Best Places for Scuba Diving in Malaysia

Malaysia Best Scuba Diving Places

If you are a visiting diver to this part of Southeast Asia, here is a list of the best places for scuba diving in Malaysia based on each of the states.

Malaysia has long been known as one of the scuba diving destinations in Southeast Asia. However, it still needs to be marketed better worldwide by attending more international dive shows worldwide.

Best Places for Scuba Diving in Malaysia

The trickiest question that most divers will ask would be what kind of scuba diving they prefer, where to dive and what facilities are available. At the end of the day, it all depends on what you want to see or experience during your diving.

Some divers only want to see large fish, while others want to see macro life like nudibranchs, pygmy seahorses and other macro life. Most leisure divers enjoy diving into a beautiful dive site rich with corals and fish.

The most popular places for diving in Malaysia are also very subjective, but I will list them based on individual states and popularity. Therefore, this list was created to better understand where and what is available for scuba divers planning to explore Malaysia.

Dive Sites of Sabah Map
A map of Sabah showing the popular dive sites.

1. Scuba Diving in Sabah

Sabah is currently the number one spot for scuba diving in Malaysia. Why? Because legendary diver Jacques Cousteau made Sipadan Island world famous in the 80s. Sipadan is also known as one of the top five dive sites in the world, ranked by many dive magazines, CNN and even Lonely Planet.

Sabah's dive sites are divided into two sides - East Sabah, where you will find Sipadan Island, Mabul Island, Lankayan Island, Mataking Island, Kapalai Island and many other smaller islands. The dive sites here are some of the best in the world, where you can choose leisure diving or muck diving.

At Mabul Island, some dive sites are minutes from the resort, so you can imagine how easy it is here. One thing that first-time divers to Malaysia should try is staying at the Seaventures Dive Resort.

This unique experience lets divers stay on the world's only diving oil rig resort. The oil rig is parked just minutes off Mabul Island too.

Sargassum Frogfish Malaysia
A Sargassum Frogfish was spotted while diving on Mabul Island, Sabah.

Diving Around Kota Kinabalu - West Coast Sabah is where Kota Kinabalu, the capital, is located. Around here, you can do quick dives at destinations near the city.

Popular dive spots include Sapi Island, Manukan Island, Mengalum Island, Mantanani Island, and Tiga Island, the more commercial diving sites.

Some divers have made their way up north to dive in Kudat. However, I would not recommend this as diving here for beginners can be cautious due to the rip curls and strong currents.

Oil Rig Dive Resort
The world's only oil rig dive resort, Seaventures, is located at Mabul Island, Sabah.

Diving in Labuan - Labuan Island is famous for wreck diving, and the wrecks are quite far out. Advanced open-water divers and above can dive around Labuan. You must take a ferry from the Kuala Penyu area to Labuan Island or fly there.

For the extreme divers, there is Layang Layang Island, which is touted to be one of the best dive sites in Malaysia, where you can spot schools of hammerhead sharks during the season from March to May.

Sabah is connected via frequent flights from Kuala Lumpur and many other large cities in Malaysia. No, you cannot take a bus or train to Sabah as it is located on the island of Borneo.

Perhentian Scuba Diving
A school of large Puffer Fish was spotted during a dive at the Perhentian Islands.

2. Scuba Diving in Terengganu

Located on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, you will find some of the most beautiful resort islands. Terengganu is a 5 to 6-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur or a one-hour flight to Kuala Terengganu.

The popular islands here are the Perhentian Islands, which come in Perhentian Kecil (Small) and Perhentian Besar (Big).

These are one of the most popular scuba dive destinations in Peninsular Malaysia, but they only operate from March to October. The rest of the months are the monsoon season, from November to February.

Malaysia Nudibranch
A beautiful nudibranch was photographed by me during a dive on Perhentian Island.

Nearby is Redang Island or Pulau Redang, one of Malaysia's best beginner diver spots. The island has a marine park, and diving here is easy and casual.

Redang is also well known as a romantic island but can get crowded during the peak season with snorkelers.

Another island off Terengganu is Lang Tengah Island or Pulau Lang Tengah, which is less busy but offers decent dive sites. This island is more of a laid-back type of place for divers.

Tenggol Island is a smaller island further south that offers some intense diving, depending on the diver. They have simple dive sites and some really challenging ones. There is one dive resort called Tenggol Island Beach Resort which is one of the recommended centres.

