Destination Fact File
A truly amazing destination from a above and underwater perspective.
Located in the heart of the Indo-Pacific region, the centre of one of the richest marine habitats in the world, it is an island of outstanding natural beauty. There are over 3000 species of fish. You can encounter Turtles, Hammerheads, Tuna, Jacks, Mantas, Eagle rays, and Whale sharks. The stunning underwater scenery on offer is what makes diving in Borneo world class.
Borneo Fact File
Only 26% of Borneo belongs to Malaysia; 73% belongs to Indonesia and the other 1% belongs to Brunei. The island of Borneo is situated 800km from Peninsula Malaysia where the terrain is mostly coastal plains rising to hills and mountains with partly impenetrable jungle. The state of Sabah is mainly visited by divers and those wanting to climb Mount Kinabalu. Sarawak is the cultural heart of Malaysian Borneo where you will find traditional Longhouses, jungles and national parks where you can find the infamous orang-utan sanctuaries.
Sipadan, meaning “Border Island” in Malay, is one of the world’s top diving destinations and the only oceanic island in Malaysia. Just 30 acres in size and covered in pristine rainforest; accommodation is no longer available on the Island but you can stay on the nearby island of Mabul.
“Barracuda Point” is ranked one of the top 5 dive sites in the world. This is a wall dive with thousands of Barracudas twisting and twirling like a tornado. You will see dozens of Turtles and huge schools of Whitetip Reef Sharks, Batfish, Jacks and many unique Nudibranchs at this dive site. If you look out into the blue you may even be lucky enough to see Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks.
“South Point” is famous for its fantastic wall of coral formations. For a good chance of seeing Mantas and Hammerheads, visit this site in the morning and you may even be able to spot the Blue-Ringed Octopus if he isn’t hiding.
One of the highlights of Sipadan is “Turtle Cavern”, a cave leading to a tunnel (Turtle Tomb) full of Turtle skeletons. With the entrance at 18 metres, this dive is for the more advanced diver and special diving equipment is needed.
Sipadan offers year round diving, the prime time being April through to December, with up to 30 metres visibility, wall diving, cave diving and beach diving, it really does cater for all types of divers and you certainly will not be disappointed.
Mabul Island is reputed to be one of the best diving destinations in the world for underwater macro photography and great biodiversity. All dive sites are suitable for open water certified divers and the diving offered is all year round. Just 15km away from Sipadan makes Mabul a great destination for divers.
“Froggy Lair”, named after the various different colour Frogfish which reside here, is only a shallow slope dive but has an abundance of marine life and is one of the top dive sites in Mabul. Numerous Nudibranchs, Ghost Pipefish, Leaf Scorpion Fish, Stargazers, Banded Pipefish, Crocodile Fish and flamboyant Cuttlefish can also be found here. Octopus and Bobtail Squids are common at this dive site. Two boats have been sunk into the sand here, adding even more possibility for discovery.
Mabul has established its own speciality of 'muck diving' which has proved to be very popular with the more experienced diver. At “Seaventure Platform”, an old oil rig, Seahorses can be found amongst the sea fans. Numerous different types of Lionfish along with Scorpion Fish are common at this artificial reef dive. Look out for “Elvis” the resident 3 metre long Moray Eel.
Possibly the best diving in Mabul is “Lobster wall”, which is an incredible wall dive containing many cracks and caves where hundreds of sea creatures are waiting to be discovered. Here you can spot many Stonefish, Triggerfish, Ghost Pipefish, Clownfish and Seahorses.
Just a stone’s throw away from Mabul and only 15km away from Sipadan, Kapalai is known for its large number of marine species. Diving is available all year round and the dive sites are suitable for Open Water divers. Kapalai is great for macro underwater photography and has excellent opportunities for wreck diving and muck diving amongst other diving. Being so close to Mabul the marine life is similar to what can be found there.
The 5th best dive site in the world “The Jetty” is Kapalai’s house reef; it is an artificial reef where five small wrecks are lying at 18 metres attracting a huge amount of marine life; here you find a mixture of small critters and pelagics. These small fishing boats are positioned closely together housing numerous fish. Schools of Groupers, Potato Cod and Snapper swim overhead as camouflaged Stonefish, and Frogfish are lurking in the boats’ dark corners. Make sure you look in every nook and cranny where dozens of Orangutan crabs, Nudibranchs, and Shrimps are waiting to be discovered.
“Mandarin Valley” is the reason why most people come to dive in Kapalai. More of a sandbar than an island, all the dive sites are very shallow with no current. Hiding away under the coral is an abundance of camouflaged marine life and small critters such as Harlequin Ghost Pipefish, Stonefish, flamboyant Cuttlefish and Octopus. When the sun goes down you may be lucky enough to see the incredibly beautiful yet rare Mandarin Fish performing their mating dance.
