Scuba diving in the Perhentian Islands


Situated in the North East of Malaysia, the Perhentian Islands are a small paradise for underwater sports lovers because of the varied eco-system living under the turquoise coloured sea.  While other diving spots around the globe are focused only on one main attraction, in the Perhentian Islands you will find an entire different world, where black tipped sharks and sea turtles live among clownfish, blue spotted rays, cuttlefish and swordfish, inside coral reefs.  The entire area of the Perhentians (which include 5 other uninhabited islands) was declared a marine park due to the coral reef community and the diversity of the underwater fauna and flora. This is why there are no water sports around the islands (like jet skiing for example), the boats have dedicated piers to anchor and it is forbidden to touch or pick up the corals, even if they are on the beach.



How to get to the Perhentian Islands

The only way to reach the islands is by boat, from Kuala Besut (which is accessible by bus or by a cheap private transfer from Kuala Lumpur). You can also fly from Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Terengganu or Kota Bharu, but then you will have to get a taxi to Kuala Besut. There is a boat almost every hour to both Perhentian Besut and Perhentian Kecil, which will drop you off on the closest beach to your accommodation. As it is a speed boat, be prepared as the journey is very bumpy and you will get wet. My advice would be to put your luggage in a big plastic bag to protect it from the salty water, and hold on tight during the 40 minutes trip.


When to go to the Perhentian Islands

The Perhentian Islands have a tropical climate which means that the temperature is constant and stays at around 30 degrees. However, between November and February the monsoon season forces most of the touristic places on the islands to close due to the very heavy rain. I visited the islands at the end of October and the weather was very unpredictable, with heavy rain between a few hours of sun.



Prepare your trip to Malaysia with the Lonely Planet guidebooks:

Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei travel guide, 13th Edition Aug 2016 by Lonely Planet Best of Malaysia & Singapore travel guide, 1st Edition Nov 2016 by Lonely Planet Southeast Asia on a Shoestring travel guide, 18th Edition Oct 2016 by Lonely Planet


Where to stay in the Perhentian Islands

There are plenty of accommodation options on the islands, for each budget. While most of the expensive resorts are on Perhentian Besut, backpackers can still enjoy budget accommodation on Perhential Kecil, the smallest of the islands. Please keep in mind that the islands are using self-generated energy, and this is why the electricity and the hot water are limited to a couple of hours in the morning and a few hours in the evening. Also, due to the small size of the islands, it is advisable to book ahead, especially during the high season.


Maya’s Guesthouse

This was my choice of stay, after a terrible experience on the other side of the island, where the staff of a different hotel stole my video camera. Maya’s Guesthouse offers basic accommodation on the Coral Bay beach and has its own restaurant where the staff makes delicious fresh fish BBQs every evening. Out of season, I have paid only 40RM (£7)/room/night, which was great value for money. I loved waking up every morning with the sea in front of me. The room was actually a little cabin, with a cute porch in front where I could have a cup of tea while it was raining. Maya’s milkshakes were also delicious, and the entire staff made me feel very welcome.


BuBu Long Beach Resort

With prices starting at £100 a night in high season, BuBu Long Beach Resort is situated on the Long Beach side of Perhentian Kecil, where the water is shallow, and the beach is sandy. They offer free sun lounges and umbrellas, together with snorkelling equipment for the guests who want to check out the beauty of the marine park themselves, close to the shore.

They also offer free drinks on arrival and a happy hour where each guest receives two cocktails, between 5 and 6PM. Free big breakfast and a complimentary water taxi to the nearby beach of Turtle Bay (on Perhentian Besut) are also provided.

The rooms are basic but very clean with air conditioning units (the other places on the islands have fans). Some of the rooms also have ocean views. They also have one of the best restaurants on Perhentian Kecil.


Eco Marine Perhentian Island Resort

This resort offers basic accommodation, with spacious rooms, chalets, and a private secluded beach. They offer free breakfast and rent kayaks and snorkelling equipment.  Some of the rooms have shared bathrooms.


