The Idyllic Islands of Malaysia
Malaysia is one of the most diverse places in the world, both culturally and ecologically. It’s also home to some of the most pristine islands and beaches, over 40 of which you can visit. The nation is actually comprised of hundreds of small islands, some of which have yet to be explored. These idyllic islands are referred to by the locals as Pulau and those on the east side are the most popular with great scuba diving and snorkeling. If you’re thinking of spending your next getaway island hopping around Malaysia, here are a few you won’t want to skip.
The Isolation of Layang-Layang
The island of Layang-Layang, which is basically coral reef with a large runway, was actually created by the Malaysian Navy. The waters around the island drop an amazing 2,000 meters and the island is one of the most remote places in the world. It’s also considered one of the best diving sites world-wide because of the diversity of marine life here. With the Navy stationed here, the coral reef has not been damaged by human interference and you can see underwater up to 40 meters. It’s not uncommon to see dolphins, barracuda sharks, sea turtles, mantas and hammerhead sharks. You can reach the island by chartering a flight out of Kota Kinbalu.
World’s Best Diving at Sipadan
While Layang-Layang has great diving, the island of Sipadan is even better and often considered the best dive spot on earth. This tiny island is right in the middle of the world’s most diverse habitat and the Malaysian government has ordered a limit of only 120 divers per day at the site to protect the ecosystem. There are over three thousand species of beautiful fish around the island, as well as green turtles, hawksbill turtles, manta rays, sharks and coral. You can reach Sipadan by flying from Kota Kinbalu to Tawau and then taking a boat. Sipadan is an absolute must-see if you find yourself in Malaysia!
The Historic Island of Penang
If you get tired of exploring the underwater wonders and reclining on the beach, hop over to Penang to spend some time on land learning more about Malaysia’s rich history. This island is home to beautiful temples and carefully preserved colonial buildings, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Penang is also known for its amazing street food and amazing hotels. The restored colonial Eastern & Oriental Hotel here is a great choice for your visit, as well as the Lone Pine on the northern shores.
The Bankers Isle of Labuan
This tiny little island off the eastern coast of Malaysia is actually really interesting as it’s an international offshore financial center and a free trade area. There are currently more than six thousand offshore companies based in Labuan, although that’s not all the island has to offer. The island has become a popular destination for wreck diving, as dozens of ships have sunk into the shallow waters here making it ideal even for the novice diver.