Malaysia, whale sharks, turtles, dive travel


A federal constitutional monarchy located in Southeast Asia. It consists of thirteen states and three federal territories and is separated by the South China Sea into two similarly sized regions, Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia (Malaysian Borneo). Peninsular Malaysia shares a land and maritime border with Thailand and maritime borders with Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia. East Malaysia shares land and maritime borders with Brunei and Indonesia and a maritime border with the Philippines and Vietnam.


Malaysia has its origins in the Malay Kingdoms present in the area which, from the 18th century, became subject to the British Empire. The first British territories were known as the Straits Settlements, whose establishment was followed by the Malay kingdoms becoming British protectorates. Malaya was restructured as the Federation of Malaya in 1948 and achieved independence on 31 August 1957. Malaya united with North Borneo, Sarawak, and Singapore on 16 September 1963. Less than two years later in 1965, Singapore was expelled from the federation.

The country is multi-ethnic and multi-cultural, which plays a large role in politics. About half the population is ethnically Malay, with large minorities of Malaysian Chinese, Malaysian Indians, and indigenous peoples. The constitution declares Islam the state religion while allowing freedom of religion for non-Muslims. The government system is closely modelled on the Westminster parliamentary system and the legal system is based on common law. The head of state is the king, known as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. He is an elected monarch chosen from the hereditary rulers of the nine Malay states every five years. The head of government is the prime minister.


Generally diving in Malaysia will give you an opportunity to encounter many large and small marine creatures. From pelagic fish off Sipadan Island to muck diving in Mabul Island, there is something to cater for everyone.

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Malaysia has numerous great dive locations. The best dive sites in Malaysia can be found in the southeastern region of Sabah (on the island of Borneo). Easiest to reach are the dive sites at the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, but this region is prone to the yearly monsoon season between October and March. Below are what’s considered the top, based on the dive conditions, bio-diversity and attractiveness.

Sipadan Island, Mabul Island and Kapalai Island

These three islands probably contain the best dive sites in the whole of Malaysia. Sipadan and Mabul are tightly controlled by the use of daily permits to restrict numbers.

Lankayan Island

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.

Layang-Layang Island

Layang-Layang is not a tropical island per se. It is a concrete landing strip with one resort and a marine base, located on a big sandbank located just below sea level. Layang-Layang is located in a remote area, where the underwater world has not been affected by human beings. Corals are in pristine conditions. Layang-Layang is a place to see big species and big schools of fish (not so much smaller stuff).

Mataking Island, Pom Island and Sibuan Island

The area surrounding Mataking, Pom and Sibuan offer quite a few amazing dive sites, especially Sibuan, which is known for great muck diving. Mataking is a wonderful place to stay as is all of Malaysia.

Redang Island

Redang Island lies within the Terengganu Marine Park, nearby the city of Kuala Terengganu at the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Redang offers great dive sites and perfect dive conditions. Redang cannot be visited between October and March because of the monsoon season.

Lang Tengah Island

Located between the more popular islands of Redang and Perhentian, the smaller island of Lang Tengah offers great diving opportunities. The island has a few nice resorts and is also suitable for non-divers. Lang Tengah cannot be visited between October and March because of the monsoon season.

Tenggol Island

Tenggol Island is located on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. It offers splendid diving conditions, but it is perhaps not suitable for beginners due to the currents that often play a big role in dives around the island. There are a few nice resorts on the island. Tenggol cannot be visited between October and March because of the monsoon season.

Tioman Island (and the surrounding islands)

Diving conditions at Tioman are similar to the other popular islands on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. The island is big enough to do numerous other fun activities. The possible downside might be that is not that easy to reach compared to other islands (unless you are willing to pay dearly for the direct KL -> Tioman flight operated by Berjaya Air).

Perhentian Island

Perhentian has calm waters and an abundance of marine life. Besides diving, it is probably one of the best islands for snorkelling, with shallow reefs with pretty nice corals and great marine life (also big fish and many turtles). The island is more suited to beginner divers or those who are not too comfortable just yet.

Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park

Right opposite the city of Kota Kinabalu in western Sabah (Borneo) lies the wonderful Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park (TAR Marine Park). Great dive sites more suited to the beginner or inexperienced.


Generally diving in Malaysia will give you an opportunity to encounter many large and small marine creatures. From Pelagic Fish off Sipadan Island to Muck Diving in Mabul Island, there is something to cater for everyone. Borneo offers Hammerhead sharks to Manta Rays, off Layang Layang. Also, the soft coral is abundant which means life underwater is fantastic.


Conditions are varied and are subject to the weather. Clearwater outside monsoon seasons, warm waters year round, with showers common in the afternoon.


Situated between 1° and 6°N, the whole of Malaysia has a classic equatorial climate with high temperatures and wet months throughout the year.

