Pulau Payar Marine Park
If you are only visiting islands at the west side of the peninsula or are not able to go to visit the islands at the east side due to the monsoon period (which lasts from October till March in that region), then you have the alternative to go to the islands of Langkawi and Penang where you will be able to snorkel around a couple of very small islands. The Pulau Payar Marine Park lies between both islands, a small but marvelous coral area. There are four islands within the marine park, Pulau Payar, Pulau Kaca, Pulau Lembu and Pulau Segantang. Tourists can stay for the day, however it is an uninhabited island and there is no accommodation available on the island. There is a daily tour to Pulau Payar, this tour includes pickup from the hotel in either Penang or Langkawi. A Pulau Payar snorkeling trip usually lasts a full day.
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Only place to enjoy diving and snorkeling at the western peninsula
It is one of the only locations at the west side of the Malaysian peninsula where you can snorkel and dive. Besides that, you can also feed the fish (e.g. small sharks). However, we do advise not to participate in that, because it is very bad for the fish and eventually it harms the coral as well. The underwater world around the island often attracts very big kinds of fish, because of the enormous amount of algae in the water. When you obtain your PADI diving license on the island of Langkawi you complete your dives within the marine park. The best snorkel location with the marine parks is near 'Coral Garden'. Update: Coral Garden is currently closed to the public to give the coral enough time to restore.
The island is a protected area as the coral has to be preserved. Fishing is absolutely prohibited within the marine park. If you are not going to the east side of the Malaysian peninsula (i.e. Perhentian, Redang or Tioman) or to the beautiful islands around Borneo during your trip through Malaysia, then this is one of the few places where you can encounter the beauty of a real coral island.
Things to keep in mind when visiting Pulau Payar
The small island group, Pulau Payar has been under a lot of pressure as a result of tourism in the last couple of years. The islands are set up in a very touristy way and there is a chance that you might view the same fish with 20 others. Additionally, there is the issue of 'coral bleaching' due to the high temperature increase of the seawater. As a result, the coral is not in its best shape anymore. Below, please find a few rules to take into account to ensure that Payar does not collapse under the pressures of tourism:
- Do not feed the fish and do not touch any fish.
- Keep your waste and do not throw anything into the water.
- Only use the toilettes.
- Do not stand on the coral. Wear a life jacket and swim without flippers to prevent yourself from standing on the coral.
Alternative place to dive and snorkel near Langkawi
An alternative location for the snorkel enthusiast who is only visiting the Langkwai Island is a boat trip to the Thai island of Koh Lipe. This beautiful small island lies about 30 minutes away from Langkawi. The boat to Koh Lipe leaves at the Telaga Harbor on the northwest side of the island. This is one of the few Thai islands that you can easily reach from Langkawi as a tourist. It is great to snorkel and dive near Koh Lipe. However, the island has a rainy season (monsoon period) between May and September. Usually, a trip to Koh Lipe is suggested to travelers who visit Malaysia between November and February and who are not able to go to the beautiful tropical snorkel islands, such as Perhentian, Redang and Tioman due to the severe monsoon period on the east side of the Malaysian peninsula.
How to get to Pulau Payar
On Penang and Langkawi you can book a trip to Payar at your hotel, resort or at the small travel agencies. Don't be surprised about the enormous cost. A trip to Pulau Payar will cost around RM250 at the tour offices at Penang and Langkawi. This includes pick up/drop off at your hotel (on Penang or Langkawi), lunch and the use of snorkel equipment. From Penang, it will take the boat 2 hours to get to the island, from Langkawi about 45 minutes. You will not be able to go to Payar by yourself as private transport is not possible; the island can only be visited as part of a tour.