The Andaman Sea has smoothed and polished its Jewel of Kedah, more known as Pulau Langkawi, for millions of years in order to create an amazing spot for the underwater world exploration. Whether a beginner or an advanced diver you can descend into the subaquatic kingdom of the brightest soft corals, unusual rock formations inhabited by reef and pelagic fish.
If you have ever wondered where Sharks grow their offspring, then a visit to the Langkawi Archipelago might reveal this secret to you. The Islands serve as a nursery for Whitetip and Blacktip Reef Baby Sharks. Take your chance to dive or snorkel with these tiny and elegant predators.
The Langkawi Archipelago consists of 104 islands to the north-west of Malaysian coast. Five of these islands are hidden and they can be seen only with the low tide. Meanwhile, solely Pulau Langkawi, Dayang Bunting, Rebak, and Tuba are inhabited.
There is an international airport at Pulau Langkawi, which is situated in the town of Padang Matsirat. Thus, you can reach the Islands by a direct flight from Kuala Lumpur or from other world’s destinations.
If you prefer to travel by sea, then ferry is your main option. Some operators claim to provide speedboats for faster transfers. However, these are usually high-speed passenger ferries, as Langkawi Port Authority introduced near rules as of the end of 2014 for transfers from the mainland.
Ferries are operated by different companies from Malaysian ports of Penang, Kuala Perlis, Satun, and Kuala Kedah as well as from Koh Lipe in Thailand. The transfer takes between 75 min and 105 min depending on the port of departure. Nevertheless, some additional time might also be needed for immigration clearance.
There is no entry fee for Pulau Langkawi while you will need to pay 5 Malaysian Ringgit (~1.2 USD) for each adult in order to entry Pulau Payar Marine Park which will most likely be your diving destination.
The Marine Park is located within about 1-hour transfer by a speedboat or catamaran which usually departs from Kuah Jetty. There are daily diving and snorkeling trips offered by the dive centres at Pulau Langkawi. The standard package includes transfers from/to resorts or hotels, Park’s fee, 2 dives with all the equipment if needed, lunch, water, and fruits aboard.
All main dive sites are located within the territory of Pulau Payar Marine Park along the west coast of the Langkawi Archipelago. There are 4 uninhabited islands which compose Marine Park: Pulau Payar, Pulau Lembu, Pulau Kaca, and Pulau Segatang. In total, there are about 20 dive sites not far from each other.
The seascape generally consists of limestone and rocks covered with soft corals, Sponges, and Gorgonias. There is very little current in the Marine Park and dives are quite shallow, that is why it is a great place for the beginners.
Dive centres are usually separated from the Resorts. Langkawi Scuba is the only PADI Dive Resort which is located at Cenang Beach on Pulau Langkawi.
There is also a unique 49m x 15m (160ft. x 49ft.) floating platform, called Langkawi Coral Platform from which dives for beginners and snorkel trips are organized. Facilities at the Platform include toilets, fresh water showers, and plenty of shade. The packages offered by the Platform operator usually include diving or snorkeling, transfer to the Marine Park, buffet lunch, and equipment rental. Underwater Observatory gives the beginners a chance to see through the Fish Eye the underwater world into which they are going to submerge before their first dive.
Best dive sites overview
Among Pulau Payar main dive sites there are Grouper Farm, Raaf Beach, and Lobster Garden. The maximum depth in these destinations is about 18m (59ft.). There are many beautiful coral gardens with several canyons around the area. Lembu Rocks and Goodyear Reef are the main sites around Pulau Lembu. Pulau Kaca offers wreck diving while Pulau Segantang with its Tyre Reef dive site is famous for larger pelagic and anemone garden.
Grouper Farm dive site is located near Pulau Payar and it leaves up to its name providing a chance to see a large variety of Groupers and other schools of fish. Besides Groupers who are swimming and hunting around there is a high chance of seeing quite big Barracudas. The dive site is recommended for all levels. The average depth is 15m (49ft.).