An amazing one-of-a-kind dive site is “Gurnard Point”. The dive starts by exploring a small wreck lying at the bottom of the reef which houses a giant Frogfish and Moray Eel. Near to the wreck is a sandy plateau where you can see a Flying Gurnard, which looks like a beautiful peacock under water.
Looking for a diving holiday for your honeymoon? Then look no further! Mataking is the perfect destination for newlywed couples and people looking for a romantic getaway. Slope and wall diving offers exhilarating macro as well as pelagic marine life.
There is a huge variety of sea animals and fishes surrounding the 30 dive sites - schools of Barracuda, Trevally, Spanish Mackerel, Ribbon Eel, Giant Clams, Goby, Eagle Rays, Giant Frogfish, Mandarin Fishes, unique Shrimps and rare Pygmy Seahorses.
The unspoiled and living colour of hard and soft coral decorations is also another special highlight for diving Mataking and the surrounding islands, a paradise for macro underwater photographers.
“North Point” is a vertical wall dive with strong currents for the advanced diver. At 37 metres there is a cleaning station which is often frequented by huge Grey Reef Shark, Eagle Rays, Manta Rays and even Hammerheads are sometimes attracted here because of the currents. Shallowing up at this dive site you can see the biggest Turtles in the area surrounded by many Coral Cat Sharks and Ribbon Eels.
The House Reef at Mataking is a magnificent sandy slope dive with more marine life than you can imagine; schools of Trevally, Trumpetfish, Batfish and Groupers is just the beginning. Here you will find a mixture of naturally occurring habitats along with reef balls that have been planted to entice more fish. There is an abundance of Lionfish, Stonefish and Jacks. Keep your eyes peeled for the Blue-Ringed Octopus, Giant Grouper and a 3 metre long Moray Eel that lurk around this dive site.
A weird yet wonderful conservation project in Mataking is the “underwater Post Office”. The old boat was sunk in 2006 and like many other wrecks Lionfish, Frogfish and Jacks are a plenty here. Although, the Post office is still in use and divers can post their mail through the post box.
Off the mystical island of Borneo lies a little gem, a sparkle within the deep blue sea. Like a diver's dream, it stands all alone, a striking haven in the wide ocean waiting to be discovered.
Layang Layang, meaning kite, is fast becoming another of Malaysia’s top premier dive sites after the world-famous Sipidan Island. Known as the Jewels off the Borneo banks, with only 12 dive sites surrounding this intimate island, Layang Lanyang has a lot to offer. As many as 13 coral reefs have formed around the island, creating breathtaking underwater scenery.
The average visibility is around 30-60 metres all year round. Layang Layang is a wall diving mecca; the ocean floor drops to an amazing 2000 metres from the edge of the atoll. This combination of deep water, pristine walls and healthy coral gardens means that you'll see varied marine life from pelagics to colourful tropical fishes to Anemones and Nudibranchs. Hammerheads and whale sharks are frequent visitors.
It’s hard to choose the top 3 dive sites in Layang Layang because diving in Layang Layang is world-class! “Sharks Cave”, does it need an introduction? 25 metres below the surface exists a cave where there are dozens of Whitetip Reef Shark resting, you may also get the chance to hang out with Leopard Sharks, Nurse Sharks, Grey Reef Sharks and even schooling Hammerhead Sharks. If that isn’t enough, there are also Giant Trevally, Manta Rays and lots for macro lovers hiding amongst the magnificent coral.
“Gorgonian Forest” is a wall dive with the richest marine life; schools of Snappers, Sweetlips, Batfish, Triggerfish, Turtles, Fusilier, Giant Trevally and Groupers hang around here. Make sure you keep looking out into the blue for the opportunity to see schooling Hammerheads. April through to May is their mating season, therefore it is rare to see them outside of this period but if you do then you are extremely lucky!
The dive site with outstanding visibility is “The Point”. Here you can see many pelagic fishes swimming in the current and many sharks hunting for their next meal. Mantas and Turtles are also common here as are Nudibranchs, Eels and Pipefish. If it is the right season you can also have the chance to see hundreds of Hammerheads slightly further away from the reef, out into the blue.
Diving Season in Borneo
Borneo offers year round diving, the prime time being April through to December, with up to 30+ metres visibility.
Due to its remote location, diving in Layang Layang is available March through to August; September to February is considered to be the monsoon season. However, it is very easy to reach the Island as there are many schedule flights daily from Kota Kinabalu.