Dive Operators in Malaysia
14 June 2016
Malaysia comprises two regions separated by the South China Sea: Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo. Both have some excellent diving. Peninsular Malaysia is immediately south of Thailand - Tioman Island is off its East coast and Kuala Lumpa is found on its West coast. Malaysian Borneo is home to Sipadan - one of the best diving areas in the world - in the state of Sabah.
You can dive around Malaysian Borneo all year round. The best time to dive the west coast (Layang Layang for example) is between March and May. For Sipadan off the east coast the most settled weather is from April to December. For Peninsula Malaysia the best time is from February to November as from December to March is the rainy season.
Malaysia forms an important part of the coral triangle - one of the most biodiverse areas in the world. It has more sea area than it does land. In 2016 the Sabah State Government created the country's largest marine park off the coast of Northern Borneo - the Tun Mustapha Marine Park. The park lets the local communities continue fishing in designated zones. According to the WWF, it will be an IUCN – International Union for Conservation of Nature - Category VI Park where sustainable uses are still allowed and local communities living within it are able to continue their activities within designated zones. The productive fishing grounds in the area support more than 80,000 people in coastal and island communities, generating around 100 tonnes of fish catch each day. It will protect almost 1 million hectares of coral reef, mangrove, seagrass and more than 50 islands.
Browse below to read divers' comments and see which dive centres have received the "5 fish" rating. You can rate a diving centre you dived with here.
All dive operators and resorts have had to leave the island of Sipadan on environmental grounds. A good place to base yourself for diving here is Semporna. Alternatively you can stay on the island of Mabul, which is 10 minutes boat ride away from Sipadan. However staying there is more expensive than Semporna.
Alternatively, you can dive Sipadan by liveaboard.
Lot: B7-B8, Ground Floor, Semporna Seafront Resort Township
Tel: +6 (089) 919148 / 012-8131688
Fax: +6( 089) 768531
E-mail: [email protected]
"Sipadan Scuba is a PADI 5-star IDC & National Geographic Dive Denter S-6528, the first and only PADI 5 Star Instructor Development Center in Semporna, Sabah, Malaysia and the first National Geographic Dive Center in Borneo. ."
Jerry Reichart (PADI Master Instructor, Sipadan Scuba), 2010
By the market in Semporna
91308 Malaysia Tel: +60 89 785372
"Scuba Junkie was the ideal place to dive, if you like having good condition equipment and dedicated and passionate staff, who love to spend time at the end of the day going over all the incredible marine life that you see during the day!!!
I have just recently come back from spending my honeymoon at Scuba Junkies Mabul Beach Resort, and I have to say it was the most perfect honeymoon a woman could ask for. The amount of detail and care that the staff at Scuba junkie took to make sure our trip was memorable was amazing, the first day we arrived, our bed had been decorated with petals! The managers that run the place, Carys and Rohan are so friendly and organised, and were always willing to help with any questions or requests we had. We were lucky enough to be there for one of the Shark presentation talks... I never knew even a quarter of things we learnt!
If you go here, you must ask about the Turtle Hatchery, on our last night the eggs hatched and we got to watch hundreds of baby green turtles make their way to the water!!!!!
Cost was very reasonable, the room included all 3 meals, unlimited tea, coffee, hot chocolate and water... Would have to say that the cocktails are a must though!
Scuba Junkie spends a lot of time promoting awareness about sharks and turtles, and I noticed they have a huge area dedicated for rubbish collection, my husband and I had a great afternoon with the staff taking part in one of the organised beach and reef cleans. I think in this day and age its important for dive resorts to look after the area they are in. One of the best places to stay and dive, for safety, reliability and fun, theres no one better than Scuba Junkie!!! Thank you for making our stay so unforgettable! "
"Excellent, professional outfit, would dive with them again without doubt. Did 21 dives around Sipadan with them in October 2005 and had a great time."
