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9 To-Die-For Scuba Diving Locations In Sabah For Your Aesthetic Pleasure

scuba diving in sabah islands

A colorful marine life exploration in Sabah awaits you with stunning landscapes that will keep you coming back for more!

Whether you are a beginner or an advanced scuba diver, Sabah, the land below the wind offers numbers of tropical diving experiences that are not to be missed! So before we dive further, watch below’s short clip for that glimpse of what it’s like to be exploring Sabah’s marine life. You’ll be hooked, for sure!

#1
Manukan Island

Marked as the most popular island to dive in Sabah and the second-largest island of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park (TARP), it is situated near Kota Kinabalu city. Visitors will enjoy lounging on the beautiful stretch white sandy beach, complete accommodation site, swimming with cute fishes like Nemo, and of course, the sight of fringing reef located on the Southern Coast.

Once you’re there, you are able to swim through the beautiful underwater garden of all marine life. This includes staghorn coral, lettuce coral, trumpet fish, butterflyfish, and more. If you are quite an adventurous person, dive deeper into the Mid reef for more incredible marine life that is worth discovering. Beautiful creatures such as lionfish, morays, and the rare panda clownfish, amongst others, will be waiting for you!

#2
Sipadan Island

Yeah, you’ve heard it right! Sipadan island is indeed a marine paradise. Well-known for its rich underwater biodiversity, unspoiled reefs, and the sudden drop-offs into the deep blue. Only an hour boat ride from the town of Semporna, the island is home to over 3,00 species of fish and hundreds of coral species. So expect to see a sight of sharks, sea turtles, barracuda, morays, angelfish, and more while diving there.

sipadan island in sabah
Photo by Johnny Chen on Unsplash

Marked as the only oceanic island in Malaysia, it basically rises straight from the seabed while usually, it’s from the continental shelf. You should also know that the island’s beautiful forests and white sand beaches are resting on top of a prehistoric volcano rising 600 meters from the seafloor. But there is nothing to worry about. The authority will only allow divers to swim underwater when everything is safe.

I would say the most exciting part of this diving site is the Turtle Cavern, also known as the Turtle Tomb. It’s actually where turtles go to die, said by locals. As you dive along, you will see quite a number of turtles skeleton laying around. Sounds like a great adventure to me!

#3
Pom Pom Island

With the Covid-19 cases are still ongoing, considering Pom Pom island for your next vacay is definitely a good move. It is less crowded than the rest of Sabah’s diving gems. I guess because most people would dive in Sipadan instead which is marked as the world’s top diving destination.

If you must know, divers often visit Pom Pom island for the famous rare species of fish that live there. But that’s not all though! In total, there are over 200 species of fish include frogfish, gobies, octopus, and scorpionfish. And there are about 500 coral species to be discovered as well. Oh, and the water is crystal clear too. You will enjoy even more diving here as the temperatures ranging from 25 to 29 degrees Celcius. Just nice, ey?

I’m not finished though. Pom Pom island is an important feeding and nesting site for both green and hawksbill turtles. You will also get to witness hatchling before they are being released into the sea. So beautiful!

#4
Mantanani Island

Mantanani Island is a great isolated spot for your little marine adventure. So-called as the divers’ paradise, you will be mesmerized by Mantanani underwater world. Why? Get ready to be smitten by the adorable clownfishes (Nemo) and swim along with colored fishes amidst the beautiful garden of living coral reefs. Yes, the view is definitely to-die-for!

Believe it or not, some divers have actually encountered dolphins, moray eel, eagle ray, bumphead parrotfish and more. Maybe you will have the same luck as them too.

#5
Layang-layang Island

If you love the feel and sight of warm crystal clear waters, get yourself to Layang-layang island asap! Known as Place of Swallows or Swallow Reef, referring to the migratory birds that inhabit the island, as a breeding ground. The island is part of the 600 islands, reeds, and shoals in the South China Sea or better known as The Spratly’s. About 300km off the Borneo coast and 2,000, meters waters deep, you will love the rich biodiversity of marine life here.

Like many other islands in Sabah, you will be able to see manta rays, turtles, and tuna nearby the open ocean. But the most sought after creature you need to see is the hammerhead sharks. Unfortunately, it is only be found in a large group during the mating season, between April and May.

While marine life has definitely amazed you, the man-made structures are not to be missed as well. The list includes the one-of-a-kind large windmill in Malaysia which helps to provide extra electricity to the naval base on Layang-layang island.

#6
Mataking Island

More colorful exploration of marine life right here. This secluded macro haven consists of many wonders such as flamboyant cuttlefish, blue-ringed octopus, pygmy seahorses and so much more. Your dive will be as colorful as the rainbow as Mataking nubranchs are stretch along the walls with the beautiful Mataking house reef.

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Most divers will stop for a while at the Bohayan’s reef due to the vibrant color of pygmy seahorses gathered there. Make sure you get your camera ready on time. Don’t miss on the right moment to capture the splendor of marine life.

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One of the pulling factors off this island would be the scattered dead corals at the edge of the wall. Not to mention the Garden of Eden, where orange and brown soft color corals on the floor of the mild current. These locations are the favorite ones for photography. If you are lucky enough, you might be able to spot a huge, black giant frogfish there. Or perhaps a school of butterflyfish lurking as well.

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#7
Mabul Island

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful! Slightly less popular among tourists but it certainly offers some of the best muck diving in the world! Not too shabby for a much lesser-known in Sabah, ey? The island is only about 26 kilometres away from the town of Semporna which will take you about 45 minutes boat ride to get there.

Many divers love the island due to the findings of rare marine species such as harlequin shrimp and camouflaged fish. If you’re lucky, you might be able to see them too. Mabul island is not all about exploring the beautiful marine life. In between breaks, divers are able to catch a glimpse of the local culture of the Bajau Laut tribe and the Suluk tribe too. So interesting!

Among all of the diving sites in Mabul island, the most notable ones would be the Coral Reef Garden, Paradise, and the Seaventure Platform. As you are diving, you are able to see lots of pelagic reef fishes, juvenile batfish, snake eels, ghost pipefish, and many more. Among all, this island is well-known for its seldom seen critters. Who knows, you might be able to the unique creatures once you’re there!

#8
Lankayan Island

If you are a beginner, Lankayan island may be the best place for you. It is a less crowded island in Sabah and offers easy path over pristine reefs. Get ready to catch the sight of turtles and whale sharks, amongst other marine diversity available here.

You will have plenty of opportunities to see octopus, cuttlefish, frogfish, and ghost pipefish, amongst others. That’s not all! There will be squadrons of black-tip reef sharks too. Besides marine life, the diving sites are also part of historical discovery from the Wolrd War 2. From Lankayan Wreck to Lost Reef and Mosquito Wreck, it will be such a thrilling adventure for all divers. I’m loving this so far!

#9
Sapi Island

Listed as part of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, Sapi island has clear blue water and beautiful corals such as staghorn corals and lettuce. This little island is the favorite one among tourists in Sabah as it is less commercialized than the rest. Even the facilities are available at a short distance for visitors’ convenience.

Marine life in this island is just as spectacular as the rest. It’s been said that it has more fishes in comparison to the other islands in Kota Kinabalu. It’s true! Besides the common sight of clownfishes in the water, some divers have encountered giant clam as well.

There are honestly more to be discovered in Sabah. You just need to fly yourself there to experience it all!

Ezza Zainal

Be the storyteller that everyone can’t get enough of. Period!

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