Sipadan, Layang-Layang, and Mabul are some of the top diving areas worldwide which are situated in the diverse waters off the Sabah coast in Malaysian Borneo. From macro life and muck diving to whale sharks and hammerheads, Sabah is definitely rated as a paradise for scuba divers. Below is a list of 5 top-rated spots you don’t want to miss, many of which have other great activities when you want a break from diving like Padas White River Rafting.
1. Tunku Abdul Rahman Park
Take a quick 20-minute speedboat ride that leaves from Kota Kinabalu to Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park which is one of the best places to start your diving adventures in Sabah. The currents are gentle which make the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park an excellent spot for novice divers to enjoy the diverse underwater sea life.
Some of the rare finds associated with Tunku Abdul Rahman Park include mandarin fish and the harlequin ghost pipefish. Some of the more regular appearances include the hawksbill turtles along with the whale sharks which are known for feeding on plankton over the cooler months between November and February.
Sipadan Island makes up the centre of the Indo-Pacific basin and is world-famous when it comes to its awe-inspiring underwater ecosystem. With more than 3,000 species of coral and fish, it has earned a well-deserved reputation when it comes to the very best diving experiences in Sabah. In addition to the beautiful marine life, Sipadan is also the home to the “turtle tomb” which is an underwater cave which is full of sea turtle skeletons.
Today divers cannot stay on this island anymore, but you can book your accommodation on either Mabul or Semporna Island which are nearby. In their efforts to conserve this ecosystem and its coral, they only issue 120 dive permits every day. For this reason, it is recommended that you make arrangements for your dive in advance.
Situated 186-miles off the West Coast of Sabah, Layang-Layang, a tiny atoll, happens to be a dive site that is among the best-preserved across the globe. With walls which drop to more than 2,000 meters down, Layang-Layang is classified as one of the pelagic paradises. When diving here it is common to see silvertip, threshers, leopard sharks and gray sharks.
Layang-Layang is one of the disputed territories, with a small Malaysian Naval Base which is off-limits to tourists. This base makes sure the waters in this area remain unpolluted and safe.
You can only access Layang-Layang from a flight from Kota Kinabalu, and any driving has to be organized with the Layang-Layang Island Resort which is the only place to stay on this island from March to October.
4. Mabul Island
The world-class muck diving along with convenient proximity to Sipadan has made Mabul among the most popular diving destinations in Asia. Permits for this dive location are not required and there are a number of accommodation options to choose from on this island.
Mabul is well known for its diverse fish life and is one of the top spots if you are interested in underwater macro-photography. The reef perches on the continental shelf and goes down 25 to 30 meters. In addition to the abundant and diverse macro life, the cephalopods like squids, octopi and cuttlefish can be seen on just about every dive.
You can reach Mabul Island through the Semporna gateway which is located on the South-eastern tip of Sabah.
5. Labuan Island
This duty-free island is situated only 71-miles from Kota Kinabalu which is one of the popular stopovers for the tourists crossing between Brunei, Sabah and Sarawak. The popularity of underwater dives on this island has to do with the shipwrecks which are close by.
Both experienced and novice wreck divers are able to enter the four main wrecks situated at depths of between 30 to 35 meters. The Dutch SS De Klerk and USS Salute sank during World War II. There are also two other civilian wrecks which make Labuan the Malaysian wreck-diving centre.
You can access this island by ferry which leaves from either Kota Kinabalu or Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei. Labuan has a host of other activities to enjoy other than just diving.