Iona Hill, 2005
"These guys were brilliant! Myself and the missus did our PADIs a year ago and so we booked for a refresher dive with Scuba Junkies before heading off for a posh dive resort, but after a fantastic day with Scuba Junkies we really wished we'd booked with them instead. The equipment was great and it was a great three dives, and their rates were very reasonable, but what really made it for us was the brilliant atmosphere on the dive boat. We could have easily spent a week in their company. Can't recommend them enough."
"Scuba Junkies is definitely one of the best dive operators I've ever come across. Took my Open Water course with them in May 2007 and they've got me hooked! My 2 instructors Tino from Germany and Cle from South Africa were definitely experienced and enthusiastic. 3 cheers to the various divemasters too! Very warm, friendly and interested! It really differs from those big so called 'professional' dive companies you find simply processing out schools of fresh-eyed divers for the sake of profits! I've even come to the point of putting up a big Billboard in the Backpackers hostel that I run in tribute to them, definitely recommending them to every single diver that that comes thru my door. Definite thumbs up to Scuba Junkie. Planning to do my Divemaster there the end of the year!!"
Dylan L, 2007
"I personally would NOT dive or take any course with this company. Having undertaken my Divemaster course with them their standards and services were below expectations. They can not organize a piss up in a brewery. As for booking in advance, Ha, the amount of times they gave the same excuse that they had not received the information. This left many customers waiting an extra day or two to dive. As for the comment of hanging around in the evening it is the only operator I know that makes all it's customers go back to try their gear on!
Safety and management are very negelected and this is very worrying when your divemaster is really a Trainee! The diving is excellent but only use this outfit if you are looking for assistance or have little confidence in diving on your own. Lives depend on it so be at your own risk!
Check out the other operators and don't fall for the trick SJs use on customers by saying that the other dive shops promise to go to Sipadan then go some where else. They all get a certain number of licences, scuba junkies the least!!!"
"I will not dive with them again! SJ just look to $$. We had a really bad experience and so did many other people.
They promise you diving in Sipadan and they change your dates as they want to dive in Mabul ( very very poor, the first 3 meters is green water and really little life). We booked for 2 dives in Sipadan 2 months in advanced and confirmed by e-mail by Ric, but we found they haven't booked the permission to dive there for us, we had to dive with a different name (people had to snorkel, there is a different fee between snorkel and dive in Sipadan).
Then they decided to cancel our dive in Sipadan, we had to dive in Mabul, the accommodation they offer in Mabul is extremely poor with broken beds, compressor working all day just close to the longhouse (impossible to relax), really bad food...... at a different price than confirmed to us by Ric by mail.
We got no apology, no other solutions, and as they had our passport we must pay even if they're wrong (that is incredible, the only dive center in the world that keeps your passport until payment).
The treatment was really poor and they're not so cheap as they say, there are a lot of dive centers with the same price or cheaper than them. 3 dives in Sipadan+equipment+fee (that you pay but they don't pay to the park) are 340 ringit+ sleep, meals.... etc. Scuba Junkie when is full to dive in Sipadan try to convince divers to dive in Mabul, where diving is really poor, so before going with them, try to contact other dive centers like Sipadan Scuba or Uncle Chang or others.....there are a lot. "
Diego, August 2008.
"Definitely worth checking out Semporna as a base for diving Sipadan - especially as Sipadan has now been cleared of the operators on environmental grounds - it is likely that a few more local operators will set up in Semporna. Using Semporna as a base firstly has the advantage of economy - we paid around Rm300 each for 3 boat dives, plus accommodation (we stayed at the pretty basic, but ok Dragon Inn) is virtually free. In addition, you have the option of hanging out in Semporna vs. being stuck on Mabul in the evening and can take a rest day without feeling guilty about all the money you've shelled out.
