1. Pulau Payar Marine Park
Pulau Payar is a small inhabited island between Langkawi and Penang. Pulau Payar Marine Park is actually a group of small islands; Payar, Kaca, Lembu and Segantang. As diving and snorkeling directly around Langkawi and Penang is not possible, this is the nearest place where you can enjoy scuba diving and snorkeling. From both Langkawi and Penang tourists can arrange tour packages to Payar Island. One of the highlights of a trip to the island is feeding baby sharks under close supervision.
2. Pulau Sembilan
Sembilan consists of nine islands; Rumbia, Lalang, Saga, Buluh, Samak, Nipis, Agas, Miskin and Nyamuk. All of them are uninhabited, so you will find an oasis of peace. The islands are located nearby the town of Lumut, and also nearby Pangkor Island; a popular travel destination within Malaysia. The boat takes you to the islands in about an hour. Most people visit the island as a day trip. Usually a group of friends or a family rent a boat at the small harbor and they visit the island for a nice picnic. For this, Lalang Island has the best beaches. Some leave very early in the morning to catch fish in the area and then prepare and eat the fish during lunch at one of the nice secluded beaches. Sembilan has no accommodation. Nearest place to stay is Pangkor Island.
3. Pulau Angsa
Located off the coast of Kuala Selangor, approximately 67 km from Kuala Lumpur, lies Pulau Angsa, a lush green island that owes much of its history to the Bugis who were among its earliest settlers. Rich in legends and landmarks, you will find the locals only too willing to regale you with tales about Pulau Angsa’s colourful past. Getting to the island may be tricky, but try the local fishermen. They would be more than willing to ferry you for a small fee.
4. Pulau Tenggol
The island Tenggol is an island not many people go to. It’s a small island and diving is important. The starting-place to the island is the little town of Kuala Dungun which lies between Kuantan and Kuala Terengganu. The boat will take you to the island in 45 minutes. The island is small, and the main reasons for a visit are the great diving possibilities. The only resort on the island is the Tenggol Aqua resort, a resort specially focused on diving. The monsoon is active as well here between October and March.
5. Pulau Lang Tengah
Between Pulau Perhentian and Pulau Redang lays the small island Pulau Lang Tengah. This island is unknown just like many other islands of Malaysia. Not many tourists know where to find the island. There are 2 resorts on the island. To get there you need to go to Merang from Kota Bharu or Kuala Terengganu, the fisherman’s village where the boats leave from. The diving sports are also crucial over here.
6. Pulau Sipadan
Sipadan is extremely popular among dive enthusiasts as it is one of the best places to dive in the world. There is no accommodation available at the island, and visitors will stay overnight at one of the neighboring islands like Mabul or Kapalai. Sipadan is located in Sabah, Borneo. To get there you need to take a direct flight to the city of Tawau in eastern Sabah. From there you travel over land to the small town of Semporna. Here boats to Sipadan Island depart.
Mabul is also very popular among divers; especially if you like muck diving. Mabul is well known for its macro marine life. Mabul is located nearby Sipadan; one of the best dive spots in the world. Mabul has accommodation for every type of traveler; ranging from basic lodging to exclusive resorts. Getting to Mabul is similar to getting to Sipadan. Take a direct flight to Tawau; then a two hour drive to Semporna, followed by a 45 minute speed boat ride.
8. Pulau Kapalai
The island of Kapalai, just 15 minutes from Sipadan, used to be a beautiful island two hundred years ago, but now it is only a sand bar because of the erosion. There is a water village that built on stilts sits on the edge of the extensive Ligitan Reefs. The resort on the island is very exclusive, but it is worth the price. You will have breathtaking view of the Celebes Sea. Kapalai Island Resort has 40 chalets in total; make sure you make your reservations beforehand as it is a popular place among divers.
9. Pulau Mataking
Mataking Island is a beautiful tropical island within the Celebes Sea (along the Alice Channel). The island actually consists of two islands. You can actually walk from one to the other island through the shallow sand bar. Mataking Resort & Spa is a luxury private island resort; the ultimate honeymoon destination. Scuba divers can dive around the island, but also at the nearby island of Sipadan. Just like the islands of Sipadan, Mabul and Kapalai; Mataking can only be reached by boat from the coastal town of Semporna (45 minute boat ride). The nearest airport can be found in Tawau.
10. Turtle Island (Selingan)
Selingan, also known as Turtle Island, is especially known of its turtle population that always finds its way back to the island to lay eggs. Visitors can stay overnight at the island to witness turtles coming ashore and lay their eggs. Another highlight is releasing young hatchlings into the open sea. As Selingan Island can only welcome a limited amount of overnight guests daily; it is important to make the necessary arrangements beforehand. Many organizations offer tour packages to Selingan Turtle Island. The island is located nearby the city of Sandakan; Sabah’s second biggest city. There are daily flights from Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan. From there you take a boat to the island.
11. Pulau Lankayan
Lankayan is a beautiful island north of the city of Sandakan within the Sulu Sea. The island has one luxurious resort, Lankayan Island Dive Resort, diving is the main reason people visit the island, though it is also a great place to just relax or snorkel around the resort. The island is especially known for its whale shark sightings. The boat to Lankayan Island takes about 1,5 hours. Sandakan receives daily flights from Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu. It is best to make your reservations beforehand directly at the resort; though some tour agencies offer great tour packages where you combine a visit to Lankayan with a visit one or more of the other great attractions in eastern Sabah.
12. Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park
Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park comprises of 5 islands located opposite the city of Kota Kinabalu. From Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal there are numerous daily boats that bring visitors to the islands. Pulau Gaya is the biggest island of the marine park and has two luxurious resorts; Gayana Eco Resort and Bunga Raya Island Resort. The island has a couple of fabulous beaches. Most tourists visit the island as part of a day trip. Pulau Sapi and Pulau Manukan are probably the best islands to visit if you want to do some snorkeling and diving. Other islands are Mamutik and Sulug; both almost deserted.