Another dive site next to Grouper Farm is Coral Garden. The spot consists of rocks, crevices, and canyons covered with a large number of multicoloured soft corals. Corals serve as a home to a large variety of crustacean, Seahorse, Ghost Pipefish, Nudibranch, and Morays. Above them, there is a layer inhabited by reef fish and their larger brothers like Snapper, Grouper, Lionfish, Fusiliers, Pufferfish, Triggerfish, and Angelfish. The average depth of the dive is 15m (49ft.) and it can be a nice recreational dive for everybody.
Kaca Sunken wrecks
Kaca Sunken wrecks are located near Pulau Kaca. After creation of the Marine Park fishing was prohibited on all its territory. As a punishment of violators, seven fishing boats were confiscated and sunk close to each other near Pulau Kaca. The average depth of the dive is 15m (49ft.), so even the beginners can enjoy wreck diving. Boats are now covered with coral gardens and surrounded by Angelfish, Butterflyfish, Pufferfish, Nudibranch, Fusiliers, Morays, Clownfish, and Stonefish. Blacktip Reef Shark can be passing by at this artificial reef. The visibility can be very low, about 5-10m (16-32ft.).
If you are next to Pulau Segantang, then it might be a good idea to check Tyre Reef wall dive site. This site is deeper that many others around the Marine Park, the bottom is located at about 30m (98ft.). Advanced divers are welcomed here. It is possible to see Nurse Shark, Leopard Shark, Barracudas, Morays and many reef fish above wonderful hard and soft corals. Lobsters and other crustaceans are often spotted in crevices and between the rocky formations.
Lobster Garden is Pulau Payar’s dive site. The maximum depth is 18m (59ft.), so all divers can enjoy a great variety of crustaceans. Besides you can try to find Seahorse, Ghost pipefish, Scorpionfish, and Frogfish at this site.
Best dive season
Among the 3 seasons, dry season between November and April is the best time for diving. During the middle season from April till August, there will be occasional showers. The rainy season between September and November will definitely bring heavy showers every day, thus lowering the visibility to a minimum.
The water temperature at the Langkawi Archipelago always tends to be within the range of 29-30°C (84-86°F) during the dry season. During the wet and middle season, it gets cooler, reaching 26°C (78°F) sometime.
Depending on the season and the dive site the visibility varies between 5-25m (16-82ft.). Unfortunately, many shipping routes pass through the narrow channel called Straits of Malacca, which influences the visibility. Limestone seascape and natural sediments are also the cause of the low visibility in this area. The best visibility is usually witnessed at Pulau Segantang.
The Langkawi Archipelago gives shelter to more than 50 species of soft and hard corals and over 270 fish and marine inhabitants. In 2010, the Marine Park suffered a coral bleaching. Some of the dive sites were closed for diving at that time in order to reduce the stress on the sea and give corals time for recovery. Another heat wave brought some signs of coral bleaching in 2014. However, now the status of corals is good and you can enjoy the wonderful Sea Fans, Fire Coral, Blue Coral, Orange Pipe Coral, and many others.
Coral gardens are inhabited by Seahorse, Ghost Pipefish, Crabs, Shrimp, Clownfish, and Lobster.
Fish family is represented by Snapper, Grouper, Wrasse (including Napoleon), Jacks, Fusiliers, Lionfish, Pufferfish, Scorpionfish, Parrotfish, Angelfish, and many others. There is a chance to watch White and Blacktip Reef Shark, Leopard Shark, and Nurse Shark at the Islands.
Pulau Payar Marine Park is an inhabited and protected area that is why the nearest accommodation is provided on Pulau Langkawi. The Marine Park is rarely visited on a liveaboard. Nonetheless, itineraries might change according to the guests’ requests.
Accommodation at Pulau Langkawi is famous for its great variety of luxury resorts, so you can choose rooms, suites, chalets or villas depending on your requirements. Diving centers are usually separated from the Resorts.
MV Sai Mai
Currently, the only boat which offers charters to any destination in the Andaman Sea including to the Langkawi Archipelago is a 21m (68ft.) long MV Sai Mai. She is ready to take on board up to 8 guests. You can choose between 1 cabin with twin bunk beds and 2 cabins with double or triple occupancy. All of them have private bathrooms. The boat is usually based in Phuket. Itineraries are planned in accordance with customers’ requests. Please note that there are no Nitrox facilities aboard.
