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Diving in Malaysia’s breathtaking coral reefs

Only1invillage dedicates this whole page to the breathtaking and colourful marine life you will see when diving in Malaysia. The Malaysian coral reef is teeming with life. You will see an amazing variety of colourful hard and soft corals. Swimming around them are plenty of turtles, sharks, sting rays, parrot fish and an abundance of other marine life.

Quick Index

breathtaking corals diving in Malaysia
Breathtaking hard and soft corals await in Malaysia. The wavy coral is part of a species called octocoral.
You can compare the Malaysian coral reefs to the Great Barrier Reef. Trust us, we go to both to dive and snorkel.
You can compare the Malaysian coral reefs to the Great Barrier Reef. Trust us, we go to both to dive and snorkel.
brightly coloured Malaysian coral reef diving in Malaysia
Malaysian coral reef is bright and colourful. Not known as a diving destination….until now!

Malaysia is an unknown diving and snorkelling paradise. If you love clown fish, you will find it particularly rewarding. We’re talking many different types of clown fish, not just the orange and white one called Nemo! If you love these fish check out our related post  here.

clown fish everywhere Malaysia
If you love Finding Nemo, you’ll love Malaysia. These orange and white cuties, are everywhere! How many can you count here?
orange fin clown fish diving in Malaysia
The orange fin clown fish is not the famous fish in Finding Nemo. Clown fish are everywhere in Malaysian waters.
Diving in Malaysia amazing coral reef and spectacular marine life
Not all clown fish are like in the movie Finding Nemo. This is a stripey clown fish.


Diving in Malaysia

Parts of Malaysia that Only1invillage visits, rivals the Great Barrier Reef of Australia.

Giant clams are squashed in against giant brain corals. A common sight when diving in Malaysia.
Giant clams are squashed in against giant brain corals. A common sight when diving in Malaysia.

Giant clams, clown fish, turtles, black tip reef sharks, giant wrasse and angel fish are common sightings in Malaysian waters.

Diving in Malaysia amazing coral reef and spectacular marine life
Titan trigger fish often swim on their side. They grow up to 75 cms. You’ll always see two or three when you snorkel or dive.

Not only that, but Malaysia has white sand beaches to rival those of the Maldives! Don’t believe us? Click here to see some beach pics of our Malaysian travels to islands of paradise. Our top 2 diving and snorkelling destinations don’t even need a boat to get out to the reef from the shore.

Diving in Malaysia amazing coral reef and spectacular marine life
The marine life is just off amazing beaches like this in Malaysia.

We are not kidding. The following pictures of the marine life have all been taken within a 100 metres from the shore.

titan triggerfish
This titan triggerfish is in knee deep water off the island of Redang, Malaysia. Look at the clarity of that water. It’s warm too!
Diving in Malaysia amazing coral reef and spectacular marine life
This Malaysian bad boy puffer fish (it’s probably female!) is swimming just 100 metres from white sand in the Perhentian Islands.
Diving in Malaysia amazing coral reef and spectacular marine life
5 feet (1.5 metres) black tip reef sharks can be spotted under 100 metres from the shore on Redang Island, one of our favourite diving and snorkelling destinations in Malaysia.

We reveal why you must make Malaysia your next underwater adventure. We will tell you where the easiest spots for beginners are. How to get there and the best time to go.


How expensive is diving in Malaysia?

Snorkelling and diving in Malaysia are a quarter of the price compared to Australia and most other western countries.

1 dive with full tank and all equipment is around 140 to 150 Malaysian Ringitt.  (Around 55 AUD, 28GBP, 35USD and 32EUR)

2 dives with full tank and all equipment is 260 to 270 Malaysian Ringitt.

A recent trip to the Great Barrier Reef for 2 dives cost us 350 AUD! (185GBP, 240USD and  215EUR). You can go diving in Malaysia  4 times for the price of 1 dive in Australia.

If you decide to do your PADI certification, some places offer free accommodation. It is still about a third of the price of getting certified in the West.


Is diving in Malaysia safe?

Diving in Malaysia is very safe. Tanks, wet suits, flippers and masks are well maintained.

diving gear in Malaysia
Going diving in Malaysia is very safe. Equipment is well maintained. Qualified divers are on hand for all diving levels.
diving costs in Malaysia
Diving is fun! Your oxygen tank is filled with beer! Just joking!

The boats you travel on vary from 8 people boats to dozens (for snorkelling).

diving boats
Boats that take you diving and snorkelling in Malaysia. Some boats are quite small, carrying up to 8 people. Most resorts have their own boats or hire local boats in the busy, dry season.
Jelly fish are not common in Malaysian waters. This jelly fish is just too pretty not to include!


What marine life will I see when diving in Malaysia?

Turtles are very common in Malaysian waters, especially on the Eastern coast. You often don’t need to dive to see turtles off Redang and the Perhentian Islands. The turtle below hangs out just 50 metres off the beach in Redang. He, or she, often takes a lunch break between midday and 2 pm!

