Resort

3. Tioman Island: A Dip In Legendary Waters

Diving conditions at Tioman are similar to the other popular islands nearby. The island is part of the Mersing Marine Park and surrounded by white coral reefs, making it a popular scuba diving destination. Another fascination with Tioman is the tale of a beautiful dragon princess associated with the island. Legend has it that a dragon princess, on a journey to Singapore, stopped to seek solace in the crystal-clear water of the South China Sea. Enchanted by the charms of the place, she decided to discontinue her trip. The princess took the form of an island and pledged to offer shelter and comfort to passing travellers.

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Best Time To Dive: February to November.
Ideal For: Experienced and beginner scuba divers
How To Get There: There are a few different ways to get to Tioman Island, depending on where you’re coming from. The most common way is to take the ferry from Mersing on the mainland. The ferry service is operated by Bluewater Express and runs 2-3 times per day. The trip takes two hours and stops at several places along the Tioman coast. There are also speedboat options, although they are not usually very reliable.
Resorts & Training Schools: Tioman Dive Resort, Berjaya Tioman Resort,
Paya Beach Spa & Dive Resort, Tioman Dive Centre, B&J Diving Centre, Marine Monkees Dive Club, Blue Heaven Divers, Tioman Reef Divers.

4. Perhentian Island: Home To Beautiful Coral & Sea Turtles

The Perhentian Islands are a small group of islands surrounded by coral reefs. There are two main islands here: Palau Perhentian Besar, which caters to family and luxury travel, and Palau Perhentian Kecil, which is known for its more budget-friendly accommodations. Perhentian is the best island in Malaysia to do a diving course. The diving conditions are splendid for beginners, and there are many dive spots available to enjoy immediately after finishing a PADI course. If you are a beginner, Perhentian Island is definitely the place to be.

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Best Time To Dive: April to December
Ideal For: Scuba Diving beginners
How To Get There: There is no airport on any of the Perhentian Islands, so the only way to access it is by boat. A ferry runs from Kuala Besut, which is a small town known as the gateway to the Perhentian Islands and there are also reliable licenced speedboats from Kuala Besut.
Resorts & Training Schools: Bubbles Dive Resort, Tuna Bay Island Resort, Ombak Resort Pulau Perhentian, OctoDiver Dive Centre Perhentian Island, Quiver Dive Centre

Types Of Diving In Malaysia

1. Discover Scuba Diving

If you’re a diving beginner or want a short introductory diving course, this half-day program is designed for you. You do not need any prior experience to complete this program, and swimming skills are not essential. The program lasts 3 (yes, THREE) hours and includes a short theory session and a skills session in shallow water, to ensure that you are comfortable in the water and with your diving equipment. You will also learn how to breathe underwater, and dive on the coral reef straight away.

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Duration: 3 hours
Depth Of Diving: This includes an open water dive; either from the boat (RM $250, USD $60), or from a shallow area from the beach (RM $200, USD $48).
Eligibility: You must be minimum 10 yrs old to complete this program. You just need to complete a short medical questionnaire to ensure you are fit to dive.
Cost: RM $200 – $280 (US $48 – $61)

2. Scuba Diver Course

If you have more time to spare, try a 2-day course, which is great for getting beginners more accustomed to Malaysian waters. This course features a swim test involving a 10-minute float, three chapters of theory, shallow water skills sessions, and two open water dives. This is a great option for people who have never tried diving before. However, you must be able to successfully complete the swimming test before advancing to the other areas of the course.

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Duration: This course takes 2 full days to complete.
Depth Of Diving: Open Water Dives are to a maximum depth of 12 metres.
Eligibility: You must be at least 10 years old to complete this program. Under 18s must have a parent or guardian sign all relevant paperwork.
Cost: RM $700 – $870 (USD $170 – $212)

3. Open Water Diver

The Open Water Course is the Professional Association of Dive Instructors’ (PADI) leading scuba diving course. Upon completion of this diving course, you will be certified to dive to a maximum depth of 18 metres. You will learn how to dive alongside your instructor, who will teach you everything from equipment care to buoyancy control and more.

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Duration: The PADI Open Water Course takes 4 full days.
Depth Of Diving: Open Water Dives to a maximum depth of 18 metres.
Eligibility: You must be at least 10 years old to complete this program. Under 18s must have a parent or guardian sign all relevant paperwork.
Cost: RM $1025 – $1270 (US $250 – $309)

Things To Keep In Mind When Diving In Malaysia

  • When planning to go diving in Malaysia, ensure that you visit one of the certified training schools that offer training.
  • Mention all the details about your health conditions, and if you are taking any kind of medicines or have consumed alcohol or drugs in the last 24 hours. This can help your trainer keep you safe in case of emergencies.
  • If possible, try to plan your trips during the summer months when many of the diving centres have discounts for training.
  • Underwater, your survival depends upon your equipment. Conduct your buddy-check thoroughly—if your or your buddy’s equipment malfunctions it could cause a life-threatening situation for you both. Make sure that you also know how to use your gear.
  • Before travelling, it is a good idea to invest in travel insurance for scuba diving.
  • Above all, remember that diving should be fun. Dive within your limits and never put yourself in an uncomfortable situation.
  • The weather throughout Malaysia is tropical with air temperatures range from 21-32º C/70-90º F. The wet season runs from November to March, which can affect dive conditions, but diving is generally available all year.
  • Snorkelling is also a great way to explore the underwater sites in Malaysia. Ask your trainers for information on snorkelling tips and gear.