Berjaya Langkawi Resort
This luxurious 5-star Resort is situated in Burau Bay in the western part of Pulau Langkawi. At Berjaya Langkawi Resort you can enjoy private Chalets built on stilts above the Andaman Sea. There is a huge variety of Chalets to choose from: Rainforest, Seaview, Family, Premier, as well as Executive and Presidential Suits. Each Chalet has a balcony and they are equipped with wooden furniture and floors. You can relax at outdoor pools, Hamman, Spa, and wellness center. Besides diving and snorkeling the Resort offers tennis courts, table tennis, fitness center, karaoke, billiards, and water sports. Meals are provided in 4 restaurants and 4 bars on the Resort’s territory. The Resort offers special wedding packages and romantic celebrations.
The Andaman, a Luxury Collection Resort
Another 5-star luxury Resort is located in Datai Bay in the north-west of Pulau Langkawi. Guests can choose their accommodation from Deluxe Rainforest, Deluxe Treetop, Luxury Garden Terrace, Luxury Pool Access, Luxury Seaview, Jacuzzi Studio Suite, Executive Suites, and Presidential Suite designed in contemporary Malaysian style. There are 2 restaurants and several bars and lounges on the territory of the Resort. Apart from diving and snorkeling, you can rent a sailing catamaran; enjoy cooking classes and water sports.
The Resort takes great care about the environment. You will have a unique chance to plant your own coral colony at Coral Nursery belonging to the Resort. It was built after 2004 tsunami to help to the recovery of coral reefs.
Sheraton Langkawi Beach Resort
Sheraton Langkawi Beach Resort is located in the western part of Pulau Langkawi offering a large choice of rooms. The facilities of this 5-star Resort include a private beach, a restaurant, a night club, a gym, a tennis court, a sauna, a Spa, an indoor pool, and a kid’s pool. You can explore Langkawi Cable Car situated near the Resort.
Vivanta by Taj (Rebak Island)
Vivanta by Taj is the only Resort located on Pelau Rebak Besar. The Resort owns a Marina, so just within 5-10 minutes you can find yourself at Pulau Langkawi. Among the facilities of the Resort are Spa, tennis courts, squash, fitness centre, water sports, table tennis, Children’s playground, and Kid’s Club. WiFi is available everywhere on the Resort’s territory.
The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa
The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa is located in the south-eastern part of Pulau Langkawi. Depending on your preferences there are Guestrooms, Suites, and Private Pool Villas. The Resort offers a 500m (1640ft.) long private beach, 4 restaurants and several bars, water sports, Spa, fitness centre, tennis courts, squash courts and Kid’s Club.
Other activities for non-divers
Along with diving Pulau Payar Marine Park is a popular snorkeling destination. You can enjoy snorkeling during daily tours which are organized to the Marine Park. Besides a large variety of reef fish and small pelagic, there is a high chance of seeing baby reef sharks which live in these waters. However, it’s better to avoid fish and baby sharks’ feeding.
You can take your chance to see Underwater World Langkawi which is the largest aquarium in Malaysia. It accommodates Giant Groupers, Sharks, Stingrays, and Green Turtles as well as other fish, unique animals and birds.
Whether you wish to see some endemic animals, birds and butterflies in their natural environment, then it might be a good idea to take a tracking tour through the Rainforest. If you are lucky, you might spot all the “flying five” of Pulau Langkawi: flying lemurs, flying snakes, flying foxes, flying dragons, and flying squirrels. There are several lakes and hot springs to enjoy on the Island.
Among other non-diving activities are sailing, horse riding, golf and shopping especially as Pulau Langkawi is a duty-free area.
Feeling inspired and raring to go? Check out our Langkawi travel guide and start planning your next diving trip!
I want to do a days diving and want to know how good it actually is at this time of year and what companies you recommend that will also bring snorkellers along.