MALAYSIA IS BLESSED WITH AN ABUNDANCE OF NATURAL TREASURES. FROM LUSH RAINFORESTS TO PRISTINE BLUE OCEANS, A WORLD OF AQUATIC WONDERS AWAITS THE INTREPID TRAVELLER. ADDITIONALLY, THE COUNTRY’S TROPICAL WEATHER MAKES ALL KINDS OF OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES POSSIBLE THROUGHOUT
Scuba divers are drawn to Malaysia’s boundless diving options. Its marine habitats cover spectacular coral gardens, atolls and various other impressive formations and landscapes, as well as over 3,000 species of marine life. Thus, it comes as no surprise that Malaysia is famed as one of the best diving destinations in the world. Some of the standout diving spots are located off the coast of Sabah, particularly in the surrounding waters of the islands of Sipadan, Layanglayang and Mabul.
Malaysia’s sole oceanic island, Sipadan rises 700 metres from the sea floor. It’s home to colourful coral reefs, the endangered hawksbill sea turtle and green turtle, and thousands of other marine species. Various efforts to conserve the beauty and biodiversity of its underwater environment are under way, such as allowing only 120 divers a day to explore the amazing Sipadan coral reef ecosystem.
The subjects of history and diving may seem unrelated, but if you were to dive in Sarawak’s deep blue sea, that perception could be changed forever. The waters off the coast of Kuching, the state capital, harbour three sunken Japanese warships, the Katori Maru, Hiyoshi Maru and Sagiri. It was said that during World War II, not long after the attack on Pearl Harbour, the fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy that intended to gain control of Borneo was intercepted and sunk by the Dutch. Today, the shipwrecks have become a haven for marine life such as barracudas, batfishes and snappers.
Peninsular Malaysia also has no shortage of stunning diving locations. Terengganu’s Perhentian Island, for example, offers 20 dive sites scattered around a small archipelago, accessible via a short boat ride. The island is completely closed from November to March, though, due to the annual monsoon season in the East Coast so do plan your schedule wisely. Renowned marine life artist Robert Wyland once said, “The ocean stirs the heart, inspires
the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul.” That probably explains why people easily fall in love with the sea and choose to make it their vocation. Azyani Ajmain can attest to this. She made a conscious decision to leave her 9 to 5 job to become a professional diver.
An Interview with Azyani Ajmain, Expert Diver
DM How did your first venture into diving begin?
AA Honestly, this is something I’d never have imagined myself doing. I was a final year geology student at the University of Malaya when my supervisor introduced me to diving. And since we were going to an island for a field trip, I thought: why not? My knowledge on diving was limited, so I decided to take it up as a hobby, apart from incorporating it into my final year project.
DM What were you doing before you became a full-time diver?
AA I worked as a geologist with a small engineering company for a few years, and joined an oil and gas company after that. I always had to take several days off every week, and that situation was far from ideal! I knew it wasn’t something I wanted to do. So here I am now doing what I love. As the saying goes, “Do what you love and you don’t have to work for the rest of your life!”
DM What made you decide to pursue diving as a career?
AA Being underwater is my passion. I had an amazing female instructor when I was doing my Open Water course. She’s such an inspiration to me that I made it my mission to become an instructor one day.
DM Do you miss your previous working environment?
AA Yes, sometimes. But only the part where I had to put on make-up and wear stilettos!
DM How does one become a certified diver?
AA First, sign up for an entry-level Open Water Diver course. The course will include a fundamental theory class, a confined water session to see how confident you are in the water and a practical open water session. Certification has many stages, starting from Open Water Diver, Advanced Open Water, Rescue Diver and Dive Master. Upon finishing all these courses, you will
qualify as an Instructor.
DM What’s your most interesting experience as a diver?
AA Swimming with whale sharks. It’s amazing!
DM Why should everyone try diving at least once in their lives?
AA Since the ocean covers at least 70% of the Earth’s surface, it’s only logical to explore and venture into the deep blue sea. For a start, try using the self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (scuba) to breathe and feel the underwater pressure. Trust me, you’ll be hooked!
DM What are the best diving spots in Malaysia?
AA The whole of Malaysia is a diving haven! Visibility is consistently clear. DM Why should one focus on diving in Malaysia? What sets it apart from other diving destinations? AA Malaysia is situated in the Coral Triangle region which encompasses the highest diversity of coral reefs and fishes in the world. It’s a diver’s dream come true.
TOP 7 Diving Resorts in Malaysia
(as chosen by travellers)
1. Sipadan Mabul Resort, Mabul Island
2. Reef Dive Resort, Sipadan Island
3. Mabul Water Bungalows, Mabul Island
4. Perhentian Tuna Bay Island Resort, Perhentian Island
5. Sipadan Kapalai Dive Resort, Sipadan Island
6. Tioman Dive Resort, Tioman Island
7. Coral View Island Resort, Perhentian Island