Pulau Payar and its adjacent islands are some of the few locations for good diving off the West Coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Divers flock here during the monsoon season in the East Coast, making Payar but one example of Malaysia’s year-round diving destinations.
Large numbers of coral species lie embedded here, both hard and soft. Their colour and variety provide good opportunities for photography.A large permanent pontoon offshore is a great stopover for its many amenities and the panoramic view. From here, travelling to the dive sites is a matter of minutes. Most diving is done around Pulau Payar Marine Park Group of Islands. Strict conservation laws enforced by Marine Park Rangers around the islands have resulted in prolific marine life. A unique highlight in Pulau Payar is the presence of up to 20 juvenile black tip sharks providing excitement to the many snorkelers who visit the Marine Park Centre. Although at times the plankton-rich waters can reduce visibility, the abundance of fish makes up for it, fusiliers, jacks, black tip sharks, barracudas and groupers are sighted on a regular basis.
Coral life is a mixture of hard and soft corals. Pulau Kaca is a favourites for easy, shallow wreck diving, with dozens of sunken fishing trawlers providing refuge for a variety of marine animals. The Pulau Payar group of island offer the best diving along the west coast. Day trips are the only way of discovering Payar, although limited accommodation is available here. How ever, nearby Langkawi, the main island, makes an ideal launch pad. Journeys take from 45 minutes – 1 hour, depending on the sea conditions. With Langkawi’s duty-free status and multitude of activities, there will be plenty to see and do to spice up your holiday.
November to late February
Averages 15m in best season, 2m to 10M otherwise.
Situated near the crossroads of the Thai- Malaysian border, between Penang to the south and Langkawi to the north, Pulau Payar was Malaysia’s first Marine Park, established in 1985.
The park consists of four islands:
Pulau Payar, Pulau Kaca, Pulau Lembu and Pulau Segantang, which are surrounded by magnificent coral gardens.
Payar Coral Garden
Located on the western tip of Pulau Payar. This dive site features both hard and soft corals along the island’s rocky terrain with depths from 5 to 18 metres. Visibility averages between 5 – 15 metres. huge boulders carpeted with dendronephthya soft corals offer numerous crevices that attract marine life seeking refuge from predators. Fish life is abundant, with damsels, fusiliers, lionfish, schooling jacks and occasional huge groupers.
Just to the north-east, the islet of Pulau Kaca features a site known as Wooden Wreck. The skeletal vessel was an illegal fishing trawler confiscated and sunk by the Malaysian authorities some 10 to 15 years ago. Surrounded by several smaller boats, the dive is known for its abundant fish life, especially giant groupers and brilliant tropical marine life including lionfish hanging around the ribs and masts.
Situated towards the east of Pulau Payar is some easy wreck diving off Pulau Kaca. Dozens of sunken fishing trawlers are found around Pulau Kaca creating artificial reefs. Rocky topside topography gives way to hard coral growth at 5m and slopes to a sandy bottom at about 18m. A diver does not require any bearing to locate the wrecks, as he is bound to encounter the scattered vessels in almost any direction. Coral blocks on the sandy bottom are inhabited by abundant small reef fishes, mollusks and nudibranchs. Try to maintain good buoyancy, as the sandy seabed is littered with sea urchins.
Suitably named, this dive site located towards the southern end of Pulau Payar is home to small schooling fish nervously darting about due to the presence of numerous groupers. Hard corals dominate the seascape with the reef top gradually slopping down to about 15m to the sandy bottom. If a slight current is present, a drift dive is the best approach to this site, but watch out for spiny sea urchins.
This twin rocky outcrop is located 13km towards the west of Pulau Payar. Pulau Segantang features steep rocky terrain plunging into the sea to a sandy bottom at 20m. Nurse sharks, barracudas and jacks are very common here. Fusiliers will curiously swim around intruding divers. Here, hard corals and sea fans are found on the slopes between 15 – 20m. Lobster, moray eels and mollusks are also commonly observed.
A few minutes north-east of Pulau Payar, Pulau Lembu has an excellent dive featuring barracudas, yellowtail snappers and horse- eye jacks. At around 16m, rich hard corals are home to shrimps, crabs and moray eels.
Langkawi is easily accessible by air, sea, road and rail from various gateway points. Langkawi’s International Airport links to various countries and has several daily flights from Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Singapore. Ferry services are also available from Kuala Perlis, Kuala Kedah and Penang. The best way to get around the island is to hire motorcycles or cars that are easily available for rental from the airport and Kuah town centre.
Within Malaysia, there are flights from Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Johor Bahru and Ipoh. International flights from Singapore’s Changi Airport are available from Malaysia airlines and SilkAir.
Penang is accessible by air with daily flights from Malaysia Airlines from major capitals of the region including Singapore, Bangkok, Nagoya, Medan, Xiamen and Madras.