Scuba Diving Around Sabah

Once you have explored a number of attractions above sea level, we feel that it is only normal, if you want to check out what lies below.

There are many beautiful and interesting dive sites around Sabah. From the west cost to the east, you can dive as much as your heart desires, as long as you have enough air in your tank! If you don’t have a dive license, we also offer PADI diving lessons for visitors of all ages and from all over the world!

Our PADI Dive Centers are PADI certified and with our professional yet caring dive instructors, you can get your dive license in a matter of one week (for Open Water) to couple of days (for other advance levels)!

We have divers come diving at our water throughout the year and it is no surprise, to see them coming back years after years, as they just can’t get enough of the serenity of the tropical paradise under the ocean.

West Coast Diving

Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park (TARP)

Being one of the largest marine parks in the vicinity, with just 20 minute boat ride from Kota Kinabalu, the capital city of Sabah; these islands boast themselves with stunning white sandy beaches, clear shallow waters rich in marine life, and sumptuous coral gardens await day-trippers and diving enthusiasts.

There are five islands that made up into this Marine Park – Gaya, Manukan, Mamutik, Sapi & Sulug. Gaya being the largest island offers possibly the best beaches and corals; while Mamutik, an internationally-renowned macro dive site, is ideal for novice divers with its shallow waters and gentle current.

Visitors to any of these dive sites will enjoy close encounters with barracuda, snappers, blue-spotted rays, cuttlefish, puffer fish, lionfish, reef sharks, and moray eels. Depending on seasons, and luck, occasionally you get to spot green or hawksbill turtles, and even the colossal Whale Shark! If you have never swam with one before, you should plan your dives when the world’s largest fish visit these islands between the months of February to April, to feast on krill with their offspring.

Macro diving enthusiasts will also have a fine time with nudibranch, mantis shrimps, harlequin ghost pipefish, scorpion fish, and mandarin fish; all calling this place home. With its diverse diving environment (from muck to reef diving), with time permits, you get to explore all 12 dive sites, each with its own unique reef formations, and the wonderful marine creatures living along these areas.

Mantanani Island

Mantanani is located just out of Kudat Town on the west coast and takes about three hour journey on land and boat from Kota Kinabalu. Known for the amazing visibility, the two islands (big Manta & small Manta) are great for spotting sea turtles, and sometimes migrating manatees and dolphins.

On the big island, there is only a few resorts established with basic accommodation. As everyone comes here mainly for scuba diving, the resort has their own air compressor and mini dive center. However, you are advised to bring spare equipment as they do not sell anything here. Rental equipment is available on request. Overall there are about 14 dive sites at Mantanani Island but only 4-5 sites are well known for the muck diving here. You should consult the local dive master if you are planning on seeing certain macro marine lives here.

East Coast Diving

Mabul Island

Most people who come to dive in the Sipadan area stay on nearby Mabul Island and their diving experience is a combination of the 2 islands – macro sites and critters, deep walls and big fish action.

Pulau Mabul (as it is known locally) is a small sandy island with coconut trees, a local fishing village, and of course dive resorts. It is only 25 minutes or so boat ride to Sipadan Island. It has long lived in the shadow of its famous neighbor but is now emerging as a dive destination in its own right. As critter-diving has increased in popularity, many divers come here, for the incredible array of macro-life to be seen at Mabul Island. Sandy sea-beds, coral outcrops, small walls and artificial reefs and jetties, are all home to some of the seas most amazing little creatures.

It is often a good sign when underwater photographers are around and there are always a few scuba diving here at Mabul (often they are only here for the macro sights, and not at Sipadan!), so you can be sure that there are a wealth of interesting marine creatures lurking in every nook and cranny around the island.

Kapalai Island

Kapalai is actually a shallow reef upon which sits a stilted resort located around 20 minutes from the Malaysian scuba mecca of Sipadan. Kapalai consists of a small sloping reef approximately 15m deep which contains many strange and beautifully ugly critters. The location of this island is more than just providing a closer proximity for divers going to Sipadan every day. It also offers a lot of its own sites, some of which can be accessed by striding off the resort’s own diving platform.

