Glassy waters, endless ribbons of beach, Disney-movie undersea landscapes: it’s no wonder that Malaysia and Indonesia are such compelling destinations for a scuba diving holiday. There’s no dearth of diving here, as there are hundreds of popular diving spots in the region. Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei boast booming fish populations, awesome opportunities for surface interval fun and the perpetually warm water of South China Sea. The wide variety of dive centers in Malaysia and regional dive resorts make planning a scuba diving vacation a breeze.
Located towards the northern tip of Australia, the sovereign state of Borneo is the largest island in the world. Its scope encompasses a number of excellent scuba diving sites. The country constantly makes it onto lists of the world’s best scuba diving destinations. Borneo’s appeal could be attributed to its year-round diving season, accessibility for Engish-speaking visitors and its favorable environment for both avid divers and hobbyists.
The city of Kuala Lumpur (or “KL,” as it has come to be known by its droves of happy expats) is known for its lush rain forests and turquoise blue beaches. The underwater extension of the city is just as interesting, offering a delightful opportunity to enjoy an adventurous scuba diving excursion. Dive sites around the city offer divers a peek at lots of WWII shipwrecks (such as the H.M.S. Prince of Wales and H.M.S. Repulse), as well as a variety of deep, shallow and muck dives.
Sipadan, Mabul, Kapalai and Lankayan
The islands of Sipadan, Mabul, Kapalai, and Lankayan are scuba diving jewels in Indonesia’s crown. The dive industry here is quite developed, so it’s easy to find a dive operator almost anywhere you look. The bathtub-warm water that surrounds the tiny islands is the blood that pumps through the heart of the Indo-Pacific basin; more than three thousand species of fish and coral have been classified here.
Unlike super-crowded Bali, Indonesia’s beauty isn’t spoiled by the constant appearance of other divers — unsurprisingly, since there are approximately 15,000 islands to choose from (possessing a collective 80,000 kilometers of beach). The endless ribbons of reef that envelop this 5,000-kilometer-long archipelago are generously peppered with dive sites, and the dive shops in Indonesia that can take you to them are plentiful and high-rated. Out of the water, Indonesia is famed for its cultural diversity and gee-whiz natural settings, so your surface intervals won’t disappoint.
Gili Island, Brunei
Gili Island is a shark-lover’s dream — shark points (and manta points) abound here. Scuba diving in Brunei reliably turns up a diverse range of sharks (white tip, black tip, reef sharks and gray sharks among them). Stingrays, sea turtles and mantas are always close at hand, as well. Brunei dive shops offer the full technical range (from PADI training to Nitrox dives), so mixed groups of divers will find their comfort zone.
Staying in ultra-clean, city-of-the-future Singapore avails much more diving than you may at first think. The city’s most famous local dive spots include Chebeh Island, Labas Island, Fan Canyon, Malang Rock and Kador Bay. While swimming in the turquoise blue sea, the divers bump heads with beautiful bumphead parrotfish, reef fish, lionfish, tropical angelfish, barracuda and spotted green turtles. Sharks are rare — nice to know, if you’re shark-shy — and dive centers in Singapore are well-equipped and easy-to-find.