Snorkeling in Malaysia

By Mila Gilmanova

SNORKELING is a great activity on a beach holiday as it requires very simple equipment and is a skill anyone can master. All you need is a snorkel, diving mask and fins. Compared to diving it’s also a lot cheaper and doesn’t restrict people based on their health. It also gives you the chance to see marine life without the need for diving qualifications.

There are a lot of great places for snorkeling in Malaysia thanks to the number of remote islands, coral reefs and the marine life so visible in the crystal clear water.

In many resorts it’s possible to rent snorkel gear and simply walk in off the beach to see coral and fish. Although the snorkeling destinations of Malaysia are numerous, I have chosen some of the more interesting and unusual ones for your next vacation.

Amazing variety of marine life is found in waters surrounding Malaysian islands. Pic: Flickr

Amazing variety of marine life is found in waters surrounding Malaysian islands. Pic: Flickr

The best snorkeling beaches are found along the coast of Peninsular Malaysia and on the islands protected by the government. In the marine parks you can meet species of fish like barracuda or even more exotic ones like whale sharks and turtles.

Talang Satang National Park in Sarawak was established to protect the marine turtle population. It includes coastline and the four turtle islands of Pulau Talang Besar, Pulau Talang Kecil, Pulau Satang Besar and Pulau Satang. Don’t miss the chance to see stonefish and sea snakes found here.

In Similajau National Park there are five species of dolphins: the Irrawady dolphin, the bottlenose dolphin, the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin, the finless porpoise dolphin and the spotted dolphin. They are very friendly and usually swim in small groups quite close to shore so visitors often chance upon them while snorkeling! The chance to meet them increases if you take a boat trip. You can also go snorkeling along the rocky shore line where lobsters, shells and crabs are found. You need to bring your own equipment to snorkel in this area. At night crocodile sightseeing is possible, but it needs a boat and a strong torch.

Terengganu Marine Park includes the Redang archipelago (nine islands) which is probably the most popular snorkeling destination and I really can say that it is worth visiting this place. This is a very short list of various fish species that can be found on Redang: yellow-margin triggerfish, virgate rabbitfish, blue-lined rabbitfish, silvery pompano, two-lined spinecheek, gold-saddle rabbitfish and parrotfish. Many resorts here include snorkeling tours by boat but you can always get to the reefs yourself. Pasir Panjang is a unique beach and a nesting ground for baby sharks; snorkeling here is better without fins because fins can actually damage the coral.

In the same state you will find the beautiful Perhentian Islands. Here in clean water with 10-20 meter visibility live turtles, some rare species of sharks, groupers and barracuda. Most resorts offer snorkeling equipment for rent (about RM10) and transfer to the best points which are Teluk Pauh, Tanjung Basi and Shark Point.

Snorkeling at the Pulau Mabul Pic: Flickr

Snorkeling at the Pulau Mabul Pic: Flickr

Sipadan island is known as one of the best diving places but at the same time the snorkeling is also a great option where you can easily see turtles, stonefish, sharks and barracuda.

Mabul island, located close to Sipadan, is a great snorkeling center. The island is small and there are no roads or cars. Paradise Reef and Lobster Wall are the most recommended places for snorkeling where you can see scorpionfishes, crocodilefishes, frogfishes and crustaceans. There are packages for budget non-diving travel to Mabul which include boat rental, accommodation, transfer, meals and equipment.

Manukan island, which is close to Kota Kinabalu, is fantastic for snorkeling. Here you can see spinecheek anemonefish, colourful damselfish, Moorish idols and many more.

Pulau Tenggol island, Tanjong Jara Resort, perfect for snorkeling and diving. Pic: Flickr

Pulau Tenggol island, Tanjong Jara Resort, perfect for snorkeling and diving. Pic: Flickr

When you are snorkeling don’t forget to follow the basic safety rules. Always make sure somebody on shore knows where you are, so if you get stuck somewhere or get lost, people can find you. A first aid kit is very useful to take with you especially for cuts from the coral. Don’t forget to take a lot of sunblock too. I also recommend you have a book about Malaysian fish you can spot on the way and take an underwater camera to record what you see.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to find out more about travelling to Malaysia, please visit the Tourism Malaysia website


About the author…

Mila Gilmanova (Russia)
Mila Gilmanova is an artist, blogger, interpreter and traveler. Her interests are the history of art, photography and hiking. Mila is travelling with her friend from Greece to Australia, or maybe even further, trying to find a new lifestyle and escape the urban routine. She loves meeting people and collecting road stories from travelers. Mila maintains two blogs in Russian  – and and one in English –