Want to learn how to scuba dive? Well, Malaysia makes for the perfect destination for an aspiring scuba diver.
Some of the world’s most amazing sights only become accessible if you can scuba dive. It’s no wonder then that many travel long distances to exotic destinations just to dive.
Aspiring divers who would rather learn in world-class diving waters instead of at the gym pool back home have a wide range of choices around the world, from Thailand to Mexico, and our favourite place: Malaysia.
Malaysia is, quite simply, one of the best places in the world to learn to scuba dive for its beautiful waters, low travel costs, and excellent dive schools. Here are some of the reasons why Malaysia is our preferred choice:
Low cost accommodation, travel and training
If you’ve checked out the cost of dive schools in Hawaii, the Cayman Islands, or Cozumel, you’ve probably come away with sticker shock. Resort dive schools can be expensive!
Fortunately, Malaysia offers a wide range of accommodation options – from US$15/night budget hostels, to four-star resorts – that can suit any budget.
Budget-minded travellers can book dive school-only packages that include just dive training and checkout dives, instead of booking through a resort. Shopping around for the best mix of accommodations, dive training, and dive outings can save lots of money.
In order to save money on a dive vacation consider the following:
● Book your trip using a rewards credit card to get airline miles or cash back towards your flight costs.
● Consider booking a live-aboard package to explore distant dive spots and dive as often as you can. Live-aboards cover the cost of the boat, tanks and food, and naturally you’ll have the company of your dive buddies.
● Bring only a mask, snorkel, and fins, and rent the rest from your dive school and outfitter.
● If possible, try to vacation in the off-season, when dive outfits offer discounts on training as well as free dives.
Excellent learning environment
Malaysia is not yet the scuba school hotspot that places like Mexico and Thailand are, meaning that dive schools are able to offer small classes with low student/instructor ratios. Most, if not all schools adhere to PADI dive instruction standards, meaning that you’ll be able to take your Basic Open Water or Advanced Open Water certifications wherever in the world you go.
Dive tourism is embraced by the local community, and tourist towns have rolled out the welcome mat to western dive tourists.
Westerners can expect to find a high level of English spoken in most places, meaning that language barriers won’t be an issue. Signs and place names are also spelled out using the Roman alphabet, making it easier for non-natives to figure out directions.
Tourists can also feel good about the fact that dive tourism encourages the local government to protect fragile marine environments.
World-class diving spots
Malaysia is home to some incredibly beautiful dive spots, meaning you can add world-class diving to your new scuba resume. If you’re able to take the time, consider visiting several of the following places:
The Semporna Archipelago in Sabah is described by Jacques Cousteau as “an untouched piece of art.” The marine sanctuary is home to an amazing array of flora and fauna. Whales, sharks, manta rays, barracuda and turtles are regular “dive buddies”.
Tioman Island, located off the coast of Pahang, is very popular among divers for its unique and colorful reefs and sea life. It is ideal for both expert and beginner divers, offering over 25 diving spots, including deep water locations for experienced decompression divers.
Pulau Gaya, on the coast of Sabah, is home to the wreck of the Japanese ship Nittetsu Maru, sunk during WWII. Located between 36m and 50m, it is relatively intact and can provide the more adventurous divers the thrill of exploration.
Dive with whale sharks in the Sulu Seas off Sabah near Lankayan Island. Diving with these gentle giants, the largest fish in the sea, comes at the top of many divers’ to-do lists. – By Daniela Baker
● Get your family doctor to certify that you’re healthy before leaving home.
● Prepare for your swim test: 200 yard free swim and 10 minutes of treading water.
● Research dive spots and outfitters so you can book dives after your course.
● Bring a waterproof housing for your camera; you’ll want lots of pictures to show when you get home!
● If you’re travelling with non-divers, try to find a location with lots of snorkeling as well as diving.
Daniela Baker is a social media advocate for CreditDonkey, where families can find the best credit card for international travel. Have you taken a dive vacation or learned to dive in Malaysia? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below!