Malaysia is home to many beautiful and truly exotic islands filled to the brim with tropical rain-forests, stunning beaches, and incredible tribal cultures. If you’re a water sports fan, you’ll be thrilled at the number of snorkeling, diving and surfing destinations you’ll find on Malaysian islands. The colorful coral reefs, visible through the crystal-clear waters beckon divers to the islands of Malaysia. Historians and culture vultures throng to these islands to experience the lovely colonial villages and old temples.
Pulau Pangkor literally means ‘beautiful island’. Gorgeous beaches such as Teluk Belanda, Pasir Bogak, Coral Bay and Niphah Bay beckon visitors. Culture vultures will adore the Kali Amman Temple, the Chinese Fu Lin Kong Temple and the remains of a Dutch fort that shelters the historic Tiger Rock. Adventure sports fans can enjoy jet skiing, banana boating, jungle trekking and swimming amidst the glowing blue plankton at night.
Pulau Kapas has been named Cotton Island by the locals owing to its powder soft white beaches. Rich in marine life and coral reefs, this pretty island attracts snorkelers and scuba divers from all over.
Penang is large, colorful, and is richly diverse from a cultural, food and heritage perspective. Visit Georgetown for a look at its stately colonial mansions, temples and hotels. Penang is for those who like culture, shopping and food. Don’t forget a visit to the weird Snake Temple, where snakes are worshipped.
If you dream of staying at your own private tropical island, visit Tenggol. There are several quiet, fabulous resorts here, framed by white beaches and green tropical forests. Tenggol is famous for its scuba diving and fishing opportunities.
Sipadan’s waters are rife with exotic marine species including reef fish, hammerhead sharks and sea turtles. Sipadan is a protected area; you cannot stay here but you can boat from nearby islands and dive into the richly diverse waters.
Mabul is a composite of turquoise waters, poetic coconut palms and white sand beaches. It’s the ideal location for beach lovers and divers, since the waters are rife with small marine life. Divers visit this island to swim amongst scorpion fish, cuttlefish, squids, frog fish, gobies and shellfish. Culture lovers will enjoy the little traditional villages with their thatched huts and tribal culture.
One of the largest islands located off the east coast of Malaysia, The deep coral reefs here contain jellyfish, nemo fish, baby sharks and myriad other small marine life. This makes Redang popular among divers and snorkelers. The island’s dense interior forests are great for some cool jungle trekking as well!
Tioman is one of the most beautiful islands in the world. In fact, it is so beautiful that it was filmed for the 1958 movie ‘South Pacific’. Tioman’s rich natural beauty and diverse wildlife, dense jungles and amazing coral reefs beckon snorkelers, divers and jungle trekkers here. There are several lovely waterfalls to dare swimmers. Kids love visiting the local turtle farm and culture lovers love to explore the traditional village on Juara Beach.
Located close to the Thai border, the Perhentian Islands are home to some of the loveliest beaches in Malaysia. Accommodation on this island is very cheap, which makes it ideal for budget travelers. The Perhentian Islands are ideal for diving, jungle trekking, snorkeling, swimming and beach bumming.
Langkawi is an archipelago comprising 99 Malaysian islands in the Andaman Sea, set close to the Thai border. This island has a diverse landscape of mountains, rainforest, mangrove wetlands and beaches. If you’re into climbing, try your luck on the Gunung Raya peak, which is the highest in Langkawi. Here you’ll find a restaurant, a resort and a wonderful lookout summit. Explore the Laman Padi Rice Garden and the Underwater World aquarium. You can visit the Oriental Village for cultural shows, enjoy snake charmers and their snakes and ride elephants.
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Labuan is one of Malaysia’s three Federal Territories. The other two are Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya. This island has clear waters, lovely beaches and many sunken ships that attract divers. Labuan also is an international offshore financial center, and a free trade zone. This island has some 6,500 offshore companies.
This isolated island has some of Asia’s best diving spots. The lovely crystal clear waters drop to a depth of 2,000 meters here, which offers plenty of opportunity for a diverse marine life to thrive. No wonder Layang-Layang is ranked as one of the world’s top 10 dive sites. Hammerhead sharks measure in the 100s here, along with dolphins, manta rays, barracuda and turtles.
Rawa is owned by the family of the Sultanate of Johor. This little island has but two resorts, which can be reached from the mainland port of Mersing by boat. If you’re looking for a secluded vacation, head to Rawa. Picture perfect beaches contrast here with dramatic rocky cliffs that plunge directly into the sea.
Of the five islands belonging to the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, Gaya is the largest. Gaya lies off the coast of Kota Kinabalu. This lovely island has perfect white sand beaches, and incredibly rich rainforest which is home to wild boars, monitor lizards, macaque monkeys and an array of colorful birds. Snorkelers and divers have no end of fun here in the clear waters that are several hundred meters deep.
Whether you’re a honeymooning couple looking for a secluded island for private fun, or an adventurer looking for multiple ways to score some adrenalin, Malaysia’s islands offer the best options. There are so many islands that you can pick and choose which ones to visit. While some islands are a study in culture, others are so rich in natural beauty that you’ll want to hold your breath. Most islands offer some form of accommodation, either hotels, or resorts or guesthouses. However, even if you are unable to find a place to stay on a particular island, there’s always one close by with stay options. You can travel from island to island on a row boat or motor boat and design your own island hopping adventure.