If you're thinking of diving in Peninsular Malaysia, the first thing to understand
is the great difference between the east coast and the west coast. They're
very much two different worlds, separated by rugged, jungle-covered mountains.
The west coast has a broad coastal plain, easy access, and a long history
of international com≠merce and trade. It's here that you'll find all the cities
and industrial development. The east coast has a narrow coastal plain that's
always been relatively difficult to access. Very little settlement or develop≠ment
has taken place here, and it remains a place of sleepy kampungs (traditional
Malay villages) where farming and fishing are the main activities. For divers
and for holidaymakers in general there is another very important difference.
The east coast faces open ocean.
The sea here is clean, often crystal clear and has great visibility. On the
coast and offshore islands, you find long, glistening beaches and beautiful
coral reefs. On the other hand, much of the west coast faces into the Straits
of Malacca, with the great landmass of Sumatra barely over the horizon. The
straits are shallow, muddied by coastal mangroves and siltation, and constantly
stirred up by heavy sea traffic. It is only in the far north, where islands
like Langkawi face into the open ocean and there's less sea traffic, that
you find really good visibil≠ity under the water.
Most of the best diving available on the peninsula is on the east coast so that's where we'll start this review.
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