Scuba Diving In Salang, Malaysia (one for the bucket list!)

Ever been scuba diving in clear water surrounded by fish and coral? I never had until a few weeks ago and let me just say IT WAS FRIGGIN’ AMAZING! Easily the best travel decision I’ve made over the last few years (and definitely better than my infamous Tour de Horror project).

Soft coral fan at Salang, Tioman Island Fan coral found scuba diving in Salang on Tioman Island

After a rough January I was feeling used and abused so I decided to head out to Salang, the northernmost village on Tioman Island in the South China Sea. I’d heard many great things about the diving out there and decided this was where I wanted to get scuba diving certified.

Salang, Tioman Island, Malaysia This is Salang, as seen while hiking up the mountain

What I found was a sleepy little village that used to be a big tourist hotspot 10-15 years ago but has now fallen off the radar, much to the disappointment of the 120-or-so locals who call Salang home — but much to my pleasure πŸ˜‰

This is one of those awesome hidden spots I almost don’t want to tell you about.

Salang Beach, Tioman Island, Malaysia Look at that pristine beach!

Salang Beach, Tioman Island, Malaysia The lone jetty. There is a daily ferry that runs to and from Mersing on the mainland.

Salang Beach and mountains, Tioman Island, Malaysia Towards the south side of the village the beach ends and the hiking begins!


Salang Is A Paradise In The South China Sea

The beautiful but tiny village of Salang has faded from the minds of most travelers to Malaysia. It is one that scuba divers know of and other tourists visiting Tioman hear about, but not many visit. The result is a beautiful reef and plentiful fish that haven’t yet been destroyed by mass tourism.

There are no big hotel chains in Salang, just a few different types of beach chalets for rent. No massive resorts or fast food or even cars, just a wide selection of family-owned food stalls and one place that almost passes for a small restaurant. (Salang Dream, delicious food!)

Getting Your PADI Scuba Diving Certification

Scuba Diver Derek Freal Testing out my gear one morning

Completing scuba diving certification here was easier and more fun than I expected. Five shallow water dives, two free water dives, and a serious of basic maneuvers practiced on the surface (all of which should be common sense to anyone that knows how to swim) and voila! you’re certified. But oh the feeling to be underwater surrounded 360 degrees by a school of thousands upon thousands of first….it was like being in the eye of a tornado! That experience alone made me realize it was a mistake to not have gotten my scuba diving certification sooner.

  One big plus of getting your scuba certification abroad instead of at home is you pay only for the course itself, not any of the equipment. This is especially beneficial if you are not certain if you will like scuba diving enough to want to invest four figures in gear and underwater accessories.

Scuba Diving Salang, Tioman Island, Malaysia I made some amazing friends while getting my scuba diving certification, like Karim and Lennara…miss ya both!

PADI certification scuba diving instruction book full of fun quizzes ;) There is some book reading and quizzes too, but nothing difficult. Just covering the basics so that first-time scuba divers know how to stay safe underwater.

  Plus it probably helps that I picked an amazing instructor, Grahame Massicks. Originally from London, Grahame has been living and diving in Salang for nearly 15 years and is actually known around town as the Scuba Guru. And after all, how can you not trust your guru?


Whenever we weren’t diving, Grahame and I were chatting or exploring the island, such as our trek to and through the humongous failed “resort that never was” on the edge of Salang. I’ll finish editing that video and the ones from our underwater dives after completing (hopefully) my Rickshaw Run.

The abandoned before it was even completely resort in Salang, Tioman Island, Malaysia This resort is impossible to miss when arriving in Salang and everyone always thinks “Wow, wish I was staying there!” But surprisingly the resort is abandoned and accessible to all via a short hike.

  So to anyone thinking about getting scuba diving certified in Malaysia, definitely check out Salang and my new friend the Scuba Guru. You can find out more about him, his photographs and diving courses on his site: www.tioman-scuba.com

Finally, let me leave you with a piece of advice. If you plan on shooting photos or videos underwater, make sure to get a red lens filter to help correct the loss of color underwater. I didn’t know this so my footage didn’t turn out near as nice as Grahame’s:

Nudibranch at lunch, Salang, Tioman Island

Hard coral, Salang, Tioman Island

Lion fish at Tioman Island

Cuttle fish in the blue, Salang, Tioman Island

  Is scuba diving on your bucket list?

