Langkawi may not be Malaysia’s premier SCUBA diving destination, but this tropical island chain still hides shallow coral gardens and abundant schools of colourful reef fish beneath the surface of the warm, clear Andaman Sea.
Accessible and affordable, Langkawi makes a great choice for learners and beginner divers. The offshore islands of the protected Pulau Payar Marine Park offer relaxed and pleasant underwater outings for experienced bubble-blowers and newbies alike.
Here are four of the best SCUBA diving spots to explore around Langkawi:
1. Coral Garden – Pulau Payar
As the waters directly off mainland Langkawi aren’t particularly clear, dive operators in Langkawi conduct their dive trips in the Pulau Payar Marine Park, a series of four emerald green islands 30km south-east (about a 45 minute boat ride) of Kuah jetty. The islands – Payar, Kaca, Lembu and Segantang are blessed with clear turquoise water and easy diving year-round. Don’t expect world-class marine landscapes, but count on relaxed, shallow dives with attractive reefs and a beautiful setting amid the uninhabited islands’ tropical mangrove forests and pristine beaches.
Pulau Payar is the largest island in the Marine Park. The most popular dive site here is Coral Garden, on the island’s western tip. On the reef you’ll be able to see most of the park’s 50 varieties of soft and hard corals, starting at about 5 metres and descending gently to 15m. On the bottom are huge boulders carpeted with vibrantly coloured soft corals, creating perfect hiding places for an array of tiny critters. Small fish like clownfish, fusiliers, pufferfish and angelfish swarm around the reef, while lionfish and schools of trevally are constantly on the prowl.
The Coral Garden can get crowded with snorkellers, so try and go with a dive operator who can take you out to the marine park as early in the morning as possible.
2. Grouper Farm – Pulau Payar
The south side of Pulau Payar is where you’ll often find a bit of current running, which means the dive spot here, known as Grouper Farm, can often be done as a gentle drift dive. On a drift, you’ll float along effortlessly with the current. The boat will pick you up at the end of the dive. The sloping reef here goes down to around 15m. As the name implies, you can often spot hunting packs of plus-sized grouper, along with other impressive predators like barracuda, snapper and moray eels.
3. Pulau Kaca Wreck Dives
Kaca Island is the Marine Park’s most unique dive site, home to several small wrecks - deliberately sunken to create miniature artificial reefs. The sunken boats sit between 10 and 25m and are covered with corals, attracting a wide variety of marine life. These easy dives are great for searching out macro critters such as anemones, octopus, crabs, lobsters, shrimp and starfish, as well as several spectacular nudibranch species.
4. Pulau Segantang
Segantang Island is located 13km west of Payar. Considered the park’s best site for more advanced divers, it boasts sheer walls covered in hard coral formations and sea fans that plunge to a maximum depth of 30m. While Segantang is undoubtedly a great spot for macro life, it’s also the best place to spot bigger beasties. Reef sharks are a fairly rare sight, but you might spy a lazy nurse shark sleeping under a ledge, and occasionally, huge schools of barracuda, mangrove snapper and trevally out in the blue.