We spent a day diving around Sibuan with another operator and then two days diving at Sipadan/Mabul with Scuba Junkies. They were enthusiastic, professional and had very new gear. There was a maximum of 12 divers on board. Would definitely recommend them - they're situated between the waterfront area where all the stilt hotels are and the market.
The comment about people getting kidnapped from Sipadan is highly alarmist. Whilst it's a true story, you're probably in greater danger in Paris or London-- we saw several police/military boats in the area patrolling for illegal fishing, smuggling, pirates etc."
"The newest operator in the area but with two instructors, Tino and Ric, that have lived and dived in the area for a number of years working for another dive company. Their equipment is all brand new and regularly serviced. They operate around Sipadan, Mabul, Kapalai and the other Semporna Bay Islands. All worth checking out for the varied marine life available. As an Instructor who has dived with them prior to them setting up on their own I can highly recommend them as highly knowledgeable, passionate divers and very professional. If Tino and Ric are unable to fit you in they will give you the best advice on who to try next."
"Having dived with Scuba Junkie in March of this year I can thoroughly recomend them to anyone interested in having fun and seeing as many of the great species that Sipadan and Mabul has to offer. I dived with them for one week and felt like a part of the crew by the end of it! Another great thing is the dive shop is pretty much the only place open after 9pm so everyone just hangs out there for a drink!They have recently opened up a hotel/backpackers where i was staying in a dorm room for 10 ringgit a night! My room had aircon and was lovely and clean - quite a change from other places I've stayed in while in Malaysia! Ten out of ten guys!"
Causeway Road Semporna
P.O. Box 246,
"I do NOT recommend diving with Uncle Changs to beginners! In fact, I don't recommend Uncle Changs to anyone! Despite the friendly and helpful reception staff and the great location on Mabul Island this turned out to be our worst diving experience so far.
The lack of responsibility taken by the instructors was shocking and the kit was absolutely awful.
Sadly you are limited by who has passes to Sipaden when you dive in this area. All I can suggest is to be sure to book with a different company well in advance."
Rachel Collins, 2010.
"Uncle Chang's was a great experience. New equipment and boat with quality staff on Mabul island. It can't be beat in terms of atmosphere and quality. Highly recommended. Better than any other place I dove in south east asia."
Amber, USA, 2007
"Uncle Chang's Mabul Backpackers is simply the best. Diving at Sipadan at backpacker prices is crazy (my only problem was some equipment was a little old, but perfectly safe) they are really friendly. I could always get Sipadan permits etc as Uncle is the only true local Malay operator, great stuff, will go again if I'm lucky enough to be in Borneo again. Since I've been staying there they have, for the 1st time in their 8 year existence, got a website....ye ha!"
Peter Sissions 2007
"I've just returned from Semporna- Sipadan and Mabul. I completed my PADI advanced with Scuba junkies, but was unimpressed with their service, so on recommendation I decided to complete a few fun dives with Uncle Chang's on Mabul Island. I can definitely recommend Uncle's for both the diving, the quality of staff and the atmosphere. I felt at home and I learnt more in 4 dives with Uncle's then any where else. I will definitely be returning to this little slice of paradise!"
Amber, USA, 2007
"It was certainly an experience diving Mabul/Sipadan with U.C.! The equipment was very old and unreliable, not a problem for experienced divers.....NEWBIES BEWARE! Staff were friendly but it doesn't matter how experienced a divemaster is, groups of 12+ people is a problem waiting to happen. The free food is ok but the rum drinking at night might make some nervous about doing 3 deep dives the next day. The boats are falling to bits, but just work. Make sure you're not inexperienced as a diver. Large groups of divers with tatty old equipment panic...(it happened on 2 out of the 9 dives with Uncle Chang)"
stella star,uk, 2007
"A group of six of us spent six awesome days diving Sipadan from our base on Mabul courtesy of Uncle Chang. The Divemasters and instructors were simply superb, taking care of everything for us, and Mabul backpackers lodge was simple yet outstanding. It has a real sense of community. Would recommend to anyone."