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About Derek Freal

"Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel." Β  Cultural enthusiast. Adrenaline junkie. Eater of strange foods. Chasing unique and offbeat adventures around the world since 2008. Derek loves going to new destinations where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, or places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo -- supposedly its healthier and more efficient. For more information (about Derek, not squat pooing) including popular posts and videos, check out his bio.

19 thoughts on “Scuba Diving In Salang, Malaysia (one for the bucket list!)”

  1. I’ve been thinking about getting my instructor cert and was considering Malaysia because of the cost of living and the amazing diving. Thanks for the pics.

    Reply
    • Definitely give Malaysia a go. The people are friendlier than in Thailand and everything diving-related (courses, gear, etc) is much less expensive there — and much more beautiful under the water. I just finished my third trip there, this last time for four months.

      Reply
    • True, and I’m so glad I opted for Salang instead of doing it while in that tourist trap known as Lagkawi — even though it meant sticking around Malaysia two months longer than planned because of the monsoon season.

      Reply
  2. Thanks Derek Freal, although Salang is a little different now – everywhere is open!! When you come back we must get out on a boat to see more of what we have here. Meanwhile HAVE FUN ON THE RUN!!

    Reply
  3. 11hrs in to a 15hr bus ride to Jaisalmer to pick up our rickshaw and begin the run! And yes Grahame, I’m definitely going to have to return to see Salang in full swing πŸ˜‰ Will keep in touch!

    Reply
  4. Thanks for being back the memories.
    I attended high school in Singapore, SIS if anyone wonders, and the highlight of the year, was a dive trip to Pulau Tioman. I dived the waters of Pulau Tioman back in the early ’70s, I can attest that this is one of the best places to dive in the world.
    I was also spoiled by diving in the Philippines as well, but Tioman was by far the fondest of dive spots.

    Reply
    • Ahhh right after my Pulau Tioman trip I did a housesit for an amazing lady with a similar story. She had amazing tales to tell of Tioman in the late 70’s. While I’m sure it isn’t as pristine as it was back then, it’s great to know that this dive spot has held up through the ages πŸ™‚

      I’ve been to the Phils seven times but have not dived yet there — anywhere in particular that you would recommend?

      Reply
      • I also went to high school in Manila,( I.S Manila) and graduated from there. I took weekly trips from Manila to Batangas, where the diving was fantasic and cheap. There are many other dive spots on Luzon, but this was the only place I was able to con my parents into going πŸ™‚
        Have a great time, I am envious of you and your travels.

        Reply
    • My apologies for the late response Vaughan, I was (and still am) in Kathmandu.

      Anyway I couldn’t agree with you more…Grahame is amazing! Exactly what I want in an instructor. Cool, calm and collected, but also knowledgeable and friendly. Glad to hear that you had a great experience with him as well and are now certified too. Congrats πŸ™‚

      Reply
  5. Wow! The corals look absolutely gorgeous. You seemed to have been able to find a nice diving spot with a nice beach and very people, something I cherish since they’re so difficult to find nowadays.

    Reply
    • Hey Marjorie, sorry for the late response, I’m in Kathmandu. Anyway yes, you are so right. Tioman is a beautiful place (both above water and below) that is full of wonderful people. I spent a week there and it was very hard to leave. Definitely head out to Salang if you ever have the opportunity — you won’t regret it!

      Reply
    • Thanks — been having a lot of fun ever since! Can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner πŸ˜‰

      As yes, I do plan to take it to the next level eventually. But for now I’m just enjoying this whole new underwater world I’ve discovered πŸ˜‰

      Reply
  6. Wow!!! Great post..Actually me and my whole family planning to go for scuba diving..I love adventurous trips and my kids too..:) and I think the things you covered through the post are quiet impressive, good job and great efforts. I found it very interesting and enjoyed reading all of it…keep it up, lovely job..

    Reply

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