Pulau Payar - Kedah Malaysia
Getting there is an easy 1-hour or so ride on comfortable speedboats or luxury cruises. Clear shimmering waters surrounding this island is perfect for a spot of snorkelling or even diving. Having been cordoned off as a marine park in 1985, the marine life here has rejuvenated from the days of blast-fishing, trawling and heavy sedimentation. Now this park has been made a study centre for marine researchers and is one of the best dive sites in the West Coast of Peninsular Malaysia.
With this protection the fish have grown accustomed to the many strange visitors found dipping into their territory. These little freeloaders love the breadcrumbs and titbits that visitors bring along with them. And sometimes in their excitement, they mistakenly nip the visitors too! The little bites are not life threatening nor do they draw blood but can get a little unnerving for those whose closest encounter with animals happens to be the neighbour's dog!
We've heard about the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the diversity of its sea life. But really......we can get a glimpse of that here, in our own backyard. Pulau Payar is a great place for novice divers and snorkellers alike. The island waters shelter a variety of fish and corals, enough to encapture one's attention for hours on end! The dives reveal large groupers, fusiliers; groups of horse jacks, snappers; a variety of dacyllus, young black-tip sharks, spotter and brown moray eels, lionfish, black-spotted puffers, butterflyfish, angelfish, anemonefish, sea urchins, seastars, barrel sponges, sea cucumbers and lots more. There are the agropora corals, Tubastrea sp. and Antipathes among other species. (click coral reef and fishes if you would like to know more about Malaysia's marine life).
The waters closer to the island are generally calmer during the drier seasons. If you're a new diver, try not to dive here during the rainy season as the sea can get pretty rough. Pulau Payar's neigbouring islands namely Pulau Kaca and Pulau Segantang can get a bit rough as they are fully exposed to the sea. There are no bays or coves to shelter.
At most times, you may not get the place to yourself. Tours to the island come in from Pulau Pinang and Langkawi. The Langkawi Coral Pontoon moored at the island has an underwater observatory for those who would rather watch from aboard. But whatever you wish to do at Pulau Payar, there's plenty of time. This trip takes an entire day, from 9.00am to 5.00pm..so only if you have time. Overnight accommodation is not available on the island. However, camping is allowed with prior permission obtained from the Fisheries Department in Alor Setar Tel: (6)04-7342135 Fax: 04-7304623 or in Kuala Lumpur Tel: (6)03-2982011 Fax: 03-2910305. Be warned: it may be more hassle than it's worth unless you're there to complete your theses on marine fishes or something like that or you don't mind the normal run around in governmental departments.
Please note: At different times of the day, you may be able to see different marine life. Also weather conditions vary with the season and tidal change. All these and other factors may affect the diving condition at the location. What we have here is a general observation at time of dive. Do check with your dive instructor on the conditions at the dive site you wish to explore.