If this is a female turtle, she will return to this beach and lay her eggs. Turtles are known as the navigators of the sea. They are cute and need space. Please don’t stress them by chasing after them, or, swim too closely. Admire them from a distance and use your zoom, please!

turtles are common in Malaysian waters
The green sea turtle is not really green! More brown than green, don’t you think? There are plenty of turtles to see when you go snorkelling or diving in Malaysia.
Diving in Malaysia amazing coral reef and spectacular marine life
The giant clams and sea urchins are just spectacular. This photo is a snorkelling picture, taken in shallow waters. You don’t have to be able to dive to see amazing marine life and corals in Malaysia.
black and blue clown fish
We’re clown fish too! Black and blue clown fish swim out to defend their anemone off Rawa Island, Malaysia.
Look at me, look at me, I’m a lizard fish. I will wait on rocks to catch my prey. See you in Malaysia!
bumphead parr
You will have to be lucky to spot these giant fish in such a big group. Bumphead parrot fish are shy. They are responsible for making the powder soft white sand. They do this by bumping against coral, eating and then spitting it out!
stingray fish
The blue and yellow stingray resembles a metal detector. It likes both shallow and deep water. It camouflages well and can be difficult to see.
two barred rabbit fish and damsel fish
The stripey fish are damsel fish. The yellow fish on the right are two barred rabbit fish. The damsel fish is one of the most common ‘plain’ fish you will see in Malaysia. This also shows how clear the waters of the NW coast of Malaysia are.
pennant bannerfish
Pennant bannerfish are notoriously difficult to get a good side shot.
squirrelfish large eyes
We love ticking off fish when we go diving. These large eyed squirrel fish love to hang out in big schools. They are usually nocturnal, so we are lucky to spot them during the day.
The colourful blue barred parrot fish
The colourful blue barred parrot fish must be the inspiration for the famous children’s book The Rainbow Fish, by Marcus Pfister.
honeycomb grouper
The honeycomb grouper likes to roam on the sea bed. This shot is from the Perhentian Islands.
Mars Fusiliers
Check off another fish when snorkelling or diving in Malaysia. Mars Fusiliers have a distinctive yellow stripe. They are swimming happily with a rabbitfish and a blue parrotfish.
golden rabbit fish
Get up close and personal to golden rabbit fish when diving or snorkelling in Malaysia. They’re not shy! They swim right up to your face.
diving in malaysia
There are lots of needle fish that swim just below the surface of the water.
red banded wrasse diving in malaysia
Look to the bottom left for the red banded wrasse. The titan triggerfish wants to take centre stage!
unknown fish diving in malaysia
We don’t know what this fish is called. Any ideas? Get in touch, we would love to know! (Perhentian Islands)

We like this guide that helps us identify the many fish we see. For photo identification, we found this site useful. It’s also one of our favourite Malaysian island destinations, Redang.

Another fish we’re not sure of. Maybe jackfish? We can’t decide using our two guides above.
giant barracuda
Often seen swimming alone the giant barracuda. Tick that one off the list.
sea cucumber
It’s not a giant white poo! Sea cucumbers are usually brown or black, in Malaysian waters. This is rare to see a white one.


How does diving in Malaysia compare to nearby Thailand and Indonesia?

The reefs, corals and marine life are far superior to those of Thailand and Indonesia. Also, on a recent trip to the Great Barrier Reef we found that the health of the corals and the marine life are very similar. 

Malaysian coral reef
The Malayasian coral reefs compare well with the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. This is a diving shot off Redang, Malaysia.
coral in Malaysia better than Thailand and Indonesia
The coral in Malaysia is in our opinion healthier and more diverse than in Thailand and Indonesia.
giant brain coral
It’s easy to spot giant brain coral off Lang Tengah, Malaysia.
giant clam brain coral
Is this not breathtaking? The colours of the reefs in Malaysia will astound you.


Best time to go diving in Malaysia

The dry season will offer the clearest visibility. After it rains, visibility is always reduced for divers and snorkellers. The dry season on the NE side of Malaysia is April to July. The dry season on the NW side of Malaysia is November to March. This is very similar to popular Phuket and Krabi in Thailand. 

blue queen angel fish
The best time to spot the blue queen angel fish is from June to August, the dry season on the west coast of Malaysia. Their electric blue ring and stripes are unmissable.


Best diving spots in Malaysia

Sipidan – Difficult to get to though and has had some safety concerns recently. 

Borneo – Half of Borneo is shared with Indonesia. You can also visit orangutans after you have had enough of beautiful marine life.

Perhentian, Lang Tengah and Rawa Islands – Easy to get to and day trips possible from Perhentians to Lang Tengah and Rawa Island.

Redang – Our personal favourite island to go diving from. 

Tioman – An East coast contender. Best time to go diving is March to May.

Langkawi IS NOT a good diving spot. There is no diving around Langkawi itself. You have to go to a marine park called Pulau Payar. The west coast of Malaysia is not as good as the East coast for diving.

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