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Best Diving Destinations in Malaysian Borneo


About Malaysian Borneo

Famed for its virgin rainforests, marine life and national parks, Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is located at the center of Maritime Southeast Asia. Borneo is rightfully considered home to some of the best scuba diving in the world, particularly the sites located in Sabah. Sabah is a Malaysian state located on the Northeastern tip of the island of Borneo and considered to be one of the most biologically rich regions on the planet. Area around Kota Kinabalu (the capital of Sabah) offers seasonal pelagics, micro diving, deep water caves and drift dives. Nearby sites, such as Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park (includes 5 islands) and Labuan island offer excellent diving opportunities. Coral reefs on Labuan are not very good, but south of Labuan there are four large wrecks from the World War II period that offer a great diving experience. Malawali island and Pulau Banggi, located north of Sabah, are famous for the large concentration of corals. Diving around Pulau Banggi is astounding because the island boasts a huge diversity of the underwater life. Due to the island's proximity to the Balabic Straight Corridor the currents can be challenging and divers need to be careful. Dive sites here are surrounded with a stunning variety of corals such as gorgorian fans, bubble coral, staghorn and many other species of hard and soft corals. Off the coast of Sabah lie some other nice islands like Mabul, Kapalai, Layang Layang, Pom Pom, Mataking, Sipadan and Lankayan (great for wreck divers). All of these islands host world class diving, however, Sipadan and Layang Layang are the most popular destinations. Layang Layang is sitting in 2000m/6500ft of water and is an atoll of 13 linked coral reefs. The island has gained a well-deserved reputation among divers for the quality and quantity of pelagic life it features. Sipadan, located off the east coast of Sabah is truly one of the most spectacular dive sites anywhere in the world. The island marks the pinnacle of a maritime mountain, which drops vertically 600m into the Celebes Sea. Some 3,000 species were first found and classified here while diving the fabulous sites around Sipadan. Mabul is recognized as one of the world’s best muck-diving sites. Mabul and its neighbor Kapalai are world renowned destinations for macro dives. Visibility of the waters of Borneo vary from 5m/16ft to 50m/164ft depending on the season and currents.

When to go to Malaysian Borneo

While diving is available all year round the best time to visit Malaysian Borneo would be during the annual dry season which lasts from March to October. However, in Layang Layang diving season runs only from March to August.

The water temperature stays somewhere around 25C/77F-30C/86F.


What to see 

Borneo has everything a diver may desire from macro life to pelagics, to wrecks, to wall dives, to underwater caves and coral gardens teeming with a rich diversity of corals and fish, including green and hawksbill turtles, napoleon wrasse, sharks, schools of barracuda and jacks. Divers will admire a vast array of intact, unbleached hard and soft corals, barrel sponges and gorgonian fans.