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Dive Locations

9 recommended locations:

Kapalai

Once an island, all that remains of Kapalai now is a sand bar, perched on the Ligitan Reefs. In contrast to Sipadan, just 15 minutes away, Kapalai's diverse macro life is a mecca for divers and photographers with an eye for cleverly camouflaged oddities.

  • Ideal for viewing: giant frogfish, green turtle, ornate ghost pipefish, mandarin fish, flamboyant cuttlefish
  • Excellent for: Liveaboard diving, Resort based diving, Muck diving

Lankayan Island

Situated in a Marine Protected Area in the Sulu Sea, this tiny paradise island is serene and tranquil with white sand beaches and swaying casuarina pines. Green and hawksbill turtles nest here, while divers can expect outstanding macro life and whale sharks in season.

  • Ideal for viewing: green turtle, giant jawfish, common cuttlefish, ornate ghost pipefish, leopard shark
  • Excellent for: Resort based diving, Muck diving

Layang Layang

Lying in the South China Sea, the atoll of Layang Layang rises from the depths 2000 metres below. Schools of hammerheads visit seasonally, drawing thrill seekers the world over, and other highlights include silvertips, grey reef sharks, turtles and fabulous corals.

  • Ideal for viewing: scalloped hammerhead shark, grey reef shark, giant oceanic manta ray, leopard shark, pygmy seahorse
  • Excellent for: Liveaboard diving, Resort based diving, Shark diving, Hammerhead shark

Mabul

Mabul Island is a short boat ride from Sipadan and, like Kapalai, is famous for its macro diving, gaining a reputation as one of the best ‘muck diving’ sites in the world. It is the jumping off points for those visiting Sipadan with a number of resorts catering for divers.

  • Ideal for viewing: giant frogfish, green turtle, ornate ghost pipefish, flamboyant cuttlefish
  • Excellent for: Liveaboard diving, Resort based diving, Muck diving

Mataking Island

Mataking and the surrounding islands of Pandanan and Bohayan boast over 30 dive sites: from reefs teeming with macro life to pelagic encounters. Green & hawksbill turtles come to lay their eggs, while a magical sandbar connects the island to Makating Kecil.

  • Ideal for viewing: green turtle, giant jawfish, pygmy seahorse, mandarin fish, common cuttlefish
  • Excellent for: Resort based diving

Sipadan

Rising from the depths of the Celebes Sea, Sipadan is a must for all divers: the varied topography makes it an astonishing place. Turtles are regular inhabitants, as are schools of barracuda and bumphead parrotfish, reef sharks, mantas and hammerheads.

  • Ideal for viewing: green turtle, bumphead parrotfish, white-tip reef shark, scalloped hammerhead shark, black-tip reef shark
  • Excellent for: Liveaboard diving, Resort based diving, Reef diving

Kinabatangan River Sanctuary

The floodplain of this waterway is a low-lying wilderness of dense forest and oxbow lakes. Explore the area by boat and on foot, when you may encounter rare bird-life, orangutans, proboscis monkeys and even wild Asian elephants.

  • Excellent for: Wildlife

Mount Kinabalu National Park

Towering above Kinabalu National Park is the mighty Mount Kinabalu, 4,101 metres at its summit. Ascending the mountain you will experience the magic of this tropical wilderness, and be rewarded with spectacular views from the top.

  • Excellent for: Hiking

Sepilok

Gateway to the Sepilok Orangutan Sancutary and the Kinabatangan River, Sepilok makes a great extension to your diving holiday. The Sanctuary is home to a conservation programme and the surrounding rainforest is a haven for nature & wildlife lovers.

  • Excellent for: Wildlife

View trips to these locations

Dive trips

Malaysia is best explored from resorts across the many islands, with the finest dive destinations around Sabah to the east. The stunning dive locations and adventurous jungles are within easy reach of each other, providing a superb combination for wildlife enthusiasts.
5 recommended trips. Our trip ideas are offered to inspire you and can be tailored to suit your requirements.

Celebes Explorer & Sabah Discovery

Enjoy a week’s liveaboard diving on the MV Celebes Explorer, undoubtedly the best way to dive Sipadan, followed by 5 days to explore the island of Borneo and its exceptional wildlife.

  • When to go: Jan-Dec
  • Duration inc. flights: 15 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £2,395 pp
  • Trip type: Liveaboard trip

Sipadan & Orangutans

A classic combination, with a week exploring the astonishing island of Sipadan and its unrivalled diving opportunities, before heading inland for two days of face-to-face encounters with Borneo’s orangutan.

  • When to go: Jan-Dec
  • Duration inc. flights: 12 days
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea

Sipadan & Mataking Discoverer

An excellent twin-centre holiday combining Mataking and Sipadan, two of Borneo’s finest diving locations. Expect to see a variety of pelagics and critters, including manta and eagle rays, giant frogfish and rare pygmy seahorses.

  • When to go: Jan-Dec
  • Duration inc. flights: 17 days
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea

Sipadan & Layang Layang

Mabul offers excellent ‘muck diving’, with an incredible variety of crazy critters. Combine this with Layang Layang’s pristine conditions and famed pelagics, and you have the perfect dive holiday.

  • When to go: Mar-Aug
  • Duration inc. flights: 18 days
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea

Kapalai & Lankayan

This itinerary takes you to one of the world’s best ‘muck diving’ areas – Kapalai , and then onto the small paradise island of Lankayan. Both offer fantastic macro photography, with plenty of rare subjects on offer.

  • When to go: Jan-Dec
  • Duration inc. flights: 18 days
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea

When to go

Malaysia’s high season coincides with the summer months in the northern hemisphere.

Seasons

  • Dry season

    Apr to Nov: While Borneo’s rainforests receive rainfall year round, these months bring drier weather and the best conditions for diving S
  • Wet season

    Dec to Mar: More rainfall on mainland Borneo does not affect diving conditions too much and many spots offer excellent diving year round

Wildlife events

  • Jul to Aug: Turtle mating season at Sipadan
  • Sep to Nov: Green turtles hatching on Sipadan Islands
  • Mar to May: Hammerheads gather in large schools at Layang Layang
  • Apr to May: Whale sharks can be seen in the waters around Lankayan
  • Jun to Sep: Green & hawksbill turtles nesting at Lankayan

Dive Resorts

Liveaboards