Malaysia in an easy country to go backpacking by yourself. Public transport is well organized throughout the main land. At Borneo it can be a challenge. Besides the busses it’s cheap to visit the island to go diving.
Especially at the coast of Borneo (Malaysia) you can find one of the best diving spots of the world. Sipadan is according to all reviews the best diving spot of Malaysia. Enormous amounts of fishes will be swimming about the pillar on which the island is build. The Sipadan government only subscribes 120 permits a day to go diving around the island. It’s really important to arrange this upfront at your diving school. Scuba Junkie is highly recommended and we enjoyed this diving school. They have like all other operators a lodge at Mabul Island.
Mabul is a small island that exists of 15 resorts and provides a place to live to 2000 sea nomads (Bajay Laut). Around the island you can go diving and snorkeling. It’s easy to arrange an overnight stay upfront. At the same day it is difficult to arrange. In the morning the diving school will pick you up in Semporna to bring you by boat to the islands. At Mabul everything is about diving. The diving instructors are highly skilled and most of the time European of American. In the sea you can spot many sea turtles. The temperature in the water is throughout the year (+/- 30/32 degrees Celcius)
Diving on Mabul island is most of the time combined with diving on Kapalai island. Both islands are located next to each other, but they have a variety of fishes. Kapalai is actually a sandbank instead of a real island. The island has one resort; The Sipadan-Kapalai Dive Resort. This an exclusive resort which focuses on diving. If you would like to dive on Kapalai, but you have a tight budget, find your accommodation on Mabul or Semporna.
Kapalai has some relatively undeep diving spots where you can encounter a variety of fishes and sea stars.
The Perhentians exists of two smaller islands; Perhentian Besar (big island) and Perhentian Kecil (smal island). Both islands have several nice places to stay; you have a variety of luxurious resorts and simple lodges. The Perhentians are open for tourists between March and October, in the others months it encounters heavy rain showers.
It is easy to explore the island by yourself by hiking around the island or by arranges one of the water taxis; no cars or motors are aloud on the island. At the Perhantians you could just walk into the ocean to explore the underwater world. We have seen several times some small sharks.
The Perhentians are in comparison to the other diving spots in Malaysia way cheaper, this is mostly the case at Perhentian Kecil. This island is popular among backpackers and therefore has a variety of cheap and delicious restaurant at the beaches. The Perhentians is a great place to achieve your PAdI. Around the island you could have some amazing diving spots; ship wrecks, temples or nice coral reefs.