Diving in the Perhentian Islands

As I mentioned before, the Perhentian Islands are a paradise for scuba divers and there are plenty of companies on the island offering dives starting at only 70RM (£13) if you bring your own equipment. There are over 20 spots to dive around the Perhentian archipelago, where you can explore ship wrecks, do a deep dive or practice you skills on a reef dive. Because of the crystal-clear waters, the underwater visibility is great.

One of the most exciting diving sites is the “Sugar Wreck”, a 90 meters long cargo ship which sank in 2000, lying 18 meters down the bottom of the sea. Experienced divers can enter the engine room and the cabins, noticing how the reef has started already to take over, with corals and shells growing on the metal structures of the hull.


Another great place to dive is the 25 meters deep Tokong Laut, where you can observe pufferfish, tuna, and sometimes even whale sharks. This diving place is known for the boulders and pinnacles covered in colourful corals, inside which you can spot the cute anemonefish and imagine you are peaking through Nemo’s world.

If you fancy a night dive, you can always choose to go to the sharks point, where the black tip reef sharks are swimming 10 meters below the surface of the sea. Would you dare? I did, and it was one in a lifetime experience. You should know that these sharks are not dangerous to humans, unless provoked. I was lucky enough to spot a mama shark with a baby shark following her.


D’Lagoon Bay is another shallow diving spot, 15 meters deep, perfect for beginners. This lagoon is the home to giant stingrays, humphead wrasses and also turtles.


If you are after black corals but also want to see lobsters in their natural habitat, then you should choose to dive at the Secret Reef, which is 28 meters deep.

Another popular diving spot which is considered one of the best in the archipelago is the Three Brothers. Here the boulders on the bottom of the sea have created canyons through which you can swim and spot the Jenkins Whipray among mackerels and barracudas.



What equipment do you need to dive?

First of all, you should know that you won’t be allowed to dive if you do not have a PADI certificate. However, some of the companies on the island do offer 3 or 4 nights packages which training and a PADI Discovery Scuba Diving certificate (which will cost you around £200).

When you choose a company to dive with make sure that their guides are qualified, and that the equipment is in very good shape. To protect yourself from the elements you will need a wet suit, a boiler suit (to offer thermal protection if the water is too cold), gloves and a hood. Check that the underwater breathing apparatus, the life-support equipment and the regulator are in great condition as well. In the end, it’s your own safety that matters, so don’t go for the cheapest, go for the safest!


Here are some diving centres you should check out if you plan on going diving in the Perhentian Islands: Quiver Dive Team ,Turtle Bay Divers, Anti Gravity Divers, Flora Bay Divers, Bubbles Dive Resort.



Disclaimer: Please note that this post has been written in collaboration with Simply Scuba.  

Some of the links on this website are “affiliate links.” This means that if you click on the link and do a purchase, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost for you. This helps me keep my website running and continue to share my traveling knowledge with you. I thank you for booking your flights or hotels using the links on my website. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

Traveler. Dreamer. Cat lover. Wondering around the world with my backpack and my camera. Contributing to make the world a better place.


  1. Thanks you for all the information about the Perhentian islands. First of all, the photos you have shared are beyond dramatic and just WOW! I love the fact that the entire area has been declared a marine park so that no water activities take place and the boat traffic is kept under control. It’s a great way to conserve the underwater world and certainly something that other countries should also follow.A real hidden gem.

  2. What an awesome post about Perhentian Islands! To be honest, I knew nothing about them but they look like pure paradise to divers. I like the fact that no water sports are allowed in the area to protect the reef and that the diving courses are only for those who are PADI-certified.

  3. I have never heard of Perhentian Islands before. The pictures you shared are jaw dropping, especially that of the yellow fish. Tokong Lautalso also sounds good. Who doesn’t want to spot a whale shark?