Steve Burt 2006
"Great place to stay at uncle changs place at mabul island. However the equipment is poor! Old, leaking material and the bcd was sometimes not properly working (air in knob did not release after pressing, so I was inflated and went straight to the surface!) Even the boat was held together with bolds since the back board on which the engine was fixed had been broken off in the past. The price for diving is the same compared to other companies. The hostel although simple is rather cheap and of great value specially because of the friendly ambiance, people and music in the evenings. Mabul Island is a great place to be (cheap, simple and very friendly)."
Frans, Netherlands, 2006
"I checked all operators in Sepmorna who were open for business and decided to try Uncle Chang. I stayed with him for the duration of my holiday. I delivered my equiptment on Monday morning. Each day it was taken to the boat; tank changes were made and it was then taken to the offices where it was rinsed, dried and stored until the next day. On my final day it was delivered to my hotel.
All dives were accompanied by two highly experienced instructors or one instructor and a divemaster. One instructor had over 6000 logged dives and the other was not far behind. The number of paying guest divers in the boat never exceeded 5 and all staff involved were justifiably proud of the friendly and very competent service which they provided.
I have dived in many places in the world and know that it will be hard to find better service. This is a local business, owned and run by locals and is the longest established in the area. It is also the most conveniently positioned.
Prices were very competitive and food was good too! Freshly grilled fish, chicken, fresh fruit and several interesting local delights.
A dvd of some of my dives was available and will be a constant reminder that I must return as soon as possible. "
Morris Burgoyne, UK
"Hey! Have to say something really nice about Uncle Chang... Heard that some others had bad experience. I booked my dives with him together with a school of students from Singapore in spring 2004. He gave us extremely good prices and we had no problem with the equipment at all! He also collected us from bus station and set us up on the boat, was awesome. He's one of the old smaller local vendors that is not running it like a industry! (And seriously, he don't want to either.) Uncle Chang for president! And yes the diving is great and Barracuda point a must.
"Great people to deal with: very helpful. The other companies are very hard sellers and run the other operators down saying they are the best which I did not like. Uncle Chang I would use again."
"Hey Uncle Chang was simply great... In fact he has real caring Dive Masters who really track you every minute of the journey. In fact his ratio is like 2 Divemasters to a Group of 4. I have never seen a better ratio anywhere. And they are ALWAYS watching over you. I was particularly impressed with Mr Armando Gelan (MANDO) who really made sure we had a fabulous time. I shall MOST definately recommend Uncle Chang to everybody... Besides that Uncle Chang also throws great parties at night - and it is dinner and people and music with a most unconventional drum... Love it... "
"Uncle Chang's diving organisation was brilliant for us. We did 8 dives with them for a rediculously good price and he was the most generous and friendly host possibly imaginable. I have every faith in Uncle Chang, so much so we are going back to dive with him this month (nov 05). As someone mentioned previously, great parties after a superb days diving."
"We stayed on the Mabul Island with Ungle Changs divers which was excellent."
Ground Floor, Bangunan SeaFest,
Tel: 6089 785088
Fax: 6089 784588
E-mail: [email protected]
"Wicked Dive Master......Jeff Rocks.....
MYR 360.00 3 Dives in Sipadan / Mabul."
lot 28, 1st floor, blk E,
Seafront New Township
"I dived with them last month. Very professional, local guide with 5 years in that area. The homestay is clean with very friendly staff. I'm sure I will back again.
"Would I dive with them again - no bloody way!! Unprofessional, untrained amateurs. The worst dive operator I've ever been with. Their equipment was life threatening - really awful.
Avoid at all costs.
Timmy Timpkins, 2010
"Sipadan Dive Resort were not very tolerant of inexperienced divers. They do get more accepting as you dive with them. Cost was fairly ok with unlimited shore dives."