The beautiful wooden resort looks more like people’s idea of honeymooner’s favorite — the Maldives. There is something undeniably romantic about falling asleep with the sea breeze wafting in through your chalet as the shallow water gently laps below. Living right on top of a coral reef is Kapalai’s chief feature, and that you can dive some excellent critter sites by simply striding off the resort; is worth a special mention.

Blue ring octopus, mimic octopus, ghost pipefish, wasp fish, and stonefish are just some of the common sights. Every day at dusk, in the coral rubble adjacent to the Kapalai jetty, mandarin fish perform their nightly mating ritual. Leaf scorpion fish and frogfish of various colors inhabit the sloping reefs on all sides of the islands. Below the shallow sloping reef is a sandy plateau, which is home to five small wrecks and a resort chalet. Kapalai is an underwater photographers’ paradise.

There are several great sites within easy reach of the resort whether be small walls, shallow reefs or sandy flats with little rocky outcrops, where life seems to be concentrated. Just like nearby Mabul Island, some people come to dive only Sipadan and find themselves choosing instead to dive frequently at Kapalai to enjoy the fascination that macro diving here creates.

Sipadan Island

Voted as one of the Top 10 Dives by Scuba Travel, UK and Top 50 Best Dive Sites in the World by sportdiver.com, Sipadan is home to over 3000 species of fish and hundreds of coral species. This oceanic island located in Celebes Sea boasts over 100 dive sites, with 12 internationally famous ones including the renowned Barracuda Point.

Sipadan is understandably famous for its wall diving. Just 20 feet from the shore, the wall plunges a staggering 2,000 feet down, encrusted with a multitude of living corals. An incredible diversity of marine life from pelagic to reef dwellers and turtles abound, even the occasional dolphin!

Now a fully protected conservation zone, work is in progress to list Sipadan as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The Sipadan Barrier Reef is the largest Barrier Reef in S.E ASIA and also has the World’s highest marine biodiversity! Diversity is the beauty of this amazing reef: It offers wall dives with vertical drops to over 500M, Cleaning stations that attract Manta Rays, Devil Rays and all kinds of sharks! 1000’s of schooling fish and hidden away in the coral shallows are some of the world’s best macro life such as Pygmy Seahorses, Flamboyant Cuttle Fish, Mandarin Fish and other marine life that is still to be identified. This is truly one of the last unexplored frontiers on Planet Earth and it’s a must you dive here when you come to visit.

The itinerary for the days spent around the islands were pretty simple – eat, dive, sleep. Repeat when you got up the next day. Yes, the Sipadan scuba diving trip sounds boring and idle on paper, that’s until you get in your gear and go down the water. You would have grinned like a little school boy if your mouth wasn’t stuck with a mouthpiece.

Tun Sakaran Marine Park

Tun Sakaran Marine Park (TSMP) is situated at the entrance to Darvel Bay, off the East coast of Sabah near the town of Semporna. To get there, one would have to first travel from Kota Kinabalu to Tawau, then a land transfer to Semporna. The journey overland from Tawau to Semporna takes about 2 hours.

Once arrived into Semporna town, it takes about 45 minutes by speed boat from the jetty to the marine park. Named after then the Head of State of Sabah, Tun Sakaran Dandai, it was gazetted in July 2004 as Sabah’s seventh park. The Park is the largest Marine Park in the country as it covers 340 sq km of sea and coral reefs and 10 sq km of land.

There are approximately 2,000 people living within the park, most of whom consist of the nomadic Bajau Laut (Sea Gypsies) people, who live in stilt houses and houseboats in and around the marine park.

The park made up of eight islands, their surrounding reefs, and sea. Its main objective is to protect their environment and to promote sustainable use of natural resources. Geologically, the islands are formed from Quaternary pyroclastic material, which was ejected during explosive volcanic activity. Among the 8 islands, Bohey Dulang, Tatagan, Sibuan and Mantabuan are great with day trips for some sun, sand and snorkeling fun.

Scuba divers will find this place a great dive spot, as it is an active ground for breeding, spawning and growth of terrestrial and marine life. Being compared to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef by the UK’s Marine Conservation Society, at least 528 species of reef fish, 240 species of marine invertebrate, 70 species of soft coral and 6 species of seagrass are found here.

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