Dive Sites in Terengganu
Dive sites at the islands of Terengganu.

For luxury scuba divers, there is the Tanjong Jara Resort (TJR) on the mainland in the Dungun area, and they operate dive trips to Tenggol on request.

Other smaller islands, like Gemia Island and Kapas Island, offer independent resorts and diving. You need to book directly with the resorts here.

Banded Sawblade Shrimp Malaysia
A Banded Sawblade Shrimp, or Tozeuma Shrimp, photographed while diving on Perhentian Island.

 3. Scuba Diving in Johor

Johor is the state bordering Singapore, and on the east coast of Johor, you will find Tioman Island, one of the very popular dive sites for locals and Singaporeans. Locals generally drive around four to five hours from Kuala Lumpur to spend a weekend scuba diving at Tioman Island, home to over 20 dive operators ranging from budget to high-end.

Other islands around here include Rawa Island (Pulau Rawa), which is a private island with its own resort, Pemanggil Island (Pulau Pemanggil) and Aur Island (Pulau Aur) which are more local and not so commercial.

Dive Sites for Tioman Island
Dive sites for Tioman Island.

Other less commercialized dive spots in Johor are Aur Island and Dayan Island. Both islands are mostly visited by divers from Singapore and are not commercialized as Tioman Island.

Islands closer to the mainland are Sibu Island and Tinggi Island, which has three resorts that offer scuba diving. Mostly muck diving; the best times to dive at these two islands is from March to June.

Tioman and other islands here also observe the monsoon season; therefore, from mid-October to mid-February, it is off-season. Some resorts still operate during the monsoon and may offer diving.

Sarawak Scuba Diving
Sarawak also offers fantastic scuba diving (Photo from Sarawak Tourism Board).

4. Scuba Diving in Sarawak

Sarawak is one of Malaysia's lesser-known scuba diving destinations, but two notable spots have been popular in recent years. One in Kuching and one in the resort city of Miri, just bordering the Kingdom of Brunei.

However, you should know that diving in Sarawak is less commercial than in other parts of Malaysia; therefore, it can be a little tricky. There are dive operators in Sarawak, but just a handful of them. In most cases, you need to contact the dive centres to check when the weather is good before diving here.

Diving in Kuching - Most serious divers come here to explore the many historical dive wrecks in the waters of Kuching. There is also a submarine wreck, but the local dive operators do not recommend this place.

I once did a dive at Satang Island, 40 minutes boat ride from Santubong; however, due to the weather, the visibility could have been better and came up sooner than expected. I was getting 2 to 3 meters of visibility, which was terrible. This was during the dive season here and in July 2017. Anyway, I plan to go back and try again.

Dive Sites in Kuching, Sarawak
Dive sites of Kuching, Sarawak,

Most of the wrecks are World War 2 Japanese wrecks, which are hundreds of meters long. So you must be an advanced open water (AOW) diver to see them.

Diving in Miri - This is more commercial, and two dive operators are in Miri. Coco Dive is one of the pioneer centres that organize trips to the many dive sites around Miri.

My last dive here was in May 2017, with healthy corals, reef fish, macro life and occasional large fish. I saw a lone Bumphead Parrotfish on one of my dives. Read about my recent Miri dive experience.

To get to Sarawak, you must fly from Kuala Lumpur or another larger city. There are many flights a day to both Miri and Kuching.

5. Scuba Diving at Langkawi Island

Yes, you can dive on Langkawi Island. However, it is less popular than on the east coast or in Sabah. So, if everything else fails and you can only visit Langkawi, you can book a scuba diving package here.

A few dive operators in Langkawi offer dive trips to the Pulau Payar Marine Park, which is probably the best place to dive in Langkawi. For serious divers, you can talk to the dive centre about other places to dive around Langkawi Island.

Diving in Pulau Payar Marine Park - To be honest, I am yet to dive here, but from reviews and articles, it is said that visibility can go up to 20 meters from April to August. But always best to double-check with the dive operators there.

Several divers I spoke to informed me that Langkawi offers decent diving, and seeing photos of Pulau Payar's dive sites, it looks pretty decent, so not all is lost.

To get to Langkawi, you can fly from Kuala Lumpur, which takes only an hourTravellingel overland, you can take a bus, train, or rent a car. From the mainland, you can take the ferry across. But it is much faster to fly in and rent a car to move around.