"Excellent dive resort - would take issue with previous comments about attitude. If you go to Sipadan as an inexperienced diver - it's your own fault, read about the place before you go - common sense! The resort, although basic, had a great friendly feel to it - we were very happy there. Diving was excellent - staying at resort enabled us to do several shore dives in addition to the boat dives - diving the drop-off from the shore was awesome every time. Was up at 6 am almost every day to get as much diving in as my computer would allow! Good value for money."
Tioman is the third largest Malayasian island, off the east coast of the peninsula. The island is about 38 by 19 km. There is a road which extends about 3-4 km past the airstrip and ferry terminal and a couple of km either side. It connects the villages of Tekek and Juara, however all other villages are accessible only be ferry boat. The coast is a marine park area with a limit of 2 nautical miles offshore for commercial fishing. The water is warm, from 27 to 29 oC. There is only 1 ATM on the island, so it is best to bring some cash with you and check with your resort and dive centre is they accept cards as many places do not. Exchange currency before you get to the island (in Mersing) as you won't get a good exchange rate on Tioman. There is no decompression chamber on Tioman Island: the nearest is in Singapore. Make sure you have adequate travel insurance for diving.
The Tioman season runs from early February to November, the out of season time is associated with unpredicatable weather during the monsoon.
Provide a full range of PADI courses. The owner/manager is Rosie Cotton. Now have two dive centres on Tioman. One at the Swiss Cottage Resort and the other at The Panuba Inn Resort which is set on its own beach.
E-Mail: [email protected]
For more on the Tioman Dive Centre, and accommodation options, read our Tioman report .
Photo by Tioman Dive Centre
"Last time I visited Tioman was in August last year. I stayed in Tioman dive resort, which belongs to BJ diving centre in ABC. Compared with Tekek, ABC is a smaller village with less people.
The staff of BJ are really friendly and helpful. We stayed in a standard room of their resort, which is right behind the dive shop. It is well finishing with clean maintain. There is a bar at sea side, which is two minutes from our room. It costs around 300rm, which is a little bit expensive compare to the rooms around, as for it provides better service and environment. Cheaper rooms can be found around the dive shop, as low as 40rm per night. "
"I did my Rescue with them - very professional instructors and cheap, some 30 US per dive but I did 10 dives so I paid only 22 US per dive.
I had tons of fun with their dive team and will surely go back next year."
Malaysia Sea Sports. All ages, all sizes, all levels.
62 Bayshore Road
03-02 Pearl Tower
E-mail: [email protected]
"Not many areas offer scuba-diving locations as breath-taking as at Malaysia Sea Sports. From Tioman, and its sister islands Dayang and Aur, to the relatively unknown yet idyllic islands of Simbilang and 'World Atlas of Coral Reefs' member Seri Buat, Malaysia Sea Sports boasts dozens of unique dive locations that will leave you speechless."
Bryan (Malaysia Sea Sports),2011
Pulau Sibu is off the Malaysian Peninsula's East Coast, facing the South China Sea. Approximately 6 km long and 1 k m wide. The coral reefs around Sibu-Tinggi are a National Marine Park. The dive season starts in March
Scuba Schools International Dive Centre.
Sea Gypsy Village Resort & Dive Base
Tel: +60 7 222 8642
Fax: +60 7 221 0048
Pulau Tenggol is off the Malaysian Peninsula's East Coast, facing the South China Sea. The dive season starts in March
"Mr Dive Malaysia is a freelance PADI Instructor working close with 2 of the resorts on the Island , discerning discrimination on your behalf , ie: you will Pay the same price as a Malaysian will pay, If any company asks for your passport info as you ask for a quote they are going to charge you DOUBLE or TRIPLE . There are NO double standards with Mr Dive Malaysia.
Accom is basic but clean , the food is good and the service is freindly.. and the diving ??? you will not complain thats for sure .. Happy Travelling."
Mr Dive Malaysia, 2008.
