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Some of the world's best diving can be enjoyed in the abundant waters that are located in Malaysian Borneo right off of the Sabah coast. From macro life and muck diving to hammerheads, whale sharks and more, Sabah is a dream for scuba divers! The following are among the top spots to consider.
Tunku Abdul Rahman Park
The islands making up Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park are only a brief, 20-minute speedboat ride away from Kota Kinabulu, and are a great place to get started with scuba diving in Sabah. It is comprised of five small islands that are surrounded by coral reefs and located in shallow water. Tunku Abdul Rahman Park experiences gentle currents, which make it an excellent place for beginner divers to see and enjoy a wide range of ocean life.
Tunku Abdul Rahman Park offers opportunities to spot rare finds such as mandarin fish and harlequin ghost pipefish. Hawksbill turtles make appearances on a regular basis and whale sharks even feed on plankton from November through February during the cooler months.
Sipidan Island is situated within the centre of the Indo-Pacific basin and is renowned for its underwater ecosystem. There are over 3,000 coral and fish species that are found in the Sipidan area, which has earned it the reputation for having Sabah's best diving - if not in the entire world! Apart from Sipidan having an impressive variety of marine life, it is also the home of the "turtle tomb" - which is a system of underwater caves that are full of sea turtle skeletons.
Divers are not allowed to stay on Sipidan any longer. Instead, you must stay on Mabul Island or nearby Semporna. In an effort to try to conserve the coral, just 120 dive permits get issued every day. So you will need to make your Sipidan diving arrangements far in advance.i
Situated 186 miles off of Sabah's west coast, Layang-Layang is a tiny atoll that is one of the world's best-preserved dive sites. Walls that drop more than 2,000 meters make Layang-Layang a truly pelagic paradise. Threshers, silvertip, leopard sharks, gray sharks, and hammerheads are spotted quite often.
Layang-Layang is a disputed territory; there is a small Malaysian naval base - which is off-limits for tourists - that helps to ensure that the waters stay unpolluted and safe.
Layang-Layang can only be accessed via a flight starting in Kota Kinabalu; arrangements for diving must be made with the Layang-Layang Island Resort - which is the island's only accommodation - from March through October.
Being closely situated to Sipadan and its world-class muck diving has transformed Maubl into one of Asia's most popular diving destinations. Unlike Sipadan, you are not required to have a permit and the island has several accommodation options that are available.
Mabul is one of the world's richest dive sites and for macro underwater photography is considered to be one of the very best places. The reef is 25 to 30 meters deep on average and is situated on a continental shelf's edge. In addition to an abundance of macro life, numerous cephalopods can be seen on nearly every dive, including squids, octopi, and cuttlefish.
Mabul Island can be reached via the Semporna gateway located on Sabah's southeastern tip.
This duty-free island is situated only 71 miles away from Kota Kinabalu and is a very popular stopover for tourists and other travelers who are crossing between Sabah, Brunei, and Sarawak. The main underwater attraction of Labuan Island is the numerous shipwrecks that are in the area.
Both experienced and novice wreck divers are able to explore the four main wrecks that can be found at 30-35 meter depths. The Dutch SS DE Klerk and USS Salute were both sunk in the area during World War II. There were also two other civilian wrecks, making Labuan Malaysia's wreck diving center.
Labuan island can be easily accessed by ferry from either Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei or Kota Kinabalu. Above water, there are also numerous interesting and fun things that you can do on Labuan island. Check out Borneo Dream for more ideas.