Learning to Dive in the Perhentian Islands: One of the Cheapest PADI Courses in Southeast Asia
I’ve been in love with the ocean for as long as I can remember. Weekend trips to the beach that was never more than a twenty minute drive away was a key part of my childhood. Naturally my love for the ocean translated to the need to see as much as I could. That wasn’t something I was going to be able to do without learning to scuba dive.
I’ve had plans to complete my PADI Open Water course for a long time. I almost booked a trip to Cairns to do it back in 2015 but was unable to get the time off work. I then planned to do it in Cozumel in Mexico but unfortunately came down with a terrible sinus infection that prevented me from diving.
I was finally able to achieve my ocean dreams on the Perhentian islands, one of my favourite places in the world and the closest thing I have ever found to paradise. It also happens to be one of the cheapest places in the world to complete your PADI Open Water course.
Not one to do anything in half measures I spent a whole week on the islands completing both my PADI Open Water and my PADI Advanced Open Water courses. The course included a week’s work of accommodation in a very basic dorm (think cold water showers, the infamous bum flush, sand everywhere and even a morning visit from a monitor lizard), and only cost me 1910 malaysian ringitt for both courses.
Diving on the Perhentians- Which Dive Resort to Choose
I decided to do my course with Matahari Divers and could not fault their service. All of the instructors I had were super friendly, very informative and well trained, patient, and always made me feel safe in the water. Not only that but we always had heaps of funs on our dives, exchanging jokes and banter out and in the water.
Matahari Divers definitely felt like a little family. We came home from a dive one night and one of the students had cooked a homemade feast of roti bread and curry chicken which everyone proceeded to tuck into while chatting and drinking. All of the dive masters and instructors made an effort to know everyone there and were always available for questions and assistance if you needed it. It was also a great place to meet people, and I met some of the closest friends I’ve ever made while travelling while completing my course here.
I obviously can’t recommend any other resorts personally as I only dived with Matahari but can offer some advice based on the people I met and spoke to on the island.
Monkey Divers is known for attracting lots of young and fun people. Everyone was raving about the social scene at this dive school and if the dive masters I met were any indication it seemed like a lot of fun. The thing that put me off from booking with them is they didn’t have free accommodation as part of the course (only offering a discount). Although apparently the dorm is in much better shape than you’ll find the majority of diver dorms on the island.
Turtle Bay Divers also has a very good reputation for somewhere to learn to dive on Long Beach.
Panorama Divers is probably your best bet if you aren’t looking to learn to dive but do some fun dives. From walking up and down the island they always had the most fun dives on offer and they were more likely to fill up. I think this is because they offer some great fun dive packages, more so than other dive schools on the beach. Hence they attract lots of fun divers and therefore are able to get the numbers needed for certain dives.
Anti-Gravity Divers is often lauded as the best dive shop on the islands. It’s located at Coral Bay and as far as I can tell basic accommodation isn’t included in their dive packages. I’ve met some really cool people that work here so I think it would be a great place to dive. Just be aware that their reputation also means you’ll be paying a little more.
Learning to Dive in the Perhentians- My Favourite Dive Sites on the Perhentians
There are a host of dive sites scattered around the islands, and I only got to try 10 between my two courses and the one fun dive I did after I completed my course. Most of my favourites were the dives we completed as far of the PADI Open Water Advanced Course.
We dived this wreck to certify for the wreck dive portion of the PADI Advanced Open Water Certificate. Unfortunately on the day we dived the visibility was not particularly great, but we still managed to see some colourful fish. I would love to return to dive this wreck on a better day.
Temple of the Sea
This was where we completed our deep dive and I absolutely loved it! The Temple of the Sea is basically a pinnacle, you start almost at the bottom and slowly circle the huge rock full of coral and fish until you get to the surface. The array of sea life was absolutely stunning here.
Police wreck is a common dive for the PADI Open Water Certificate and there are lots of opportunities to explore the reef that’s built up upon the wreck. This was a common favourite in the shop and definitely the best dive I did before I started my Advanced course.
This is my absolute favourite dive in the Perhentians! T3 is made up of lots of small natural tunnels formed from the underwater rocks. This meant we got to have lots of fun passing through the underwater caves and tunnels. But the dive wasn’t just incredible because of the novelty of exploring, it was also home to some Bat Fish cleaning station, Scorpion fish and Lion fish, all seen with the greatest visibility I experienced during my week on the island. We were also lucky enough to have the whole dive site to ourselves, something I am told is super uncommon!
I’ll be returning to the Perhentians this July and will be sure to update this guide if I decide to do some more diving while I am there. You can also head over here for my complete guide to the Perhentians.