Desa Sri Hartamas
50480, Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +(603) 2300 9060
Fax: +(603) 2300 9070
"I would strongly recommend Scuba Dynamics for any divers planning to explore diving in the South East Asia region. My husband and I found out about Scuba Dynamics from a friend whom had just got back from Malaysia. Scuba Dynamics designed a few dive trips for us during our short 3 weeks holiday in Asia. Being a one-stop-dive center, they have made us very happy by organizing wonderful trips to Puerto Gallera in the Philippines, Perhentian Islands on the East Coast of Malaysia as well as the famous Sipadan in East Malaysia. The trips were planned out very well by Scuba Dynamics and their recommendations and advice were very much appreciated. "
Founded in September 2004. They aim to make add divers feel welcome and above all, to have safe fun while SCUBA diving. Offer PADI diving courses, snorkelling trips and underwater videography.
Orca Blue Dive Centre
Apt M4, Tingkat M
Jalan Tun Razak
50400 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +603-2148 5803
Fax: +603-2163 5142
Dive Station Explorer Sdn Bhd
T048, Third Floor
The Mid Valley Megamall
Mid Valley City, Lingkaran Syed Putra
59200 Kuala Lumpur
Tel : +6017 260 2775
Email: [email protected]
"Dive Station: low value for money ! This operator is not to be trusted. Takes huge commission on hotels and dives hidden behind opaque invoicing. AVOID !
Yvan Chardonnens, 2015
Run trips to Sipadan. This PADI centre is in Bangi, just outside Kuala Lumpur.
315G, Kompleks Diamond, Jalan Medan Bangi
Bandar Baru Bangi
Selangor Darul Ehsan
Tel: +603 - 8210 1363
Fax: +603 - 8210 1377
E-mail: [email protected]
"Responsible instructors, I took my advance Open water with them. They been awarded as ECO operator by PADI. "
Offer day trips to Pulau Payar Marine Park ; short holidays to Perhentian and Lang Tengah, South China Sea; longer dive holidays in both East and West Malaysia, plus further afield like the Maldives, Indonesia, Phillipines, Thailand, Seychelles, Mauritius and Papua New Guinea.
East Marine Holidays Sdn Bhd
Royal Langkawi Yacht Club
Jalan Dato Syed Omar Kuah
Tel: 6-04-966 3966
Fax: 6-04-966 4966
"Friendly, efficient service, reasonable prices. Our Malaysian dive master was excellent, very professional and full of enthusiasm."
Hilkka, Finland, 2009
Various destinations in Malaysia. Licensed Ministry of Tourism Malaysia Tour Operator: KPL/LN 6502 Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents member: MA391
Asia Diving Vacation
Operated by Duis Dive
23, 3rd Floor, Block C, Damai Plaza IV
88300 Kota Kinabalu
Tel: +6088 241-177
"Excellent resort, We were well looked after and the food was outstanding and plentyful. My only complaint is that the tanks were consistently hot filled so they only gave us about 180BAR. If we got one with 170 they would change it! No Nitrox, Light fills, I never had a full tank [200 BAR or 3000 PSI] the whole time I was there for 6 days. Other than that no complaints.
I would definitely dive there again as the marine life is outstanding, As good as Palau and better if anything than Sipadan.."
Andy Gray, 2008
- Diving in Malaysia: A Guide to the Best Dive Sites of Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia
- by Dr Kurt Svrcula, Paperback or Kindle
- A divers' guide to Underwater Malaysia Macrolife
- by Andrea and Antonella Ferrari, Paperback, Nautilus Publishing, 462 pages, 2004
Read our review…
- DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Malaysia & Singapore
- by Ron Emmons, Paperback, Dorling Kindersley, 368 pages, 2013
We endeavour to keep this site as informative and current as possible. If you would like to recommend or warn about a particular dive operator we'd love to hear from you. (We need a valid e-mail address to be able to confirm your comments - we won't keep your e-mail for any purposes or release it to anyone else.)