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World | Malaysia | Diving Borneo:

Borneo overview

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Borneo dive site map

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Scuba Diving in Borneo

Water temperature:

27 - 30°C (80 - 86°F)


3mm wetsuit or shortie


10 - 40 metres (30 - 130 feet)

Type of diving:

A few wrecks, shallow reefs, drop offs and slopes, some drift diving

Marine life:

Green turtles, seahorses, cuttlefish, squid, jacks, barracuda, groupers, pipefish, mandarin fish, leaf fish, nudibranchs. Whale sharks may be seen from March to May

When to go:

April to September. There are higher numbers of turtles seen in August and the sea is roughest from November to February during monsoon season

How to get there:

From the UK - Fly with Malaysia Airlines or Royal Brunei Airlines to Kota Kinabalu from Gatwick, Manchester or Heathrow via Kuala Lumpur before taking any internal flights to reach your final destination

Celebes Sea, Borneo, Malaysia  - courtesy of Carina Hall

Borneo is large, tropical island that falls over the boundary of Indonesia and Malaysia. The Indonesian part of the island is known as Kalimantan and the Malaysian section is divided up into the states of Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei. Inland you will find mountainous landscapes and tropical forest, but for divers the attraction lies with the reefs that are home to some of the best dive sites in the world, especially in the northeastern state of Sabah. Dive areas are easily reached from Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah, or from Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei or Kuching in Sarawak.

Sabah's lengthy coastline is dotted with islands and reefs, the most famous of which are Mabul, Sipadan and Kapalai (for more information on these see the sections here on dive site directory). Other destinations are listed here:

  1. Maratua is a large island with a massive lagoon and fringing reefs that have large numbers of pelagics living on them such as shoals of barracuda and jacks.
  2. Kakaban has diving on steep walls and in strong currents. There is also a central, landlocked marine lake which is full of stingless jellyfish. Semporna, Borneo, Malaysia  - courtesy of Carina Hall
  3. Sangalaki has a shallow lagoon surrounded by beaches that are a breeding ground for green turtles. The reefs are famed for attracting manta rays.
  4. Roach Reefs is a marine reserve where fishing is prohibited. The reefs are home to turtles, barracuda, nurse sharks and white tip reef sharks as well as the usual reef fish.
  5. Layang Layang is part of Spratly Islands located in the South China Sea about 300 kilometres west of Kota Kinabalu. They are usually blessed with good visibility and are renowned for attracting hammerheads between March and July along with leopard sharks and manta rays. Because of the remoteness of this location the resort is closed from November to February when the monsoons hit.
  6. Lankayan Island has some shallow reefs that allow easy diving with very little current making them ideal for beginners.

Sarawak is more remote than Sabah. The most renowned diving here is in Muri where the shallow reefs are covered with sea fans, whip corals and gorgonians. There are drop offs away from shore that can be reached by boat and also a few wreck dives. The resorts of Indonesian Kalimantan can suffer from low visibility but witness large gatherings of mantas and the reefs show great diversity with unusual fish such as ghost pipefish living on them. There is also a landlocked lake where thousands of jellyfish are found.

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