When it comes to the rainy seasons 3 different regions can be distinguished in Malaysia, the eastern side and west side of the peninsula. To the western side of the peninsula of Malaysia, there's hardly a rainy season or monsoon.This is because of the moderate climate at the Andaman Sea. Here Malaysia is protected by the Indonesian island of Sumatra for a great part. You can be quite sure that between 4 pm and 5 pm in the afternoon it rains persistently for about 10 to 30 minutes. Islands on the western side are Penang, Langkawi and Pangkor amongst others. Here there's hardly a serious rainy season.
The rainy season to the eastern side of the peninsula is in the period between October and March and can be quite heavy; it sometimes rains days on end then. Resorts on islands like Perhentian, Redang and Tioman are often closed during this period because the sea can be very wild and a passage with the ferry can be difficult. It is best not to visit this region between November and March. April to May is the best time to visit eastern peninsula.


Temperatures range from 26ºC to 29ºC (78-85F), year round.


Temperatures at sea level range from 21ºC to 32ºC (70-90F).


Annual rainfall varies from 2,000mm to 2,500mm.


Main Airline
Malaysia Airlines is the national carrier of Malaysia, offering the best way to fly to, from and around Malaysia. The airline flies 40,000 guests daily from all major cities of the world such as London, Paris, Rome, Auckland, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. Malaysia Airlines embodies the incredible diversity of Malaysia, capturing its rich traditions, cultures, cuisines and warm hospitality on board, while opening up more of Malaysia’s destinations than any other airline.

Local Internal Airlines
Firefly, operating out of the Penang and Subang hubs, provides connections to various points within Malaysia, Southern Thailand, Singapore and Sumatera of Indonesia. The airline aims to bring communities closer by overcoming geographical constraints through its network of point-to-point flights and link the world to its communities.
MASwings, East Malaysia's first commuter airline, caters to the air travel needs of Sarawak and Sabah's travelling population by providing affordable fares, convenient schedule and connections within the two states in Borneo. As a subsidiary of the Malaysia Aviation Group, MASwings also links with Malaysia Airlines for greater connectivity globally.


Every person entering Malaysia must possess a valid national Passport or internationally recognised Travel Document valid for travel to Malaysia. The document shall be valid, for more than six (6) months from the date of entry into Malaysia. Visa requirements by country
Many visitors do not need a visa to visit Malaysia and are exempt when visiting for holidays or social purposes, however, it is really important to check before travelling. If you are not exempt and do require a visa you will need to get this from your home country before travelling, unless your nationality is offered a visa on arrival, but the Malaysian High Commission, Embassy, Consulate local to where you live will be able to fully advise you on the current requirements. If you require a visa then you must apply before you travel, Malaysia does not offer Visas on Arrival for those that require them. On arrival, if you are from one of the countries that are exempt from requiring a visa you will receive a permit to stay for a defined period depending on your nationality.

Entry requirements into Malaysia


Malaysians enjoy meeting people from other lands. So, do go right ahead and strike up a conversation. After all, the whole point of travelling is to know other cultures.


Tourist Police
Lost your way? Need help? Look for a tourist police officer. Tourist police officers are recognized by their checkered hat bands, dark blue shirts and trousers, and the letter "I" (for information) on a red and blue badge on their breast pocket.

Public Holidays
With its multi-ethnic population, it is not surprising that almost every month sees a different festival. Some of these are declared as Public Holidays. As festivals vary from year to year, it is best to check the dates with the nearest Tourism Malaysia Office before you plan your trip.

It is generally safe to drink water straight from the tap. Bottled mineral water, however, is easily available in shops and supermarkets.

Electrical Supply
Electric supply is on a 240-volt 50-cycle system.

English Language newspapers are available i.e. The New Straits Times, The Star, Business Times, Malay Mail, Daily Express, Sabah Daily News and Sarawak Tribune. International newspapers can be obtained at most bookshops and newsstands.

There are 4 television stations with TV 1 and TV 2 being government networks while the other two are privately run. Most hotels will have a satellite connection.

Wifi & Internet

There is no free Wifi network, but most hotels will offer free Wifi during your stay. Internet connection is good in the city but can be hard in the islands or in remote areas.

Health Services & Insurance
In the event you need medical care, there are private clinics in most towns. Travel insurance is recommended and Dive Insurance is compulsory on all Liveaboards, and for all other Dive holidays HIGHLY recommended. This must be purchased before you travel, as Malaysia does not have reciprocal health service agreements with other nations, medical expenses will have to be paid for, before your departure. For over-the-counter prescriptions, there are pharmacies and 'Chinese medical halls'.

Malaysia is 8 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and 16 hours ahead of United States Pacific Standard Time.

To avoid "cultural offences," here are some tips:

  • Remove shoes when entering homes and places of worship.
  • Dress neatly in a suitable attire which covers arms and legs when visiting places of worship.
  • Handle food with your right hand.
  • Do not point your foot at someone.
  • When giving or receiving money gifts to/from a Malaysian, do so with your right hand.

When greeting a Muslim, offer your right hand then bring it towards you, fingertips lightly touching your heart. This is the traditional Salam or 'greeting of acceptance'. Hindus greet with a Namaste (in Hindi) or Vanakam (Tamil). Both palms are brought together as in prayer at mid-chest level. With a Chinese, you may shake hands.  If you are really unsure about all the different forms of greetings, just smile and nod your head slightly when introduced.

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