Malaysia is a well established dive destination with some of the world’s best dive sites, including Sipidan Island off the east coast of Sabah, consistently ranked in the top ten sites in the world. This “untouched piece of art” is one of the must-dives sites for most local and international divers, but there are many other places for those interested in donning fins, snorkel, and mask to swim amongst some quite amazing marine life.
While it’s possible to do this at the leading dive sites, the expense in accessing remote islands like Sipadan means that they tend to be the exclusive domain of experienced scuba divers. Fortunately, there are few skills required for snorkelling, so buy or rent some equipment and head off to one of the following five island sites in Malaysia.
See Also: Sipadan: Still the Best for Diving
1. Lankayan Island, Sabah
One of Malaysia’s more remote islands is Lankayan located in the Sulu Sea northwest of Sandakan. Like many other Malaysian islands, it really is an island for divers, but the shallow waters immediately offshore from this island that only takes 30 minutes to circumnavigate are ideal for those who want to fin around in the warm tropical shallows. Harmless Black-tipped Reef Sharks come near the shore at lunchtime for a daily feed from the resort staff.
2. Redang Island, Terengganu
Redang is a wonderful location for snorkelling as the island is accessible by direct flights from both Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. While most snorkellers are content to float on the surface, it’s possible to dive slightly deeper once you have mastered the skill of not taking in seawater via the snorkel.
One of the best snorkelling beaches here is Tanjung Dalam where the Berjaya Resort is located, as the waters have good visibility. Head across to the Marine Park Centre for more great snorkelling locations where Batfish swim around the coral reefs that also support small and various types of small and colourful nudibranchs. While divers have a better chance of seeing turtles, it’s not impossible while snorkelling.
See Also: Holiday at Three Redang Beach Resorts
3. Payar Island, Kedah
Payar Island is part of the Pulau Payar Marine Park of four islands situated one hour’s boat ride to the south of Langkawi Island. It is a well set up snorkelling destination that includes facilities such as a large pontoon moored over coral in the Straits of Malacca. Snorkelling equipment can be rented here and while the visibility varies due to the water being churned up by lots of visitors finning furiously in the water, it is an accessible and safe snorkelling site.
Boulder and brain coral cover the seafloor and Giant Groupers, Black Barracudas, Clown Anemone Fish, and friendly Black-tipped Reef sharks frequent the waters. Onshore, the Fisheries Department has a Marine Park Centre with some educational facilities about the marine life.
4. Tenggol Island, Terengganu
Tenggol’s snorkelling charm is that the island is located from what appears to be the middle of nowhere but is actually only 45 minutes by fast boat or two hours by slow fishing boat from Kuala Dungan in Terengganu on the East Coast. Its remoteness is its charm and while facilities on the island are limited to simple wooden chalets, they are comfortable and located immediately adjacent to the clean and clear waters of the South China Sea.
Put on your snorkelling gear and step straight into the island’s rich marine life that thrives in the waters just off Teluk Air Tawah. The visibility is good and the deeper waters are home to Giant Groupers, Parrotfish and Batfish. Rocky foreshores on either side of the main beach are the best places for some advanced snorkelling and scuba diving. The best time of the year for snorkelling is outside of the monsoon season from April to October.
5. Tioman Island, Pahang
Tioman Island is a popular Malaysian island offering good access via ferry from Mersing, Johor. It’s popular because of its relaxed lifestyle, scenic beauty, an abundance of affordable chalets, and some 15 excellent dive sites (including several wrecks). For snorkellers who want to become accredited scuba divers, Tioman is a safe environment in which to learn to become a serious diver.
There are several bays and beaches around the more popular western coast with Kampung Salang on the northwest coast being a good location to snorkel straight off the beach. Tulai and Renggis Islands are located just offshore and accessible by boat and are both good snorkelling sites amongst the rocks and hard corals. Patient snorkellers are rewarded with sightings of Hawksbill Turtles.
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