In her debut article for Scubaverse, Ivana Craft takes a look at some of the best diving that Malaysia has to offer
Located in South East Asia, Malaysia consists of several tropical islands that are the very definition of biodiversity and stunning natural beauty. To fully appreciate everything Malaysia has to offer, the true nature lover and thrill seeker has no choice but to venture underwater. The warm and bountiful waters of Malaysia have long been highly coveted diving sites by professional and amateur divers alike. Hundreds of dive sites are scattered across the islands. They are as diverse as they are stunning, with sites to match any diving preference and level of diving expertise. From wall and cavern dives to wreck dives and vast coral gardens, you are guaranteed to have the diving experience of a lifetime. Over three thousand species of marine life call these waters home, including some of the most immaculate and vast coral formations in the world. When in Malaysia, be sure to visit at least one of these sites.
Sugar Wreck, Perhentian Islands
Of all the diveable wreck sites around Malaysia, the Sugar Wreck is among the more recent. This huge sugar hauler was sunk to a depth of 100 feet during a vicious monsoon in 2000 near the Perhenian Islands. The sea has completely taken over this vessel, as it is now covered in shells, coral formations and a veritable cornucopia of flora and fauna. Small fish find refuge in the mazelike interior of the wreck, while predators circle the perimeter on the lookout for a quick snack. A large school of scorpionfish have made the wreck their home, and jacks, snapper and trevally are never far away. Blue spotted stingrays and bamboo sharks lurk in the back of the wreck, under the sugar freighter’s massive cargo doors.
Sipadan has a special place in the geographic makeup of Malaysia, as it is the country’s only oceanic island. The foundation of the island is an extinct volcano that, over thousands of years, has been completely overgrown with living corals. The corals provide a density and diversity of marine life that is hard to match anywhere in the world. The most popular and accessible dive site on the island is called the Drop-off. The site got its name from the sheer 600 foot drop into deep ocean that is almost completely vertical. Perfect for wall dives, divers can feast their eyes on lush and ubiquitous hard and soft corals that decorate the wall, and the many thousands of species that call this coral home. Turtles are common in the waters around Sipadan, as both hawksbill and green turtles mate and nest in the area. Enormous schools of barracuda, mackerel and batfish form tornados of shining flesh, while majestic white tip reef sharks and leopard sharks make up the top of the food chain.
Turtle Cavern, Sipadan
The Turtle Cavern, also known as the Turtle Tomb, is a site that is truly unique in the world, and can only be experienced in Malaysia. The Cavern is in fact a sprawling complex of caves that is littered with thousands of ghostly turtle skeletons. For reasons that are still unclear to scientists, turtles from all around the area flock to this location to die, and make for a breathtaking, if a little macabre sight. It is not all skeletons, however, as the caves are home to a thriving green sea turtle population. This site requires an experienced guide, as there are many dead ends in the mazelike cave complex, and the corridors may be quite claustrophobic to the unprepared. Air pockets are a huge attraction, enabling divers to surface, take off their breathing apparatus and talk to their diving companions, whilst still in the caves.
Pulau Sibuan, Semporna
Pulau Sibuan seems like a place that time forgot. There is almost no modern infrastructure on this lush island, and the population consists of a mere handful of Bajau families; a tribe of seafaring nomads. There are no public facilities or resorts on the island, but what it does possess in abundance are some of the best muck diving sites in the world. Some of the weirdest and most elusive creatures can be seen here in large numbers, from the alien like nudibranches, pygmy seahorses and frogfish to the more common but no less stunning lionfish, scorpionfish and lionfish. Most dive sites around Semporna are well suited to inexperienced divers. However, the monsoon season brings with it lowered visibility and strong currents, so special care should be taken during this time.