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Islands of Malaysia

Islands of Malaysia

There are hundreds of beautiful islands within Malaysia, most of them can be visited during your travels but not all offer a place to stay overnight. The islands of Malaysia are divided in the islands at the western peninsula, the eastern peninsula and the islands around Borneo. All are equally stunning, though there enough differences between each island. Most popular islands are Langkawi, Penang, Perhentian, Redang and Tioman. Around Borneo you have Lankayan, Selingan, Mataking and of course Sipadan.

Crystal clear water at Perhentian Island

Perhentian Dream

One of the most beautiful islands in Malaysia is Perhentian Island, which actually consists of a big island and a small island. Both islands offer fantastic scuba diving and snorkeling facilities. The islands are especially famous because of the laid-back atmosphere. Alongside the beaches you will find basic lodges, moderately luxurious resorts, cozy restaurants, dive centers and boat operators advertising their services ranging from water taxis to snorkeling trips.

Georgetown capital of Penang

Georgetown; capital of Penang Island

In 2008 UNESCO listed Georgetown as World Heritage Site because of the many original colonial (Chinese style) shophouses. Besides the many beautiful historical buildings; Georgetown also has many modern highrise buildings that often contains big shopping malls. In and around Georgetown there are many fun attractions that are absolutely worthy of a visit.

Kuching in Sarawak

Kuching; gateway to Sarawak

Kuching is the biggest Malaysian city on Borneo and also the capital city of the state of Sarawak. Kuching is a very popular tourist destination as it serves as entry point to numerous great attractions within the heart of Sarawak. The city has enough to offer to keep tourists occupied for at least a couple of days. Popular attractions around Kuching are among others Semenggoh Rehabilitation Centre and Bako National Park. There are daily flights to Kuching from Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bharu.

Kota Bharu

Kota Bharu

Kota Bharu is the capital of the northern state of Kelantan. The city serves as main gateway to visitors that are on their way to visit the tropical island of Perhentian. The are daily flights from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Bharu, but you can also opt to take the bus or even the adventurous jungle train. Main attractions in the city are the many islamic museums, and also the day and night markets. Though tourist usually pass through the conservative city; there is enough available accommodation in Kota Bharu.

Pulau Payar Marine Park

Map Pulau Payar

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 Penang hotels or hotels in 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

Pulau Payar Marine Park

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.

Pulau Payar Day Trip from Penang

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.

Pulau Payar Day Trip from Langkawi  

Map of Pulau Payar in Malaysia

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Pulau Payar Day Trip