  4. Wow, I wish I was a competent diver as I’d love to try this one day! I’ve never heard of these islands, so it’s so nice to read about somewhere new. £7 is super cheap for your accommodation, but I like the sound of the eco resort! Your photos are incredible too!

  5. Wow! Such a splendid experience. It really feels like a paradise to be among so many beautiful marine creatures. Great they don’t allow water sports that may harm these lovely creatures. Your pictures are simply breathtaking. Scuba diving is one adventure I have on my bucket list. Hope to experience it soon. Thanks for the helpful tips. 🙂

  6. Not an area I was previously familiar with, the Perhentian islands have now made it onto my travel wishlist. Such amazing photos, this must have been a fantastic experience all round.

  7. Do not know of this place but sure look and sounds so good, I wanted to so scuba diving some years back as always looks amazing to do.

  8. Such a beautiful and pristine place,it looks completely untouched by man. You took a lot of beautiful pictures,I think through these…this is the close I’ll get to actually visiting the Perhentian Islands.

  9. Very informative post. Though I have been many times to Malaysia but this past is still unexplored. Your pictures are very convincing that it will be a great place to discover. It’s sad to know that thefts leave us with a bad note but I guess these are travel lessons that keep the wanderlust going. It’s great to know that the area is declared marine park that makes it safe to presence the inhabitat.

  10. I haven’t done scuba diving yet! My friend recently went to Mauritius and did there and ever since I’ve been wanting to dive all the more! Malaysia sounds like a good option as well. Good to know that its protected as a marine park…

  11. Wow i cannot imagine how crazy it must have felt to see these things up close and in there environment. The water is so colorful and clear. And the sea turtle…omg. We live in such a wonderful world. It blows me away most of the time haha! We’re all lucky to be here. It’s rad you are into exploring it. Loved the photos.

  12. Oh my goodness, I HAVE to go here! What an incredible place! <3 I've only been diving once before (in Cyprus) and it's definitely something that I'd love to try again! I love that the Perhentian islands offer accommodation for all budgets too, as cheap hostels are definitely my thing! 🙂 xxx

  13. Wow. Just Wow.
    This looks so amazing!!!!
    I would love to go snorkelling/scuba diving in this region of the World as I think the wildlife would be exemplary. Just looking at those fish and coral makes me want to go xx

  14. What a great post! I’m planning a dive in the Grand Cayman and so excited. Seeing these photos are very exciting. I can’t wait for my trip. Your photography is gorgeous too.

  15. We didn’t know Malaysia is home to this paradise of marine life called Perhentian islands. We have never tried Scuba diving but are very fascinated by the amazing life underwater, you have some incredible captures here. We would love to explore the Three Brothers, canyons underwater sounds impressive and the Secret Reef sounds interesting too for the black corals.

  16. I love being able to share the scuba experience, I tried it once and was a miserable failure at it due to bad ears. But I love the serenity of the water and would really relish an opportunity to be able to swim under the ocean like this, but I have to console myself with the fact that I will be forever on the surface for the most part and enjoy adventures like yours vicariously.

  17. Wow! This is such a beautiful place for scuba diving! I haven’t tried scuba diving at all, but this year I tried Snorkelling for the first time. It’s so wonderful to see the ocean and all the fishes! Would love to visit here one day and tried it.

  18. I would need to learn to swim before I could scuba dive! The ocean looks breathtaking and to see animals in their natural environment would be amazing. There is so much we don’t know about ocean life it would be amazing to discover more x

  19. I love scuba diving though not a fully trained diver yet still the thrill I experience was unparalleled. Loved your post with awesome pics of underwater in equally scenic island.

  20. I used to live in Singapore, so these were so close, but ahh kicking myself I never went! This is so informative; I’ll definitely be heading back next time! And these photos are gorgeous!!!

  21. I went diving in Redang a few years back, but had the hardest time choosing between Perhentian and Redang! Glad to find that the marine life you saw seems quite similar to what I saw in Redang 🙂 Absoutely lovely photos, by the way. I have such a hard time editing underwater photos!!

