Malaysia has some of the world’s best scuba diving, with Sipadan topping most divers bucket lists. But if you’re looking for a chance to try out scuba diving, or you don’t have time to travel all the way down to Sipadan and then wait at least four days before you can get a permit, then you might want to consider some of the great, but more accessible scuba options.
Scuba Diving Kota Kinabalu
Kota Kinabalu is the capital of Sabah and is one of the easiest cities in Borneo to get to. The city borders the sea and the Tunku Abdul Rahman marine national park is just off shore. The park also consists of five small islands, which also make a great day trip from KK. All the islands offer scuba diving for PADI certified divers, and most also offer training courses and even “try dives” which will allow you to try out scuba diving to see if it is something you are interested in. TAR park is well known for it’s macro diving sites, but there are lots of larger marine life that can be seen here as well including turtles, reef sharks, barracudas and sometimes even whale sharks.
Where to stay
Since the islands and TAR park are just off shore from the city of KK, you can really stay anymore. Dive operators will pick you up from your accommodation which means all the options of KK are available to you.
We stayed at Borneo Backpackers. This budget option offers dorm and private rooms with free wifi air con. Rooms are sparse and basic, but when you are out all day exploring the underwater world, all you really need is a place to sleep. There is a light breakfast on offer in the morning as well as coffee, tea, and filtered water all day long. There is also a nice cafe downstairs.
If you are after a budget option, close to everything in KK, but don’t want to sleep in a dorm room, then Borneo Backpackers is a good option. Dorms start at 35 Ringgits and the double room we stayed in would cost you 80 Ringgits a night. Not a bad deal at all.
What to bring
When you book a dive trip, it is all inclusive. The only thing that you need to bring yourself (or pay extra to rent) is a dive computer. Everything else; all your gear, pick up and drop off to your accommodation, lunch and snacks, and transfers to the dive sites are all provided.
Scuba Diving Gaya Island
Dan did his diving with Dive Down Below. This is one of the longest running and most popular dive operators and offer a large variety of dive and snorkel packages. They can also help you organize diving trips at other sites around Malaysia.
Thank you to Sabah Tourism for their assistance on this trip.