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Diving at Langkawi’s small islands

With Malaysia surrounded by the ocean, there is diving all around the country. Yes,it might surprise you, there is scuba diving on the west coast of the peninsular! Pulau Besar in Malacca, Pulau Pangkor in Perak, and then there are Pulau Perak as well as the beautiful scattered islands of Langkawi, in Kedah.

The Langkawi archipelago in the northwest of Malaysia, consist of Langkawi (the big island) and, according to legends, 99 islands around it. Among the furthest of these islands is Pulau Payar, about 30km from the main island. But the majority of the islands is just a short boat-ride away from the main beaches on Langkawi.

Most of these islands are rocky with dense jungle on them, some of them have beautiful beaches where the only footprints you can find are those of wild boar, monkeys, mousedeer or hermit crabs. And some of these islands have beautiful reefs hiding under the surface.


The area between Sumatra and Malaysia, all the way up to Langkawi, is called the Malacca Straits and the composition of the bottom here is mud. In this area with tidal currents, many river mouths and this mud, it is typical that there are a lot of small particles hanging around in the water. These can affect the visibility significantly. In contrast to areas where the bottom consists of larger, heavier sand, like the South China Sea, the water here is not turquoise blue.

It is best to dive here during the calm months of October till May, since there will be more sediment in the water, from the rain and waves, during the west-monsoon.

There are, of course, exceptions with clearer water in areas where it is either deeper, are further away from rivers or which have a different bottom-composition, like in Pulau Perak (100km from Langkawi) or Payar Marinepark (30km). But in other places, unless there is an unexpected current with beautiful clear water coming in from the ocean for a few days, in general you will find the visibility limited to just a few meters. Even so, I would still recommend diving this area.

What can you see

The water around Langkawi is always moving; The tides push the sea around and in between all the small islands, and with these currents and lots of plankton in the water, it is especially the soft-corals that thrive in this area.

Divesites, like White Coral Corner and The Stables, a mere 10min from Cenang beach, are full of white, brown, red, and blue whip-corals; yellow, white, and orange fan- and rusty gorgonians; purple, pink, and white broccoli corals, and all the life that lives in between them. You will find fish and other marinelife that do not specifically depend on hard-coral reefs but instead are happy to live in these colorful habitats.

Seahorses love to curl their tail on small branches and hide between the polyps. Frogfish perfectly blend in between the sponges with their outrageous colors. Razorfish swim vertically almost invisible next to whip-corals. Nudibranchs, flatworms and shrimps and crabs have plenty to eat and are everywhere. And the rocks, on which all these soft-corals are attached, give shelter to bamboo-sharks, toadfish, moray eels, cowrie shells and scorpionfish.

Diving techniques

Of course, diving in limited visibility demands some different techniques and safety-measures compared to diving in clear water but that is easily taught by an experienced instructor. Obviously, you will need to be closer to the bottom to be able to see interesting creatures and at first you might get distracted by sediment hanging in the water. But once you get used to it, your instructor will not be the only one pointing out marinelife. Going in the dive knowing what to expect, it can be a very exciting experience. After all, it is not how far you can see, but what you can see, what makes a dive interesting.

And if you are diving on one of those days that clear water comes in and reveals the whole divesite, you might not be looking for anything small at all. You might be looking at the schools of surgeonfish, red snappers, trevallies or anchovies. You could be swimming with the enormous barracudas, Queensland-groupers, cobia or, if you are very lucky, sometimes even a whaleshark.

Come explore with us

Would you like to explore the local divesites around the small islands of Langkawi, like Razorreef or Tanjung Beras Laut? Would you like to experience these dives with instructors who have been diving these sites since 2014 and know them like the back of their hands? Or are you perhaps interested in the PADI Limited Visibility Diver course? Contact Langkawi Scuba, located on Cenang Beach on Langkawi. or Whatsapp +6019 904 9040 or visit the website


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