  22. OMG! Scuba Diving is such an amazing experience. Perhentian Island is such an incredible and beautiful place, Will put this on my bucket list for our next travel visit.

  23. Great information and so pretty pictures for the undersea life. My dreams one day to capture a moment of me under the sea with fishes and sea animals.

  24. Such a lovely post 😍
    Thanks a lot for sharing lots of information about the perhentian island😍
    One day atleast I want to go here and discover the aquatic life below😊

  25. I first visited the Perhentian Islands over 20 years ago, when it wasn’t really that built up. We stayed in a little beach hut complex close to the shore and spent our days snorkelling. I didn’t do any diving there, but there was so much to see just with a mask and fins! A little piece of heaven on earth! Thanks for bringing back happy memories!

  26. It has been years since I went scuba diving. – this sounds like a fabulous place. I would love to see the turtles up close. It’s great that they protect the reef so well sonit doesn’t do the same way as the Great Barrier Reef.

  27. I’m an advanced diver and diving in the perhentian is so high up in my bucket list! Not sure when I’ll go back to Asia so gotta live through this post. I try to go diving here in Fiji as much as I can 🙂 hoping to go shark diving soon! Great photography and really helpful guide <3

  28. Wow, the underwater scenery is lovely!!:D I went scuba diving by Lembongan island, Indonesia, but I didn’t see any turtles, sharks, or eels:( It was still awesome, though! This looks like a lot of fun! Can’t wait to go scuba diving again sometime, you’ve inspired me!

  29. I love diving and you just made me add the Perhentian Islands to my dream list. These photos are wonderful. I love night dives and seeing sharks during these dives is amazing. It’s a fascinating world that looks very different at night! Which site was your favourite one? I usually love canyons, and wrecks are fun too. I feel like I wouldn’t know which site to pick 😀

  30. Wow Jo what an amazing post and how lucky were you to go scuba diving and get that amazing photography (what camara did you use for this?) Honestly I can’t wait to learn to scuba dive and your post was a great read.

  31. I have always been terrified of sea creatures, so scuba diving never made it to my bucketlist. I heard that it is a wonderful experience, and just looking at your photos make me feel like I’m already diving!

  32. What an amazing experience, I really enjoyed your photos of the underwater creatures. You’ve been really lucky to spot a shark mama with her baby! Spotting baby animals is always so exciting to me!

  33. Wow ~ it is a true paradise for divers and thanks for introducing all of these resort in the area! The pictures of clownfish and you could even see sharks and sea turtles is simply amazing! @ knycx.journeying

  34. Beautiful, isn’t it? In another life, I was a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer. Soon after completing my IDC Staff Instructor program, I retired. That was in 2003. It would be some 14 years later when I had a chance to dive again (with my kids in Boracay Island, Philippines) last May.

    While reading the post, it brings to mind the many things I used to talk about if I were giving an orientation on a cruise ship I used to board from time to time (to conduct scuba diving programs) as it goes around the country. Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines, are blessed because this is the region where there are the most number and diversity of marine life. Malaysia has done a great job of protecting the environment. So, I hope that we could also do the same thing.

    It is good that there is now more awareness in scuba diving. PADI and the Discover Scuba Diving program is an excellent way to get started. If not for the certification, at least people get to try it. But far more important is that these people are also made aware of how fragile the underwater ecosystem is. In most cases, people who have tried diving are more willing to do their share in helping conserve the environment.

  35. I absolutely love the Perhentian Islands and I totally cannot wait to go back again this upcoming season! I have yet to try scuba diving here – but it is so on my bucket list. I just showed my husband your post and now we’re discussing when to go back just to try diving! Your photos are incredible – especially the shot of Nemo! Sugar Wreck sounds soooo cool – I wish I was more of an experienced diver so I could actually dive into the cabins just to see how the reef has taken over the space. What an amazing experience to have!

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