The beautiful Pulau Perak or Tukun Perak Island. Photo from

6. Scuba Diving in Perak

Among these lesser-known dive spots in Malaysia, Pangkor Island, Sembilan Island, and Jarak Island are a few of them. Located off the coastal town of Lumut, Pangkor is well known as a resort island, nearest to Kuala Lumpur.

Reports state that diving here is generally entry-level, and visibility is decent. Numerous resorts, guesthouses, and homestays are available on the island and the mainland.

One or two dive operators also provide dive packages to these islands. One is located on Marina Island, which offers frequent dives to Sembilan Island. There are five main dive sites at Sembilan Island too.

Diving in Perak Island
Tukun Perak diving photos. (Images were compiled by Pulau Perak Dive Expedition 2014 Video).

Scuba Diving at Pulau Perak - Known also as Tukun Perak, this location is one of the very exotic dive sites of Peninsular Malaysia. The island, also known as Fairway Rock, is a sandstone rock that rises from the Straits of Malacca.

However, Pulau Perak has situated around 150 km from the Island of Penang and takes about 8 hours by boat. This island is or was used as a military base, as some structures are at the top of the island. In a dive video, Giant Manta Rays were seen swimming openly in the waters here.

Visibility is up to 40 meters. Other rare small crustaceans that are rare can be found here too. Tukun Perak sits off the island of Penang but is under the Perak state. Selective dive operators make only specialized dive trips to Perak Island here.

Lumut is about a 3.5-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur. If you are going to Pangkor Island, you must take the ferry from Lumut. You cannot just go there and try to book a dive, as pre-arrangements must be made with a dive operator.

Underwater Photography Malaysia
A Pipefish photographed in Mabul by me during one of my dives.

7. Scuba Diving in Port Dickson

You can still dive into Port Dickson or PD if nothing else works. Let it be known that this is likely going to end up bad. Meaning visibility could be better here. There are a couple of dive sites in PD, but the best is at the Blue Lagoon area or the 12th mile of PD.

Diving in PD requires some serious addiction if you are on a budget. One operator provides 2-dive packages at the Blue Lagoon in Port Dickson. Prices are around RM160 per person, including boat fees and others.

I once saw a video of scuba diving in PD, and let me share it with you; the visibility was 1-2 meters. But the macro life here is pretty decent, so there is still hope if you are a macro diver.

Port Dickson is only 1.5 hour drive from Kuala Lumpur. Once known as the most popular beach destination in Malaysia, on weekends, PD can get really crowded with beachgoers.

Malaysia Stonefish Photo
A nicely camouflaged Stonefish.

8. Scuba Diving in Melaka

Probably unheard of, but there have been people who have done scuba diving in Melaka with very low visibility. There are currently two places to dive in Melaka: Pulau Undan and Pulau Besar Melaka.

One local operator is known to do dive packages which cost RM300 per person, including 3 boat dives, lunch, fees, etc. Best to bring your own equipment, or they can be rented.

One of the dive schools tends to bring its open water certification students to Pulau Undan for the open water examination. Contact +6 019 4908677 for diving in Melaka or Port Dickson.

The place to depart for diving in Melaka is from the village of Umbai, and it takes about two hours to drive here from Kuala Lumpur.


The above is Malaysia's most popular scuba diving destinations and are most easily accessible, except for Pulau Perak and Layang Layang Island. You can also read my other article about scuba diving in Malaysia, as I talk about types of diving and additional information.

And if you are visiting during the right time, you can also catch some of the scuba diving expos in Malaysia, which happen in the early and mid part of the year. Usually, these diving expos take place in Kuala Lumpur.

Finally, I hope this list of the best places for scuba diving in Malaysia gives you a better idea of your future plans. And if you have questions, please feel free to ask me. I will do my best to help.

Malaysia Asia

Blogging since 2007, but writing online since 1997. I belong to the 1st generation of worldwide bloggers, which is of course old-school. Since 2008, I created Malaysia Asia and this travel, flood, gadget and lifestyle blog has won numerous physical awards from tourism boards around Malaysia. (Not those online awards). After 12 years of blogging, I have semi-retired and now blog about things I like, do product reviews and enjoy life. My work has been featured in Lonely Planet, CNN Travel, Yahoo Travel, Wall Street Journal, and many other international publications. Find out more about me and thank you.

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