Malaysia, some of the most pristine and vibrant coral reefs in Southeast Asia

Malaysia is part of the Coral Triangle, a region that 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.

Titan triggerfish in Malaysia
Among the hundred of fish species you may spot in Malaysia is the titan triggerfish, common at snorkeling depth. Here, encountered in Teluk Keke.

Several of these lively reefs are close to 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 blacktip 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.

In Pulau Besar, you can for example snorkel from the beach at Teluk Pauh, Teluk Keke and in Flora Bay. Many other spots can be reached with boat tours, such as Fish Point, Shark Point, or, off the main islands, Rawa Island.

Snorkeling the Perhentian Islands
Fish Point is one of the busiest snorkel spots in the Perhentian Islands.

Together with Pulau Redang (where coral reefs are best preserved) and 6 other islands, the Perhentian form the Pulau Redang Marine Park, 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.

Bluespotted stingray and coral reef at Rawa Island
You can observe bluespotted ribbontail rays on the well-preserved reefs surrounding the small Rawa Island.

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 tourists that like to explore and snorkel in remote places full of wildlife.

Ocellaris clownfish in Pulau Sapi
The ocellaris clownfish is a common sighting at Malaysian reefs, like here in Pulau Sapi.

The 5 islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, including Pulau Manukan, Pulau Sapi, and Pulau Gaya, are located off Kota Kinabalu, 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 nesting beaches), Mataking Island (with its sparkling white sand and mesmerizing blue waters) and Sipadan Island -described as an “Untouched Piece of Art” by Jacques Cousteau- are all great and exclusive places for snorkeling.

Boring clam in Selingan Island
A brightly-colored boring clam noted at Selingan Island‘s reef.

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 are 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.”

Best times of the year for snorkeling the Perhentian Islands
JANUARY
FEBRUARY
MARCH
APRIL
MAY
JUNE
JULY
AUGUST
SEPTEMBER
OCTOBER
NOVEMBER
DECEMBER
Warm and humid
Warm and sunny

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