Malaysia consists of two land regions divided by the South China Sea: the Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo (East Malaysia), 600km to the east. Malaysia has a coastline of more than 3500km, and there are a total of 878 islands in the country, of which 394 are located in the state of Sabah (Borneo). The result of this exceptional geography is a huge variety of snorkeling spots, and the opportunity to see and encounter one of the richest underwater wildlife on earth.

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Malaysia is part of the Coral Triangle, a region which concentrates the greatest underwater biodiversity in the world. It is estimated that it contains 30% of the coral reefs and 35% of the reef fish species on earth. More than 350 coral species are found in Malaysia, and Sabah (a state of Malaysia located on the northern portion of the island of Borneo) contains more than 75% of all Malaysian reefs. Several of these lively reefs are close the surface of the water, making them easily accessible to snorkelers. In well preserved areas, is quite easy to see green sea turtles, clownfish (including ocellaris clownfish, best known as “Nemo”), several species of angelfish, and even reef sharks and manta rays.

The islands of the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia offer a wealth of great snorkeling spots. The enchanting Perhentian Islands (Pulau Kecil and Pulau Besar), where it is easy to spot sea turtles and sharks, are certainly the most visited among them. Together with Pulau Redang (where coral reefs are best preserved) and 6 other islands, they form the Pulau Redang Marine Parks, off the Terengganu coast. Further south, Pulau Tenggol is also a good snorkeling location, as well as Pulau Tioman and its surrounding smaller islands. Contrary to the east coast, the west coast of the peninsula is not renewed for its coral reefs, excepted Langkawi Island, where snorkeling is decent.

Rawa Island Snorkeling malaysia
Snorkeling in Rawa Island, Malaysia

Peninsular Malaysia is assuredly a great snorkeling destination. However, the real snorkeling must in the country is with no doubt Malaysian Borneo, and particularly the state of Sabah. This area has become well established as one of the finest dive and snorkeling locations in Asia. The small islands offshore Borneo are the perfect travel destination for tourist that like to explore and snorkel remote places full of wildlife. The 5 islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, including Pulau Manukan and Pulau Gaya, are located in front of Sabah, and are the most accessible of the area. Langkayan island (surrounded by vibrant coral reefs, where you can spot sea turtles, rays and sharks), Selingan island (also known as “Turtle island”, famous for its nestling beaches), Mataking island (mith its sparkling white sand and mesmerizing blue waters) and Sipadan -described as an “Untouched Piece of Art” by Jacques Cousteau- are all great and exclusive places for snorkeling.
When to go snorkeling in Malaysia?

The weather in Malaysia is tropical –hot, humid and rainy year round-, with a large amount of rainfall during the annual monsoon seasons: from April to October in the southwest, and October to February in the northeast. The best times to practice snorkeling in Malaysia is during January/February on the west coast, June/July on the east coast, and April in Sabah and the islands of Malaysian Borneo. Air temperatures range from a mild 20°C to 30°C average throughout the year, while water temperature average is 26 to 30°C. Visibility in the water is generally clear, and can reach up to 50 meters on perfect days.

Where to spot them?

Green sea turtle

Ocellaris clownfish

Bluespotted stingray

Blue ring angelfish

Red-breasted wrasse

Scissortail sergeant

Giant clam

Moon wrasse